Jul 10, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

The newest "it" career should have you on your toes: freelancing. According to an October 2017 Forbes article and the 2017 Freelancing in America survey, if freelancing continues to grow at its current rate, 50 percent of all employees in the US will be freelancers by 2027. 

In 2017, there were 57.3 million freelancers, up from 53 million in 2014. Thirty-six percent of the US workforce freelanced last year, and the workforce grew from 156 million to 160 million in the same period. 

While many freelancers also work full-time and freelance on the side for extra income, a growing number make their living freelancing. Why? The freedom and flexibility of being your own boss.

There are downsides, of course, like no paid vacations, but if you do it right, you can make it work. 

Want to join the gig economy and enmesh yourself in freelance culture? Let's take at six strategies to get you there:

1. Stop making excuses 

Fear of the unknown is a major cause of not making the leap. Don't be afraid to work for yourself. Don't keep making excuses why you won't do it.

Some of the most common excuses? You're better off in a full-time job. Maybe. Maybe not. Remember: nothing is permanent. 

If you're worried about paying the bills, good for you, but don't worry too much. It's not too tough to get started and once you build up that client base, you're good to go. Some start freelancing on the side and keep their full-time jobs until they're ready to switch. Some are never ready to switch. Bottom line: make the best financial choice for your situation. 

Don't think you're good enough? Fear networking? Fear not. If you're good, you'll always be busy. You'll never be busy if you don't put yourself out there, though. 

Set your guidelines and goals, stop downplaying the idea, and get to work! You can do it!

2. Choose a path and stick with it

There are lots of ways into the freelance life. Pick a path and go with it. Remember: nothing is permanent. If you make a mistake, you can pick a different path. 

If you're a recent graduate or about to be, consider starting right out of school. Two things you'll need? Confidence and competence. You need to have a service you can sell--like writing, photography, or design--and the ability to produce, market, and sell it. You'll also have to network aggressively. 

For the more risk-averse? Test the waters first. Get a job, make some inroads, get yourself stable and start paying back those student loans. Then start on the side. See if you like it. You can always do both.

This strategy will also help if you get laid off. Give yourself something to fall back on if you need it. 

Finally? Take a bold leap, even if you're in the middle of your career. You'll need to think about income, family responsibilities, and other factors, of course, but if you're ready, why not jump in?

3. Determine your financial needs 

Here's the raw truth: when you freelance, you can't always depend on a salary. If it's just you, then you have a better shot. If you're looking to provide for a family, then you may want to reconsider. It helps to have a partner who has a full-time job, too.

Take stock of your financial needs: you need less than you think. Rent or mortgage and food are the basics. Your utilities? Well, if you need internet, count it in, but you probably don't need all the technology that you have in your house anyway. 

Don't hide from your bank account, either. Keep track of your monthly expenses. Your income should exceed your outgoing cash--and you should develop a savings plan. You can do it--it just takes a bit of planning. 

4. Exercise 

As crazy as it sounds, you need to incorporate exercise into your freelance plan. Why? No more commute. You're not walking or biking to work, or even taking the few steps out to your car every morning. You don't need to walk anywhere, really.

What does this mean? It means that any movement that you may have done in a traditional office setting doesn't happen anymore. It means that you need to incorporate some other kind of movement into your daily life. 

5. Meet people in-person

You may network with people online, and that's great, but you also need to meet with clients in-person. Whenever possible, arrange face-to-face meetings with clients. If you can't? Use video conferencing tools, like Skype, Zoom, BlueJeans, or Facetime. 

Why? You need personal connections in this field. Meet for coffee, discuss projects, and make yourself accessible. It works. 

 6. Establish a pricing structure

You need to charge your clients the right amount of money for your work. Too much? You outprice yourself. Too little? You make yourself less credible. 

How much should you charge? Do some research. Find out what other freelancers in your field--and in your region--charge for similar work. Generally, freelancers earn more than salaried staff. Why? The employer doesn't have to pay taxes or benefits, like health or retirement. You do. That's why you need to charge more. 

Also, consider fixed-price jobs. Here's an example: a logo artist charges $150 per hour for logo design. As a client, that amount might be off-putting. The logo designer could also charge $300 for a logo, which a client might be willing to pay. It depends on perspective and what a client wants. Something to consider, right?

Whatever you do, don't apologize. Find a balance, settle on a rate that suits you, and off you go. 

 

 

 

 

 

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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