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I saw this question come up recently, and I have to admit it made me laugh. As someone who has been full-time freelancing for the past year, I can definitively say that yes, freelancing is a real job.
What do you mean by freelance?
Let’s take a step back to explain what exactly a freelancer is and does. Freelance means performing work for clients on a contract basis without the benefits, or the chains, of full-time employment for a single company. Most freelancers have many clients and a diversified portfolio of services they offer.
Freelancers market their skills, seek out clients, establish relationships, deliver high-quality work, receive payment in return, and either repeat that cycle with existing clients or find new ones, or both!
Well, that certainly sounds like a real job
Right you are. Freelancing is a real job without the cushy benefits of a real job. Freelancing requires drive, intrinsic motivation, personal accountability, professionalism, responsibility, and reliability. It also requires people skills, personal financial management, marketing skills, and the ability to take constructive criticism and turn it into an incredible client outcome every time.
A career in freelance is one of the most challenging things I’ve done. And I’m still in the introductory stages. If someone thinks that freelancing isn’t a real job, I struggle to figure out what exactly a real job is.
How do I get started freelancing?
The four steps I’ve outlined below will help you to get your start in any type of freelance work.
- Define your skills – Put pen to paper and write down every service you could offer a client. If you need ideas, go check out what people are selling on Fiverr. You’ll be amazed at just what services people will buy.
- Start your portfolio – This might be a blog or personal website where you can direct potential clients. Getting the first few jobs is the hardest, so having somewhere to show prior work is incredibly valuable to attract clients.
- Sign up for freelancing sites – Unless you have a vast network and clients are banging down the door, freelance sites like Upwork and Fiverr* are a safe bet to get started. They take a portion of your earnings (20%) to make the connection with clients, but the exposure can be worth the getting started cost.
- Create happy clients and outstanding experiences – If you’ve worked in a business that sells something, you’ve probably heard of NPS, or net promoter score. This score is a 1-10 rating of the likelihood that someone would refer your product or service to a friend or family member. Freelancers need to think along the lines of having every client at an NPS of 10. Not only do you want them to leave stellar reviews, but they also come back to you for more work or refer you to others.
Seems easy enough, right? But this is just the beginning. After you get started in freelance and book your first few clients, it becomes like any other job. You’ll repeat the cycle of finding clients and performing work, but you’ll do it on your own terms.
The main thing about freelancing as a real job
As I mentioned above, freelancing is a real job without the benefits, or the chains, of a real job. What this means is you’re in control of everything. You’ll be wearing many hats every day, from sales and marketing to accounting and finance. You can choose to work seven days a week or take a 4-day weekend every weekend. No matter how you decide to run your business, you are the sole person responsible for success or failure.
Freelancing is a real job that, if done properly, can be more lucrative, more flexible, and more rewarding than the “real” jobs your friends are miserable at for 40-hours a week. A freelancer’s lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but if what I’ve laid out here sounds right up your alley, give it a shot. You’ll never know if you don’t try.