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5 Strategies for Successful Freelancing (+ a Brief History Lesson)


The Internet made the modern day freelancer. Step into any coffee shop today and you’ll see the contemporary tools of the independant contractor trade: laptops, smartphones, tablets. The abundance of coworking spaces likewise underscores the proliferation of freelancers. Which is to say, in an economy where it is easier than ever to freelance, how do you make such an opportunity as fruitful as possible?

With all the independence and self-imposed structuring that freelancing begets, how do you stay happy, productive and successful? Here are 5 tips on how to succeed as a freelancer.

1. Don’t Be Shy

  • Embrace the new job marketplace. Working freelance, part-time or as a consultant or independent contractor will afford you several opportunities not available to a salaried employee.
  • Fret not, coverage is available for freelancers and their family through the Affordable Care Act and services like The Freelancers Union.
  • Specializing in a certain field or technique will increase your chances of scoring work as well as develop your reputation as an expert in said field.

2. Be Human

  • Like a job candidate, freelancers need to market themselves deftly via social media and digital portfolios. Those with the most hireability score the most work.
  • Develop and hone your pitches and business plan. Stay secure; you’re “in business” now.
  • Keeping an up-to-date and clearly-delineated Website is a major key to making it as a freelancer.

3. Be Social Media Savvy

  • Be a smart and effective user of platforms like Twitter, where the barrier to conversation is low.
  • List yourself and subscribe to specialized sites that focus on the area you work in. LinkedIn offers a multitude of these forums for asking questions and making connections.
  • Cooperate with your competitors. An experienced freelancer can point you towards sites, persons or companies to help build a foundation. They’ll similarly recommend you for jobs they don’t want.

4. Use Money Wisely

  • Save. Income can fluctuate significantly as a freelancer, so, it helps to be extra vigilant with your spending. Look for clients you can look to as a recurring revenue sources.
  • Be consistent with how and when you bill clients. Professionalism is a two-way street.
  • Financing your freelance career may be the hardest struggle. The fundamentals of money management can be learned quickly, however. In time, you will be able to establish rates and bargain on your behalf with confidence.

 5. Network

  • A freelancer is an individual, yet thoroughly connected; an arsenal of creativity.
  • Build a Rolodex of contacts that you can use to build your brand. From every prospective email, LinkedIn connection and business card swap, the more people who know you and what you do will make your freelance business boom.

Lastly, keep in mind the word’s historic origins. An early and oft cited use of the term appears in Ivanhoe, the popular historical novel written by Sir Walter Scott in 1819. He writes, “I offered Richard the service of my Free Lances, and he refused them….” Yet, he continues, “thanks to the bustling times, a man of action will always find employment.” Sounds like the freelancers paradigm in a nutshell: Get rejected but keep on carrying on until success is found. So, perhaps, this is why we keep a bust of old Sir Walter Scott in Central Park—our patron saint of freelancers everywhere.

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