10 Steps to Becoming a Successful Freelancer

During my years as a full-time magazine editor, I would give out assignments to freelance writers, photographers, makeup artists, stylists, and illustrators. All these people would come together to help us editors produce the beautiful pages in our magazines and books.

When my magazine closed, I decided to give freelancing a try. After all, if our contributors could do it, I probably could too, right? But now that I’m a freelancer myself, I realized that it’s not as easy as it looks! Now that I no longer have a day job, now that my routine of going to the office every day is gone, there are moments when I get a panic attack and think: Where will I get my next paycheck? What if nobody assigns me anything anymore? What am I going to do with my life?!

Last Saturday, I attended the The Freelancer Fair 2017 at the Bayanihan Center and it helped address some questions I have about freelancing. It was a lively gathering with a variety of booths as well as a series of talks meant to empower the attendees.

freelancer fair 2017 horizontal

If you’re thinking about becoming a freelancer, or just earning some money on the side, here are a few things I learned from the speakers at the event.

1. Find your purpose. Before diving into your work or marketing your services, figure out your “why.” As author Simon Sinek said in his book Start with Why, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.”

2. Know your strengths. What are you good at? What do people usually go to you for? What kind of services can you offer? And don’t just look at your day job or the course you took up in college. Think about your hobbies and passions too. Obsessed with running and healthy eating? Perhaps you can be a fitness coach! Have a knack for sales? Perhaps you can be a real estate agent. There is a common misconception that freelancers are only classified as online workers. But the truth is, a freelancer can be anyone from a virtual assistant or online shopper to a financial advisor or life coach. So no matter what your skills, you can find a way to make freelancing work for you.

3. Think of yourself as a business. As a freelancer, you are your own boss. That doesn’t mean you get to slack off. As a business owner, you need to be strategic about your business decisions and do a lot of hard work to make your business succeed.

4. Start collaborating (not competing). With so many freelancers out there (about 1.5 million in the online world according to the event organizers), it’s definitely tough. It’s easy to start thinking of everyone else as competition. But if you collaborate with fellow freelancers, then your community will grow, you can come up with a better product or service, and you might even learn something new.

5. Invest in yourself. If you’re not confident in your skills, invest in courses and tools to learn more about the job you want to do. Make time to study—no excuses.


Photo by Corinne Kutz from Unsplash.com

6. Have a positive attitude. I couldn’t agree more with this piece of advice! There will be so many stumbling blocks along the way. But as long as you train your mind to be positive and do the work, everything else will follow. Believe in the power of the Universe!

7. Value your relationships. As the theme of the workshop goes, you need to cultivate relationships. Who do you want to serve? Find out where those people are and reach out to them. Take care of your clients, suppliers, and everyone else you’re working with. Most of all, always be kind.

8. Strive for excellence. Don’t settle for work that is “pwede na.” Do everything to the best of your ability.

9. Communicate your thoughts and ideas well. One of the most interesting questions during the creative freelancing panel was about how to deal with difficult clients. According to one panelist, you need to learn to challenge the client (in a nice way). Ask questions and work together; don’t just take orders.

10. Commit to wow your clients every time. I got this from inspirational speaker Francis Miranda, whose talk I enjoyed most. He says we should strive to be extraordinary (going beyond what everyone else does), progressive (always improving), and consistent (delivering consistently good quality work). After all, “the best marketing is a good experience that your client can’t stop raving about. Good experiences get clients. Wow experiences get loyalists.”

There are so many more tips and insights, but I think I’ll have to limit this post to 10 tips for now. I hope I can keep these in mind as I navigate the freelancing world—and I hope they are helpful to you as well. If there are other tips you’d like to share, please do post them in the comments. 🙂


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