So you’re a disillusioned millennial looking for a new career that will bring you health, wealth and happiness. Maybe you’re hoping you’ll even be able to save up enough money for a deposit on a house (if only you stopped spending all your earnings on avocado brunches, eh?).
As a generation, we’ve got a bad rap; all the other generations hate us (we’re looking at you, baby boomers) and we’re told all the time that we’ve never had it easier.
That, my millennial friends, is a bare-faced lie. We have things much harder — house prices are sky-high, we’re all competing for the same jobs in a large pool of 2:1 degree-holding graduates, and we haven’t got the freshness that Gen Z have got on their side. Not to mention, Freddos now cost about £10 each. Pile on some societal pressure (cue “we were married and had our careers sorted by 23,” comments from your parents — cheers, Dad) and we’re all hot, confused messes.
We’ve been there (/still are…) and we’re here to tell you that it’s all going to be okay. While we might not be able to sort out your lovelife, we can help with a bit of career advice — especially if you want to start freelancing.
We’ve made a millennial guide to getting started in freelancing: read on below for tips and tricks on how to succeed as a freelancer.
Get started on a freelance platform
Okay, so you want to start freelancing, but you have no idea where to start.
First things first, it’s time to sign up to a freelance website. These sites work as a jobs board and network, connecting freelancers with clients that need to hire; a great way to get the ball rolling on your freelancing career.
Check out sites like Upwork, Fiverr and Freelancer. Although these sites take a cut of your freelancing fee (usually between 5-20%), it’s totally free to sign up and create a profile. From there you can apply for jobs, which essentially involves pitching to a company or client and telling them why you deserve their cash.
Don’t be alarmed if you’ve got no experience as of yet; yes, some clients will want a more experienced freelancer. However, there are plenty of people out there who can’t/don’t want to pay extortionate rates for a job, and are willing to take a chance on a freelancing newbie.
Focus on upselling any applicable skills, relevant experience or education you have. Do some research on your prospect’s website (if they’ve linked to it) and explain why you would gel. And under no circumstances should you lie about your previous experience; you’ll probably get caught out which will result in a negative review (which other potential clients will see) and no payment.
Leverage your connections
You’re a millennial. You graduated from university a while ago (fond memories, look how young freshers are now, eugh). You and your friends have been trying to chase the perfect job (or at least one that uses your degree and pays the bills) for a few years now. By this point, you’ve probably come to the realisation that a lot of successful job-scoring is down to who you know, not necessarily what you do.
It’s a sad truth of our society today that connections can mean everything when it comes to building your career, but the sooner you acknowledge this and use it, the better.
Do you have any friends, family members or acquaintances that work for (or run) digital agencies? Get involved: ask if you can get some experience and shadow them in the office.
If you know any freelancers, rack their brains for expert advice — and ask if they can introduce you to any of their contacts.
Or do you know anyone that owns their own business and wants some help promoting it on social media, taking professional photos or writing web content? Ask if you can do some work for them — for free, or for a small fee (use your judgement to gauge the situation).
Guest post for relevant sites
So this is more for the wannabe freelance writers out there rather than other types of freelancers (although you can still apply this but in a different way — more on this in a moment).
Guest posting for sites — particularly ones in the niche you’re interested in — is a great opportunity to make connections and promote your work.
If you’re just getting started in freelancing, you may find that your new career gets off to a slow start (particularly if you’ve moved to a new industry and you’ve got no experience or connections). Don’t be alarmed — this is totally natural, and things will build up over time.
In the meantime, however, it’s a good idea to start putting feelers out and working for relevant sites in your niche. Get in touch with sites, blogs and publications you admire and find interesting, and pitch your title ideas to them in a pro bono writing offer. Yes, pro bono — that means for free. Don’t roll your eyes — this is a necessary evil.
Guest posting for free will build up your experience, portfolio, visibility and connections — all important things if you want to pave a career for yourself in this industry. We’ve all done it, and yes, it pays off.
If you’re going into freelance photography, design, or any other area, you can still apply this. Offer to help out with web design, take product photos, or shoot a new promo video for small, local brands. Just make sure that you’re acknowledged in social media posts or on the website with a link back to your freelancer profile or portfolio site.
Create a freelancer portfolio to showcase your work
If you’re serious about freelancing, then you should consider creating a portfolio website to showcase your work.
Creating a freelancing portfolio will give you the chance to show what you’ve been spending your time on — perfect for prospective employers and clients to get a feel for your style of work, whether it’s writing, photography or design.
You can build your website any way you like, but using a site builder makes sense, if only to make life as a freelancer a bit easier. If you’re a designer, photographer, you can use a aesthetics-focused “drag and drop” builder like Wix or Squarespace to really show off your work.
If you’re a writer, then check out Clippings.me. It’s a super popular writing portfolio platform that will let you create your own portfolio website. You can add your own bio, online articles and PDFs to share your work with others easily, plus it’s easy to customise.
Don’t give up your day job (just yet)
While it’s all very exciting to start freelancing, it’s a good idea to keep the day job going at the moment.
Freelancing can bring in a decent income, but realistically, it’s a career that usually takes a little bit of time to get off the ground. Following the steps we’ve detailed above will help you to start, but regardless of how many of these you do, getting work is not always guaranteed.
Staying at your current job while you explore freelancing and start to build your portfolio and connections is a solid move — ensuring that you still have incoming cash flow while you’re starting out. After all, you still need to be able to pay rent and buy food.
It’s still possible to freelance in the evenings and weekends, and to be honest, this is a good test to see how passionate you are about your potential new career. You may like the idea of being your own boss, but when it comes down to it, you may even decide that this route isn’t for you. You might not even like the work you have to do.
Don’t heap pressure on yourself by jacking in your job to “follow your dream”. Yes, it may be your dream, but by pinning all of your future hopes on freelancing, you might be disappointed when everything doesn’t go to plan. And this does happen — clients can be difficult, work can be slow, and it can be frustrating to work for little to no pay to start with.
If you find when you start out that you’re really enjoying your new freelance work and you’re making a decent amount of money, then by all means, quit that boring office job and get out, you beautiful freelancing butterfly!
From one millennial to another, we hope you enjoyed our guide to getting started in freelancing.
Follow our advice to get your career as a freelancer on the tracks, and remember — don’t be disheartened if it’s taking a while to gather up speed. Carry on building up your portfolio and forging new relationships, and you will get to a point where you can go full time and make a good wage.