In this issue of Ask FreelanceSwitch, we look at transitioning from student work to freelancing and blogging about your work. Ask FreelanceSwitch is a regular column here that allows us to help beginners get a grip on freelancing. If you have a question about freelancing that you want answered, send an email to email@example.com.
Here is my question:
I have been going to school for 5 years now and am almost complete with my design degree. I went to get an internship at a local creative agency and they told me I was too qualified, and they would add me to their freelance list. I then decided what the heck, lets try freelancing. After a few months of picking up some small jobs I never got the boost I needed to really have a steady income of freelance gigs.
What advice can you give students who wish freelancing to be a future career? Are there specific courses they should try for while still in college? (marketing, writing, etc) When entering the freelance market what is the best way to market yourself and start to get a stream of gigs?
If you’re still in school and have the opportunity to do so, I would certainly recommend picking up some basic business classes, especially those that focus on marketing. Having that sort of information before you actually jump into freelancing is invaluable: if you can skip the process of learning to keep your books, you can spend that time landing clients. Similarly, having even a little bit of a marketing background can help you get up to speed. I’d also recommend starting to pursue freelancing gigs while still in college — that’s actually what I did. I was able to afford to search out opportunities that looked good in my portfolio because I wasn’t desperate to find work to pay the rent. That meant I could focus on higher paying gigs and learning how to land them right off the bat.
Relying on one agency for freelance work is tough. Unless you have a relationship with that agency (beyond being on their freelance list) or you truly wow them with your work, it’s rare to get a lot of big projects that way. You’re going to have to go out and focus on bringing in more of those projects on your own. That can include building up a better relationship with the agency you’re already working with, starting to work with even more agencies and marketing yourself both online and offline. If you’ve already got a few great portfolio pieces in place, your priority has to be on networking. Check job boards and respond to ads for freelancers, of course, but the more you can network, the more you can land word-of-mouth clients and set higher rates.
Blogging for Clients
So i have a question for you. I am a fresh web developer who is just starting with HTML & CSS. I bought a host and domain and i want to start writing some articles etc. so that i can get deeper into web development but that i can also share some information with newbies like me. Should I write my own articles or should i link to other cool articles that i find on the web? Any other advice about blogging? Thanks! – Mladen
When you’re blogging, it’s important to have posts that are original content — you want people to link to your site, and if you’re just posting collections of links, they’re more likely to link to the original posts. That said, where you focus your blog posts can be even more important. If your goal is to use your blog to bring in clients, your topics have to be of interest to those clients — not to other web developers! Ideally, you’ll be writing posts about web development that help your prospective clients decide that they need a web developer, like yourself. That means narrowing down your prospective client pool to an audience you can easily write to. For instance, maybe your ideal clients are small business owners in your geographic area: you need to think about what types of content they’ll be searching for. Think about the decisions that they make that go along with hiring a web developer — like choosing hosting. A post about the best hosting for small business owners is sure to attract that type of client.
I’d be careful about writing articles about your own level of expertise on a blog that’s meant to attract clients. You shouldn’t mislead your clients on the question of how experienced you are, but you do want them to be confident in your ability to complete the projects you land.
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