For me, becoming unemployed was a matter of choice. I filed my resignation on the 24th of January 2014 and officially became jobless on the 1st of March 2014. So I had a little bit of time to prepare my next move. I knew that I wanted to become a freelancer, but I wasn’t exactly sure where to head next, as I didn’t have any experience in this field, nor did I know anyone in my circles to have done this before me.
But, as I’m a big fan of planning this is where my journey began.
1. Everything starts with a plan
No matter what you are trying to accomplish, it starts with a goal and with a plan to get to it. I had just a little over 30 days to get everything ready before my source of monthly income was dead. So I bought a notebook and split it in three sections:
a) Most important one – where will I get jobs from
b) What do I have to do to get jobs. How should I prepare
For a), I started writing down every idea I had. Even the craziest ones like going from business to business (locally) and proposing them my services. My experience is in the online marketing and SEO fields. The simpler ideas referred to creating accounts on all freelance platforms I could find. I didn’t care where the money came from as long as they paid the bills and helped me survive long enough to create some connections and get to some better-paid jobs.
Point b) mostly focused on what I should do to ease my chances of getting jobs. If, for example, at point a) I wrote “freelancing platforms”, then the steps I had to take were to create a complete profile, apply to jobs and learn(by reading on the web) how I can do this successfully.
c) referred to income and expenses for the next 6 months which I thought to be more of a survival period. Thus, all my expenses were cut to a minimum. It’s important to do some financial planning in this situation and see how many months you’d be able to survive with the money that you have when starting. When quitting my job, I already had a few savings put aside and this made it easier for me to get through the first period.
Pro tip: If you’re not really popular in your field or don’t have any money put aside, I wouldn’t suggest that you quit your job to start freelancing. Save some money first. The first weeks will be much easier for you this way.
2. I contacted everyone I knew
For this step, I initially created a list in the planning phase, point b). The list contained names of people I knew that could have been interested in the services I was offering. It was comprised of acquaintances, friends and, most important of all, some business partners from my previous job.
I started contacting everyone, including my former boss, who even became my first client. We collaborated for a few months and this time he paid me even more than when I was working as his employee. The thing is that my replacement was less experienced than me so my ex-boss still needed someone to continue the SEO campaigns for his websites.
The other people I contacted didn’t require my services at the time, but this did pay off about 8-9 months later when I got a really good contract with one of the business partners from my previous job. It was a reply to my initial e-mail.
3. I educated myself
For me, education comes before action. As I didn’t have much clue about how to get freelancing jobs and where to find them, I started reading everything I could find on the web about what freelancing implies and what’s the fastest way to start earning money. I created a list with all freelancing platforms where I could create an account and I generally read everything I could about how to optimize your profile on freelancing platforms and how should a good proposal look like.
4. Creating profiles on freelancing platforms
After gaining enough knowledge on freelancing, it was time to take the next step and apply all the information I gathered. So my next logical move was to create the profiles on all freelancing platforms I had in my list. It was a boring task as there are numerous freelance markets out there and, although I mostly copy+pasted the information from one platform to another, it became really tedious at some point.
But this, along with what I learned from the freelance blogs I read, and another trick I will tell you all about below, helped me get my first job on a freelancing platform in the first two weeks since the moment I became officially unemployed.
I mentioned something about a trick I used that helped me a lot. To be honest, I didn’t realize this back then, but I think that using it really increased my chances of getting hired.
Although my resume was good, with about three years of experience in Online Marketing and some great training sessions I took at the Reed Center in London, I felt that this was not enough to prove people that I am really good at what I do, as everyone can lie in their CV.
So I created a blog where I wrote articles about SEO and generally on how you can optimize your website. I didn’t care about acquiring traffic on it. Its main role was to prove customers that I know what I am talking about and that I’m an expert in the field where I am offering services. So each time I applied to a job I also sent people the link to my website by saying something like: “If you’d like to have a better idea of my experience in this field, please visit (website URL), where I blog about SEO and online marketing”. It was a great way to gain clients’ trust in my knowledge about SEO.
6. I used time to my advantage
In the first few months of freelancing, it may seem that you have a lot of free time. Considering that there’s not much to do, you are allowed to play some games, watch some movies or generally find new ways to relax and waste time. Right?
See, this is a trap that the majority of new freelancers fall in. There’s always something you can do and using the time to your advantage can easily increase the chances of getting your first freelance contracts. You can read articles, apply to more jobs, create connections on Linkedin, blog or become better at what you do. Doing any of these things is more than doing nothing.
Plus, sitting on your ass all day long without spending time on something that really matters is the safest route to procrastination.
7. Job Exchange
I didn’t tell you this until now, but I was somehow lucky when I started my freelance journey. Both Andreea and I were offering services in the online marketing sector, as she was a copywriter while I was an SEO. This helped a lot as we exchanged clients. Each time she got hired to work on a copywriting job she would also ask the customers if they require SEO services as well, while I did the same for her. This proved to be a good strategy as we found that many people were also interested in the other service, so we managed to swap a few clients.
Now, not every couple is made out of two freelancers in almost the same niche, but you can look for other people offering services in the same field as you and ask them to trade clients. Or maybe you have a friend you can work with. Believe me, it’s really worth it and it’s a simple way to get more jobs.
To be honest, I can’t say that the first freelancing months were hard for me. I think it’s all about how you prepare and how determined you are to succeed. Make your own plan, create your own goals and follow it strictly. Even if it seems like you have nothing to do, try and create an 8-hour schedule, no matter what, and use those hours to increase your chances of getting hired. Remember that success is usually reflected in the effort you put in and it’s directly proportional to it.