How to Successfully Start Freelancing on the Side

Working as a full time freelancer clearly has numerous benefits. For starters, you will be the only one in charge of your schedule (hello, flexible hours!), there won’t be a noisy boss looking over your shoulder, and you will be able to choose to only contribute to projects you truly believe in. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it? Actually, many people tend to romanticize these advantages and ignore the obvious downfalls altogether.

After all, being a full-time freelancer isn’t as easy as it may look at first sight. You need a lot of discipline to keep your work life and personal life separate. Furthermore, you won’t enjoy the benefits of a steady and reliable workload anymore; instead, you will have to pursue clients, negotiate your rates and run the risk of not getting paid once the job is completed.

Not sure if you are up to the challenge just yet? No worries! If you have a day job that pays your bills and covers your living costs, you can test the waters by freelancing on the side. It’s going to be tough – working on projects in the evening and on weekends takes some serious motivation. But think about the bright side. You will bring in some extra cash and see if you have what it takes to be your own boss. If things don’t turn out alright, you still have your job as a safety net. In the end, it’s a win-win situation. Here are a few tips that will help you get started, below.


Clear it with your employer first

Before creating a profile on freelancer sites like Elance or oDesk, make sure your official employer allows you to engage in such activities on the side. Start by carefully analyzing your employment contract to see if there is any mention of moonlighting or freelancing. Keep in mind that you can lose your job due to breach of contract if you freelance without permission from your employer.

If moonlighting is strictly banned, hope isn’t lost just yet. Approach your supervisor and tell him about your intentions. As long as you are respectful and you assure them that your side gigs won’t influence your work performance, they might be inclined to authorize a contract change.

Take the time to build an engaging profile

If you freelance online, on websites like the ones mentioned above, you need to devote some serious time towards building an appealing profile. Your freelancing profile is basically a business card – if it’s great, it helps you make a good first impression. Upload a professional photo and outline your qualifications and experience. Many sites dedicated to freelancers offer the possibility to take tests in order to prove your skills; take advantage of this facility to build your credibility.

Additionally, you must put together a strong portfolio to showcase your abilities. You are just starting up, so potential clients need to see samples of your previous work in order to determine if you are the right fit.

For starters, set reasonable rates

Research compensation for your particular market niche and settle on reasonable rates, especially since you are just starting up. You can always raise your asking price later on, after you build a good reputation. Competitive rates will increase your chances of landing your first job. Then, prove clients that you are a reliable, client-oriented freelancer. Once you receive some positive feedback and good references, you can gradually raise your rates.

Manage your time effectively

Never take on more projects than you can manage – after all, you already have a full-time job.  Nothing screams sloppy freelancer louder than a missed deadline. Analyze your routine and see what you can cut momentarily, in order to support your freelancing efforts. Make it a habit to use to-do lists to improve your productivity. Also, a wise idea would be to write deadlines down on a post-it and put it somewhere in sight; this way, there’s a smaller chance of getting swept up in your daily task and forget to send out a report or important e-mail.

Finally, even if you are extremely dedicated to making your new schedule work, don’t forget that you still need a social and personal life. Fit in some exercise every now and then and leave yourself plenty of time to spend with friends and family. If you are lucky, they will offer you tremendous support; as well as keep you motivated to strive for success in your new endeavors.

Learn how to deal with clients

The way you deal with clients is extremely important when you work as a freelancer. Always be patient, respectful and polite. Show them that you know what you are doing, keep them informed on your progress and come up with prompt solutions to any problems that may arise along the way. Sarcasm and rudeness are strictly forbidden in the freelancing world.

Furthermore, before starting work on a project, make sure you and the client agree on all the details – deadline, availability, milestones, and so on. This will allow both you and the client to know exactly how the project is supposed to progress.

Freelancing on the side can be highly rewarding. You will be able to further develop your skills, earn extra cash and hold on to your employment benefits. In order to make it work, however, you need to know your limits. Set goals that are realistic and decide from the beginning how much time you can you invest in a side project without harming your day job and personal life.

Last but not least, no matter how many side projects you take on, give yourself at least one day off every week. Two would be ideal, but if you plan to be a freelancer with a full-time job you will rarely get to experience that.  However, one free day will keep you sane. Don’t skip it.

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