Raises aren't what they used to be, and neither is job security. For these reasons, some workers turn to freelance work. If you're looking to supplement your income, or test the waters for a whole new career, freelancing might be the answer. Here's how to find the best freelance jobs for your skills, needs, and experience. Also, review tips on how to find funding if you want to start freelancing.
4 Tips for Finding Freelance Work
There are many ways to find freelance work, but these four methods have proven successful time and again.
At least 60 percent of all jobs are found through networking. Freelance gigs are particularly well-suited for this job search method because employers are more willing to give you a chance if you come recommended by someone they already know and trust.
How do you get started networking? The good news is that you're probably doing it already. If you socialize with present or former colleagues or anyone in your industry, you're making and forging connections that will help you find work, freelance or otherwise. Your goal now is to keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities.
2. Social Media
Social media is the would-be freelancer's best friend. Your favorite social network can be your personal website, free advertising, and electronic business card, all rolled into one. You can leverage your existing social media presence by quietly announcing to certain connections that you're looking for work, or post a general notice on your own profile that you're now accepting freelance clients.
Just watch those privacy settings. If you've connected with your boss -- or the office tattletale -- on social media, you could inadvertently be announcing your intentions to the wrong person.
3. Job Sites
When you think of job sites, you probably only think in terms of full-time work. But in fact, most of the major job search sites allow you to search for freelance gigs as well, either by keyword, filter, or category. In addition, there are plenty of sites that cater specifically to folks looking solely for freelance work.
4. Professional Associations
Most industries have professional associations; it's worth it to research the ones in your field, to see if the membership dues come with access to specialized job boards, career advice, education, or other support. To find organizations in your area, start with your best friend Google -- and don't forget to ask your real friends and colleagues for their recommendations, as well.
Know Before You Look for Freelance Jobs
If you're looking for extra work on top of your full-time job, you need to take special care that your part-time gig doesn't interfere with your main source of income. It requires a bit of advance planning, even before you start looking for freelance jobs.
Make sure your employer doesn't have a policy against:
In some cases, you will have signed a legal document prior to starting your job, which specifies whether you can work another job, and what kind of jobs are OK. If you've been at your current job for a long time, this might have slipped your mind. Now's a good time to check on your employer's policy. (But don't tell HR directly that you're working part-time elsewhere. You might send a message you don't intend.)
Even if your boss doesn't care about your working for another company, your employer might have a policy about using the information you've learned in the course of your regular duties to earn extra cash for a competitor.
Once you've figured out that you're legally in the clear to take on extra work, make sure you won't paint yourself into a corner, time-wise, by doing so. If freelancing will make it hard to find time to do your full-time job, it's not worth the money.
In any case, start small. Don't commit to 20 hours of extra work right off the bat. Take on a few hours of work, or one project for a single client, to get an idea of how you'll cope with the extra workload before you commit more time and resources to freelancing.
5 Ways to Find Start-Up Money for Your Freelance Career
By using the smarts that will make you a success once you're a full-time freelancer, you can find the funding you need. It's all a matter of rearranging finances and your schedule to reflect your new number one priority: being your own boss and making your freelance dreams come true. Here's where to start looking for the money to get started.
1. Cut Expenses
If you've never made a basic household budget, now's the time to start. Budgeting is not most people's idea of a good time, but if you want to save money without feeling deprived, the first thing to do is to figure out where your money is going right now, and then make the cuts that will sting the least.
Bottom line: don't assume that being frugal has to hurt. If you look honestly at your expenditures, you'll probably see a few places where you can make some fairly painless cuts.
2. Make More Money
You could look for an extra part-time job, but if your day job is like most, you won't have time to juggle both and be effective in either. My best advice for someone who's looking for extra money to fund a transition to freelance is to start that switch right now and make a gradual move to full-time, freelance work.
By picking up a few gigs here and there, you can determine whether the freelance lifestyle is right for you, as well as figuring out which types of clients and jobs suit you best. And because you won't be committing to another regular job, there's less chance that you'll get in trouble with your full-time employer while you bank money.
3. Use a Windfall
Did you get a tax refund, or a settlement, or money for an event or milestone? Consider using it as a nest egg to finance your new venture. You can always make a plan to pay yourself back over time if it feels wrong to burn through an unusual influx of cash by switching to freelance.
4. Get a Loan
There's a reason this one appears far down on the list: if you're going freelance, and not starting a business with demonstrable cash flow and the potential for market analysis, you're probably not going to convince a bank to give you a small business loan. Nor would I necessarily recommend that you hit up friends and family for money, especially before you're sure you'll make enough to pay them back in a timely fashion. But if you have other sources of financing, and a growing client base, and need a little extra to make the leap, a small personal loan can get you there that much faster.
Just be sure to spell out terms in writing and to fulfill your promises to your benefactor. You don't want there to be any confusion about who's paying whom, how much, and when.
If you're considering freelance in part because you've been laid off or otherwise lost your job, severance can be a great way to finance the next phase in your career. Just be sure that you read the fine print in your severance policy so that you'll understand exactly how much money you can expect to receive, after taxes, and for how long, and whether healthcare benefits and other perks will be included in your package.
If you're receiving or expect to receive unemployment, you'll also want to read up on how working for yourself affects your eligibility. While it is often possible to start freelancing part-time while receiving unemployment, you'll need to understand the rules in your state to make sure you're adhering to the law when you file. For example, in some states, working a few days a week will reduce, but not suspend, your unemployment check. Check with your state unemployment office for specifics.