How to approach the world of work after you graduate can be a daunting prospect, especially since the very nature of work has shifted during the pandemic. Now, flexible work structures provide more opportunities to engage with companies around the world, and traditional rules no longer apply.
Once you have walked that stage at the commencement ceremony, it may be time to consider working as a freelancer. However, freelancing is a different beast compared to the traditional 9-5, so you’ll need an actionable plan to make it work.
In this article, we will take a look at actionable strategies to help you achieve freelance success, including common challenges to watch out for and helpful tools for empowering recent graduates looking to enter the gig economy.
Strategies For Success in the Gig Economy
Taking into account all of your various skills, interests, and abilities, each recently graduated student can carve out their own unique pathway within the gig economy.
Since freelance work does not require you to sign a traditional contract, you can have more flexibility in terms of when, where, and how you work, and of course—who you want to work with. So that means if you have skills in different areas, you can still utilize all of them to work in a number of different contexts at the same time.
#1. Build a Robust Portfolio
Creating an enticing, engaging, and professional portfolio is the first step to success in the freelance economy. With a robust portfolio, you have something that you can share with potential clients and employees to demonstrate that you have the experience they require.
Whether you are a photographer looking for gigs documenting weddings and family events, or an IT technician seeking to offer support for various businesses, your portfolio should tell the story of who you are and what you are capable of doing.
#2. Become a Networking Expert
Since you’re not tied to a single company, you can present your services to anyone you might encounter throughout the day. You never know where you might meet a potential client: acquaintances or people at the local coffee shop, in an elevator, or at the dog park. So you should always be prepared to take advantage of a potential networking opportunity.
Firstly, think about what problem your services are solving. If you are targeting an unusual niche audience, then some people may not even know that there is a person who can solve the issue they are facing. So providing your services as a resource can be a welcome surprise.
But most importantly—don’t be afraid to reach out to potential clients via email. Craft an introductory email that strikes the right tone between friendly and professional, then follow up. Sometimes emails get lost in the fray, so potential clients will likely appreciate your persistence.
#3. Manage Your Finances
When you have so many distinct income streams to keep track of, it can be hard to manage. But managing your finances is a key part of attaining success as a long-term freelancer.
Invest time (and potentially some funds) in a system to help set you up for success, so you can easily track and manage each income. Digital income management systems can allow you to track your invoices, making it easier to keep up with all your clients.
Also, you should set up a budget that responds and updates to your dynamic work situation, so you can easily add or remove clients and gigs as they come up.
Common Challenges Freelancers Face
Understanding the challenges that you might face as a future freelancers is a great way to make sure you will be prepared in advance. Let’s dive into some of the common issues that occur, especially for first time freelancers, and potential solutions to these issues so that you are ready to face these challenges head on.
#1. Staying Focused
Freelancers can often work from anywhere, even contributing their skills from halfway around the globe to where their clients and contractors are based. This provides huge amounts of freedom, but can also make it hard to stay focused on the task at hand. Without a designated physical workspace, such as an office building or retail outlet, it can be difficult to feel that you have truly arrived at work, or to avoid distractions.
One strategy for creating and maintaining a focused atmosphere is to designate a specific work space in your home. Keep this home office area free from clutter, and try to find a space with plenty of natural lighting to help you stay alert and awake as you pursue your freelance tasks.
You can also try establishing a regular routine that will condition your mind to recognize that it is time to start work tasks.
#2. Late Payments
Ensuring that you receive your payments on time is important, particularly when your freelance work is your bread and butter. We all have regular expenses: rent to pay, phone and internet bills, groceries to buy, etc. So when clients fail to deliver payments on time it can really affect your lifestyle. Late payments can disrupt your financial planning and add stress to an already unpredictable job role.
One strategy to alleviate this issue is through invoice factoring. By converting your outstanding invoices into immediate cash, you’re able to mitigate the risks associated with delayed payments, thereby allowing you to focus more on your work and less on your bank balance. However, be aware that this often involves selling invoices for less than they’re worth, sometimes significantly less, especially if you’re looking to offload them urgently.
#3. Maintaining a Healthy Work-Life Balance
In a traditional 9-5 job, employees generally clock in and clock out, so when the day is done, that’s it. Your time is your own and you are free to do what you like with it, without being concerned about how it will affect your finances. This is one of the major pitfalls of working as a freelancer.
As a freelancer, the more hours you work in a day, the more money you will potentially earn, but maintaining a healthy work life balance is essential. Otherwise, you may exhaust yourself and end up with feelings of burnout, resentment, and fatigue. Learning how to set realistic targets for each month is a helpful way to avoid taking on more work than you can handle within a given period.
It can be difficult to resist the temptation to earn more and more, but prioritizing mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing is a key component to creating a long term sustainable freelance work lifestyle. Learn how to set healthy boundaries around how much work you can reasonably complete, and then stick to it as much as possible.
Freelance work and gig economy provide new horizons for recent graduates to earn a good living by taking on a number of different clients and engaging all of their skills. Working as a freelancer provides flexibility and autonomy for recent graduates, and can be a great entry point for delving deeper into their chosen field. As you navigate the gig economy, make sure to prioritize mental health and wellbeing, take care with managing finances and adjust your ways of working to promote focus and productivity. And most importantly—become a networking expert, promote your portfolio, and emphasize your skills. Using these strategies, you will be able to thrive as a freelancer in today’s gig economy.
About the Author | Magnus Eriksen is a copywriter and an eCommerce SEO specialist with a degree in Marketing and Brand Management. Before embarking on his copywriting career, he was a content writer for digital marketing agencies such as Synlighet AS and Omega Media, where he mastered on-page and technical SEO.