Freelancing is increasingly common in the global, internet-connected world of today. Many self-employed positions didn’t even exist 20 years ago. Meanwhile, a vast range of jobs that once relied on physical presence in an office are now easily done on a laptop in the living room. Many freelancers find it difficult to be taken seriously next to their traditionally employed peers. Here are some explanations for the attitude, and how freelancers can be sure people take them just as seriously as any other professional.
The Home Becomes the Office
For many, a significant barrier in accepting freelancing as a legitimate career is the lack of traditionally defined office space. Some people wonder how much work can get done in someone’s living room (or occasionally, perched in bed with the laptop).
That can be particularly difficult for freelancers who share their living space with others. Many self-employed people will know the struggles of having to deal with distractions while that deadline is looming. The lack of a boss or traditionally formal workspace means that spouses and roommates can be tempted to drop by at all hours when they need something.
If you find this as a freelancer, or indeed even as an employee who works from home now and then, be sure to make it clear that work time means no distractions. Of course, real emergencies are an exception. As in a corporate office, casually dropping by to say hi whenever isn’t acceptable. But, if something genuinely urgent comes up, then family and friends know they can still give you a call or knock on the door.
Setting Work Time and Home Time
Even if your work and leisure time all take place in the home, it’s still possible to separate these different activities into blocks. As well as being great for productivity and avoiding work hours bleeding into your fun time, setting your working hours each day can help others understand when you’re available or not.
This schedule can also help create the impression that you’re taking your home business seriously. If you can give clients your business hours for each day, then they know when they can expect to get a quick response to calls and emails. Otherwise, you risk rushing around during your off time answering messages or leaving them waiting too long to get back to you.
Focusing Your Expertise
Of course, there is a vast range of jobs you can do as a self-employed worker, but whatever you choose, it can help to focus your skills to show that you’re an expert in a particular field. Some freelancers may do well in a jack-of-all-trades situation, but it’s usually easier to ask for higher rates and get noticed if you focus.
To take the example of a writer, clients may be more inclined to give you work if they know that you’re an expert in the area they require. If, say, you state that you’re a B2B marketing writer on your resume and LinkedIn profile, you’re more likely to be sought out for that kind of work. Just putting “content writer” or something similar can make you seem less knowledgeable.
Expanding Your Knowledge
On the previous point, it’s best to choose what you already know. If you feel you don’t have anything particular to offer from your existing experience and qualifications, take a course to start building authority in your favorite field. Going to graduate school or getting an internship is among the best ways to do this, but there are cheaper and faster alternatives too.
There are many universities around the world which offer online courses for either free or very low prices. Many of these give certificates to show evidence of your new skills. These courses can be excellent for increasing your eligibility for exciting and lucrative freelance gigs. Khan Academy is another excellent source for free classes, particularly in STEM subjects, as well as history, economics, and other areas. It’s a well-respected source and well worth your time to explore. Just ask yourself if you’re interested in any courses before undertaking them and if they’d add value to your resume. If so, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a sought-after expert.
Finally, Always Get a Contract Signed
This tip ties in nicely with the concept of being taken seriously and could save you headaches throughout your freelancing career. Always get a contract signed by the party offering you work before you undertake it. Dealing with someone far away can be challenging, especially if they decide not to pay you.
In most cases, the agreement doesn’t have to be particularly fancy or official. Merely state an outline of the nature of the work, the timeframe you agree to get it completed, and when you expect to get paid. You can also include a late-fee clause in case the client delays the payment. In most cases, a polite reminder email will be enough to sort out any “forgotten” invoices. Failing that, get in touch with the company’s business manager, attaching your signed contract as evidence.
Following these steps as a burgeoning freelancer will set you up well for both avoiding unnecessary trouble and giving a professional impression to others. Even if you’re a seasoned self-employed worker, perhaps you’ve neglected one or two of these areas and recognize that making some changes could do your work life some good. Give them a try and see if you notice a difference in your relationships with your clients, family, friends and yourself in the context of self-employment.