Every freelancer with a successful career has probably gone through the uncertainty involved in leaving their full-time jobs and jumping into the unknown. You probably think they were very brave for starting their own business as freelancers, but the truth is that bravery does not play as big a role as careful planning, preparation, and research.

Being a freelancer is liberating and fun, but it is usually scary, too. But worry not! All you need to kickstart your own succesful career is learning to feel comfortable with risk –or at least tolerate it– and getting down to work. Here are some tips you might find useful (Part 1 of this article includes a few of them, and this other article deals with the rest):

Freelancer Lying Down with Laptop

Save Up Some Money Before Becoming a Freelancer

When you start working as a freelancer, take into account that there will be times when you won’t make much money (if you make any at all), especially at the beginning of your career. To ease up the transition between quitting your current full-time job and earning a steady amount of money every month, it is important that you build a cash cushion to help you reduce the stress levels caused by the uncertainty of the first few months. Don’t forget that you will be spending some money to get your business up and running, so you should have sufficient resources set aside to get you through the rough periods until your revenues begin to amount to more than your costs.

Research the Market

The best way to learn when you are new as a freelancer in a particular field is by studying your competitors. There will always be competition, but there’s a lot you can learn from them. Check out their websites, find out what they charge for their services, study their marketing campaigns. Sometimes it might even be beneficial for you to work for one of such competitors for some time before jumping into a market you don’t quite understand yet.

Write a Business Plan (Yes, a Freelancer Needs One Too)

A good business plan will outline your business strategy, your goals, and what you need to do to achieve them. You can find a template online, or ask yourself: will I be selling a product or a service? What does my product or service have that makes it unique? Where do I see myself in 5 years? How much am I willing to spend during the first year? What are my first most important goals and what deadline will I set for myself to achieve them?

Get Start-Up Advice

Join Facebook groups where other freelancers share information, attend talks by successful entrepreneurs, and take advantage of the many online resources designed to provide start-up advice. Also, have you heard of entrepreneur cafes?

Have a Website Designed

Make sure you have a website that’s visually appealing, professional-looking, easily found online, and easy to navigate. If you want to launch a business, your customers have to know about it. This is one of the most expensive requirements for people looking to go freelance, but it’s a necessary expense and will bring you long-term benefits. Don’t go cheap! Hire a professional designer to guarantee the best quality.

Start Marketing Yourself

Marketing is not only about paid advertisement on search engines or social platforms. You can start building your personal brand simply by making sure everyone knows that you offer this or that service. Always be telling people about what you do, even the guy at the corner shop or your Tinder date. You never know who might end up referring a friend or family member to you. With the passing of time, you might be in a position to cover the cost of paid advertising online or through other media.

Start Networking

Go to meet-ups and get in touch with other professionals who work in the same industry as you. You can ask them to meet in person for a coffee or simply send them an invite through a professional networking site like LinkedIn. If you go to meet-ups, don’t just go to the ones in your speciality: become as social as possible in person, and as active as possible online! After all, if you want to build a strong network, you need to exercise your communication skills.  Try to get in the radar of those key people who might be able to outsource some work to you or hire you to provide them with a particular service.

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