It’s been a bit longer than comfortable with this most recent government shutdown. Government workers are still without pay. And with a strong majority of Americans working paycheck to paycheck, it might be a good time to talk about alternative incomes.
Sometimes work just doesn’t go your way. You’re laid off after budget cuts, an injury left you unable to work, or maybe your government shutdown. If you want to help ease the pain of unemployment, you can try working for yourself as a freelancer. It’s hard work and the pay isn’t great, but any income is better than none. And if it’s with something you’re passionate about, it might be worth it overall.
Here’s what you need to know when freelancing.
Decide on a Craft
Before you can sell your work, you need to know what work that is exactly. Sometimes this is creative work, such as art commission, music production, or writing. Sometimes they’re more service based, like video editing or SEO optimization. Some are more local, like auto mechanics, photographers, or handymen. Choose a field of work that interests you and you are good at.
Refine your craft. If you do woodwork, focus on furniture, or decorative trinkets. If you try to encompass everything, you’re more likely to have an overall lower quality product. Fear the man who trained one punch 1,000 times, not the man who trained with 1,000 punches once.
Determine Your Client Format
There are two ways to make money freelancing, commisions and clients. A commission comes from when a single stranger seeks you out for a one time job. A client is a regular customer, often a business. They, more times than not, will announce their search for a freelancer, but will not contact them directly. That means you have to apply for their offer as a contractor.
Generally speaking, clients offer more stable work. But finding them can be almost as difficult as winning them over.
Commisions are a different beast. They come to you, whether from a search engine or a referral. They’re unpredictable, but due to the specialized nature of commisions, they can be more profitable.
Have a Website
No matter what you do, you should have a website showcasing it. This single site can operate as a means of contact with new clients and commisions, a portfolio to show off your skill, and a means of being found online. There are countless sites online that will help you in building your own website. Or if you’re the tech design savvy sort, maybe web design IS your freelancing skill.
There are also websites for promoting and selling your craft. If you’re a service, look into Fiverr.com, a site for selling and hiring services. For selling items, try Etsy.com.
Understand Search Engines
Google is your best friend, and will always be. When people want something, they search for it online. The art of being a common search result is a complex yet effective one. There are people that make a living just telling people about better SEO (search engine optimization). If you have your own website, its generally a good idea to read some beginner articles on SEO and try to implement that into your website. People can’t hire you if they can’t find you.
Know Your Worth
How much do you charge? This can be one of the hardest questions with freelancing. The answer? It depends. Various industries will have different methods of payment. Musicians will often be paid per-song, while writers per-article or per-word. The best way to figure it out is to look online and compare that to your skills. A skilled graphic designer can comfortably ask $100 for a detailed art commision, but a newcomer may need to ask for less. As your skills increase, so can your price.
One common trick is to compare your efforts at a time per dollar rate. Does this new order take 4 hours? If you want to make more than $10 an hour, you’ll need to ask for $40. Skilled freelancers can range anywhere between $20 and $100 an hour for a commision.
Stay Active Online
In this modern age, having an active internet presence can make a world of difference. Have social media accounts like Twitter and Facebook. Post on them regularly. Does your website have a blog system? Post there too. This shows people that you’re active and interested in your craft. It’s also a good website SEO.
Do Guest Work
If you’re a digital craft, such as music, writing or video editing, you can help build a strong portfolio and establish a network by doing guest work. Many sites and content creators will be open-minded toward having you contribute to their own publication. This provides content for them, practice for you, and will help you with new exposure to an existing viewer base. They will also be good practice, offering a professional experience.
Don’t Try and Do Your Own Taxes
Any freelancer or otherwise self-employed individual will tell you that it makes taxes significantly more complicated. You have to track, understand, and categorized all of your expenses, pay any due amounts, and often times you have to file quarterly. You can try filing for yourself, but the IRS isn’t a force to be reckoned with.
If you don’t want to hire a professional accountant (hey, that could be another freelancer job), you could also use a tax filing service like Turbo Tax. If you don’t want to pay for that, then look into Turbo Tax Freedom Edition. This is the full Turbo Tax suite offered for free to anyone making under $37,000 a year. If you’re making more than that, then you can probably afford Turbo Tax’s $40 self-employment fee.
You can’t file your taxes right now anyway. What with the shutdown and all.
Some potential freelance specialties
- Language translations
- Audio transcription
- Pop Culture Merchandise Making
- Custom Outfit/Costumes