Business development 17 January 2018

New year, new direction: How to go freelance in 2018

Office supplies on the wooden table - laptop, sketchbook and a cup of coffee in the centre of composition. Shot with Canon 5D mkIII.
An estimated 80 per cent of freelance contracts are sourced via agencies

To provide some guidance for readers looking to join the flexible economy this year, Dave Chaplin, author of freelance advice manual The Contractors’ Handbook, offers ten tips on how to go freelance.

Could 2018 be the year you make your decision to move from being a permanent employer to becoming your own boss as a freelancer or contractor? The decision seems to have been endlessly dramatised.

In fact, it’s not that big a decision at all and choosing to go down that route ranks well below decisions like getting married or deciding on which career to choose. And today some two million people are part of the flexible workforce so you won’t be on your own.

Most opt to take the plunge for three reasons – to do the things they really want to do, and this includes taking more time off, to avoid the things that they really don’t want to do and thirdly, for the money.

It is the second reason that drives many wannabe freelancers and contractors into the sector. Many of us get to the stage in our careers when we become as experienced, skilled and technically proficient as we are likely to get in our chosen skills set whether it’s in programming, engineering, medicine, marketing or many other disciplines.

So, if you are thinking of becoming a contractor or freelancer, here are some tips to help kick start your new year and secure a contract.

How to go freelance in ten steps

  1. Your CV

Create a CV that is short, tailored, focused and targeted. Customise the CV to highlight skills and achievements relevant to the contract or project being applied for.

  1. Marketing

Market yourself on jobs boards, using agencies and via networks. An estimated 80 per cent of contracts are sourced via agencies, so get yourself on agency CV databases and apply for specific roles. Upload a CV to contractor job boards and CV libraries, and start working professional networks online, face to face, by phone and by email.

  1. Applications

Find specific contracts and projects and send a targeted application. Apply for contracts via email then diarise follow-up and chasing in person by telephone.

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  1. Securing interviews

Experienced contractors know that once in front of a client at an interview the contract is often in the bag. Initial negotiations should focus on securing an interview rather than bargaining over rates.

  1. Preparation

Preparation, preparation, preparation. Turning up to job interviews poorly prepared is unlikely to progress an application for contract or freelance work. Find out the basics like the interview location, transport links and parking and be sure to research the client, the company, what it does, its needs and its latest news. Be prepared.

  1. Interview

Be proactive. Contract work interviews are different from interview for permanent employment; they are sales pitches. So those contractors and freelancers who are proactive and apply sales techniques to control the interview have a greater chance of securing the outcome they want.

  1. Fact-find

During the interview explore and understand the issues, and explain how you can solve them. By the end of the interview it is important that you let the client knows that these issues have been understood and that you have the skills to tackle them.

  1. Close the deal

Ask for the work and close the deal. This is a sales pitch for yourself where you are offering your skills on a business-to-business basis. Ensure you ask for the business and close the deal, emerging from the interview with an offer for the contract or project.

  1. Follow-up

Follow up with the client or agency as appropriate. This is a chance to get in touch again to agree next steps and timings.

  1. Be tenacious

With the first contract bagged be sure to continue your search but in a targeted way. A scattergun approach will not yield results. Invest in following a carefully crafted process so that a steady stream of freelance work will ensue.

Dave Chaplin is author of The Contractors’ Handbook, which provides all the advice freelancers and contractors need to know whether they are new to freelancing or experienced old-hands

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