Friday, September 2, 2011

Finding Your Inner Freelancer

During my "Revenue Review" Posts I often list revenue earned from freelance activities and private clients. This has generated a nice portion of side income for me. The point of those revenue posts are to show you that you too can bring in extra income whether you are a SAHM a WOHM or a WAHM. However, I have been remiss by not explaining how to find these jobs and how to make the most of them. This new freelancer series should help clear that up!

For the inaugural post I will show you how to stop thinking "I would like to freelance, but I have no good ideas" and how to start building a concrete list of freelance activities to start working on.

How much time do you have? Think about your life, your daily rhythms and stresses. When are you free during the day? Are you able to handle steady work during those hours? Can you handle any more work? These are serious questions. If you are only free after the kids go to bed then substitute teaching at a high school is not going to work for you. Likewise if you are only free while the kids are at school then becoming a nightclub waitress during the hours of 9am-4 pm is not going to work. Finally if you are running yourself so ragged at your usual job that the mere thought of doing anything else during your rare free moments makes you feel like you need to lie down, then this is not for you. I would try to loook for ways to live with less instead.

Most freelancers would kill for a regular paying client. However in a recent conversation with a reader, I discovered she really does not want steady work that must always take place between certain hours. Adding another firm time slot to her packed schedule was not for her. This was reasonable. Activities with fixed time slots were not going to be for her, but other activities that one can do anytime, with generous deadlines, would work. They sometimes pay a little less but that's better than nothing. Your freelancing has to fit within your life or else it will end up costing you more than its worth.

What do you Like to do? When thinking about ways to freelance, your hobbies are a great place to start. These are activities that you are doing anyway, that you love and that you are good at. Now they can start to earn you cash. Make a list of your hobbies. Then get creative about what to do with them.

Look at the market you are trying to enter. Is it saturated beyond belief in your area? Are start up costs prohibitive? Then find another way to monetize that hobby. A good example is food service. Many people will have "cooking" or "baking" on their lists. However legally running a catering business in most states is very expensive and requires a lot of tools and equipment. Running one illegally to cut costs opens you up to many law suits. Plus the market where I live is so over-saturated sometimes I think everyone is selling some kind of food item. I cannot tell you how many people I have seen going around advertising that they are starting to sell cookies or appetizers from their house only to never get a single order. Does that mean these are not viable hobbies for monetization? No. It means in my area people need to think of other ways to channel this hobby. Write a cookbook, give cooking classes, start a youtube series on how to properly bake a flan. All of these would be better approaches, with lower start up costs. Think about what makes you unique in an oversaturated field.

What do you all ready do? This is easiest for working moms, but also applies to SAHM's. Think about your primary career and then find ways to freelance outside work. This does NOT mean stealing clients from the office. Heaven forbid. It means using skills from your training to build a freelance career. For instance, it's no secret I'm a graduate student in the health fields. This has helped me gain a tremendous amount of medical knowledge and the ability to process scientific data quickly. So I freelance by writing medical and health related articles that interpret scientific studies for the general public. I do not take time, supplies, or private knowledge from one career to help the other. That would be unethical and would jeopardize my primary career. Instead, I leverage skills that I have gained in a different, creative outlet. What skills do you have from work? How can these be used creatively? For instance a SAHM might find joy in sharing her parenting tips through courses for new moms. An accountant might write finance articles. A school guidance counselor might try her hand at life coaching for adults. Always check the terms of your contract to make sure you are not violating any rules your company has about freelancing.

Do you have talents? are you a whiz at building web sites? playing the piano? entertaining friends with engaging stories? finding just the right outfit? Then use that skill! Your talents and hobbies can lead to serious side cash. If you are really so great at always knowing what to wear then there are people out there who will pay you to dress them. It's called personal shopping. You just need to break into the market (details to follow in a later post). If you play an instrument you can make serious side cash by teaching it to others. There's no need to take a lengthy course to learn something you have never been good at. Instead use the skilss you all redy have.

Warning: turning your hobby into a job can sometimes kill your love of that hobby when clients become picky or you have trouble selling your work. I find it is best to keep just-for-fun hobby activities still going on the side without trying to sell to keep your love of the hobby and your relaxation time intact.

Value Yourself. Many people are all ready doing things they ought to be paid for - they just don't value themselves enough to ask for money. Sometimes freelancing means cutting down on the freebies to random strangers. For instance a friend of mine was very good at website building. She was spending hours upon hours helping people who got her name from a friend of a friend with their projects. They were making money off these proects. She just got a thank you. If she was lucky. Many did not thank her or ever call her again until they needed more help.  Finally she realized that these people were using her instead of a professional to generate income. She finally realized that what she did had value. She started charging a reasonable amount (more on determining prices in another post) and you know what? Most were happy to pay because they had known for years what she had just realized. That her skills were worth something. Others were disgruntled and left. But guess what? they would never have been paying clients and they were taking advantage of her. They were some of the biggest time suckers and complainers of the lot. Her life got less hectic without them.

This is not to say you have to stop helping out friends and family. Community service is a wonderful thing. However you also need to realize that your time and supplies and energy have value. You need to realize that some people will be annoyed at not being able to get freebies, but that you need to think about what those freebies cost your family. Are you spending time you could be spending with your kids on the phone with a person you are distantly familiar with helping them with their kids college essays? Are you spending more time on the phone with strangers giving advice than you are with your husband? Enough is enough. You need to have a clear policy in place about who gets charged and how much this activity is allowed to seep into family time. Providing free work for grandma seems like a no-brainer but when friends of cousins start asking for freebies you start heading down a slippery slope. Especially if you are a people pleaser. What you do has value. It is up to you to decide if and how much you will charge for that. But never forget that you are are worth something too.

Passive Income is the holy grail of income. I am going to devote an entire post to it. Basically it means you invest a certain amount of time setting something u and then it continues to bring in money while you do nothing or very little to maintain it. While most freelance activities are one shot deals - write me this article and I will pay you this dollar amount- passive income is the gift that keeps on giving. It is also a little harder to set up. But it can be a boon to those who only have small increment of time every now and again to spare. Currently I only make about $10 a month in passive income. But it's the best ten dollars ever because I am not doing anything to earn it! I did something a year ago and it keeps on giving. I do not scoff at $10. This is something I will be trying to focus on with you as it is still an area of active exploration for me.

Do you freelance? Are you starting to compile your list of activities? Share and post your questions here!


Seeker said...

Hey, thanks for this post! I wonder if I inspired it ;-)

freelance artist said...

If you create designs as a freelance artist for a company, and are paid only on commission, what percentage of sales should be making?

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