‘Freelancing’ is a word you have seen popping up all over the place in recent years, so it’s no surprise that you’re thinking of making the switch. While some people will tell you it’s only for millennials, we know differently. As a woman over 50, you have a unique combination of experience, contacts, and expertise that can turn you into one of the world’s most sought after freelancers. Want to see how to do it? Read on…
When you want to live a life that’s not dictated by dreading the morning commute, sitting through meetings that make you want to pull your hair out, and all the office politics, freelancing is the way to go. It puts you back in control of your own career and is a truly meritocratic and liberating way to earn your money. The only difficulty is knowing how to get started. If you want to avoid these common freelancing mistakes, here are 15 tips to get started:
#1 – Make a virtue of your experience
Never sell yourself short in the world of freelancing — always sell yourself. It doesn’t matter how old you are; in fact, you can make a virtue of it by using your years to showcase your experience. An older freelancer will be viewed as more reliable, calm under pressure, and likely to be diligent. These are all things that work to your advantage as you create a personal brand that secures you new orders every single day.
#2 – Identify an area you enjoy
If you’re changing careers, there’s really not much to be gained by rushing out dozens of non-overlapping services in the hope of earning a few dollars here, and a few dollars there. It’s better to use the freedom you have to think about how you really want to spend the bulk of the working day. Find a few areas that you are passionate about and actively enjoy and you’ll never regret making the switch to the freelancing world.
#3 – Formalize your goals to focus your efforts
Next, you need to create a precise and concise list of goals. This might sound like common sense, but you’d be amazed at the number of women who never think to do it. It doesn’t matter one bit how hard-working or talented you are. If you don’t have a plan then you won’t have any direction — and without direction, you’re basically just crossing your fingers and hoping the money starts to come in.
#4 – Create a blog to showcase yourself
One of your goals needs to be to establish a well-defined personal brand that you can then use to market your products and services. Writing a blog is a great way to do this because it will improve your personal SEO, showcase what you can do, and highlight your experience — three things which are vital if you want to turn freelancing from a part-time gig into a lucrative new career.
#5 – Try various different platforms
Platforms like Freelancer, Fiverr, and UpWork will do your marketing and invoicing in exchange for a commission. This can be really useful while you’re getting your new business up and running as it allows you to market your services to a captive audience already looking to buy. There’s a lot to be said for having that focus of a closed environment, rather than running Google Ads. Try as many as you can early on and then choose a couple that you feel comfortable using long term.
#6 – Harness the power of LinkedIn to your advantage
If you want to really start building your career, you’re going to need to amass a network of contacts. LinkedIn is the place to do this, so make a start on day one. It won’t lead to overnight results, but over time you’ll start to get referrals and recommendations from your contacts’ connections — ideal if you want to ensure that the work comes to you, rather than the other way round.
#7 – Import contacts from your previous career
If you have contacts from your past positions, add them to your network. You’re not directly advertising for work, more just introducing yourself as a trusted name in their network who can now help with a whole host of new things. Do it at the start, see what happens, and be proactive about continuing to grow your network. It will make more of a difference to the long term success of your business than the short term, which is what we’re really aiming for.
#8 – Try your hand at a variety of things quickly
Just because someone will pay you to do something doesn’t mean it’s actually worth doing, or that you’ll even be able to do it. The great thing about freelancing is you have a lot of choice about what you work on, but this can also be its biggest downside. The secret is to try a whole host of things quickly, and then use this valuable experience to identify a couple of areas you want to make your own.
“One of the keys to freelancing is trying a variety of tasks quickly, and then homing in on what you want to specialize in. Too many people focus on agreeing to anything and everything they’re offered just to get work. The best freelancers do that in the early days to get experience, before focusing on a more lucrative specialism,” says Karen Yates, writer and contributor at Studicus.
#9 – Home in on the niche you want to specialize in
This point follows on naturally from the last, and it’s all about the need to continue to evolve. If you find that writing product descriptions is the copywriting career you want to embark on, could you not focus on specific types of description? You could charge a lot more for an SEO optimized Amazon description with some accompanying enhanced brand content than you could for a cluster of short and sweet Shopify descriptions, for example. And if you find you need a few extra skills to bridge the gap to where you want to get to, you can learn online in a whole of different ways too.
#10 – Have a minimum price you never go below
You’re always going to have to be flexible with pricing in the first few weeks and months of any freelancing venture — it’s just the price you have to pay to build a reputation. That said, you don’t want to end up working for so little that it’s just not worth it. Have a minimum rate in the back of your mind when pitching and negotiating for work so you can make the best use of your time and skills.
#11 – Create a dedicated workspace
Having a home office is really important when you want to make a success of your new venture. It might sound like a real bonus that you can earn money sitting on the couch, but it won’t do your productivity levels any good. Create a focused workspace where you can embrace the art of deep work and you’ll be well on your way to building a business you can be proud of.
#12 – Work set hours to get yourself into a routine
One of the most important aspects of being a freelancer is keeping your motivation sky-high and a great way to do that is by working set hours. There will be times when you have to work a little later to meet a deadline, but that’s true of most jobs. By committing to set hours, you’re introducing structure to the workday so you can ensure you have the satisfaction of enjoying your time off.
#13 – Use SEO to move yourself up the search rankings
SEO is the tool every freelancer needs when they want to get noticed, so it’s vital that you add relevant keywords to your personal website. Take the time to add them in a natural way that doesn’t impact readability so you can start moving up the rankings more quickly.
#14 – Underpromise and overdeliver with every order
One of the most important things about being a freelancer is to make your customers feel valued. By underpromising and overdelivering you can surprise them with the quality of your service — ideal if you want a happy customer who keeps coming back for years to come.
#15 – Treat it like a job from day one
The final thing you need to do is treat freelancing like a job. If you think of it as a hobby that will earn you a few dollars, then that’s all it will ever be. But tell yourself you’re building a successful business and you’ll soon be running one.