11 Expert Tips for a Successful Freelance Career

07/10/2017 08:48 am ET

Freelancing is exciting: You get the chance to focus on projects that interest you while working at a pace that best suits your talents. But taking that jump from a 9-to-5 job is fraught with peril -- not everyone does well after striking out on their own. So what can you do to ensure you're successful as you prepare to quit your job to become a freelancer? 

A. Connect with other freelancers in your field.

It's good to identify and connect with other freelancers in your industry. Given the lumpy nature of consulting projects, many freelancers will partner with others on larger projects or pass on job leads to trusted friends in their network. Knowing other freelancers may help lead you to job opportunities and also give you a chance to learn from another, more experienced freelancer. - Adelyn ZhouTOPBOTS

A. Take time to find your sweet spot.

One of the biggest challenges I see new freelancers encounter is the realization that they have competitors who are more experienced in the field. So definitely take the time to really analyze the environment you want to be in: What value can you deliver? How can you stand out from the competition? Discovering your own sweet spot is fundamental to building a great freelancing business. - Nathalie LussierAmbitionAlly

A. Get your finances in order first.

Make sure you can afford to become a freelancer. If you have too much debt and obligations, you may want to hold off until you can save some money and have a month or two of salary in the bank. This will help you establish yourself so you can select the best jobs rather than take just anything to pay the bills, and then hate the projects because you are paid so little. - Murray NewlandsSighted

A. Ease into it.

Start slow. Try to take on a few side jobs here and there while you still have your day job. Build yourself a proper business plan and make sure you can execute it. Create your bread-and-butter assets first that you will use to market yourself. The more foundation work you can do while you still have a day job, the better you will set yourself up for maximized success later down the road. - Nicole MunozStart Ranking Now

A. Do customer and market discovery.

The No. 1 cause of failing is offering something that nobody wants. By meeting with potential future customers one-on-one and learning about their needs, you can tailor your offerings right from the beginning and ensure that the ramp up to earning money will be as short as possible. - Eric MathewsStart Co.

A. Build an online portfolio.

No matter what your line of work is, you have the opportunity to build a collection of diverse projects that you’ve worked on as a freelancer. Employers will be looking for examples of your work. Creating a website will serve as an accessible online resume. Using your full name as the domain will ensure high rankings, too. - Duran InciOptimum7

A. Market continually.

Keep marketing yourself no matter how many projects you have in the pipeline. Hustle is the key to success in freelancing. Always be looking for more clients and opportunities even if you are swamped. Take a couple hours a week to market yourself or look for other projects on job sites. - Angela RuthDue

A. Understand the need to be disciplined.

With no one watching you, you have to be more disciplined. Don't think it's a holiday because you don't have a boss looking over your shoulder. Your success depends on how hard you work and what you put into it. If you struggle with the idea that you may get sucked into Netflix binging, this may not be the career for you. - Cynthia JohnsonIpseity Media

A. Set clear and realistic targets.

Start with deciding how much money you would like to earn on a yearly basis and work your way down to how much you would charge per hour. That way, you will know exactly how many billable hours you would need to generate per week in order to reach your yearly target. - Volkan Okay YaziciStonexchange

A. Specify deliverables in your contracts.

If you’re not documenting your scope for each project, you’re setting yourself up to work for free. Specify exactly what you’re going to deliver for your fee, and how you’ll handle any revisions or requests that may pop up afterward. - Sam SaxtonParagon Stairs

A. Prepare to handle all aspects of business.

Don’t forget that a freelancer has to handle all aspects of their business to be successful. On top of performing billable work, there are necessary, non-billable tasks like originating new clients, maintaining existing client relationships, invoicing and ensuring those invoices are paid. Freelance work requires more flexibility and often commands more time spent on work you might not enjoy. - Jacob Goldman10up Inc.

These answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

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