Accidental freelancing

What is a recently laid off journalist to do? You need to make a living but you’ve lost your job.  Freelancing is one option but the transition isn’t easy, says Michelle Goodman, who’s been a full time freelancer since 1992.

She’s posted some terrific advice on how to survive your first year as a freelancer. Among my favorite “get started” pointers:

Your bed is not an office.  Set up a desk that’s yours and yours alone and isn’t visible from your bed or couch. Use a curtain if you have to. The point is to establish a bit of separation between work and play.

Your alarm clock is your friend. When you work from home, the temptation to sleep until noon can be overwhelming at first. Don’t give in. Adopt a regular work schedule (at the desk by 9 a.m. is my vote), preferably one that meshes with the clients you work for.

Finding clients is a little tougher, Goodman admits. You can’t just sign up for a freelance job site, sit back and wait for the work to roll in.  Most gigs come through referrals, many of which come from other freelancers, so it makes sense to get to know the “competition.” And you absolutely must cast your net as widely as possible.

If you haven’t yet e-mailed a note to everyone you’ve met since the day you were born, saying that you’re now accepting freelance projects, get cracking. Be sure to include a link to your Web site (mandatory).

Finally, these two bits of very good advice. Don’t work without a contract if you want to get paid, and limit your pro-bono and barter work. If you give too much time away for free, Goodman says, you’re not freelancing, you’re volunteering.


2 Responses

  1. I would also offer up the use of social and professional networking websites like Facebook and LinkedIn to get the word out. You would be surprised at the number of people you know, especially those who haven’t seen you in a while who may be unaware that you are now out on your own. LinkedIn allows you to place documents like CVs or resumes on your page. Sign up for free and make sure you post somewhere on the board-either in your profile or in a daily update-that you are freelancing, self-employed, or searching for contract work.

    The online networking strategy has been very helpful in that many of my friends will hear of something and send me emails to links for positions, or they will know someone seeking a multimedia professional and pass along contacts to me. Simple, but effective, and when you are freelancing you really need to have access to as many potential clients as possible.

    I also avoid using the word “unemployed”. Remember that you are now “self-employed” and must project a positive image to potential clients. When you are labeled as self-employed you are seen as having motivation, a willingness to be a self-starter and resourceful individual.

  2. […] advice from a freelance journalist. You can’t just sign up for a freelance job site, sit back and wait for the work to roll in.  […]

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