Freelancing can be a great way for military spouses to spread their entrepreneurial wings and PCS-proof your career. Freelancing offers the opportunity to set your own hours, select projects that align with your interests and work from any location with a Wi-Fi signal.
Starting a freelance career can be a daunting task, as it requires marketing one's services, managing clients, and managing sometimes inconsistent freelancer finances. Having a step-by-step guide to land your first freelance client can help professionals exploring freelancing as a career option or side hustle.
Here are six tips for landing your first freelance client:
1. Familiarize yourself with the 1099 environment.
Working as a freelancer is a little different than working as an employee, as freelancers typically have greater autonomy and less structure. Understanding the freelance lingo - 1099, sole proprietor, project proposals - can help new freelancers get the lay of the land and become more comfortable with the gig economy. A good way to learn more about working as a freelancer is to join military spouse freelancer groups, such as Mil Freelance Writers and MilSpouse Coders.
2. Identify the services you want to market.
Building your freelance clientele is easier if you have a well-defined set of services you want to offer. Being a Jack (or Jill) of all trades can quickly become overwhelming as a freelancer. It's much easier to grow and manage a select group of services that you do very well versus dozens of services that leave you feeling all over the map. Research your target market's needs and consider which services you can provide in a cost-effective manner.
3. Brand and market your offerings.
After you've decided on what freelancing services you'd like to offer, it's time to communicate your offerings to prospective clients. Brand your freelancer operation as something that identifies you as the proprietor and communicates the type of services you offer. Develop a web presence through a website and social media channels for your freelancing services, and start sharing your expertise with your network.
Want to connect with business owners and organization leaders within the military community? Join the Military Spouse Networking Facebook Group and share your freelance services on their Marketing Monday posts!
4. Develop a client intake process.
Don't wait till you feel your first nibble to develop a client intake process. Prepare your freelance business for acquiring and onboarding new clients before you hang your shingle or launch your website.
If developing a client intake process leaves you feeling a little uncertain, consider purchasing a monthly subscription to something like Bonsai ($16-34/month) to help streamline your freelance operation. Companies like Bonsai offer contracts, proposal templates, invoicing, and time tracking tools specially designed for freelancers.
5. Explore freelance project sites.
Freelance project sites can be a great way for new freelancers to connect with potential clients seeking project-based assistance. There are a number of freelance sites available - everything from graphic designer sites to platforms reserved specifically for MBA graduates.
Here are a few of my favorite platforms:
There's even a freelance project site specifically designed for military spouses - Hire the Homefront!
6. Network, network, network.
After you've structured your freelance service, it's time to tell your professional network all about it. Networking is a huge part of any B2B business' (freelancers included) growth strategy, as many quality client leads will come from network leads. Modern networking involves two fronts - face-to-face and online opportunities. Make sure your networking strategy involves both.
Not sure where to start networking? The CareerOneStop Career Resource Library has an extensive listing of professional associations that may align with your freelance offerings. Additionally, Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Professional Network (formerly, In Gear Career) offers local chapters that can be a great way to connect with fellow military spouses and community networking organizations.
At the 2018 MOAA Military and Veterans Networking Forum, we're featuring an “Exploring Entrepreneurship” hall for members of military and veteran families interested in starting their own businesses. The event is held at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum from 7:00-10:00 PM on Sept. 20, 2018. If you would like to connect with other military spouses and learn more about entrepreneurship, register today!
Ready to start freelancing?
Freelancing can be a great way for military spouses to build their professional portfolio, develop their network, and explore location-independent entrepreneur opportunities. Developing a personal brand, optimizing your service offerings, and connecting with potential clients are all important steps in building a successful freelance business. While it may take time to establish, a career as a freelancer may provide you with the professional freedom you need as a member of the community.