Look around the job boards and you’ll see postings for freelance roles across many sectors. More and more, projects like books, websites, and software documentation require a short and sustained effort through publication. Many companies produce this effort through agile terms, yet others need help at a smaller scale for fewer product launches. It adds up to more variety in the marketplace, including short-term gig work and freelance roles.
So how do you go about getting freelance work? And can it pay off as a full-time career option?
On January 16, members of the STC Carolina chapter met at IBM and online to explore these questions with Laura Poole. First, as an employee and then as a freelancer, Laura learned to tailor her professional copyediting services to the specific needs of clients. She built her business on the right scale to focus on the services she could deliver best.
A shift in thinking
Laura’s path to building her small business required a change in the way she thought about her career path. Adopting the mindset of an owner, she focused on developing a business strategy around her clients’ ever-changing needs.
But a client-first orientation was not enough. Laura needed to undergird this strategy with a sound business plan that included marketing and financial components. Only with these systems in place could she focus her productive time on client needs.
So what does it take?
- Shift your mindset – from employee to owner.
- Look for business in unexpected places – ask who needs what I do?
- Find your niche – and choose work that fits it. A well-defined niche can lead to high-quality work and professional relationships.
- Prioritize on-time delivery and nimble responses for new clients.
- Offer advance notice of your availability for favorite clients and ask for referrals.
What makes a business strategy?
- Diversify – teach, train, and build capacity in others.
- Add services that compliment your core work (e.g., indexing and graphics).
- Stay engaged with regular clients.
- Create a billing system that is reliable and straightforward.
- Consult a tax preparer to help plan your finances throughout the year.
- Save for taxes and invest in technology.
- Negotiate your rates – with nearly every type of client.
Market your services
- Ask for introductions – warm introductions go a long way.
- Understand what it takes to turn an introduction into an offer of work.
- Look for hiring freezes – business may need freelancers to pick up the work.
- Search for freelancing – the STC website and job board.
- Get on a university’s list of vendors.
- Attend and market your services at conferences and training.
Attendees learned that it takes more than quality services to sustain a small business. To build a path to your dream freelance career, you must first create a base of sound business practices. Only then can clients rely on your services for their projects. Attendees also learned Laura’s tips on:
- Becoming a freelancer after retirement – when and how to start.
- Ways that updating your rate strategy pays off in the long run.
- The role of a savings plan at launch.
- Building your marketing skills and save money at the same time.
- Tailoring services to new, repeat, and favorite clients – each has specific needs and requires a particular touch.
- Networking advice for introverts going into freelancing.
“Your business is only open when you are talking about it.” – Laura Poole
Join the STC today
To get actionable career advice and networking opportunities like the ones Laura shared every month – join the STC today. The STC Carolina chapter offers online, in-person, and recorded learning opportunities throughout the year!
Recap by: Aaron Theolet
STC Carolina Programs Director
Aaron leads teams and develops technical content that focuses on driving organizational growth, client success, and business performance. As a current student in the Duke University Technical Writing professional certification program, Aaron also serves as the STC Carolina Programs Director. Reach out to him if you want to see a certain topic or have an event idea for your local chapter!