With more and more people working remotely, it’s easier than ever before to start a new tech freelancing career. Freelancing offers flexibility, control, and the ability to be your own boss, but it also comes with a lot of responsibility and requires a self-starting attitude if you want to succeed.
Being your own boss can be liberating, but you also have to take the discipline and deadlines that a traditional manager would impose and take responsibility for them yourself.
That said, if you’re interested in working in the tech industry under your own terms, here’s your bit-by-byte guide to getting started as a tech freelancer.
Assembling the necessary tools
Before you begin working for clients, you’ll need to gather all the necessary supplies and tools to run your business and ensure there are a few hiccups in the process as possible.
While your specific needs will differ based on the type of tech work you do, there are some essential tools that every freelancer can use:
- A virtual business address: a virtual business address is essential in making your freelancing business appear legitimate and professional. These addresses use staffed locations and an app to provide you with a real street address that you can use for mail and business purposes. You can view all of your correspondence from the comfort of home without compromising your privacy or professional image.
- Bookkeeping software: freelancers are in charge of every aspect of their business, including finances. Bookkeeping software is an indispensable tool to help you keep track of billing, budgeting, taxes, etc. so that you’re not drowning in receipts when it’s time to file taxes.
- Project management and time management software: to stay organized and on task, it’s highly recommended that you consider downloading software that can help you keep track of all of your in-progress and completed projects and manage your time efficiently. A well-organized day will help you work at peak productivity and avoid letting any client work slip through the cracks.
- A website and freelancing software: having a personal website is essential for clients to see examples of your work and feel for your services. Even if you plan on using a freelancing site, a personal website to host your portfolio is still strongly recommended.
In addition to these, you’ll need basic tools such as a computer, internet access, and any software relevant to the type of work you’ll be doing.
Now that you’ve wrangled all of the necessary tools, you’re ready to assemble a client base and start making money. Here are the essential first steps to becoming a tech freelancer.
Decide what services you will offer
While this sounds obvious, narrowing down which services you offer is essential. This process not only helps clients find you, but it’s vital in creating a manageable scope for your business.
In the beginning, it may be tempting to take whatever jobs come your way, but make sure you’re accepting work that can bolster your portfolio and provide relevant experience for future work. You have to make a living, but there’s little point in being your own boss if you can’t take on the types of work you want to do.
Make a budget, set prices, and be realistic about what it will cost
Getting good at budgeting will be an invaluable skill when freelancing, and while bookkeeping software can help, you’ll need to be organized and diligent.
Budgeting and expense tracking is the only real way of determining the profitability of your business and ensuring you complete your taxes correctly.
Be prepared to take a pay cut at the beginning as you build up your client base. Make sure you have enough cushion to get through the first few months (or even year) and consider holding on to your day job until you’re a little more financially secure.
In addition, refine your services and create a pricing model. You may need to charge less initially as you get more clients, but try to avoid doing work for free. You’ll also need to be comfortable talking about money, so try practicing a few pricing scripts with friends and colleagues.
Create your portfolio and make a website
We live in a digital age, and as a tech freelancer, you’ll be expected to have a polished online presentation. Creating a website with relevant information about your services and showcasing your work with a digital portfolio will be essential to show potential clients that you know your stuff.
Prospective clients will want to look at previous work, see how previous clients felt about working with you, and access any contact information. Social media and websites are the lowest cost advertising out there, so don’t be afraid to take advantage of these avenues.
Find a freelancing platform
One of the perks of using a freelancing platform is logging all of your client interactions in one place. If you choose to opt for an independent working model, make sure to have a system to keep track of all necessary documentation.
Additional tips for succeeding as a tech freelancer
While the above steps are necessary for growth as a tech freelancer, there are many soft skills you’ll need to hone to make the lifestyle work for you.
Consider taking the following steps to help further ensure your success.
Get a mentor
Having someone in your life with similar experiences that can act as a sounding board for your ideas is critical. A mentor can help provide you with objectivity and help you navigate some of the more nuanced situations that arise as you get your business off the ground.
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and learn from more seasoned freelancers in your industry.
Get comfortable setting boundaries
One of the significant downsides of freelancing is that there’s nobody to turn to when things get complicated or awkward.
If you have a challenging client or someone disagrees with your pricing, you will have to be comfortable dealing with it. Get in the habit of discussing pricing before you begin doing any work, and get comfortable saying no.
Setting boundaries is an essential part of running a business, so the sooner you grow comfortable with that, the better off you’ll be.
Work your network
Word of mouth is worth its weight in gold, so don’t be afraid to reach out to your network, especially in the beginning. Let people know that you’re freelancing, and reach out to see if anyone needs your services.
Ask clients for testimonials
While corporations develop reputations and may have thousands of online reviews, you may have to work a little harder to get feedback from clients.
Try to incentivize clients to leave positive reviews online, and gather some of your favorite testimonials for a “what it’s like working with me” section of your website.
Before you go
Becoming a tech freelancer is a big decision, and while it can be gratifying and profitable, it takes no shortage of elbow grease. Set yourself up for success by gathering all of the necessary supplies and laying the hard work foundations early in your journey.