Have you decided to take the plunge and become a freelance? Great idea: freelance work is expected to continue to develop in the years to come and companies are increasingly using this type of service provider. But becoming a freelance cannot be improvised: it is essential to prepare well for your professional reconversion, whether you are currently a student or an employee.
How to work as a freelance? How to start in the best conditions and find customers? Discover concrete advice on how to become a freelancer and all you need to know to land your first assignments.
Freelance: Definition And Advantages
A freelancer – also called a freelance – is a person who works on his own and offers his services to individuals or companies.
Working as a freelance offers many advantages: the freedom to choose your projects and schedules, the possibility of working anywhere as well as real independence and autonomy. No boss who requires you to be in the office from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., accountable to an N + 1 or colleagues likely to manage! Becoming a freelancer means working according to your own rules, when and where you want.
But there is also the other side of the coin: loneliness, the absence of a framework which can encourage procrastination and sometimes blurred lines between professional and private life. If you’re the type who has a hard time disciplining yourself, freelance work might not be for you. Being a freelancer requires knowing how to organize, manage your priorities and move forward in your projects without supervision.
According to a Malt study on freelancing, 90% of freelancers are by choice. The main motivations for becoming a freelancer are autonomy (cited by 88% of freelancers surveyed), the freedom to organize their job (for 81%), the possibility of choosing their clients and projects (for 57%) and to choose their place of work (for 37%).
But there are other reasons to go freelance:
- Create your own job in a region with few professional opportunities;
- Be able to reconcile their work with a side project or a side business, such as e-commerce or drop shipping online store ;
- Earn a salary supplement in addition to his job, by being both self-employed and salaried. More and more people are choosing to be a slasher, carrying out several activities simultaneously;
- Gain experience in a given field by working from a contractor, before launching himself into the entrepreneurship ;
- Generate cash to have a starting budget to invest in your business or business.
Whatever the reasons that motivate you to become a freelancer, it is important to prepare your transition well.
Becoming A Freelancer: The 5 Key Steps
Before getting into the deep end, working on your own and generating freelance income, there are a few preliminary steps: define your offer, choose a legal status, set your price, work on your online visibility and find your first clients. . We explain how to do it.
Become Self-employed Step 1: Define Your Service Offering
When you start freelancing, the first step is to determine the expertise you are going to sell. This expertise depends on your skills of course, but also on needs and demand on the market.
In addition, when we start freelancing, we tend to want to have a spectrum of activity wide enough to have the most opportunities. But companies that use freelancers are not looking for generalists: they want specialists with advanced skills.
Thus, if as an employee you had the title of “Communication Officer”, when you became a freelance, you might be tempted to define yourself as “Communication Consultant”. But this name is far too vague and leaves doubt about your skills: writing? media relations? social networks?
According to 404works, the most popular freelance jobs are:
- Web developer
- Graphic designer
- Front-end developer
- Web designer
- Back-end developer
- Community Manager
- Mobile developer
As you can see, these are precise expertise! You can also think about the type of companies you want to collaborate with. In writing, for example, many freelancers specialize in an industry or a sector of activity: health, energy or food industry for example. Some freelancers also choose to address a particular type of business: very small businesses, SMEs, service companies or large groups.
As you will have understood, specialization is essential to succeed in freelance!
Become A Freelance Step 2: Choose A Legal Status
Becoming a freelance also means having to manage administrative matters, starting with the choice of legal status. The easiest way to declare yourself a freelance when you start is to create a micro-enterprise (eg self-employed status). With this simplified regime, your accounting obligations are reduced to a minimum. You will not have to collect and declare VAT (up to a certain threshold). And above all, social contributions are reduced compared to other statuses. We have devoted an article on how to start a micro-business.
In certain cases, and after a certain time as a freelancer, it can be interesting to create a company. Freelancers thus work in EURL or SASU. Unlike a micro-enterprise, a company allows its expenses to be deducted from its turnover or to recover the VAT on its purchases (but it must also be collected). A society also offers better social protection.
Some large companies also prefer to work with corporate freelancers to minimize legal risks. Indeed, if you work in a micro-enterprise for a single client exclusively, the relationship can be considered as disguised employment.
But a micro-enterprise is a perfect status to start freelancing, and you can always change status when you want!
Become Self-employed Step 3: Set Your Rate
Another preliminary step before starting to work as a freelancer: define your price, that is to say at what price you will sell your services. In freelance, we speak of the average daily rate or ADR, that is to say, the price of a working day (generally 8 hours). Depending on the profession, ADRs vary between € 250 and € 850 (for the rarest and most sought-after expertise).
To determine your ADR, start by looking at how much freelancers are selling for with your skills and experience, for example by browsing the Malt freelance platform. This will give you an idea of what ADT you can practice.
Another method to set your ADR: think about your desired income and make a calculation based on the number of days worked. In freelance, we often tend to overestimate the number of days worked in the year. In fact, you have to dedicate time each week to administration (quotes, invoices, contracts, etc.) as well as prospecting (canvassing or responding to requests). And then, you don’t work all the time: you have to take days off to rest and recharge your batteries. It is estimated that a freelancer works 210 days per year on average and that only 160 days is pure production billable to his clients.
To calculate your ideal ADR, take your desired annual income, increase them by the social contributions that you will have to pay (22% of your turnover in micro-enterprise status) and your annual expenses (rent of a freelance space, Internet package, software, etc.) and divide by 160!
For some missions, you may be asked for an hourly rate: then divide your ADR by 8. You can also offer a fixed rate, based on an estimate of the time spent. Some professions have more specific practices, such as word billing in web writing.
Become A Freelance Step 4: Work On Your Visibility Online
Are you clear on what you are selling, your legal status and your price? It’s time to let the world know.
When you are a freelance and want to make yourself known, there are two main channels to work: LinkedIn and the freelance platforms. LinkedIn is THE professional social network par excellence, and it is full of opportunities. Let people know that you have become a freelance, by changing your profile title and current position. Work on your “About” section, with impactful text that showcases your services and strengths. Do not hesitate to publish a post to inform your contacts about your new activity. Finding freelance assignments often goes through your network!
Once your LinkedIn profile is updated, head to THE main source of assignments: freelance platforms. These platforms work on the same principle as Airbnb, except that the connection is made between freelancers who sell their services and companies who are looking for skills.
Create a profile on these platforms, filling in all the requested information to have a complete profile. We recommend Upwork and Fiverr to get started, where there are a lot of clients looking for freelancers for jobs of all types, and where it is, therefore, easier to get the first contract. French platforms tend to be a little more selective: missions are better paid, but therefore generally a little more difficult to get. We recommend Malt, 404works and Crème de la Crème which offer a wide variety of missions. There are also specialized platforms, like Codeur.com for tech profiles.
On some platforms, it is you who apply for assignments offered by the client (the price of which can be defined in advance or negotiable). On others, only the customer has the possibility to contact you and the missions are not visible.
Some freelancers choose to create a website, often spending a lot of time and effort for a very low return on investment (a few visits). If you have just become a freelancer, we recommend that you focus on LinkedIn and the platforms for good visibility.
Become A Freelance Step 5: Find Your First Clients
You have arrived at the fateful moment: land your very first freelance assignment! This step is not the easiest, but once done, everything will be much easier. When you’re a newbie freelancer and don’t have a platform opinion, clients can be reluctant. It’s like when you rent a place on Airbnb: a place without reviews or rating is rarely your first choice, is it?
So, how can you put all the odds in your favour and land this first mission which will serve as a springboard? First, take care of your relationship with customers. When you apply for a mission, have a professional and irreproachable attitude. Take the time to study the elements of the offer, the client’s website or any other relevant element, to make a personalized response. It is certainly an investment of time, but a strategy that pays off!
Another option: revise your prices a bit downwards. When you start, you have to prove your skills and the value of those skills. For someone to give you a chance, it might mean lowering your rates a bit or taking a lower-paid assignment. You will thus gain experience and be able to obtain first opinions on the platforms. Be careful, however, not to fall into the trap of too low prices! Too many freelancers don’t sell for enough money and fail to pay their bills despite their best efforts. A low tariff must be aware, with a deliberate and temporary strategy.
Some platforms also allow you to get recommendations from outside people, for example, former colleagues or clients in your working life. Ask them to leave you a recommendation. This will be a guarantee of seriousness and confidence for your future customers.
So that’s how to become a freelance in 5 steps! The first few weeks can be difficult. It’s a new world and you will need to discover the codes and rules of freelance work. But, with perseverance and determination, you will land your first assignments and start making a living as a freelancer.