If you’re anything like Kayley Reed, freelancing might be the perfect job for you. The full-time freelancer burned out while building a company and lasted just three months working for someone else.
“Now, I make double what I did in my ‘stable’ job, make my own hours, and get to work from home with my cat,” she said.
Here’s how she did it, and what you can learn from her experience.
Consider leaving your full-time job behind
Reed had more career options than your average philosophy major. While attending the University of New Brunswick, she considered becoming a lawyer. Instead, she opted to follow her passion into the fashion industry.
The Alberta, Canada, native started a clothing line that highlighted the stigmas of mental health. The idea was accepted into a business accelerator program and funded. It forced her to put her head down for three years of hard work.
When she came up for air, she realized she was out of breath.
Reed switched directions. She took a full-time sales job at an education technology company, where she was paid $2,500 a month plus generous commissions to perform the same tasks over and over for eight, nine, and 10 hours a day.
“I was spending so much of my time doing something that I was unhappy doing,” she said. She grew tired of filling in Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, writing cold emails, and dialing colder phone numbers. “In my head, [leaving] was worth it, even if I was going to take a pay cut.”
Overcome the anxiety of going out on your own
Nowadays, Reed calls herself a full-time creative consultant, podcaster, and influencer.
“Basically, a mishmash of things that I never knew could legitimately be a full-time career — until I was doing it,” she said. “Nobody teaches you that freelancing is a real thing.”
Reed took a leap of faith, but she also prepared a safe landing. After quitting her sales job, she moved back in with her parents and cut back on her spending.
“There’s a lot of anxiety that comes with giving up a stable paycheck,” she said. “And there’s a lot of shame and guilt associated with living with your parents when you’re in your mid-20s … but, financially, it makes a lot of sense.”
Having a savings account and a supportive mom and dad helped Reed. She recommended you build your own safety net. If you have student loans or other debt weighing you down, your net should have extra padding.
“Also, I think it’s totally fine to start freelancing on the side of [your] main job and see if it’s a fit before [diving] into it,” Reed said.
Make use of your existing skills
Reed knew her full-time sales job wouldn’t last long when she caught herself thinking about the digital and social media marketing tactics she’d learned as a startup founder. That’s also when she realized her startup skills could flourish in a freelance role.
If you’re considering the freelancing route, ask yourself what you bring to the table. If you’re a web developer able to build custom websites, you already have your answer.
If you’re a philosophy major, your answer might be more complicated, but keep looking. You might take advantage of your writing skills, for example, to earn work as a content creator.
Tap into your network (or start building one)
To her chagrin, Reed spent the first month of her freelancing career making sales again. Her most active hours were spent scouring Craigslist posts and Facebook group threads for freelance copywriting, social media management, and marketing roles.
At the six-week mark, after gaining her first clients the hard way, Reed began telling her old contacts that she was available for work. The floodgates opened.
“I wish I would have told people in my network sooner,” she said. “It’s way easier to get clients you already know, who trust you, than cold-emailing people on Craigslist.”
If you have few connections, consider a workaround like Reed’s. She started the Self-Care Sunday podcast as a passion project, but it also doubles as a tool for self-advertising and connecting with fellow female entrepreneurs.
Find a niche in your specialty
You don’t have to look too far on LinkedIn or freelancing websites such as Upwork to realize that, as Reed said, “There [are] a million social media consultants.”
“What I was trying to provide people with was really vague, and it was hard to get clients that way,” she added. “So I really niched down.”
To separate herself from the pack, Reed has jumped into what she calls influencer marketing. To help drive sales for businesses, she connects corporate clients — from pet food companies to skin care brands — with social media influencers. An influencer could be anyone with 50,000 or more followers. She also works with microinfluencers, users with between 1,000 and 50,000 followers.
One of Reed’s brands might send free products or a paycheck to a microinfluencer, for example, in exchange for praise online. Then it’s Reed’s job to catalog the influencer’s content and use analytics to show whether her client earned sales as a result.
Find and impress your first client
Whether you attempt to freelance full time or on a trial basis, your first client will be the most important one, Reed said.
“If you can provide great results for that client and get some sort of testimonial or create a case study … that’s all you really need to get multiple opportunities and multiple clients,” she said.
Reed, for example, would create presentations about what she accomplished for past clients in hopes of luring new ones. It’s been a convincing tool during pitch meetings.
With about nine steady clients and a network of about 160 influencers, Reed’s well on her way.
Her final tip is to think about what you value most — time, money, or something else — and how you want to spend your average day. That’ll help shape your unique and, hopefully, fruitful freelance career.
For a next step, you might consider how freelancers manage their finances.
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Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
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