“Yaar, I just want to leave all this, move to Goa, and take up freelancing.” – a phrase I’ve heard increasingly often in recent years from people around me, disillusioned by the current work culture and discontented with the corporate career paths they had chosen as young adults. The volume of people desiring, or actually deciding, to take up freelancing, seems to have only increased during the last few months of working from home.
Freelancing, however, is not simply the work-vacation combo that many believe it to be. To actually successfully set up and live off a freelance business is hard work!
The starting out phase can be especially daunting and exhausting, because you have to figure out everything on your own while also working on your new projects. Starting out as a freelancer in a field that you have no prior experience in then, is all the more confusing and difficult to navigate.
However, the truth is, most freelancers today fall under this category. Unhappy with the fields they’re in, corporate employees who harbour other dreams have increasingly been taking the bold decision to pursue their passions. Since finding a job in a field you have no qualifications or work experience in is close to impossible, freelancing is the best and most viable option.
So, if you’re wondering how to begin freelancing in a field you’re interested in, but have no formal experience in, I’ve done some research and spoken to a few women who have successfully crossed this hurdle in their freelancing careers, to create a handy guide for you!
Here Are A Few Tips To Build A Successful Freelance Business With No Formal Experience In The Field
Invest In Your Interest – Find Out If You’re Any Good At
Most of us have a hobby that we’ve often mused we would be really amazing at if we were actually serious about it. Well, it’s time to put in the time and effort, and find out!
Sharanya, who had graduated with a degree in computer engineering back in 2018, found herself drawn to her love for design and creative fields instead, and decided to take a gap year after graduating. During that period, while interning at a trekking organisation in the mountains of Uttarakhand, she was assigned the task of creating a manual for “How to use a dry toilet”. Instead of simply writing down the manual, she leaned into her creativity, and doodled it instead. When she handed it in to her manager, she was extremely impressed.
“She loved it and asked me to make more of these when I was back in Mumbai! And that… is how I started my journey as a freelance graphic designer and illustrator,” she says.
Spend some time with the interest you wish to pursue formally. Get an understanding of whether you’re objectively good at it, whether you can develop your skills in it, and if the work is something, you’ll continue to be passionate about if you undertook a full-time career in it.
Take up projects you might be slightly unfamiliar with
Having had no formal experience in the field, you may need to familiarise yourself with a few new skills and tools – and learning on the job is the best way to do that!
Prerna, a freelance baker, says when she started, all she could make was a chocolate cake and a vanilla cake that people seemed to love.
“When I started to spread the word that I was taking orders for my cakes, people started asking if I made others baked goods as well. It started with cupcakes, cookies, and went on to requests for macaroons and profiteroles! I had no idea what that even was back then. But I realised that the best way to make myself learn, was if it was for a job I had committed to. Now, I not only know what profiteroles are but can make them too – and damned good ones at that!” she laughs.
Rupsa, a freelance content writer says that when she started freelancing, there was no one to help her navigate the unfamiliar territory of monetising her love for writing. “It was hard to find a mentor. I relied heavily on YouTube guru,” she laughs. She learned as much as she could on, and along, with her early projects.
What are friends for? Lean heavily on your informal networks
For most budding freelancers, people in their informal networks, or people recommended by their informal networks, are almost always their first clients. Spread the word about your new freelance career among friends and family. As shy as you may be about your work, send samples to relatives and friends, and ask them to forward it to their contacts.
Rajvi, another freelance graphic designer who is currently in the final year of her Btech in Information Technology, swears by her informal networks – especially when she was starting out.
When a close friend of Sharanya’s mom, saw the doodles she had made during her internship, and liked it so much that they asked her to illustrate something for them as well. From there, one client would recommend her work, and lead to another.
“Whenever I told my friends I was a graphic designing, they found clients for me. My mom is my biggest marketing person!” she says.
Don’t underestimate the value of your connections. Even one recommendation could be that one that leads to a chain of others, and sets up your formal network of clients.
It’s more important than ever to set a routine, and set rates
The best, and worst part of freelancing, is having significant control over your own time, and how you organise it.
Setting your rates as a freelancer can be confusing, especially when you don’t have a lot of formal knowledge about the field and the industry standards. Watch this comprehensive video to understand everything you need to, about setting your rates and charging as a freelancer.
Confidence, and valuing your work for what it is worth is also key. Rupsa says she researched extensively when setting her prices as a freelancer. “I was determined and confident regarding my work. While some beginner freelancers choose to work for free to create a work portfolio, I decided to go the opposite way, and charged 1rpw. After I submitted my work I even got paid in full amount!! This built even more confidence in me.”
Increase your social media screen time (with focus and intention )
Rajvi emphasises that her social media page was a great way to network. Social media has immense networking potential when used correctly. Be active on social media in terms of posting about your work and connecting with potential clients.
Understand how you can create a good personal brand on social media here.
Read this article to learn how you can increase organic traffic to your social media page as a freelancer.
Click here for an insightful guide on how you can use social media to get hired.
This isn’t the competitive corporate world you rejected – support your fellow freelancers!
Talk to other freelancers, especially in the beginning. Connect with fellow freelancers on social media, job portals, and freelance communities. Ask your friends and family if they know any freelancers and get in touch with them. Ask them questions, ask for help, and make it clear that you’ll do the same if they ever need it. Be open to collaborations that can be mutually beneficial.
Sharanya, asserting the importance of building a support system says, “Connect with other freelancers, go for meetups, meet people in diverse fields – it will give you tonnes of ideas and collaboration opportunities.”
The freelancing community is not the rat race that corporate culture has glorified. Finding the right people in the community could not only come in handy in improving and getting support in your work, but also help you feel less isolated as a person new to working alone.
The freelancers I spoke to might have started off with no prior experience, but hearing them talk about their work and journey now, it’s clear that they’ve gained all the expertise and experience, while also managing to retain the passion, that their freelance career could need!
So keep these tips in mind and you’ll be freelancing like an experienced professional in no time – with or without any prior experience.
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