According to Statista, it’s estimated that by 2027, a staggering 86.5 million people will be freelance workers, many of whom will be women. A 2018 report from FreshBooks found that 63% of women think that they can better reach their career goals by working for themselves as opposed to traditional employment and 78% of women are happier working for themselves. Whether that’s working as a freelance writer, selling wares on Etsy, or launching a full-blown startup company, there’s no denying that a little bit of advice at the outset can go a long way. That’s why we’ve rounded up some advice from successful female freelancers and entrerpeneurs so that anyone looking to follow in their footsteps can start a few paces ahead.
Akua Washington, Etsy Entrepreneur: Identify the Market Need
Akua Washington, who runs an Etsy store that sells traditional West African waist beads, credits her success to how she recognized an unfulfilled market need. “I always had friends asking me where to get waist beads from, and I just realized there was a void in the marketplace for real, traditional African Waist Beads,” she told Small Business Trends.
A clear market need is one way to make starting your own business a success, but that doesn’t mean that your process has to go the same way that Washington’s did. If you’ve got a cool product or a neat idea brewing, conduct some cursory market research before you strike out on your own. However you approach it, knowing your market is essential to launching a lucrative business.
Erin Upton-Coulsich, Developer: Transition Intellegently
“I took on a couple gigs for a year while I had a boring office job. Then I transitioned to a part-time job in the same industry and grew my client base for a year. Finally, I quit that job and went freelance full time,” Upton-Coulsich, a freelance coder and consultant who has been at it for six years, told the Women Who Code Community on Medium.
Even though transitioning to freelancing is often called a “jump” or a “leap,” and in a lot of ways it certainly is, that doesn’t mean that your transition leading up to full-time freelancing can’t be a gradual one.
As Upton-Coulsich notes, the more you can plan and prepare for taking the plunge, the higher your chances of success are. If you do things like secure a client roster before you make the full-time move, you’ll spend more time actually working on projects that pay rather than spinning your wheels trying to find clients, an activity that no one pays you for as a freelancer.
Ann Friedman, Writer: Have Realistic Financial Expectations
Ann Friedman, is a successful freelance writer, but her start wasn’t quite so glamorous. She cautions female entrepreneurs to have realistic financial expectations and to be prepared for an uphill battle establishing themselves.
“Outside the traditional workplace, the gender gap actually widens,” she wrote. “Self-employed men, on average, earn about 50 percent more than salaried men. Women, on the other hand, earn slightly less working for themselves…I’m not sure how I stack up against freelancing men in my field. But I do know it took me four years to work up to the salary I was making before I was fired.”
Unless you don’t need an income to pay your bills, saving a financial cushion before you leap into the freelance world can help ease any hardships that you may encounter as you build your freelance career. Not only will a small savings help ease one stress (the financial one) from the pile of stressors that new freelancers have to worry about—everything from health insurance to retirement savings—but it can also help to set you up for success when it comes to snagging your first clients. A financial cushion can make the difference between having to take every gig that comes your way, even the one-off and extremely low paid ones offered by clients who don’t respect your craft, and the ability to find anchor clients who pay well and will give you work for years to come.
Ilise Benun, Marketing Consultant: Focus on an Area of Expertise
“You can’t be everything to everyone. Focus is essential to success and builds your competence and self confidence,” Ilise Benun, whose work entails helping creative professionals get better clients (and ultimately make more money), told Forbes. When Benun talks about focus, she specifically means avoiding the trap of taking any and all work that many first-time freelancers fall into.
While it might be financially necessary, the sooner you can move away from taking every job you find, the better off you’ll be. Not only do specialists operate within a smaller pool of competitors than generalists do, they also refine their brand and perfect their skills faster than if they were to spread themselves thin.
Interested in learning more about taking the leap? Check out Skillshare to learn more about how to market, brand, and manage your freelancing career.