Last Updated on June 12, 2016 by Michael Brockbank
According to statistics, more than one-third of the workforce in the United States are freelance professionals. The majority of these individuals work from home. Thanks to the Internet, almost 70% of freelancers state how technology has made it easier to find work. However, not everyone will experience the same level of success. If you want to make enough money for the experience to be worthwhile, it’ll take a bit of effort.
9 Steps to Successfully Work From Home
Working from home can have quite the allure. Being your own boss, making more money, freedom to enjoy yourself and doing what you love are some of the most driving forces behind being a freelancer. Here are the steps I’ve developed based on my own experiences since 2012. Use these as a guide to help you grow while making it profitable to work from home.
1. Clean Your Work Area
Yes, I’ve made cleaning your workspace the number one step to being successful as a freelance professional. Not only does it make finding your tools and supplies easier, but it can also enhance your mindset. Studies show that people are more likely to take their jobs seriously when their areas are tidy and straightened up.
The Sense of Professionalism
Essentially, you want your work area to be just as well kept as it would be if you worked at some large corporation. Not only does it make the area look nicer, but it can influence how you feel about yourself and the workload. This sense of professionalism can directly affect your confidence as well as your efficiency to complete the job. As a freelance writer, I try to keep my desk clear of debris. The only things I keep at my desk are: notepad, pen and coffee warmer – because I needs my coffee.
Clearing the Chaos
Speaking from experience, the mess of the workspace will directly affect your thought processes. A chaotic desk makes for a chaotic mind. It induces stress and can affect the feelings of being overwhelmed. You might be amazed by how much better you feel when you work from home in a clean space. There have also been studies performed where employees were less stressed at their jobs when the clutter was cleared.
2. Identify Your Skills
Identifying the type of skills you plan on offering may require a bit of thought. These are the skills you plan on selling to a client in order to make money. The better you are at a certain ability, the more money you’ll make. It may be best to write down a list of your skills to give you an idea of how to proceed.
Is it Marketable?
Some skills are not going to be good to work from home. For example, it’s hard to offer landscaping services online unless you offer that to people in your immediate area. With that being said, those with a background in labor may have a more difficult time to find online work. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. You can still offer labor services, but that will require a different method that I’ll go into at a later date. Some of the most common jobs I’ve seen online include:
- Document filing
- General office procedures
- Graphic design
- Programming – websites, smartphones and Cloud-based apps
- IT Support
While it’s true that most online jobs require a level of technical knowledge, not all of them require extensive computer prowess. For instance, I use Textbroker to help me find clients. This site is incredibly easy to use to the point that even the most novice of Internet users can be successful on the system.
Do You Have Transferable Skills?
Transferable skills are those that can be utilized in more than one place. For example, learning customer service at McDonald’s could be very beneficial to work from home for a company looking for such abilities. Some skills you use in one industry may be helpful in another. This is why you should write down everything you know how to do. It may impact the kind of work you start looking for.
3. Looking for Work
Looking for online work as a freelance professional is actually quite easy. As long as you can identify legitimate sites from those who just want to steal information and money, you can be successful when you work from home. Luckily, there are a lot of websites available to help you find quality clients who will pay you a great deal of money for your abilities. This is where your list of skills will come into play. You want to find opportunities that center around your expertise.
Brokerage sites are those who help connect you with potential clients. These sites will then take a cut of the action, usually about 30% of the money you make. Some will use a flat fee, but all may have potential to help you grow as a professional. Some of the sites I use include:
- Textbroker.com: Strictly for ghostwriters such as myself
- Freelancer.com: Has an extensive list of job types and a range of industries
- Fiverr.com: Same as freelancer.com, but has a lower threshold for how much money you could make
It may take a few days to get a collection of sites that may keep you working. When you find these gems, make sure you keep your profile up-to-date and completely filled out. Most of these sites use search criteria to match clients with professionals. The more information you have available, the better these results will be.
Using brokerage websites is the easiest way to get your feet wet to work from home. These can help you get a feel for online clients, prices and how to expand your abilities at a later date. It can also give you a great deal of experience, which could then be added to online resumes.
If you want to make the most out of the experience of using brokerage sites, you need to be active. The competition on these kinds of sites is fierce and in plentiful supply. It doesn’t take long for all the good jobs to be taken. Keep a close eye on what projects are available. It may give you a regular direct client who will constantly provide you with income.
4. Set Obtainable Goals
Once you have your accounts set up at brokerage sites, it’s time to set some goals. Having clear objectives for what you accomplish can help you remain professional while maximizing your potential to make money. However, you want to make sure you set goals that are obtainable. Otherwise, you could set yourself up for failure.
Your First Goals
Set your first goals relatively low. When you begin to work at home, you need to get an idea about how much you can make at the beginning. You don’t want to focus on making a million dollars this year, because that would be incredibly unlikely. However, you do need to get a feel for the process. When I first started as a ghostwriter, I focused on making more than $15 per day. Of course, I was also working at the school district as IT support at the time. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Set goals for time worked each day: The more time you dedicate to client projects, the more money you’ll make overall.
- Set a goal for the number of projects completed each week: Start with one project and work your way up from there depending on difficulty. Some projects may simply take longer than others.
- Set a goal for the money needed each week: You might want to keep this somewhat low in the beginning. Until you establish yourself as a professional, you may not make a great deal of money in the beginning.
Goals are important because they can help you stay on task when you work from home. These give you the sense of accomplishment while increasing your level of confidence – which will then boost your performance when dealing with clients.
5. Understand Your Competition
There’s nothing wrong with taking a look at your competition and seeing what they do to inspire clients. You don’t want to copy their offerings, but you could get a few ideas to improve yourself. For instance, Fiverr can be greatly customized. You could offer services that your competition doesn’t.
Knowledge is Power
Understand how your competition works will give you the knowledge it takes to surpass them. After all, each client those people get is one less who is paying you. You don’t want to get into slandering a specific competitor as it would make you look less professional. Instead, build onto your own strengths and give clients a reason to use your services.
6. Set Up Social Media Accounts
Social media is one of the best ways to reach a large target audience with less effort. There is great potential for engaging clients through sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. This is a form of marketing that usually has a high return on your investment.
Keeping Professional Posts Separate
Always keep your professional profiles separated from your personal one. You want to inspire clients to contact you, not view your comments and pictures of a party you were at last Saturday. It’s all about demonstrating professionalism if you want to engage more clients. Facebook and Google will even allow you to make pages dedicated to your profession.
Keep Social Accounts Active
Active social accounts are more likely to receive interest from clients. This also contributes to developing an online reputation as well as authority in your industry. Just make sure post updates are related to your expertise. You don’t want to confuse or insult potential clients who could be viewing your profile at this very moment. I wouldn’t post fitness articles on Writer Sanctuary’s twitter account.
Taking Out the Middle Man
By gaining clients outside of brokerage sites, you cut out the middle man. Instead of giving these organizations 30% of the income, you’ll make 30% more. This is why it’s important to expand your reach to include quality clients on your own through social engagement.
7. Blog About Your Industry
Blogging about your industry does many things for you as a professional. This is also one of the easiest things to do once you start to work from home. It can affect everything from demonstrating expertise to keeping your skills honed.
Learning While Blogging
When you blog about what you learn about your industry, the information becomes easier to remember. The more information you have about your specific industry, the more valuable you are to clients. As a writer, I use my blog to enhance my abilities for creating online content. I’ve learned a great deal about SEO practices and have developed speed over time.
The blog can also serve to be an online portfolio that clients can access. The more information you provide about your niche, the more professional you appear. This could be a vital piece to succeeding when you work from home as it can engage clients 24/7. It works while you’re asleep.
Hosting a Blog
Personally, I pay for my own servers. However, using sites like WordPress.com can give you a quick and robust blog. Once you start establishing its pages, share the link on social sites or through emails. You want to attract potential clients. To do this, you need to market the blog.
8. Continue to Learn
Probably one of the most important aspects to success when you work from home is to continue learning. A knowledgeable freelancer can virtually control how much money he or she makes in any given project. There are a lot of clients who will pay top dollar simply because of what you know.
Spend some time each week learning more about your industry. Search engines, favorite websites and even social media can be extremely valuable to expand your knowledge. Although college courses can be invaluable to get you started, success may require you to continue advancing yourself. You don’t want to give a client out-dated material or skills. It’s possible for any freelancer to become obsolete if they don’t spend some time researching their niche.
9. Taxes, Insurance and Retirement
If you want to remain successful while you work from home, you need to take into consideration the financial aspects. Things like taxes, insurance and retirement plans are all going to be up to you. As a freelancer, it’s your responsibility to make sure these things are covered. Otherwise, you’ll fall into financial dire straights. The last thing you want is the IRS putting a lien against your property for not filing taxes.
When it comes to tax time in the United States, you’ll more than likely have to pay as a freelancer. This is because you won’t have the ability to withhold taxes when clients pay you. However, this can be managed without putting stress on your bank account. If you set a savings account up for the strict purpose of paying annual taxes, you can avoid issues later on.
Ever time a client pays you, put 10% into this savings account. Over time, the interest will accrue and you’ll actually make a few extra dollars at tax time as opposed to paying.
Insurance can be a bit more difficult. In many areas, getting health insurance as a self-employed individual means higher premiums. If you can’t find a decent coverage plan, it may not be a bad idea to set up a second savings account for the purpose of paying hospital bills. Personally, I’d prefer being self-insured rather than giving another organization all of my hard-earned money. But that takes thousands of dollars in the US.
Retirement is another expense that you need to address when you work from home. Fortunately, there are a several ways you can go about making sure you have money when it’s time to retire from the working world. I try to put what I can into stocks and savings. Stocks are exceptionally useful because it keeps the money out of your hands while possibly generating income. It’s high-risk to be sure, but it can also be very lucrative. Just make sure you look for long-term investments that have staying power. With the right investments, there is a chance you could even retire early – depending on how well the stock performs. According to statistics, long-term investments have an average yield higher than any bank savings account. This means more money for you.
Success Will Be Determined By Your Efforts
When you work from home, the biggest thing that will influence your success will be the amount of effort you put into the experience. You can’t simply sit at your monitor and cross your fingers. It takes a great deal of patience, work and marketing in order to engage quality clients. But once you do, these individuals or companies could provide you with more money than any job in your local area. Here are a few things I do to keep myself sharp:
- Keep working: Even if you don’t have a client, find a project for yourself that utilizes your skills. As a writer, it’s easy for me to keep sharp through blogging.
- Keep looking for opportunities: Even if you find the perfect brokerage sites, keep looking when the workflow is low. You never know what opportunities are out there unless you look.
- Diversify yourself: While it might be a great ghostwriter, perhaps there are other skills you could market as well. Diversity could be greatly beneficial when it comes to keeping you working and making money. Personally, I think I’m going to try doing a bit of photography at sites such as ShutterStock.com. After all, I was a graphic design major in college.
Understanding yourself as a freelance professional can go a long way to making sure you have the money to keep your bills paid. Don’t assume that you can get rich quick when you work from home. That kind of thinking can actually hurt your chances of success. It can fill you with false hopes and easily feed into frustrations. Instead, look at freelancing as a way to grow as a professional. All of the best opportunities start from something small.
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