Freelancers are people who sell their work or services to clients rather than being employed by one company. In other words, freelancing is contract work. Most freelancers are paid by the job, though what that means depends on the kind of work they do.
Freelancing as a military veteran makes a lot of sense.
Freelancing is not something many veterans think of when they’re looking for a job. Getting into it is intimidating, and succeeding at it is hard work. However, freelancing has some unique benefits that make it a great way to build your portfolio, make a business out of your hobby, or make money while you’re in school. Here’s a short guide to help you get started as a freelancer.
Why Freelancing as a Military Veteran?
Freelancing is not a get rich quick scheme. It isn’t likely to make you a ton of money without a whole lot of work. However, it has its own appeal. Freelancers typically make their own hours. They have a lot of say in what their left and right limits are, provided they understand that those limits may dictate the number of clients they get.
If you’re looking at getting out of the military, small freelancing gigs can be a good way to dip your toe into an industry you’re interested in working in. If you’re going to school, it can be a great way to supplement your G.I. Bill.
One of the most interesting things about freelancing is that your income level is determined by your performance. It’s not determined by who you know or even by your location. Luck is a factor, because luck is always a factor, but it’s less of a factor than it probably was during your military career. Your success depends on you and your skills, which can be a relief if you’re coming out of the military, where success is a lot more complex.
What Kind of Freelancing Work Are You Looking For?
The first thing you need to decide on is what kind of service you want to sell. There are all kinds of freelancers. If you’re a code monkey, you can get paid to write code. If you are a graphic designer, there’s a market for design work. You can write, you can proofread or transcribe. You can do customer support, you can do accounting…if it’s a skill, then you can sell it as a freelancer.
Freelance work is cheaper than having an employee that a company pays to do a specialized job. Freelancers are mercenary subject matter experts. That’s right. If you decide to freelance, you function like a warrant officer.
How to Find Clients
With the internet, you can become a freelancer with little trouble.
One of the most common ways to start freelancing these days is through a service platform. Some of these include UpWork, Fiverr, Freelancer, and Guru. These websites connect clients to freelancers. They also take a chunk of the freelancer’s pay as a service fee, which might scare you away, but there’s a reason to use them.
These services have your back. They will verify customer payment, help mediate disputes, and provide a secure platform for communication. They also usually provide tests for you to verify your skills, which will show up on your profile. Usually, if you earn a certain amount of money with a client, you’ll be able to keep a higher percentage of the pay.
If you’re not interested in giving a portion of your fee to someone else, you can also try out craigslist, where freelancing jobs are posted regularly. Developers and other technically gifted freelancers can and should make good use of personal websites, even if you are meeting your clients through a freelance service. These sites are a great way to show off your skills and the full extent of your portfolio.
What really makes or breaks you as a freelancer are your soft skills. You need to be able to sell yourself. This can be difficult for military veterans. In the military, talking yourself up just feels plain wrong. We don’t want to be perceived as bragging.
If you decide to freelance, learn to display your confidence in your skills. You’re a subject matter expert in your field. Let your clients know. If they ask a question about what you can and can’t do, be honest and professional. Don’t downplay yourself unnecessarily. You need to pitch yourself as the best bang for the buck in the field.
One advantage of using the freelance services, like those mentioned above, is that they usually have a rating system. Customers give you a rating after you complete a job for them. Higher ratings look better to clients, making it more likely they will hire you. In order to achieve a high rating, you work will need to be done in a timely manner, and be of good quality. It will make a difference in how much work you get.
If you were in a leadership position, you’ll find that your time management skills will come in handy and help make you a standout as a freelancer. Many clients are concerned about freelancers hitting the deadlines they set. Fortunately for us military veterans, we know a lot about meeting tough deadlines. Clients rarely ask for anything like 100% battalion gunnery certification in two days with 25% of your equipment functioning and three NCOs available, so don’t be intimidated.
Give Freelancing a Shot
If all of this sounds interesting to you, go ahead and give freelancing a try. It’s an interesting new avenue to explore, whether you are a writer, a web developer, a graphic designer, an accountant, or just about anything else. The key to freelancing is the key to all business: find something you have that other people want and sell it to them.
Kathryn Zurmehly served as an Army Officer for five years, reaching the rank of Captain (O-3) and learning a bit along the way.