by Veda Darby Soberman, former Head Editor, INALJ Hawaii
previously published 11/6/13
Footloose and Fancy Freelancing
If you are unemployed, underemployed, or just looking for a change, why not consider freelancing? A lot of the skills and knowledge of the information professional are sought after in the freelance market. Beyond the usual suspects of writer, editor, researcher or web designer, information professional related freelance jobs could include archivist, indexer, records manager, information broker, database administrator, grant writer, genealogist and much more. Look at the list to the list of “Keywords for Job Searching” here on INALJ.com. Most of those jobs could also be done on a freelance basis. A growing number of organizations are seeking temporary expert help for special projects, or to fill needs without having to commit to hiring an employee. Here are a few key things that may help if you are thinking about starting a freelance business:
Determine your focus. First, make an exhaustive list of what you have learned at various jobs, school, trainings, and on your own. It doesn’t matter if you think you are good at them or not, or if they are in demand. Next, narrow your list to those items which you enjoy AND are in demand. These are going to be the skills which you should consider the focus of your freelancing efforts.
Build a portfolio, and collect testimonials. As a freelancer you will need to be creative and assertive with promoting your work. It will take a lot of effort. Your portfolio and testimonials will be one of the most important marketing tools for winning jobs. Freelance clients are looking to get specific work done. As such, they are likely to be less concerned with what is on your resume or in a cover letter than with what you are capable of doing as it relates to their needs. Begin building your portfolio with work which you have done in previous jobs, or in school. If you are just starting out, do pro bono work to add some actual freelance meat to your portfolio, and to get a few testimonials. Don’t forget to ask previous employers or colleagues to provide testimonials regarding your abilities, skills, and even character. Of course you will want to have your portfolio and testimonials available online. LinkedIn is an easy place to start, but you may eventually want begin a dedicated business website.
Join professional organizations in your field(s) of focus, and those relating to freelance/independent contract work. You will want to remain abreast of current trends and network with other professionals.This can be especially difficult if you are not clocking in and out each day at a larger organization where you can speak to colleagues and take advantage of the organization’s connections. An organization which is helpful for an information freelancer is the Association of Independent Information Professionals (AIIP).
Get legal. If you are a freelancer, you are a business owner. As such, you will need to follow through with certain legal and regulatory matters. Thankfully, these are not as complex as for other businesses. Starting a Freelance Business – How to Take Care of Legal, Tax and Contractual Paperwork at sba.gov is a great article to get you started.