Focusing on only direct sources of income is the hugest (yet the wide-spread) mistake many freelancers make. It is quite understandable though: you get so much used to hunting for paid opportunities that you can hardly ever find time or enthusiasm to do anything else – especially something that you won’t see any immediate result from.
So let me share my own experience: it is your non-paid hard work that will allow you to grow personally and professionally and consequently grow your income exponentially.
I’d been freelancing for about 2 years before I was offered the full-time position at BlueGlass (where I still work from home by the way because I am not based in the USA). I’ve earned my living online for almost three years – that’s my full-time job (I am really happy with and would never want a better one). And throughout all these years I came to understand one most important thing: it’s the work I have done for free that accounts for my successful online career.
The biggest misconception of making money online is that it’s all about money.
It is not. Money is just the secondary index of your progress. In my understanding, freelancing is not about earning some quick money here and there – it’s about continuous growth of your income.
Your income grows together with your professionalism and your experience. You get paid exactly what your skills are worth.
It’s not about pure luck (spotting an accidental paid gig) – it’s about how good and well-known you are so that you didn’t even have to look for paid gigs.
The work you do for free is what makes your personal brand strong enough to let clients look for you (not vice versa). I for one spend only 10%-15% of my time daily actually working for money. The rest of my time is dedicated to doing work for free.
So what sort of non-paid gigs are worth your time and effort? Here’s what I do:
1/ Guest Blogging
Guest blogging is by far the most powerful way to build a convincing online portfolio. Many freelancers tend to shy away from blogging on other people’s blogs without being paid – look, the first comment at Susan’s post announcing the great guest posting opportunity at Freelance Writing Jobs was the question if it was “a paying gig”.
Those who say they have no time for guest blogging miss the hugest benefits of guest blogging:
- Build your personal brand: position yourself as an expert;
- Network: build more connections online (meet new people and potential clients)
- Become famous: ultimately it’s all about how many people know you and can recommend your skills to someone else. If you contribute to the blogs where the audience should get interested in your expertise, these will be highly targeted connections and they are more likely to turn into clients (or get ones for you) one day.
Guest blogging can result in your career boost – that’s what can really make a difference.
2/ Social Media Networking
Being “well-socialized” requires plenty of time and commitment. You can’t know many people and do without maintaining those relationships on a daily basis. Of course, you can’t be active on all social media networks out there but actively participating at the selective few of them is essential:
- Get more people to learn about you: your social media profiles are your resumes: they demonstrate how influential you are;
- Manage your online reputation: Google usually ranks high social media sites like Twitter and LinkedIn and soon enough, searching for your name, you will see all your profiles and resumes on page 1 of search results. Imagine how well it will work to re-assure your prospect to rely on you.
- Get social recommendations and testimonials. The power of social media testimonials is that they can be easy verified. Social media users are public figures and if they recommend someone – that’s the most convincing advertisement.
All in all, social media networking is a must but be prepared that that’s a hard work and it is unlikely to show quick results. Time is the most powerful factor in building influence.
3. Your Own Projects
It is funny that I have always been eager to start my own projects – and I spend plenty of time working on them daily – but they hardly account for even 5% of my income. The major reason for why it happens so is that I never really aimed at earning money from them: Take a look at any of my personal websites or projects: none of them is monetized or runs paid banners.
So why would I need them then? The real reasons are:
- Self-education: with clients’ website I’d never had the required freedom and flexibility. With my own projects I can do whatever I want – which lets me test theories, try new tools and be up-to-date with what is happening online.
- Inspiration: being free and flexible allows me to get as creative as I want. This keeps me inspired and lets me enjoy my job.
- Networking: building your own community around your blog or forum is a great way to get closer to people you meet via guest blogging and social media networking. My own sites are landing pages where all my connections can come to learn more about me, get closer connected to me and return whenever they need my services.
So what are your thoughts? Are these only paid gigs that may take you busy? How much do you work for free?
This is a guest post by Ann Smarty who has started My Blog Guest – the fast-growing community of guest bloggers. MyBlogGuest.com is also the exclusive partner of Freelance Writing Jobs – if you want to land a great guest posting opportunity at this blog, register at MyBlogGuest!
Post images by Jesslee Cuizon and Donald Macleod