A study conducted by Payoneer found out that Africa holds 10.1% of the freelancers across the world. This number is expected to grow in the years to come. Today, the younger generation wants to define their work hours and career path in general.

This has resulted in companies facing difficulties when it comes to finding candidates who conform to traditional workplace policies. Companies with traditional business models are being challenged by globalisation and the virtual economy, which are spreading throughout the country rapidly.

This is why it is easier to succeed in today's age as a freelancer in Africa. So, here are seven steps that will help you become a successful freelancer:

1. Define your goals

Without clear written goals, you are going to have a hard time arriving at your destination. You need to know what your ultimate goal in freelancing is. You can do this by asking questions like:
  • Are you starting a freelance business to earn extra income on the side?
  • Do you want to become a full-time freelancer and reap the benefits of being your own boss?
  • Are you using freelancing as a stepping stone to achieve an entirely different goal?
Without clearly written goals, you cannot run a successful business. This goal will help you achieve your purpose in the professional field in the long run. Only after setting long-term goals can you break them into short-term goals and milestones that will propel your business to success.

2. Find a profitable niche

To become a successful freelancer, you have to be specific; don't be general. You need to find out what you love doing or build your business on the skills you currently possess.

For instance, if you are a gym instructor, you can consider focusing on the health and fitness niche. If you love promoting other businesses online, you can focus on digital marketing.

Once you find a profitable niche, you'll quickly realise that you have a lot of competitors that are willing to charge lower rates than you. Since the cost of living in different countries is different, there will be people who'll be ready to accept a lower amount than you. The best thing that you can do for yourself is to avoid competing with charge rates at the moment. Focus on creating value and not price.

3. Build a high-quality website

All successful freelancers take their time to create a powerful online presence to support their businesses. You can also consider starting a blog if this idea excites you. The purpose of having a website or a blog is to create a good first impression with potential clients.

Your website needs to communicate the services that you offer and who will benefit from them. You also need to highlight your skills, accomplishments and display your testimonials. Updating your samples regularly will help potential clients identify the quality of your offerings if they should decide to hire you.

It's important to find other freelancers in your field and share ideas with them. Being a lone wolf has its advantages; however, when starting your business, you'll need help to avoid repeating expensive mistakes that could be easily avoided.

4. Choose your clients

Since you're going to have a limited number of clients, you'll have to make the most out of them — both from a portfolio building and financial perspective — to grow your freelance business.

The clients you choose to work with will greatly influence the success or failure of your business. Therefore, you need to consider whether the client you choose to work with will help you get to your desired destination.

You need to know how many clients you can handle at any one time. It's better to decline requests that come in than to accept them and end up disappointing your clients. Remember, your success as a freelancer hugely depends on your reputation. Protect it at all costs.

5. Learn how to pitch

To become a successful freelancer, you need to learn how to pitch. To convert your skills into a successful venture, you need to communicate your strengths to convert potential clients into paying clients. Take your time to learn how to find, persuade and convert clients by using strategised proposals and tactics. As the popular saying goes, 'people buy people'.

6. Keep your promises

If you want to maintain a good relationship with a long-term client, you have to keep your promises. Keeping your promises will affect your reputation in the market. What do I mean by 'keeping your promises?' 

This means that you need to submit your work at the agreed day and time. Ensure that your work is always valuable, persuasive and organised. If you won't be able to submit your work before the deadline, communicate with your clients as early as possible to avoid inconveniences.

In general, people who can't keep their word will frustrate and irritate you in the long run. To avoid losing valuable clients, walk your talk.

7. Avoid mixing your day job with your business

If you are currently employed, remember that your day job is your top priority at the moment because it's your main source of income. Avoid doing things that will jeopardise your day job. This includes:
  • building your freelance business during that's job's working hours,
  • using your employer's company resources to build your own freelance projects, and
  • breaching the employment contract.
A final thing to keep in mind is that your freelance business is an infant and it needs to be nurtured before you can reap the fruits. Building a successful freelance business does takes time. Patience is vital for your success.

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As a freelancer in South Africa, quoting potential clients can often be tricky. But don't worry, we have the answers to The South African freelancer conundrum: How much do I charge? Check it out.