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Climb the Ladder: How Freelancers Can Track Career Advancement

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In the corporate world, it’s easy to track positive mobility in your career. You could get a promotion (a move upward to a position of higher rank or pay), or laterally to a position of similar rank, but with different tasks or projects. Advancement in a freelancing career is not so easy to track, possibly because we each have different definitions of what a freelance “promotion” consists of.

Here are some ways you can climb the freelance career ladder:

Rates. The most obvious way to climb your career ladder is to raise your rates as you gain more experience and skills. The quality of your work, client support, and even your online presence should reflect these changes. If you want some tips on how to raise your rates, check out the following resources:

Of course, just relying on increasing your rates has its limits. Just because you’re increasing your hourly rate by $5, it doesn’t mean that you’ll eventually get away with charging $1,000 per hour. The good news is that there are other ways to give yourself a “promotion.”

Projects and clients. One of the signs that you’re doing well as a freelancer is that you occasionally turn down projects. Still, it doesn’t necessarily follow that you should only take on projects with a bigger scope or work only with high-profile clients. What’s important is to look out for new projects that we’re passionate about. This could mean the following:

  • Taking on projects that will allow you to learn and explore additional skills you’ve always wanted.
  • Working with people in an industry or field that you’ve always wanted to get involved with.
  • Choosing challenging projects that excite you and allow you to push your work quality a notch higher.
  • Having the time and resources to work on passion projects that may not be financially rewarding, but are personally fulfilling.

Tasks. If you take a look at your daily tasks, which ones do you like the least? Out of these, which ones can you automate with an app, delegate to an assistant or subcontract to others? Sometimes, advancement in your career means focusing your time and energy on your preferred tasks.

Leisure. It seems like many freelancers work during the weekends or fail to take some time off. While we may be passionate about our work, it doesn’t mean we can’t professionally benefit from leisure time. In one of his TED talks, Stefan Sagmeister discussed the power of taking time off. The benefits include the following:

  • We can pursue creative experiments that we don’t have the time or energy for during the regular work week.
  • We get fresh ideas and innovate. This prevents repetition and keeps our work from becoming stagnant.

Learning opportunities. Career mobility should also involve learning new skills and becoming acquainted with developments in your field. You can do this via seminars, workshops, reading materials, and even attending conferences. On a smaller scale, you can subscribe to relevant blogs and sign up for online courses. By pushing ourselves to learn more, we improve the quality of our work, hear new ideas, and interact with other professionals.

Business building.
For some people, being a lone freelancer isn’t enough. Sometimes we want our jobs to evolve into a business. This doesn’t necessarily mean renting an office or owning a building, but it can mean setting up our own teams, having dedicated staff for client support, or simply getting the right paperwork.

Getting a promotion as a freelancer may not be simple, but as I’ve illustrated with the points above, the freedom and options we have more than make up for that.

How are you climbing the freelance career ladder? Do you do this deliberately or do you find that your career path forges naturally with very little planning?

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