If you've taken a creative career path or have a valuable skill set that you want to use to start your own business, freelancing may be a great way to supplement your income. What's more, freelancing may give you an opportunity to do work that is more creative and rewarding than your traditional 9 to 5. But branching out can be a major challenge. You can't simply decide to start freelancing and then wait idly by for the phone to ring. After all, freelancing has become an increasingly popular way for professionals to take on side projects. Moreover, the Internet has made it possible for companies to search through vast databases of freelancers to find someone that fits their exact needs. To build up your portfolio, you'll have to actively seek out projects and make connections. Here are five tips for starting out as a freelancer:

1. Always network 
Remember that any social outing is a potential networking opportunity, and since you're working for yourself it's your personal responsibility to network with possible clients. Develop an aesthetically pleasing website or online portfolio in which to showcase your work, then have cards created that include contact information and the URL for your site. That way, those interested in your services will easily be able to access your past work and make an educated decision when hiring you on for a project. 

2. Have a steady gig 
Freelancing isn't always the most consistent work, and therefore should probably not be your only source of income, especially when you're starting out. Hold onto a part time or full time steady job that you can rely on to help you weather periods when your services are not in high demand. Once you've built up a strong reputation and steady stream of work, then you can take the time to contemplate whether it's worth it to make contract work your full time job.

3. Use freelancer resources 
There are niche social media platforms for nearly everyone on the Web these days, and freelancers are no exception. Find websites where you can market your services as a freelancer and network with your peers. These online platforms serve as a resource for companies searching for contract talent. Therefore, take time to make your profile stand out from the crowd. Also find local recruiters that are regularly seeking out freelance talent. Building a strong relationship with a recruiting company may make it easier for you to find a regular body of work. 

4. Learn to budget 
If you book a lucrative gig don't go out and spend it all at once. Freelancers have to learn how to budget money wisely since contract work can be inconsistent. This of course is the main reason for holding onto your regular job, but learning to budget your money will help ensure you don't get in the habit of spending outside your means. Also consider that you'll likely need to reinvest money from freelancing gigs into your business to cover miscellaneous expenses. 

5. Know your hourly rate 
While many freelance opportunities are advertised at a designated rate depending on experience, you'll have more freedom to negotiate pay in contract work than a normal full time job. When you're starting out, make sure you have an idea of what you should be asking for as an hourly rate, and keep track of it as you gain more experience. If you eventually build a reputation, especially within a niche industry, you'll be able to raise your rate accordingly.