A freelancer is an independent laborer who earns wages on a per-job or per-task basis, typically for short-term work. Benefits of freelancing include the freedom to work from home or from a non-traditional workspace, a flexible work schedule, and a better work-life balance.
Becoming a freelancer is an exciting move for your career. You’re embarking on a new adventure where you’ll be able to make your own decisions about what you work on, when you work, and where you work from.
It’s also an incredible new challenge where you’ll need to learn everything about running your own business.
Are you up for it?
Use this guide to determine if you’re ready to become a freelancer
Other terms for freelancing
Not everyone uses the term “freelance” or “freelancer” when it comes to work that a freelancer may do. In fact, even most freelancers refer to themselves as “self-employed.”
So other terms you may want to be aware of that relate to freelancing include:
- Contract work: Jobs where you are working to fulfill a short-term or part time contract
- Contract job: Same as above.
- Independent contractor: This is the IRS classification of a freelancer
- 1099: Freelancers are paid using a tax form called a “1099-MISC” as opposed to your typical, full-time W2. Sometimes “1099” is used to refer to a freelancer.
- Contract consultant: This term refers to a consultant coming in under a 1099 contract for a short period of time.
- Contract-to-hire: Sometimes freelancers are interested in full-time employment. Contract-to-hire roles provide a sort of “test period” for a freelancer before they are hired full time.
How does freelancing work?
Freelancers accept payment in return for providing some sort of service. That agreement is generally part-time or short term.
For example, if I hired a photographer to take new headshots for me, I could pay a freelancer for that session and that would be the end of it.
Sometimes people pay freelancers to work a set number of hours per week or per month. That arrangement is often referred to as a “retainer.”
A retainer refers to when you retain the services or right to someone’s time. A lot of legal professionals work on retainer. Every month, they bill a set amount of time to the client, regardless of whether that full time is used or not.
It’s really one of the simplest and most pure forms of entrepreneurship: the freelancer provides a specific service or outcome, and the buyer pays them a fee directly.
What type of work can I do by freelancing?
Companies are becoming much more open to and interested in hiring freelancers doing many different types of work. So freelancing has become much more acceptable for a wide variety of roles.
Step 1: Get The Right Equipment
You make terrible choices and decisions when you’re desperate. And that’s exactly why I always advise not to start freelancing to earn money quickly.
Freelancing is not a get rich quick scheme. It requires a lot of hard work. In fact, it took me around 4 years to earn a steady income as a freelancer.
I often receive questions from freelancers asking if there is work they can do using just a smartphone. The quick answer is there are none. At least not ones that are worth doing.
Smartphone apps are limited in features. You need a computer to run software that are required for doing the work properly and delivering great results.
So, before you go ahead and think about working online, go get yourself a laptop or even an old computer would do the trick.
Also, make sure to read the article suggestions below before going any further.
2. Get the skills
The easiest way to go freelance is to choose a job that uses the skills you already have. But if that’s not possible for you, you’ll need to be willing to upskill. Here are a few places you can start to gain the skills you need.
- Websites to Help You Learn a New Freelance Skill
- 10 Learning Platforms Solopreneurs Will Love
- Learning to Code to Level Up Your Freelancing Career
Step 3: Polish Up Your Skills
Once you find a marketable skill, you should make sure you can offer it as a service. Simply put, you need to be really good at what you do to be able to get paid for it.
For example, let’s say you want to be a freelance writer for health and wellness blogs. This category has good demand. You also have experience writing about it in school or college.
However, that doesn’t mean you can write blog posts for online audiences. Blogs and online publications use very different writing styles and formatting for articles. Mainly to attract general audiences.
So now you need to learn how to write blog posts for online audiences. Learn how to use WordPress. How to make graphics for articles. And more.
It’s the same for every other freelancing skill out there. You can’t just jump right in without even trying to learn the basics. You must polish up your skills first.
Read books, subscribe to YouTube channels, and blogs related to your skill and industry.
Also, taking online courses is the most effective way to properly learn and polish up a skill. Check the links below for recommendations.
- Making the plan
- Quitting your job
- Finding work
- Promoting yourself
- Getting started: the freelance essentials
Step 4. Tips for finding work as a freelancer
These five articles provide tips on how to go about your job search, with hacks and suggestions of what you can be doing to make finding freelance work easier.
- Find Freelance Clients Fast With This Checklist
- Forget Freelance Sites: Connect with Other Freelancers to Find New Jobs
- The Top 10 Ways to Find Freelance Work
- 5 Intuitive Ways You Should Be Finding Freelance Work
- 4 Pro Tips On Finding More Freelance Gigs
5. Package your skills into a service offering
Selecting your skills was just step one of starting a freelance business – next you’ll need to sell them.
How would you actually use those skills for someone else?
What is the service you provide with those skills?
It’s a fine line, but it’s an important distinction.
Writing is a skill and email copywriting is a service.
Coding is a skill and creating custom mobile apps is a service.
In order to sell your skills, you need to think of them as a service.
Here are a few sites that you can try for freelancing jobs:
- Fiverr: the world’s largest marketplace to look for freelance jobs. Just create an account post what you can do, add few links and you’re done.
- 99Designs: A perfect place to find freelancing jobs if you’re a designer.
- Upwork: Upwork is a more professional looking freelance marketplace where you’ll find more business clients.
- Freelancer.com: Freelancer.com is among the oldest freelance job marketplace which you can choose in your initial year when you have little or no freelance experience.
Working on a few gigs from these sites helps in understanding how freelancing as a job goes along and helps you get the hang of it.
But before heading to these freelance websites, you need to set up a freelance brand for yourself. Follow these steps for the same –
- Decide what services you’ll offer
- Determine your target market
- Find the platforms (freelancing websites) you’ll be serving on. Choose a uniform username on all of them. It helps you build your brand identity.
- Decide your rates
- Create an online portfolio on your niche-specific portfolio platforms; GitHub for developers, Behance for designers, etc. We also suggest you create a personal portfolio website to showcase your skills and talent.
- Market your services: market on social media, offer something for free or at a very less cost (helps in getting more traction), ask for referrals, and use email marketing.
We don’t suggest you leave your existing source of income and jump into freelancing per se. Try it as a part-time venture to see how it works out for you in the initial months.
It is entirely not necessary that you have to freelance full time. It is up to you to decide on whether you’d like to do it full time or keep your existing job and make a buck during your free time.
If you feel that you really like the way the things are headed, it’s time to move onto the next step.
Once you feel that you can provide for yourself and work this way, the next course of action is to take on multiple assignments for multiple streams of revenue. This should include gigs that you got personally using methods mentioned above as well as from the freelancing sites.
Another possibility is that you could make it a full-time gig. Freelancing full time also means you can create diverse forms of income. You can:
- Negotiate monthly retainers
- Negotiate commissions on sales projects
- Create referral systems to reward clients who send you new clients
- Market yourself directly: Here’s a helpful guide on marketing and creating a perfect personal branding for yourself.
6 : Promoting yourself
As a freelancer, you’re no longer just focused on providing your core services. You also need to become good at selling yourself. This means presenting a professional image of yourself online, writing great proposals and applications, and getting good at talking about what you do. This doesn’t always come easy to new freelancers, so here is some information to help.
Your online image
Having an online presence is an absolute necessity these days if you want to look professional. Your website is a place where you can share the kinds of skills you have and previous work you have created, to give potential clients an insight into what they’d be able to get from you. It’s also an opportunity to share information about the clients you’ve worked with previously, to provide ‘social proof’ that you’re trustworthy and reliable. Never created a website before? Not a problem. You don’t need a fancy website to promote yourself. Here’s how to create the perfect business website.
You’ll also need some additional marketing materials outside of your website. This article shares marketing materials you’ll need when working for yourself.
Looking professional from the outset
When you’re just getting started, it might be difficult to know what to include on your website. Perhaps you don’t have a ton of previous clients or a portfolio to share. But there are a few tricks you can use to make your business look bigger than it is. Take a look at these articles for some help:
Writing great pitches
You’re about to start spending a lot of time pitching for work, especially while you’re starting out and building up a name for yourself. On websites where freelance jobs are listed you’ll be competing with many other freelancers, so it’s important to get good at this, fast. Take a look at these articles for tips on how to promote yourself appropriately so you can land more jobs.