Many office workers dream of having the freedom to work when they want, from where they want, and with whom they want. They know that this dream can be a reality, but they just don’t know how to start freelancing.
The key thing to remember here is that lots of people do it – why not you? If you have a computer, an internet connection, and the tools of your trade, you have all that you need to begin the journey.
Starting a freelance career takes a lot of work, but the process is fairly simple. With the steps below – no matter where in the world you are right now – you, too, can be completely free of the 9 to 5 grind in just 60 days.
(1) Determine your Service Offering
What am I really good at?
Everyone is good at something, and this is where you need to start. Think about what you can do really well, and make a list. Don’t think about anything else, and just list your general skills and talents, no matter what they are. You’d be surprised what you come up with.
What can I offer to business owners and even individuals?
When that’s done, go back over your list and think about each skillset as something you can sell. As a freelancer, you are a business owner. You have this service – and sometimes it’s a product – that you might be able to sell to people who need it.
If you need to do research to find out if your skill set or the resulting product is viable, jump on Google and do a search. You should be able to find out fairly quickly if it’s marketable. Freelance marketplaces are also good places to search and see how and where this skill set is being offered. This is a good indication of where you can do the same, which you will be exploring later on.
What types of work can I fit into my freelance schedule?
Determining your service offering also includes figuring out the days and times that you want to work. The skill set that you want to focus on could impact your work times, and vice versa.
For instance, if you want to do web development, you may not be able to work just two hours a day and still deliver a project in a reasonable amount of time. If you can work six hours a day but not all at once, you may not be able to take on a customer service voice role where you need to be available for certain blocks of time.
Think about how you want to work and what work you want to do, and come to a comfortable compromise that allows you to have the best of both worlds.
What skill set is the best one to start with?
By this time, you should have a pretty narrowed down list. Then, based on the above, rank your skill sets according to the level of confidence that you have in each one. Don’t forget to consider the experience that you have with each one, and what you can show to prove it. This will be very important as you venture out into freelance marketplaces where no one really knows yet what you can do.
(2) Set your Pricing
What do I want to get paid?
Think about the amount of money that you need to make ends meet every month. Keep it basic, and include what you should be putting aside for savings and emergencies. When you have that, think about the hours that you want to work and compute a monthly figure for that. Divide the monthly amount that you need to earn to stay afloat by the number of hours you want to work, and you will have the basic pay rate that you need to get by.
You probably have bigger goals than this, but remember, you’re just starting out. You need to manage your expectations until you can make a name for yourself in the freelance world. What you have here is just a baseline, a starting rate. You may be able to charge more, which you will look into later.
What skill set should I prioritize?
You should do what you love best, but you should also know if that skill set will be enough to get you to your financial goals.
Pick the skill set that you ranked highest on your list from the first step. Then get back on Google and those marketplaces you browsed through to look at the rate ranges. Zero in on the pay rates of people who are offering similar services at a similar level to what you can offer. Consider not only the level of difficulty of the specific tasks, but also the level of skills and experience shown by these other freelancers. Look at resumes and portfolios whenever possible, and look at how long they have been freelancing.
Now you have a good idea of your potential earnings at different levels and in time for that skill set. As you build your reputation, you can raise your rates accordingly for new clients that you pick up.
What if I want to earn more?
Sometimes, the actual rates being paid to other freelancers for your skill set can be disappointing. That’s the nature of the market. Certain skills are just not as highly sought after, or are offered by many other freelancers, which lowers the price that clients are willing to pay. Other skill sets, however, are more prized.
If you aren’t satisfied with the going rates for your first skill set, look into the next one on your list. If it’s similar to the first, you can also skip to another one that you think is more marketable. Don’t be too hasty, however. Sometimes closely related skill sets can also vary widely in terms of what people are willing to pay for them.
Note here a very important rule of how to start freelancing: go slowly and carefully as you set up your basics. If you invest a good amount of time and effort during this phase of your research, you will be building a solid foundation for your freelance business. Otherwise, you may find yourself floundering in the not so distant future.
(3) Create your Brand
Why do I need a portfolio?
Portfolios are very important. They are the only way that new clients can determine whether or not you can really do what you say you can do. It isn’t really fair for them to judge your skills, but you have to remember that there are a lot of unscrupulous people out there. They try to fake it until they make it, which often ends in disaster that overflows to you as a new freelancer. The loss of trust makes them wary of hiring another freelancer.
There are certain skill sets like customer service and inventory management, for instance, that would be quite difficult to build a standard portfolio for. You should still, however, have a place online where these previous experiences can be viewed. You should at least be able to upload the logos of the companies you’ve done customer service and inventory management for, and add links to them if they’re online.
How do I build my brand?
Once you’ve found that skill set that you can sell for a rate that you are happy with, you can start building a great online portfolio. This is every new client’s window into who you are and what you can do. Think about the design features that will highlight your skill set – What colors best complement the work? What layout looks professional? Keep it simple and straightforward so that busy clients can see what they want to see – your ability – right away.
You may not always have previous work to showcase, especially if you have previously worked under a non-disclosure agreement. This does not spell the end for your new career. You will slowly gain ground as you work with new clients. You can even offer to do small test projects for them to demonstrate your abilities. The key is to ask permission to add work to your portfolio after a client praises you for it.
Remember also that if you are offering free work, it is technically not owned by a client and should not be bound by an NDA. Just make sure that you are clear upfront about retaining your right to share your work, and that you will add it to your portfolio. Just have a portfolio so that you can quickly add work to it as you are able.
What kind of portfolio do I need?
You can choose to join a free site or build your own website. You can also simply fill out the basic information that freelance marketplaces require. This will depend on what you can or are willing to invest in your freelance career.
The best portfolio is one that you can control and that gives you a wider range of design options. The platform that you choose should depend foremost on your skill set. There are, for example, platforms that focus on showcasing design work. WordPress, as a blogging platform, is a good choice for a freelance writer, and is also a great way to show of web design and development skills. The cost should be a secondary concern.
Remember, this is an investment in your future. Cutting corners will cut your potential.
What specific skills can I highlight?
Make sure that you have your main skills in mind as you populate your portfolio. These will be the core sellables that make up your value proposition. Focus on what potential clients will understand – the more technical your skill set, the more you need to be careful how you present each part of it. You don’t want to make them feel dumb or confuse them to the point where they will just go somewhere else.
(4) Join Marketplaces
Where can you find clients in need of your services?
Do research on the big marketplaces and niche-specific platforms that deal with your skill set. You can find good clients on both of these platforms. Remember, however, that you are just starting out. You need to build a good portfolio before you can really compete on the more skills-focused marketplaces.
(5) Land your First Client
Just focus on getting one client. This is how it all begins. This doesn’t mean that you can only apply to one project. Just make sure that you don’t end up spreading yourself too thin. It’s best to invest your energy into just getting that first client so you can get a feel for how the marketplace you’re on works, and how to best serve clients.
(6) Fill your Schedule
Once you’ve gained some insight, you can start doing more. If you take on to much too soon, you are likely to end up making a bad impression and marring your reputation. Take it easy. Excitement is good, but don’t let it distract you from the main point here – making a good name for yourself. The money will follow.
The question of how to start freelancing is a simple one when you get down to it. You just need to get yourself set up, get out there, and do it. Manage your expectations and your excitement. Take it step by step, investing in each part so you can build a solid career. If you take each step seriously, you should be all set up to launch your freelance career in 60 days and well on your way to personal and financial freedom.
Julia Valdez is a professional teacher and decades-long lover of the art of words on paper, the stage and the big screen. She spends most of her time doing freelance eCommerce content and project management, adventuring with the Greenhouse Christian Fellowship, volunteering with the Philippine Advocates for Resilient Communities, and sharing lots of laughs over little crazy things.