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How to Freelance (+5 Steps For Beginning Freelancers)

March 22, 2023

how to freelance

Over the past few years, freelancing has become a potential career alternative for many worldwide. 

Those who want to work independently start seeking and accepting opportunities on freelance platforms. With focused, consistent effort, they can become an expert in the field of their choice. While succeeding at freelancing may take a lot of time and hard work to get started, it comes with many benefits. The availability of appealing perks is contributing to the massive growth of the freelancing industry. 

If you want to take the first step toward becoming a freelancer but aren’t sure how to begin, you’re in the right place. This article will discuss how you can launch a successful freelancing career.

Preparing to freelance

 

Before diving into the steps of beginning freelance work, it’s important to take some time for self-discovery and ask yourself a simple question: Why do you want to become a freelancer? 

Some people do it because they prefer being their own boss, while others value the time and flexibility freelancing provides. Whatever drives you to become a freelancer will drive you to follow the path to becoming a successful one. So, it's important to understand your 'why'. 

Once you’ve solidified confidence in your chosen career direction, consider the work you plan to accept. Freelancers typically belong to a single industry and deliver a specific type of work. For example, prospective freelance writers should decide whether to accept various writing projects or focus on particular writing requests, such as articles, listicles, or blogs. 

Prospective freelancers should also consider how they plan to find their first clients and what projects they want to work on initially. Getting various projects under your belt and getting accustomed to the process before committing to freelancing as a permanent career is always a good idea.

Before freelance platforms existed, freelancers relied solely on word-of-mouth job opportunities, self-marketing tactics, and old-fashioned networking to get clients. Today, the process of reaching out to potential clients can involve: establishing a profile on a freelance platform, contacting previous employers, creating content on social media platforms, and networking via events or LinkedIn.

How to become a successful freelancer

In almost every industry, clients actively look for external support to solve problems, and your work as a freelancer could be the solution they need. So, get started.

Following the steps mentioned below will guide you past many of the common hurdles that new freelancers face.

1. Establish your niche

Being great at what you do is not enough as a new freelancer. It’s crucial to attract clients so they can learn about your services. You’ll need to take an active role in finding such clients. But before that, you need to know what type of clients you want to work with.

Start by identifying the clients that will fit your service well. Do these clients have a shared problem? Or any identifiable common characteristics? Are they from a specific industry? Answering these questions will help you find relevant clients for your services.

2. Find the right freelance platform

If you’ve decided to use a freelance platform, you’ll need to find one that fits your industry needs. Many platforms cater to all industries, but there are also niche platforms that focus on specific jobs, as well. These decisions are all personal preferences, so it may be worth bouncing around several platforms to decide which option is best for you. 

Some freelance platforms draw a big crowd of industries, from designers to software engineers. Others focus on a single industry, which is preferable if you want a smaller, more niche platform that caters to the industry you work in. Larger, all-industry platforms will have a larger pool of freelancers, upping the competition, but it will also expose you to a larger set of clients.

3. Make your profile shine

After deciding on the perfect type of platform, your main goal is to stand out among the competition in the freelance platform’s marketplace. For that, you'll need to create a stellar profile on a freelance platform suitable to your needs.

Think of your freelance platform profile as an enhanced resume. Your profile lists all of the normal things you would normally highlight on your normal resume, such as your job experience, education, and skills. However, your profile allows you to add additional flair to stand out. Adding a profile picture, your portfolio, and a list of achievements is a great way to market yourself to potential employers.

In addition, write a clear and concise summary of the value you bring and the skills you have that make you a good choice for the job you’re looking for. For example, if you are a copywriter, showcase your skills not just in your portfolio but also by writing a good introduction.

4. Figure out what your work is worth

One of the greatest aspects of freelancing is the ability to set your own wage. Typically, freelancers charge an hourly wage, but flat rates for projects are also common. First, consider your living situation and ask yourself, “What is my ideal salary?” Whatever that might be, consider the cost of being your own boss.

Plenty of expenses associated with freelancing may impact your overall take-home pay. Office supplies, a computer, Wi-Fi, and other supplies and services can cost a lot of money. It would help if you considered all such aspects when determining your wages.

In addition, you’ll need to plan out how many days you intend to work and factor in any potential days off in advance to get an accurate idea of your annual income. Once you’ve settled on your yearly income, calculate your hourly rate. Here’s a handy formula to get you started:

Hourly rate  =  annual income + business expenses / annual billable hours

The next step when figuring out your wage is researching how much your competitors charge, whether in a freelance or corporate setting. Your competition impacts your value and the ease of obtaining clients, so how competitive you want your wages to be is up to you.

5. Target and accept your first job

You’re finally ready to start searching for gigs! On a freelance platform, you have the opportunity to scope out the right job for you. While searching, read through each job post carefully and ensure the job fits your personal requirements. Some platforms have a daily or monthly application limit, so choose where to apply wisely. Don't wait for opportunities to arrive at your door. Go grab them. Connect with potential clients via the freelance platform or email and social media. 

6. Polish your skills

You need to be very good at what you do to get paid for it. You can’t jump in without getting familiar with the basics. Take classes, read books, and subscribe to social media channels and blogs that help you get better at your skill. Growing your talent from ground zero takes time and effort. So be patient and keep learning and practicing. It could take weeks, months, or years. Just keep at it. 

Don't walk out on your boss (yet)

Freelancing is not for everyone. Creating a personal brand, promoting your work, and managing clients can be time-consuming and require much effort. If you are a beginner, your full-time position likely covers your bills, taxes, healthcare, and other expenses. In such cases switching to freelancing without assessing how it works can be very risky. 

Try doing it part-time to evaluate if this is meant for you. Spend time working on freelance projects in your chosen niche. Keep in mind your time commitment, earnings, performance, and deadlines. When you put in your all, you can learn the pros and cons of freelancing through experience. If and when you feel ready to take it to the next level, you can decide whether to freelance full-time. Tip: At the beginning of your freelance career, you can also look into alternative sources of income, like passive income apps, to supply your earnings.

You’re ready to freelance!

With all the necessary measures in place, you’re ready to move forward into the gig economy with confidence. It’s important to remember that being a freelancer also means being your own full-time boss.

Being self-employed involves most of the entrepreneurial ups and downs you would expect, but the pros and cons are well worth it once you get the ball rolling and accept your first few clients.

Discover the many benefits of freelancing and understand why people are willing to set aside the perks of a standard full-time job.


This article was originally published in 2019. It has been updated with new information and examples. 

Freelance platforms
Control your work!

Work on projects you love and connect with potential clients using freelance platforms.

Freelance platforms
Control your work!

Work on projects you love and connect with potential clients using freelance platforms.

How to Freelance (+5 Steps For Beginning Freelancers) Want to be a freelancer? But, not sure how to get started? Discover more about the steps and tools needed to create a successful career as a freelancer. https://learn.g2.com/hubfs/G2CM_FI505_Learn_Article_Images_%5BFreelancing_How%5D_V1b.png
Tricia Dempsey Tricia is a former research analyst focusing on office and design software. Tricia started at G2 in October 2018 after spending nearly five years in the competitive intelligence industry, which led to extensive market research knowledge and experience. She is currently maintaining the integrity of her space by building out new categories and writing data-driven content. Her coverage areas include office and design. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, attending concerts, and gaming. https://learn.g2.com/hubfs/_Logos/TriciaDUpdated.jpeg https://linkedin.com/in/tricia-dempsey

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