As long as you have landed on this blog post then you probably looking for information on how to start freelancing and make money online then scale it to be a full-time job why not.
For this reason, I have taken enough time to write this complete guide to teach you how to start a successful freelance business on the side.
No matter what you're planning to offer as freelance services: whether you're a writer, a graphic designer, a digital marketer or a web developer this would be an ideal plan to start your freelancing journey.
Before we proceed to the steps I need to clarify some important points you need to keep in mind.
- The freelance will work for you just if you're willing to put in hard work.
- The freelance is not a quick money scheme. you need to be very patient if you want to succeed.
- You need to pick a skill that you're passionate about in order to be creative and be able to offer your clients exactly what they're expecting or even beyond.
Are you ready to become a freelancer?
Sounds Great … let's dive in …
Start Freelancing in 10 Steps – Free Guide
In the upcoming lines, we'll dig deep into the things you should consider and the steps you have to go through in order to set up and start a solid freelance business from scratch.
Step 1 : Get Ready
If you're planning to build a successful freelance business that makes you a side income you need to be serious and get ready.
How do I get ready? you might ask.
Well, you'll need two main things which I think most of us if not all of us can afford :
- A Laptop: before thinking to start freelancing go get yourself a good laptop or even an old computer will do the trick. I receive questions quite often from people asking me if it's possible to find work that they can do using only their smartphones.
The short answer is : YES
There are a lot of things you can do from your mobile and earn money online but don't expect to make such a big amount and from my own perspective that's just a waste of your time, it's not worth it at all.
In order to provide high-quality services for your clients and get them satisfied, you'll need to run professional programs used in graphic design, web development, or no matter what you're going to provide which is only possible from a computer.
Smartphones still very limited in the features.
- Internet Access : the second thing you will need for sure is an internet connection.
Let's be honest!
Not everyone can afford that. but please don't make this an excuse to give up.
That was exactly my case when I was starting out. Believe it or not, I was learning from my mobile phone and just borrowing my brother's laptop until I got my first clients and thankfully I bought a good laptop.
If you're just like me just set down and think and I am sure you'll find several ways to afford the required materials to start your freelancing journey.
Step 2 : Choose a Niche
Now that you have the material you need to start, the next step is to find a niche.
First, let's understand what a niche is.
A niche is basically a precise topic that has a very specific targeted audience.
I know if you're a new freelancer you might feel you have the ability to handle any paid work no matter it is. But let me tell you something!
It's very important to choose a very specific domain, focus on improving yourself on it until you become an expert which will help you be more strategic when it comes to the types of work you do and the clients you take on. That means when you specialize in a certain field you become an expert and we all know experts charge more for their services.
Just think with me: if you were your client and you needed someone to fix an error in your WordPress site, create an email marketing campaign, set up a write a perfect ad that convinces people to buy.
the question is: would you rather hire a freelancer who knows all these things or a freelancer who is a pro at doing one specific thing and doing it well?
Of course most of us will choose to hire a specialist.
For this reason, choosing to be specialized as a front-end web developer rather than being a general web developer was one of the best decisions I've made throughout my freelancing career.
Being specialized has helped me a lot to build a strong presence online and a reputation with my clients as a skilled front end web developer over the past few years. In fact I was getting exactly the clients who my services was the best fit for.
Step 3 : Find an in-demand Skill
Now that you've a niche in mind, the next important step is to find a skill you can offer and easily sell as a freelance service.
you might be thinking: offering skills like what?
Well, the services you can offer can be as simple as captioning Youtube videos, transcribing podcast or something advanced like social media marketing, building website or mobile apps.
whatever you choose to provide as a service always keep in mind that the following:
It's very important to choose a skill that you're good at (or at least interested in) and has enough demand in the marketplace.
For instance, if you're good at photo editing, creating logos, or designing product packages. then simply go to a marketplace like Freelancer, Upwork, or even Fiverr and see if there are job listings and requests for clients looking for that kind of work.
If you notice a lot of requests and job listings from people looking for the skill you have chosen then you've hit gold.
One thing more I like doing is to look in various Q&A websites such as (Quora and Reddit) and type in some questions related to the work I am planning to do.
If I see a lot of people still asking about that then that's another good sign that the skill has enough demand and you're ready to move on the next step.
Step 4 : Work on Enhancing Your Skills
Now if you ask me which of these steps we should focus on the most, I would absolutely say: working on enhancing your skills. A simple reason is that you need to actually be able to offer what you're good at as a service and get paid for it.
Let's suppose you're very skilled at writing blogs for travel niche, Finance or even health and wellness which is quite popular and has a high demand in the marketplace. Nevertheless, this doesn't mean you can jump right in and start offering it as a service.
You might be asking why?
Well, On the first hand, the online websites and blogs use different styles of writing and formatting the articles to attract general audiences which you must be aware of to provide exactly what they want.
On the other hand, some of the website owners if not most of them will need you to craft content and insert it directly into the website through the Admin panel (the WordPress dashboard in most cases). They do it that way to save the time of formatting it after you copy-paste it from the word document or whatever editor you use.
That's being said, you'll need to be familiar with WordPress and how to use it and learn how to make graphics for the articles in case you will include that in your services which is something I recommend as it will give you a step ahead from your competitors.
That concept that we applied on this particular example also apply on every skill out there.
when it comes to polishing up a freelance skill, the question a beginner can ask is:
How to do that? what are the available methods that helps in the learning and enhancing process?
Let's break down the methods you can use to learn and enhance a skill.
- Youtube: I personally prefer Youtube simply because:
- it's FREE
- You can find filter the searches by playlists and download them for offline watch
- You can subscribe to channels completely dedicated to the skill you want to learn and receive a notification whenever they upload content which is awesome as you'll be learning from people already making it and doing it as their job.
- Online Courses: That's one of the best ways to learn new skills. There are plenty of websites to take online courses. Each site is often offers courses into two categories:
- Free Courses: which give you a lot of information to get started, some of them teach only the basics and some others might dig deep into the advanced stuff.
- Paid Courses: Often you'll get a certificate of accomplishment at the end of the course which is something that can add some trust to your work. If you're willing to take courses then you can check out websites like Udemy, Teachable, Edureka and Skillshare.
The prices might vary from a site to another. However, you can take advantage of the special offers offered on Cyber Monday and Black Friday to grab courses at the lowest costs.
If you're just starting out and you don't have a budget for that then it's totally fine to go with free courses at the beginning then maybe take some paid ones when there's some cash flow coming in from freelancing.
- Visit websites related to you niche to get inspiration from other's works and try to read as much as you of books around your the skill you're trying to improve.
Step 5 : Determine Your Target Audience
Determining the audience you will be targeting is not less important than enhancing your skills because reaching out to the wrong people will make all your hard work go for absolutely nothing or at least results that are not worth your efforts.
Let's assume you're a web developer who wants to start freelancing and get clients for his business. In this case, you'll need to specify the companies, industries, startups that actually need your services.
That means you'll need to determine whether you want to be building websites for small businesses, developing new features for high tech startups, or find big enterprise-sized companies for long-term projects.
In brief, before you start looking for clients. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What are exactly the people or businesses that will be looking for my services? or, which type of business has the problems I am solving with my services? (in case your service resolves a certain problem)
- Can the business I am trying to work with afford to hire me?
- What are the specifications of my ideal audience? (think about their demographics, age, gender, geographic location, and so on).
Having a clear picture of what are your clients will help you a lot when it comes to doing client pitching effectively which we're going to discuss in the upcoming sections of this guide.
Step 6 : Build a Great Portfolio Site
Think of this: What shows a client that you actually have experience in your field?
Obviously, your answer would be the previous work and the projects you've successfully completed.
Yes, that's true!
I have asked this question for you to let you know the massive value that you can add to your business by simply building a great looking portfolio site that showcases your best works or recently completed projects and brings them into one place.
This would make your life much much easier. so when a client requests to see your previous works and the projects you have created which is something you'll encounter quite often. You can simply send him the link to your portfolio site or webpage.
It's that easy!
While you're trying to build a successful portfolio website, make sure:
- It clearly shows who you're and what you do.
- It includes your previous best works and relevant experiences.
- It includes your contact information and make it easy for your potential clients to find and reach out to you.
Now you might tell me: “I am just starting out and I don't have enough budget to set up a portfolio site”.
No worries, I have got you covered.
You have several free options available for you:
1 – If you're a graphic designer you can simply create an account on websites like Behance then go ahead and publish your best works.
To find more and more websites where you can list your best works for free, you can simply Google it. For example, type in “websites similar to Behance” into Google and you'll find dozens and dozens of websites that are quite similar to Behance.
Step 7 : Build a Reputation Online
By creating a professional portfolio website you're stepping towards building a strong reputation and presence online.
In this point I want to answer a question I receive a lot which is:
Do I need a college, high school, or University degree in order to work as a freelancer?
No, you don't need any certificate to work as a freelancer as long as you can prove to your clients that you're able to handle their projects, tasks and you're very skilled at what you do.
Here are some ways and tips you can use to start building your reputation as a successful freelancer:
- Engage with your potential clients in different places: groups, Q&A sites, forums and try to spread your knowledge and help them out.
- In the beginning, it's totally Ok to do some free work for people because that way you will gain experience dealing with real projects and most essentially you'll have amazing works to add to your portfolio.
- Do some concept design work.
- Publish some of your articles in popular blogs that accept guest posting then link back to your portfolio. (in case you're a writer).
- If you're a graphic designer then visit blogs to see if you can offer them some improvements (design banners, re-design their logo, infographics, and so on…). Then reach out to them.
Concisely, get some of your works out there. you need to be able to:
- point to a blog and say I have works published in that blog.
- I am the designer of that blog's logo.
- I am the developer of that small business website.
You can even choose some of the popular ones and mention them in your portfolio site.
Step 8 : Look for less competitive Opportunities
As a beginner who has no reviews yet it's a little bit frustrating when you land on a freelance site and you see tons and tons of similar services like yours. In fact, I hear a lot of people say: “it's saturated“.
But that's not true!
Based on my experience I can say that there is definitely a place for everyone. and Here are things you can do to find opportunities in pretty much any freelancing platform:
- You can invent a new service that's not currently out there or at least there are not many people offering it.
- You can find other keywords that people type in when they look at a certain service if the main term used is very competitive.
- You list the same services that are already out there and add extra things to it to stand out from the competition.
In addition to that, you can search for new freelancing platforms where the competition is still very low. That way you'll have higher chances to get clients quickly.
Step 9 : Try Part-time Freelancing
You might have heard that a lot of people are making a good income or even a living from working online as a freelancer. But let me tell you that freelancing is not ideal for anyone.
The process of spending hours and hours in front of the laptop marketing yourself, reaching out to clients, selling your services can be really overwhelming for some people.
For this reason, I do recommend for you to try freelance as a part-time job in the beginning especially for those who still don't know if freelance is actually a good career for them or not.
To sum things up, spend a couple of hours a day doing listing smaller gigs, exploring different freelance platforms, and learning about freelance.
When you reach that point where there's a steady income in from freelancing and you feel ready to handle bigger projects then you can decide whether you continue doing the freelance as a side part-time job or leave your day job and be a full-time freelancer.
Step 10 : Set The Right Pricing
When you're trying to freelance for the first time, deciding the right price to charge your clients can be very challenging. Because people will never hire you if you charge them an unfair price.
Now, the question that you should ask here is: “How can I determine the right price?“
Well, according to my experience the best way you can figure out the right price is to head over to the popular freelancing platforms and see what the competitors in your niche are charging for the same service you're trying to sell.
There a small notice you should keep in mind.
On the one hand, when you're just starting out your freelancing journey, don't try to charge the same price as the experienced freelancers out there are doing because it'll seem unfair as you're totally new and don't have any feedback yet.
On the other hand, don't be too cheap because often clients will undervalue your services.
Briefly, don't make a big gap between your service price and the other similar ones out there. Try to find a middle-ground, that way your clients will understand that you're trying to compete and gain some excellent reviews.
Step 11 : Be clear about what you offer
While listing your services one of the big decisions you'll make early on is to specify what you can do and what you can't.
Don't make your offerings vague. I see a lot of freelancers fall into misunderstands with their clients and when they try to figure out the problem they come to notice that they actually didn't make things clear for clients.
That's why I recommend for you to be specific as much as you can about what you offer f you want to see meaningful progress towards your goal which is to brand yourself and be a well-known expert in your industry.
Moreover, it will allow you to control how your potential clients see you and help you build your portfolio.
Let's say you're dreaming to be an expert and highly paid Java developer then you shouldn't take tasks about graphic design, customizing WordPress themes, and so on.
While handling any projects you get your hands on can make you benefit from a consistent cash flow coming into your pocket. getting contracts that aren't close enough to what you're doing will only distract you from becoming the best in your field.
Step 12 : Talk to Expect in Your niche
Talking to some experts in your niche or even meet them if they're in your city or not very far from where you live is one of the greatest decisions you'll possibly make. Not will only help you learn new things and strategies but It will allow you to see things from another vision.
If you can't find experts in your area you can join interesting conversations online and hear their advice, tips, and strategies which will definitely make your brain blown with ideas.
Step 13 : Start a Perfect Pitching
In order to gain new clients and new orders coming in your way you need to really master the art of pitching your services to new clients and actually convince them to hire you.
Learning how to craft perfect freelance proposals that attract clients is not the only crucial thing when it comes to building and running a profitable freelance business. But there are many other factors like the way you choose new jobs, the research you do and much more.
I've reached a stage where I consistently get new orders thanks to putting more efforts and time into determining my target company, their needs.
Besides, I make sure to provide them a massive value in the form of recommendations, helpful insights before even discussing the price.
In short, to win loyal clients in the world of freelancing you have to focus on the strength of your relationships with them.
Step 14 : Go Beyond Client's Expectations
After winning a client and get approved to handle his project, Always be sure to:
- Respect all the requirements and needs of your clients.
- Deliver the work exactly like your client has asked or even beyond.
What I do personally is to overdeliver the job by going beyond the client's expectations. The fact that helped me to:
- Grow my freelancing business faster by winning loyal clients who reach out to me whenever they need consultation or have any tasks related to my field.
- Win recommendations to my services which leads to new clients contacting me.
- Stand out from the crowd if there are other freelancers bidding for the same job.
- If you're a writer who writes articles in a fixed word count then instead of delivering an article of 1000 words as your client requested be sure to make it 1200 words or even 1500 words. another thing you can do is to give him free images included in his article.
- If you're designing logos then if your client requested a logo you can give him multiple concepts of his logo or give him a business card for free.
By offering small things out of the scope of the original work my clients were always happy and then leave 5-star reviews or even tips.
So make sure to find a way to do amazing work that goes beyond expectations. Believe me, it's one of the strongest and fastest ways to be successful in your career as a freelancer and build a long-lasting freelance business.
Here's answers for some of the questions that get asked about freelancing.
Q: is freelancing hard?
freelancer isn't hard if you get started the right way, don't think of it like a get rich scheme instead consider it a chance to improve yourself, make new relationships and of course a side income as well which will come by time.
Q: is freelancing good for students?
Yes, freelancing can help students improve their knowledge, enhance skills related to their studies. For instance, a student who study about programming can find clients online, practice more and earn money at the same time.
Q: What is the most difficult part about being a freelancer?
The most difficult part about being a freelancer is the ability to organize time, be your own boss and find clients to work with. those things can be very hard especially in the beginning.
Q: Can I become a freelance with no experience?
Yes, these a lot of things that you can sell as a service and they're tools that help you do that in minutes but that's not something to rely on. If you're serious about becoming a freelancer then learning a skills and getting started the right way is much better.
Q: is freelancing profitable?
Yes absolutely, freelancing is profitable particularly for those who keep improving their skills and learn new ones that are in high demand.
Q: is freelancing saturated?
That's not true! there still a place for everyone to start his career as a freelancer online. there is always a demand for new things in the market and new technologies are invented each year which is a great chance for people to learn them and offer them as freelance services.
Q: Is Freelance better than a Job?
When it comes to freelancing, it's just like any other job. It has benefits and downsides. when it's compared to a day job, I think: Yes freelancing is better than a job if we look to the freedom you get after being a successful freelancer.
Q: What can I do as a freelance service?
pretty much anything you're good at. the market is too big, so search for a skill that you're good at and see if it can be offered as a freelance service and has enough demand in different marketplaces.
Building a successful freelancing business needs three main things:
- Consistent hard work.
- Keeping updated and learning new things.
- Being patient and stay motivated when things get worse.
- Self-discipline and a strong plan to walk through.
What makes you a successful freelancer?
In a comment below, let me know if there are any other strategies I didn't cover. I'd like to hear from you.