Freelancing allows you the freedom that you would have never experienced as an employee.
When you’re employed, your day is set and you are often obliged to follow the schedule set by your company. You’ll constantly be interrupted by meetings and questions – none of which will help you finish your work faster.
When you’re a freelancer, you own your time. No more requests for vacations or sick leaves, no more dress codes, strict policies, or horrible supervisors. You could work from anywhere in the world and be your own boss.
So, are you ready to get started? Follow the 5 steps below to figure out how.
- How To Start Freelancing
- Step 1: Take an Inventory Of Your Skills
- Step 2: Create a Freelance Portfolio
- Step 3: Sign up for a freelancing site
- Step 4: Finding Potential Clients
- Step 5: Build Your Network
Table of Contents
How To Start Freelancing
Step 1: Take an Inventory Of Your Skills
The first step to becoming a freelancer is to create a skill inventory by understanding and assessing your attributes, education, and experiences. When you understand your skills, you can identify the areas where you can contribute the most. Having a robust, up-to-date comprehension of the services you can provide will help arm you with the strategic data you need to create short- and long-term career decisions.
Here’s how you can take inventory of your own skills:
Create a personal highlight reel
Look back to your past experiences and reverse-engineer your key achievements to understand the skills you needed that enabled you to succeed. By recalling some of your biggest accomplishments, you can figure out which skills you found enjoyable, which ones mattered to the outcome, and what occupations/industries you could apply this to.
Ask a colleague, team member, or mentor about your key skills – maybe they’ll tell you something about yourself that you never realized. Pay attention to what others ask of you or say to you and that may reveal some of the skills that others perceive to be your biggest strength.
All these steps boil down to one output: a skills assessment. There are free tools available online that you can use to take assessments and test your skills. There are frameworks that you could use to take inventory of your assets. There are also free resources online that allow you to match your competencies to different occupations. Make sure to check those out as well.
Step 2: Create a Freelance Portfolio
No matter where you are in your career, you’ll need to have some sort of portfolio to show your clients. I believe that it goes without saying that you can’t get hired if you don’t have the credentials and one of the best ways to show your worth is through building a deck of your most accomplished work.
Here’s a checklist of what you’ll need to keep in mind as you build a strong portfolio:
Professional Content and Tone
Keep your portfolio and tone professional. When meeting up with clients, present yourself with an air of confidence, even if the brand has an off-beat tone. Present yourself professionally and you’ll be respected as a serious freelancer.
Pieces with a Purpose
Orient your portfolio in such a way that it communicates the type of freelancer you’d like to be perceived as. Take your time and go through your pieces, picking out work that reflects not only the work you’ve done but also the stuff you’d like to do in the future.
Make a portfolio with the purpose
Keep it updated
One of the worst things that you could do is create a portfolio and leave it on the backburner for 10 years. Trends, techniques, and technology change quickly so don’t include anything that’s outdated – this holds true for both the sciences and the arts.
Step 3: Sign up for a freelancing site
The next step is to put yourself out there and sign up for a freelancing site of your choice. While we recommend sites like Upwork and Fiverr, each site will have its own advantages and disadvantages.
Of course, you could also go out there and start connecting with local businesses. But I’ve found that as a beginner with no experience, your best bet to land your first job is to cast a wider net in a shorter amount of time.
While you can sign up for multiple sites, it might be best for you to focus first on one. Grow your audience and portfolio there then leverage them when you migrate to different sites.
Step 4: Finding Potential Clients
Whether you’re just starting out or have been freelancing for a decade, you’ll know that being able to find new clients is a crucial skill to increase your monthly income.
The trick here is to not only find new clients but to also find valuable clients. These are the clients with who you’ll generate a genuine rapport, clients who’ll often come to you with more tasks, and clients who will introduce new business to you.
Here are a few tips and tricks to find better clients:
Develop partnerships with related businesses
It’s great to build a rapport with other businesses because this grants you access to industries that you initially would not have had access to. For example, as a copywriter, why not partner with a web designer? When new clients come to you looking for fresh copy, you could suggest they revamp their site vis-a-vis the services of your web design partner.
Be on social media
Social Media is a powerful tool and if utilized correctly, could easily 10x your client list. Just remember that the point of social media is to get others to see your work – not get them to hire you. Your social media account is not your portfolio so when posting your work, make sure it’s engaging and sharable.
Send better cold emails
How you email potential clients can make the difference between a stacked schedule or an empty one. Learning how to send better cold emails will drastically improve your success rate in finding new clients. Take a course on Udemy or study cases of real cold emails sent by others in the same field of work.
Step 5: Build Your Network
As I said before, you’ll need to create relationships with your clients. Later on, you’ll be able to leverage your clients and develop a long chain of potential clients. When dealing with others, remember that the people you talk to won’t always be potential clients – but they might be able to introduce you and your services to others.
When meeting new people, be genuinely interested in their business and in them as individuals. Remember, it’s not a job interview! Ask a lot of questions and get to know who they are. When you get the feeling that this is someone with a lot of pull and valuable contacts, offer them a business card and ask them to recommend you if they meet anyone who needs your services.
When you’re first starting out, it’s going to be difficult to find clients. You’ll probably have to start out with low-paying jobs with unreasonable expectations. Don’t worry, that’s a common gatekeep that many beginning freelancers have to go through, especially as you try to build your portfolio.
But trust me when I say that as soon as you find that first good client, the rest will start flowing in. The nature of freelancing encourages a snowball effect where one good client and a positive review can spur on the growth of your freelancing business.
To all freelancers out there: good luck.
You’ll need it.