How do I get started freelancing online? An excellent question. Sometimes you just want to make money working from home, and freelancing is an excellent way to do it.
So, as a monumental testament to bad ideas, over the next few [insert unit of time here], I will be attempting to work as a freelance online content creator. That’s the fancy way of saying that I’ll be a freelance writer. Essentially, I’ll be doing what I do here but I’ll get paid for it. I’ll also hopefully be doing it better.
Now, since this a plan doomed to fail, I figure I’d at least document the process so that aspiring billionaires know what not to do. So, I present the first probably-not-annual Part-Time Freelancing Guide.
What is Freelancing?
For all you folks looking to make cash without going outdoors or having a real job, freelancing online is ideal. Essentially, people will pay you to do work for them but they probably won’t hire you for a permanent position. You get to float around between clients, choosing the work that’s right for you.
If you’ve already got a job, then it’s an excellent way to diversify your income stream, meaning that you’ve got money coming from more than one place. However, freelancing online is tough to get started and you never know how much money you’ll make in a month. I’d strongly advise that you don’t leave financial security to go and become a freelancer. Odds are, when you start off, you’ll be making considerably less than a part-time minimum wage job are your local store. That said, freelancing is considerably less soul-sucking than working in retail.
Sounds great, right? So, how do you get started freelancing online? In this guide, I aim to teach you how to get started then tell you how it’s going for me so far.
Step 1: Choose your Talent
The first step to get started freelancing online is to choose something you’re good at.
Basically, if you want someone to pay you to do stuff, it helps if you have stuff that you can do well. So, what are you good at? Maybe you like drawing. Why not try graphic design? Fancy yourself a bit of a writer? How about article writing? Got a sweet voice? Go do some voice acting.
Just go do some digging around on sites like Upwork and Fiverr and see what others are doing, and see if you think you can do it better.
It’s helpful if you choose a job that you don’t need much equipment for or that you already own equipment for. For example: you’ll need a graphics tablet if you want to do graphics design, but a writer only needs a keyboard.
Regardless of what you pick, you’ll want to make sure that you can prove that you’re capable of doing it to some passable degree. Which brings us onto step 2.
Step 2: Creating a Portfolio
The trick to getting people to hire you is to make yourself hireable. Obviously. The easiest way to do this is to demonstrate that you’re already more than capable of doing the job without training. As such, it’s extremely important that you get a portfolio together. Some freelancing sites come with portfolio features so that you can easily show the work you’ve done in the past to all your prospective clients. I’m using Upwork and I’m using this website (Part-Time Job Hunt) as my portfolio because all the other projects I’ve worked on have shut down — which is probably not a good sign.
If you’ve chosen something non-creative, like freelance accounting (if it’s a thing), then you won’t need a portfolio. Not that I imagine any of your previous clients would be terrible content with you showing off their accounts. You will, however, need some education or work experience that you can put up to show your clients. Essentially, a portfolio without any example work.
If you haven’t worked on several real world projects before, then creating a portfolio is going to take some effort. The first thing I’d strongly advise you do is create a website. It can just be a simple WordPress blog if you want. Then you’ll want to start uploading examples of your work. If you’re an artist, upload some sketches. If you’re a writer, upload some articles. If you’re a programmer, link to your github account and question why you started a website in the first place.
Now, this is all assuming that you’ve already made stuff for fun in the past. If you’ve decided that you’re going to become a freelance writer without having ever written anything before, then you’re going to want to start writing. Practice makes perfect. So, start creating loads of small projects. Short articles, rough sketches, dumb Python scripts. It’s about quantity, not quality. Just make lots of simple things until you start getting good at it. You’ll slowly, but naturally, increase the scope and quality of your projects as you go. Create as much as you can until you’ve got a load of good decent projects under your belt.
I understand that it can be difficult to come up with ideas for projects when you’re creating them this quickly. The trick I use for coming up with new ideas when I’m writing is to just start writing down whatever comes into my head. Grab a pen and some paper and start writing about the weather or whatever. It honestly doesn’t matter what you write. The idea is that you force yourself to think of things until you come across something that might be interesting to write about.
The same works for drawing, except even better. Instead of writing though, start doodling. Create some shapes, colour them in. Maybe put some patterns in there. The end result will probably look interesting. Plus doodle art is a pretty solid foundation to do graphic design on and creates easy filler material for your new portfolio.
For programming, I’d advise doing a load of exercises in your language of choice. Though I’d advise against freelance programming if you’re not already an established programmer. Programming is very hard and it could take years before you’re at a level where someone might pay you for it unless you work extremely hard. Furthermore, there’s a chance that you’ll end up getting hired to do programming that involves handling sensitive data, which is just a horrible idea unless you know what you’re doing. Stick to doing people’s homework questions for money if you’re going the programming route.
Step 3: Promote Yourself
As you may imagine, it’s difficult for someone to hire you if they don’t know you exist. Go and interact with people who may be looking for your skills. Start a Facebook page, or reach out to local businesses and offer to help them out for cheap. Naturally, part of this may involve stepping away from the online part of freelancing online. But it’s worth a try.
The first job is always the hardest to find
Once you’ve got one success under your belt, then you’ll start finding it easier to get work. Particularly on sites like Upwork where all your clients will see is some stats about you and a cover letter.
If you’re choosing to purely do your freelancing on a site like Upwork (like I am), then your promotion is purely going to consist of applying for jobs. I’d advise undercutting whatever you think your competitors might offer. All that matters is that you get one job done. The pay is mostly irrelevant.
That said, do not be afraid to turn down a job that you don’t think is right for you. It’s imperative that your first job is a success. If you get asked to write clickbait and you’re not comfortable with it, then don’t do it. Your first job is what will influence the next job. You want to stick to what you’re good at for the first few clients.
Step 4: The First Job
Assuming you’ve gotten this far, you’re doing extremely well. You’ve managed to get yourself out there and now someone has decided that they want you to do some stuff for them. Different clients will want to pay you in different ways. Sometimes you’ll get a fixed price payment on completion of the job, other times they’ll pay you by the hour until the job is complete. Either way, you’ll need to negotiate a price with your client until you’re both satisfied.
I can’t walk you through the process of doing the job, because the job will obviously vary.
I would strongly advise that you stick to a site like Upwork because the client may attempt to take the completed product and then not pay you. Services like Upwork will attempt to mediate the situation for you to prevent this from happening. If you end up getting hired to do work that’s going to involve going away from a service like Upwork (i.e. writing content on a blog that already exists through the built-in WordPress text editor), then be careful because the client will have the work before they pay you.
Freelancing online is a great way to make a bit of cash on the side without having to commit to a job that you might potentially hate. It gives you the opportunity to do the work you choose. It can take a long time before it’s feasible to do it full-time, but it’s an excellent opportunity to develop your skills and get paid for it. To break the entire article down into four simple steps:
- Find something you’re good at or get good at something you like
- Do that thing until you’ve got a lot of things that prove that you’re good at it
- Tell everyone how great you are at this thing
- Do the thing for money
I would like to reiterate: freelancing online is tough to get started. It’s not an overnight revenue stream. Sometimes you won’t find a new client for a while and that’s a risk you’ll have to take. Don’t step away from financial stability to freelance unless you’re certain that it’ll work.
The PTJH Freelancing State so far
In this section of every post, I’ll update on my progress.
So far, I’ve only really set up a profile on Upwork. I’ve posted applications to several positions and I’ve received an invite to interview for one position that I turned down because I didn’t like the type of content they wanted me to write. As I’ve said throughout this post: freelancing has a slow start. It’s not quick unless you’re already some kind of wizard in your field before you start freelancing.
I hope this guide has helped you figure out how to get started freelancing online.