How to start as a Freelancer?
“How to start as a freelancer?” A lingering question that many people asked about since freelancing is trending, and it’s growing so fast.
If you want to become one, you must find ways to jumpstart your career. You can’t just sit and wait for someone to spoon-feed you with all the information that you need. Freelance jobs are growing, and it’s opening up opportunities for everyone.
Freelancing is a term used to describe virtual workers these days. Starting as a freelancer usually takes time, but some people find ways to expedite the process that allows them to increase their earnings months after they started.
Finding your first client is not through sheer luck. It takes a great deal of knowledge about your specialization, a good understanding of your target market, and an even better understanding of what business you want to workout. It is the roadmap that successful freelancers followed on their way to success. It’s hard. It takes time. But it’s rewarding in the end.
But how can you start as a freelancer?
People who want to be a freelancer are looking for strategies to jumpstart their career, but they need to be aware of the common misconception that makes it even harder to start. Developing and enhancing your skills is one thing; having someone mentor you while you’re starting is another strategy.
While you can certainly learn on your own, it would be much better if you will listen to people who had come before you. The point of this RoundUp is to let you understand how these people started their career. So you won’t have to commit the same mistakes that they did which will make your job easier. It will allow you to focus on doing the important stuff you needed to grow as an efficient virtual professional.
Hence, if you will follow the strategies in place or at least study the ideas on how to start as a freelancer, then all you need now is to implement all the things that you learned.
Below are successful freelancers and influencers who share with you their own experience and tips that will allow you to start as a freelancer.
But before you browse the post, the answers that you will read covers a wide variety of experiences that helped them grow their freelance career. It also allowed them to earn exponentially. Expect a wide range of answers that provide interesting insights on how to start as a freelancer.
Develop a marketable skill first.
Many freelancing-wannabes want to hit the ground running and start reaching out directly to clients or applying on bidding sites right away even if they don’t have a marketable skill set.
Marketable skills are “economically valuable skills” — they help businesses create value, market, sell, deliver value, or manage finances. Develop a skill set around these parts of every business, and you can expect more freelancing success!
To clarify, you don’t have to be an expert to get started; you have to know the core principles and a few strategies.
Next thing: do market research. Determine what kind of clients or businesses you want to work with and find out where they are hanging out, and start profiling them (i.e., create a client persona). After that is when you should be reaching out directly to clients or applying to job posts.
Pitch your value proposition and learn the art of marketing and selling in the process. The more experience you have with marketing and selling your value to clients, the higher your chances of winning projects.
If one wants to know how to start as a freelancer or wanted to become a VA, I always suggest deciding on three things. Determine the service you want to offer, one that you’re exceptional. Next is to determine the right price. It may not be as easy as you think but finding out your financial goal will help with your pricing and last is to decide what market you want to market out there.
Once these three things are well defined, marketing can start with creating your social media pages and a website and start being visible online.
Mindset is what sets a VApreneur (VA entrepreneur) from an employee VA that’s why I always suggest that we make up what we want first before we offer any service. If we’re sure of what we want to achieve and provide to clients, there’s a better chance of us getting more projects at a better rate.
Being a VA is not easy. We may be at home, but the distraction is everywhere. If we’re not able to set a proper price for our services, we’ll get burned out and eventually quit. It’s better to start it properly to avoid future frustrations. How much you want to earn? From there, create pricing strategies based on the services you want to offer and stand by it. Don’t look back and keep looking for clients willing to pay your rate.
The first step in becoming a virtual professional is acquiring the skills necessary to do the work. It could involve online college classes, mentoring by another professional in your field, on-the-job training, or acquiring your skills at a brick and mortar school.
Once you have the skills necessary to do the work is when the homework starts. If you are opting to work for a company, contact multiple companies and see what they offer contractors and what is required. If your business is dealing directly with clients, you will want to create effective online marketing strategies to draw people into your business. Whichever way you choose to go, know that this process can take some time.
Once you have work, either through a company or with direct clients, keep yourself on a daily schedule and take steps to eliminate distractions that arise from an at-home setting. Put your best effort into your work and keep clients happy with open communication and reliability.
There are two things I will suggest people before they undertake their freelancing journey or if they want to know how to start as a freelancer:
MINDSET – You need to be mentally ready and prepared if you want to become a successful freelancer. Often, people go back to their full-time jobs because they quickly gave up on their dream of becoming a freelancer and were not prepared for the perils of working as their own boss of their own business. Therefore, you need to have the right mindset when jumping into the dangerous territory of freelancing. You need to WANT to succeed.
Failure is part of the process, but it’s how you pick yourself up and solve the problem head-on that will define your resolve as a freelancer. If you are ready for these things, then a successful freelancing career is just around the corner!
PLAN – At the same time, you can’t just jump into freelancing without a clear path to what you need to do. Should you get part-time clients as a freelancer first and slowly turn them into full-time clients before leaving your current job? What will you do if your clients can’t pay you at the moment? Do you have a backup plan that doesn’t require you to drop freelancing? In other words, you need to come up with a clear action plan in mind and anticipate potential problems ahead so you can better prepare yourself on how to proceed as a freelancer.
Freelancer is becoming more attractive to many businesses worldwide. It creates an incredible opportunity for people with useful skills to start a freelance business. Before you start, you need to get very clear on why you want to start freelancing.
You should pick a niche, then identify your ideal client. Afterwards, optimize your online profile and join relevant Facebook groups. It will help YOU to reach out to your network or other freelancers, start building your portfolio.
Like everybody else who is just starting on a new career path, the money will suck at the beginning, and you will need TO PUT IN THE WORK, a lot of work.
So before quitting your day job to become a full-time freelancer think about the responsibilities and commitments. Don’t stop unless you have a sustainable income.
If you want to know how to start as a freelancer, I highly suggest that you start right now, even if you’re employed. You don’t need to quit your job and go “all in” with no plan.
The first thing you need to do is to find that one thing you want to specialize on. When it comes to services, what are you going to sell? What will be the calling card that will allow you to have the life you’ve ever dreamed. The life you always wanted to live – on your own terms.
Find that one thing. Whether that’s social media marketing, copywriting, business development, event management, bookkeeping, graphic design, whatever. Find it, and make sure you enjoy doing it, then spend all your free time learning and practicing that craft.
Sounds like a lot of work right? But that’s what it takes.
Freelancing will not make you an overnight success. People who make six or seven figures freelancing and make it look so easy had to go through the dark days as well. I was making $1.50 per 700 words article before. That’s modern-day slavery.
But I kept working hard… I quickly learned that I needed to UPSKILL. So I studied SEO because I saw that SEO writers were making more money. Then I started making more money. I studied SEO from internet marketing forums and YouTube.
I was then able to land an SEO client, even though I was not an actual expert yet. But again, I went to the drawing board and continued to learn… I studied from the best and practiced and failed… A lot.
And then I succeeded. Don’t get me wrong. I’m still far from the top. I want to become better and help more people.
I want to change lives, which is my primary motivation in starting Social Media Academy. We help freelancers, marketers, and business owners learn the best in social media marketing.
I’ve been on a roller coaster ride since I started freelancing at age 16. I’ve stopped, continued, and done a hybrid of freelancing and corporate work. That’s what you get when you decide to be a freelancer. You’re guaranteed to have an exciting day ahead. So if you’ve been thinking of starting, do it. Don’t resign yet from your current work. Make the most of the free time you have, and start making magic happen. It will be worth it.
When Starting as a Virtual Professional or what I prefer to call “Online Filipino Worker,” many people always ask about the HOW, like what are the steps to be followed, some tips and tricks and anything in between. There is no problem with such approach as asking the HOW is part of the whole process. The other two things aspiring online workers need to answer first before the HOW! They are the “WHY” and the “VALUE.”
Instead of me elaborating about the “WHY” I would suggest you visit youtube and search for Simon Sinek on his talk on “Finding Your Why.” On the other hand, the “VALUE” is something I would like to stress further. Many start their online career without any concise idea of the value they bring to any business or client. They often say that they can do certain things and have mastery on tools. But to a business owner or client, it doesn’t matter whether you can create beautiful images without using a mouse. What they care about is whether you save them money or make them more money.
So before asking the how check your skill set and see if you have anything to offer that can address their key concerns. If you don’t have one yet, then go level up and produce a result first. Test your skills if it does bring results. If Yes, then finding a client will not be that difficult anymore. If not, keep searching, keep mastering. You will eventually get there soon.
Whenever I get asked this question, how to start as a freelancer? I always tell them that to get started, they need to identify THREE essential things, but before that, they first have to know whether they want to become a freelancer or a home-based worker because most freelancers get stuck when they think about freelancing the same way as a home-based job when the two are entirely different.
Being a freelancer means you’re an independent contractor, and you own your own business. While a home-based worker is an employee, who performs his or her job from home rather than the employer’s site.
While both could work anywhere, they are vastly different in a sense that you can pretty much choose the clients you want to work with and dictate how much income you want as a freelancer (it’s your own business remember?). Anyway, the first thing they need to identify to start freelancing is their ideal target market. People get the wrong impression that freelancing is applying on job sites like Upwork or Freelancer. I mean, it’s good that these sites give you access to prospective clients, but if you want to scale your business, you can’t just rely on platforms.
Whether you already have the skill to offer or not, it would be wise to choose a market to go after instead of providing your services to anyone that breathes. Why do this? Because one of the most important things to do when starting a freelance business, or any company for that matter, is to have a lead flow
You see, every business in the world needs leads. It’s the reason why we build stores, restaurants, shops, in crowded areas because it assures us that there’d be customers. So as a freelance business owner, you want a market that you can quickly reach out to and contact to become your client.
Once you decided on a market, it’s time to identify their problems. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from almost five years of freelancing, it’s this — the more significant problem you can solve, the higher fees you can charge. And to do this, all you have to do is ask your target market what their problem is.
Yep. Just ask.
Most people make this complicated than it should be and personally, I go to Facebook and message them or send them a quick email. And what surprises most of the people who followed this process is that they often get clients as a side-effect without even trying. For example, one of my students who offer growing Instagram followers as a service, asks her target prospects this question.
“When it comes to growing your followers on Instagram, what’s the usual problem or challenges?”
And when asked about what she does, she replies. “Oh… I help influencers [insert the problem they stated on the question above], so they can build and grow a huge following on Instagram.” See how it made her instantly appealing to the prospect?
Or if you’re just starting out, and you don’t have a skill you can offer just yet, you can ask.
“When it comes to running an [insert prospect’s business], what’s the usual problem or challenges?”
It will give you an idea of what are the usual services people in that industry would hire.
Simple, right? Remember that the goal is just to find out what their problems are and get as much as feedback as possible to make an informed decision about your next step which is: identify what service to offer.
Most folks think that freelancing is just limited to the jobs they see on Upwork. But that’s not the case. Take my trainer Ollie who’s a freelance personal trainer that charges $500 a month. His clients? Entrepreneurs like me who’d like to be in the best shape possible while maintaining a healthy lifestyle. And he does that by hopping in on calls with his clients once a week giving them an exercise plan and a diet plan for that specific week.
That’s $500 for only four short 30-minute calls.
Who said you couldn’t choose the type of service you offer aside from being a VA? Heck, you could be a freelance nutritionist, interior designer, game developer, consultant, bookkeeper, financial advisor, video editor, or anything so long as you’re solving a problem for your market. In my market which is people with mailing lists and newsletters, their biggest problem is how to sell their product using emails.
So guess what service I’m offering?
I’m the guy who sells their products for them using email. Now some people would read this and think, “I don’t have any skill to offer.” Well, that’s the thing. The reason why we like to identify the problem first is so that you’d know which skill to develop. Your target market has problems with getting leads?
Then invest in courses or browse Google on how to get leads online. All you need is to become proficient enough to do it better than your client can do it for themselves and you now have a service to offer. I mean, no one taught me email marketing in school. And that’s it.
First, identify a target market. Second, identify that market’s problem. Lastly, identify a service that solves the problem.
This list is a consolidation of all the lessons plus experiences I’ve met along the way. Still continuously learning but hope to be one of the greats soon too! Here are my tips on how to start as a virtual professional:
- Know what it takes to be a virtual professional.
- Determine if you like to be one.
- Try out specializations that would fit closest to your interest and present skill set.
- As a beginner control “overlearning” so as not to be overwhelmed… I know it because I am one and it gave me a hard time to take action.
- Learn, learn, learn how to be the one you chose to become!
- Very important, if not the most important of all. Learn when to pause your learning to practice what you learned. Take action! Its where we start the monetizing part.
- Rinse and repeat. And in between those two steps learn to pay it forward and give value all the time no matter how small the learning you’ve gained!
I would start this way: Write down things that you are most interested in, and you know a lot more than your family and high school friends and office mates. These include online courses that you have already paid. Something that you can talk endlessly for 10 hours straight.
Look for a course or product that talks about that and see if there’s an active community about it. Example: Email Marketing; Check out courses that talk about that and businesses that use email marketing. Join that group and start commenting on the first five days. Be helpful. Dig in more to their problems.
After five days, start posting things that you know can help other members. You will start to receive private messages asking for your help. You will virtually have no competition at all. Take the first client and ask for a testimonial. Ask for it. Don’t expect busy people to assume that you need one.
Start by assessing your skills and interests then go to platforms like OnlineJobs.ph and Upwork. You can find full-time, part-time, or freelance work for any skill on these platforms. Once you’ve decided what jobs you want to apply to, you need to sell yourself to potential clients. How? Prove to them why they should pick you—even if there are other people much better than you!
A quick tip here is to catch their attention. Start with something unique, shocking, and entertaining. It’s also important to customize your cover letter and resume to each client. Write them as if you’re talking to them personally. That way, they won’t feel that your application was a copy-paste — clients HATE copy-paste, and if your application looks like copy-paste (even if it isn’t), your chances of getting hired will significantly drop!
When I first started, I was interested in marketing, business, and writing. I became a freelance content writer, and I focused on writing topics in marketing and business. It led me to discover and learn different skills as well, such as SEO, digital marketing, sales funnels, and (finally!) copywriting.
I fell in love with copywriting! And my entire life changed when I became a copywriter.
Becoming a freelancer is easy. The hard part is succeeding as a freelancer. You need the self-discipline to improve your skills every single day. You need to learn how to avoid toxic clients and learn how to attract your ideal clients.
But it’s all worth it in the end! As you improve your skills, more clients will be willing to pay more to hire you.
Find people who achieved (in varying degrees) what you want to reach and learn from them through their programs or the materials that they produce, – both free and paid. Cultivate good friendships with others who also aspire to be virtual professionals and who take action to make it happen. Allot 2-4 hours before and after your day job (and Saturdays) to work on what you’ve learned from your mentors and peers.
Ultimately, being a virtual professional should help you become healthier in body, soul, and spirit. So keep this big picture in mind to maintain a clear sense of why you’ve decided to begin this journey.
I have a simple 5-step method on how to start as a freelancer or virtual assistants:
Plan out your ideal lifestyle and figure out how much you need to charge.
Your financial security without overcharging your future clients is vital. As Seneca said: “If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favourable.” I suggest you take a whole module to plan out the lifestyle of your dreams, visualize it and then convert it to numbers. So you gain absolute clarity on what your vision is, why it’s important to you, how you can accomplish it and what you exactly need to do step-by-step and what amount to charge your clients for it – while staying realistic. Now that’s magic! … and the right foundation for your business!
For appetizer here is the simple formula I recommend using: Add up all your living costs at the place where you want to work from income tax, insurance, benefits, the amount you need for debt reduction/savings, budget for further education for every year / the hours you want to work in a year. Don’t forget to include sick days, vacation and education time = your hourly rate. Modify it as needed.
Choose a niche – don’t be all trade freelancer / VA!
When you have a well-distinguished niche, it will help you to get clients faster and charge premium rates. It is still recommended to have a couple of skills they can ask for and doesn’t make sense to hire an extra person for, but when it comes to advertising your business stick to your ability that can bring in the most high-paying, quality clients to you.
Tip: you don’t want to have too many clients, you want to have a couple (max. 2-3 well-paying clients), then when one of them works out great you can go on retainer and give them a monthly price for you devoting all your working time on their business. At that point, stability is critical for both of you.
Want online work? Then you have to have an engaging online presence so your future clients will line up to work with you.
How people perceive you online is everything. They will make a business decision based on what you put out there. When you nail this part, you can quickly move on to creating a freelancer/VA agency with more stability, quality work, and ultimately more profit. Again, I have a whole module just on this part alone.
Aquire clients fast – This will be a survival skill for you at the beginning.
And you have the right foundation already laid for getting clients fast when you have your online presence in order. I have the whole module on the method on how to do this the practical way – the way I did it the second time around. All together I have ten different simple strategies one can try.
Streamline your work.
Once you have your clients and you have a strategy on how to get clients any time you need, the next survival skill going to be to streamline your work, so you can work super efficiently and save time and energy. It is especially important if you are juggling multiple clients. Automate as much as possible and have in place for everything! Pure gold!
Lilla has shared some useful tips on how to start working as a virtual professional. Read more about Lilla’s tips and suggestion here.
When starting as a freelancer or a virtual professional, you have to master two sides of the coin. The first is providing a service or a valuable product, and the second is how to run a business efficiently. They are similar but very different. I was fortunate enough to learn how to run a business at a young age, and I worked with many mentors who showed me the eternal principles of a successful business. When I decided to start an online business, I was able to apply those same principles to a different industry.
To succeed at freelancing start as a learner. Do your research about the freelance industry, try to find your niche, upgrade your skills, figure out how you can help other people achieve their goals, and seek advice from your fellow freelancers.
Because you have to do all these to “test the water,” i.e., if you’re fit to be a freelancer, the ideal time to start freelancing is while you have a full-time job — unless you have enough savings to help you with your regular expenses while starting with your freelance lifestyle. Since most people don’t have savings, to begin with, then, I’d suggest starting as a moonlighter by taking part-time freelance jobs aligned with your current skills.
While working as a part-time freelancer, you also have to build your portfolio and your brand. Don’t skip this.
The point of working part-time as a freelancer while keeping your full-time job is to build your brand and establish an inbound marketing system that will get you in front of your ideal clients. Don’t rely on freelance marketplaces such as Upwork. Yes, it can help as you start, but you’ll end up charging according to the existing “market rate” in such place, not according to your real value.
So, if you want to charge your worth, you have to constantly upgrade your skills and build your brand ideally on LinkedIn where you can directly engage with and be able to reach out to your target clients.
I based all of these suggestions on my own experience as a freelancer for ten years. My journey started as a part-time freelance writer while teaching college students full-time as an assistant professor of communication.
I jumped to freelancing full time after two years and increased my income by 100%. By optimizing my LinkedIn profile and building my brand and building relationships with my network, my profit jumped to P120K to P150K per month.
In 2017, through LinkedIn, I had a big break when they featured me on Forbes, which then opened so many more opportunities to me. So right on the same year, I started my own consulting firm, VB Consulting, increasing my rate to $125 per hour. None of these could have happened without LinkedIn. You can read more tips here.