How To Start Freelancing Like A Pro

The demand for freelancers is increasing day by day as more individuals and businesses embrace remote work due to its attractiveness.

In the United States alone, there are 70.4 million freelancers as of 2022. The number is expected to hit 90.1 million by 2028.

Unfortunately, many people still want to start freelancing because of the many benefits that come with it, but they don’t know how to go about it.

Hence, in this edition, we decided to ask a random sample of freelancers for tips on how to start freelancing.

Here’s what they had to say:

Do What You Love

“When it comes to starting out as a freelancer, I think by far the best advice is to find something that you love doing and double down on it,” freelance website designer Jamie Thornberry recommends. “Trust me, I’ve been down the road of watching YouTube videos on the top 10 ways to be a freelancer, and, honestly, they don’t get you anywhere. So, in summary, pick something you love doing, develop a website or brand around it, and start sharing your passion with the world. There aren’t any shortcuts.” 

Know Your Niche 

“Know your niche and choose something that excites you to write about or work with,” advises Teresa Adele, who has been working as a part-time freelance wellness writer for the past few years. “Research ideal publications that are more approachable and attainable, pitch regularly, and share your work when it gets published. Even if it’s scary or feels vulnerable, your people are going to support you, and if your piece gets a lot of attention, the publication will be happy too. If you’re always writing in the same style, it can sound stale. So, expand your craft by dabbling in other forms: poetry, journaling, short stories, or even pitching a topic totally new to you.”

Consider Your Passion

“If you have ever considered working for yourself, for whatever reason, freelancing is a wonderful way to start your own business. The first and most important thing you must do before starting freelancing is to consider what you really love doing. Just like any job, there will be days that are long and tedious. If you have a real passion for what you do, then it will be easier to get through those days,” explains digital marketer Margaret Pumpa, who once had a regular job but had to start freelancing when she needed work that could fit into her own schedule as a mother of a child with special needs. “Brush up on skills that relate to business operations. As a freelancer, you will also need to figure out how to balance your bank account, talk to your tax accountant, advertise, and learn about insurance. But above all, enjoy the ride. Just because you don’t have a boss, you will be accountable for everything you do. And that means long days at times.” 

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Consider Your Skill Set, Time, and Money

“There are three main aspects to consider when starting a freelance business: skill set, time, and money. A few years of solid in-house experience can help freelancers like copywriters, consultants, and IT specialists gain the skills, connections, and financial cushion they need to start a freelance business. In most cases, their service will be very similar or identical to their previous job. The reverse is the case for translators. Most in-house translation jobs are given to freelancers with years of translation experience and excellent client references,” Catherine Diallo, a freelance French, English, and German translator, reveals “One can go slowly or quickly and make financial investments to very different degrees, but each strategy must be weighed against the others and its risks. It all comes down to one’s skill set, resources, and what strategy fits their lifestyle.”  

Gather Experience 

“To get started with freelancing, make your own experience,” says Chad Montgomery, a content writer on Upwork who previously created a blog with his wife and wrote for the blog to get some experience before starting a freelance career. “I used my experience there to apply for work. My first clients generally came through Upwork, but make yourself as visible as possible because work can also come through social media. Once you start working with clients, be sure to ask for a testimonial when your contract wraps up and permission to have your work in a public portfolio. Proof of your abilities and successful clients will go a long way in helping you continue to get work.” 

Improve Your Networking Skills

“To start freelancing effectively, improve your networking skills if you don’t have an active portfolio. You don’t know where your first client might come from,” freelance copywriter Paula Duran advises. “If you’re at the stage where you lack confidence in your skills, offer free services on a forum like a Facebook group that is targeted to your desired audience. You can also do this when you’re looking to expand upon your current portfolio and reach a new audience. If you’re very specific about the niche you’re wanting to target, it’ll be easier for you to get the traction needed for a successful business.” 

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Look for Low-paying Clients

“When starting your freelance journey, look for low-paying clients because they don’t care much about quality; they mostly care about quantity. So if you can churn out 3,000 words daily, for example, they’ll be pleased. The best places to find such clients are Upwork, Fiverr, Facebook groups, and Reddit communities. You should also tell your friends that you’re looking for freelancing gigs. Share a WhatsApp status and Facebook story. Then start looking for gigs relentlessly on Upwork and in local Facebook groups (within your target niche or in general freelancing groups). Don’t give up until you land a gig,” says Muthoni Wahome, a freelance SEO writer and editor, who started freelancing full-time on Upwork in July 2020. “When you finally get a gig, get to work. Google it and give it your best shot; make sure to follow every single instruction. If you follow instructions, respect deadlines, and improve your craft consistently, your income must increase. But you must know how to market yourself. Marketing yourself could include setting up a professional LinkedIn account, and a website. And most importantly, knowing how to connect with potential clients in your pitches. You might have to take courses to master pitching. Generally, a great pitch shows your destination, how it connects with the client’s goals, why you’re motivated to help them achieve their goal, and proof of work. These will be handy when you start cold pitching to get high-paying clients. If you don’t have a work sample when you start, create one. Consider freelancing as a journey toward running an online business—not just a side hustle. Then put in the work and stay disciplined.” 

Use Search Filters 

“Despite being brand new on the platform and having no reviews, I was able to land a good number of jobs thanks to a smart use of search filters,” explains Fausto, who quickly created a personal website and set up a profile on Upwork as an SEO content writer, Italian translator, and digital marketing specialist shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Before then, Fausto, an Italian, had been living and working in Moscow for eight years for some communication agencies helping foreign companies on the Russian market. “When you apply for a job on Upwork, the more reviews for similar jobs you have, the higher you appear on the client’s list. If you have no reviews, you can be sure you’ll be at the bottom. So, at the beginning, to have a chance to be seen by the client, you should apply only to those jobs that have fewer than five proposals or from five to 10 proposals. To do so, you can easily apply a filter on the job search page. It’s an easy trick, but very effective.” 

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Know Your Customers, Build an Online Presence, and Network 

“Before you begin your freelancing adventure, make sure you know who your ideal customers are, where to find them, and how to attract them. No matter what services you offer, it’s wise to know your why—why you’re writing, developing websites, taking photos, etc. Finding the answer to this question will help you stay motivated in all circumstances,” says Dorota Pawlak, a freelance Polish translator. “Another important ingredient is to build your online presence both on social media and your website. Don’t forget about the real world too: visit networking events or conferences in your area to find potential clients or collaborators, learn, and grow your network. Sometimes, to start your freelancing career, you’ll also need to overcome some internal obstacles, such as fear of failure, imposter syndrome, or procrastination.”

Build Your Personal Brand on Social Media

“Start leveraging LinkedIn to build your personal brand. The key is to engage with other users’ content way more than posting your own, using the 80/20 rule as a guideline. Add value, provide tips, and contribute to the conversation, and you will build up your reputation and attract leads,” advises Jaclyn Sergeant, a social media and content strategist. “For your own content, it’s OK to start small and post one or two times a week. You don’t need to post every day. Take the time to create a thorough social media profile designed to convert visitors into paying engagements so you can capitalize when they check out your profile.”

So, that’s how to start freelancing and get some really good results like other successful freelancers who have been in the business for a while.

What advice would you give to people who want to start freelancing? Tell me in the comment section below. I’d love to hear from you.

Good Freelancing is published by Dan Agbo, a freelance journalist, writer and editor. I’m available for hire on Fiverr and Upwork.

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