Freelancing is one of the most popular ways to start working from home and make some extra money on the side. However, if you’re new to freelancing, it can be difficult to figure out where to start with no experience on your resume and no connections in the industry. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to become a freelance writer (or any other freelance role), including how to get started, where to find work, and how much you can expect to earn as a freelancer.
Find a skill you’re passionate about
An obvious choice for your freelance skill is something you have some background in, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a field where you’ve got formal training. Sure, diving into a new area of expertise can be scary, but it might also give you more perspective and opportunities down the road.
If you already do something well—whether or not it’s related to what you want to do professionally—consider offering up your services on sites like Fiverr or Upwork. How exactly are you going to do that? Think about what makes people want (or need) what they pay for on these sites—and then come up with ways to provide those same results.
Hone your skills
It can be hard to break into a new industry when you’re starting from scratch, so make sure your resume is as impressive as possible. That means putting some time into honing your skills before you leap headfirst into freelance work.
Network and take classes related to your field of interest; it’s amazing how often career-changers say their industry knowledge was invaluable in breaking into a new field. If you know what you want to do but aren’t confident about your abilities, consider getting certifications—and making them visible on your resume! Good luck!
Work for free
Freelance platforms like oDesk and Elance are great for landing small projects or jobs on a trial basis. You can also join an agency—you’ll still be working on your own, but you’ll have other team members around if you get stuck.
Either way, test out your skills by helping someone else first—it will help build your portfolio, put cash in your pocket, and give you a feel for how it feels to work as a freelancer. It’s important to network: To succeed as a freelancer, you must connect with people in your industry who could hire or introduce you to potential clients.
Do it on the side, but don’t quit your day job.
The only way to truly get your freelance career off the ground is by doing it on a part-time basis. Sure, there are ways you can earn some income from home, but earning a full-time living while maintaining your full-time job will be next to impossible.
By getting started now and working on a part-time basis, you’ll be able to build your portfolio and generate leads before you strike out on your own. This strategy gives you time to develop necessary skills (and connections) before you have to rely solely on those skills and connections for money.
Starting slowly also makes it easier for you to sustain yourself financially during your first months as a freelancer—because, let’s face it: Not many people have wads of cash lying around waiting for them in their bank accounts when they decide to launch their freelance careers!
Asking even if you don’t know anyone who can hire you doesn’t hurt. There’s a good chance that someone might be looking for help from time to time, and they’ll be glad to hear from you. Reach out either through email or social media (depending on your relationship).
Don’t ask for jobs straight away; suggest a meeting first. Just like any other professional relationship, trust has to be built up over time. Start by offering something of value: perhaps an analysis of their website’s conversion rate. If things go well during your initial call or Zoom session, then propose doing some work for them—and make sure it aligns with your long-term career objectives.
Chances are you won’t get paid much when starting out as a freelancer, but every job is an opportunity to learn and build up references.
Update your portfolio frequently.
Even if you’re not currently looking for freelance work, it is a good idea to update your portfolio regularly. This is because having well-curated work in your portfolio gives potential clients confidence in you and your skills.
A website/portfolio is essential when starting out as a writer so that potential clients know what you can do before they even hire you. It also makes sense that updating your portfolio frequently shows potential clients (and future employers) how active and dynamic you are as a creative professional.
Just remember: You can’t be writing every day—you need time to research, outline, draft, and edit—so have patience! Update once or twice per week (more frequently if possible), and take time off for mental health days to recharge.
Developing relationships with potential clients is key to landing freelance work. If you’re new in town, get out there and meet people at local networking events. If that isn’t feasible, reach out over social media (start slowly—you don’t want to come off as desperate). Once you have a steady stream of connections, use them! Referrals from your network can lead to more business than any other source.
Finally, build an online portfolio; it’s not just for applying for jobs anymore. Online portfolios are a great way to showcase your skills while also visible yourself to prospective clients. Make sure to list examples of your work rather than simply describing what you do—especially if you’re going after creative or niche projects, where words won’t be enough.
By reading your portfolio, prospective clients will already know they need a copywriter or illustrator; they need to see what made you stand out amongst all their other candidates. When looking for work, never send generic email pitches cold. Do some research on each prospect, and send personalized messages instead: no form letter left behind!
Go beyond just getting paid by proving the value.
Professional work is often, in some sense, a transaction: You’re getting paid for your time and expertise. But as a freelancer, you have an opportunity to take that one step further—to demonstrate your value.
Overdeliver on every project to some extent. Offer guidance, feedback, and suggestions beyond what’s expected in your initial contract. Show potential clients how much you care about your craft. If they’re impressed by your portfolio of work, they’ll be more inclined to trust that you know how to handle their projects too.
As it stands now, we are entering into another era where people want to identify with other people who share similar interests or beliefs. The truth is self-branding has never been easier than it is today, given so many tools available at our disposal. Social media can help us discover new friends, but it also aids us in creating a stronger brand image without spending thousands of dollars on a PR company or ad agency.
Don’t get discouraged.
It can be intimidating to begin a freelance career, but there are many ways to get going. Consider taking advantage of as many opportunities as you can—volunteer work, meetups, and networking events will help build your confidence and establish connections that can lead to new projects down the road. And don’t forget: if you aren’t getting results in one way, try another! It may take a while before you find your groove. Be patient and persistent; it’s worth it.