Making money online isn’t easy but it can pay off big if you apply the right strategy and stick with it — much like anything else in life.
As someone who recently quit my day job to freelance full-time, I understand how to get started freelancing for extra money.
This type of work — creating a lifestyle business through freelancing — is becoming increasingly popular because of the massive freedom and flexibility it offers.
In fact, in a recent study by Intuit, it’s predicted that by 2020 over 40 percent of the U.S. workforce will be freelancers and contracted workers. Guess you’d better start building your business now!
In this quick start guide, I share five steps that will help you know how to get started freelancing and help you create a business that will prepare you for the future of work.
Step 1: Determine What Type of Freelancer
Before you can be successful at freelancing, the first thing to do is decide who your ideal client is. Are you building a service based business (virtual assistant, writer, marketer, etc.), a product-based business or a combination of both? Will they be physical products or digital downloads?
Getting people to buy what you’re selling is all about connections, and the best way to make solid connections is to understand your ideal client inside and out.
If you’re not sure of what you can offer as a freelancer, start reading business books or following career blogs. Reading other people’s stories and learning from their mistakes will give you a jump start down your own path towards success.
A few of my favorite business resources are:
- Dream Save Do: Stop Dreaming and Start Living by Betsy & Warren Talbot
- Live Off Your Passion: An Unconventional Guide to Finding Passion and Building a Career Around Work You Love by Scott Dinsmore
- $100 Startup: Reinvent The Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau
More resources are listed here: the top 10 must-read books to uncover your passion.
Step 2: Establish a Solid Reputation
One of the toughest things to establish as a freelancer is to build a solid reputation and portfolio.
Similarly to when you graduate college and you’re looking for a new job, people want to hire you if you have experience, but you can’t get experience without a job. It’s a vicious cycle, but there is a simple solution to break it.
To really display and prove your skills while building up your reputation, you need to start a website. Even if you aren’t a writer, a website is still an excellent platform to share your knowledge, expertise, testimonials and show your past experience.
It’s basically a home-base where you can show off everything you’re hoping clients will hire you for, whether it’s writing, editing, design or video.
Instead of trying to convince potential clients you have what it takes to do the job well, you can easily convince them from the work you have displayed on your site. It’s like a living, breathing portfolio.
Step 3: Land Recurring Clients
If you’re serious about being a successful freelancer, you’ve got to land some recurring client work to help pay the bills.
What’s the best way to do this? Networking!
Yep, I know it’s something everyone suggests, but connecting with people one-on-one — both online and off — is the perfect way to build a consistent client base. Connections build trust and trust leads to recommendations. Recommendations lead to more clients and more work.
Especially if you live by the rule of “under promising and over delivering,” it will be all too easy to find clients.
In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if you end up turning work away — giving you a chance to be a little more picky about who you work with and what kind of work you do.
Step 4: Exploit Your Strengths
Do you specialize in one area? Are you an expert in a certain niche?
Lean into that area of expertise and start establishing yourself as the go-to expert. Contrary to popular thinking, honing in on your strengths is the secret to choosing a profitable niche.
Even if your niche is crowded and there are lots of other freelancers who specialize in the same area, you can still offer a different perspective and unique point of view.
The online world is a very big place and there’s plenty of room for your skills and strengths. Don’t be afraid to jump in headfirst and prove you’re the expert.
People want to work with an expert, and even if you don’t view yourself as an expert (yet!), you still need to emit confidence in your brand and your business. This applies to anyone from a solopreneur to a large corporation.
Step 5: Get Paid What You’re Worth
Most freelancers undervalue themselves and their work, which is why people don’t think writers or editors can make a lot of money in this line of work.
But that isn’t always the case. In reality you don’t have to become a millionaire, you just need to find clients who will pay you enough to help you make a decent living.
One of the most liberating ideas I came across when I started freelancing was that no one will judge you for wanting to make a living. You have to charge enough to pay your bills and give yourself time to create, to hone your craft and to express your skills.
So how much can freelancers really make? Well, veteran freelance expert Carol Tice strongly argues that freelancer writers should make $100 an hour or more.
If you aren’t getting paid what you’re worth, you won’t be a successful freelancer — that’s all part of the gig.
You’ll come across clients who think you should charge more and those who think you should charge less. So stick to your guns and charge what you’re worth.
Now you’re ready to make money freelancing!
Are you a freelancer? What other tips would you offer someone?