How to Get Started Freelancing Today with No Experience

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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

How to Get Started Freelancing | An Interview with Carrie | Build Your Own Career | Become a Writer | Work From HomeBefore 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:

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?

About Carrie Smith

Carrie Smith is an ex small business accountant who now helps freelancers and entrepreneurs get out of debt and organize their lives, so they can fund their dream business. Find her on Twitter @carefulcents.


  1. caseynlewis says

    I’ve started developing this theory that one day we’ll all be self employed.  It’s good to know there’s actually some research out there that supports my theory.  I’ve been encouraging college students for a few years to start writing about their passions on a blog.  Mainly because when they go apply for a job, they’ll be able to show the employer their passions in that area stem from more than just a quick google search of the company before an interview.

  2. The Jeff D Gorman says

    Freelancing is a very difficult thing to do.  I’ve been working at home since 2006, but that is through finding companies that hire work at home folks.  I don’t know how to find a client that would hire me as a freelancer, but I’d sure love to!

  3. CommonCentsWealth says

    Nice tips.  I’ve never done any freelance work, but I wouldn’t be opposed to it in the future.  These seem like good steps to take.  I think it’s easy in any business to work for cheaper just to get the business, but that isn’t always the best strategy.

    • Carrie Smith says

      CommonCentsWealth Freelancing is a great way to supplement your income if you’re trying to pay off debt or save up for a goal (like a house or car). It’s not always easy, but it can help you reach your goals faster!

  4. Alexandra Sheehan says

    I think the last tip you have here is the most important! When I first started freelancing, I took whatever gigs I could get, regardless of the pay. I hit a major hurdle in the beginning stages of my freelance career because of this. I didn’t feel confident that I deserved the higher wages, so I continued to settle for the soul-sucking wages of clients that were not good for me. I began doubting my skills and abilities – which is one of the worst things you can do as a freelancer. Thanks for the tips!

    • Carrie Smith says

      Alexandra Sheehan I share your pain. I too started my freelance career by taking on any and all gigs that paid me — whether the pay was good or not. I quickly learned that soul-sucking work and clients who didn’t mesh well with my personality was not the best way to grow my business. I’m glad I learned the lesson though and am able to pass along my knowledge to help other freelancers. 🙂