You want to earn money online. That is AWESOME! What I do today is earn money online. Actually, I’ve been doing it for years! What started as something I did for fun (and extra money) on the side has led to a career change that’s given me the freedom to earn more money and enjoy spending more time with my family.
You can learn how to start freelancing today. This involves figuring out what type of freelancer you want to become, marketing yourself, finding clients, and then continuing to build your business.
More people every year are becoming freelancers. A recent study by the Freelancers Union and Upwork showed that 57 million Americans freelanced in 2019. That’s 35% of the American workforce. Full-time freelancers increased from 17% in 2014 to 28% in 2019. Freelancing is becoming a more popular choice for side businesses and even complete career changes.
Who can earn extra money as a freelancer? Anyone. Literally anyone.
Whether or not you think you have skills to offer, as long as you have the willingness to try, you can get started as a freelancer.
What are Some Ways You Can Earn Extra Money as a Freelancer?
Almost anything can become a side hustle these days. Not every business idea is going to be profitable, unfortunately. Here are are some of the most in-demand skills you can use to earn money online:
- Content Writing
- Virtual Assistant
- Graphic Design
- Data Entry
- Internet Research
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Customer Service
- PHP Development
- Web Design
- HTML5 Development
Even if you don’t have any of the skills listed above, it’s OK. It’s not an exhaustive list. There are other freelancing opportunities out there. Plus, you can learn new skills, like the ones on this list, without having to go back to school. With the plethora of training options available online, you can pick up a new skill and a new gig in a month if you wanted.
For more ideas, check out our list of 30 of the Best Paying Freelance Jobs.
Now, let’s take a look at how to start freelancing today.
Determine Your Freelancing Business
Before you start freelancing, you need to determine what type of freelancer you want to become. Maybe you have an idea in mind already. That’s great! You are ahead of the game.
If you don’t have it all figured out, a great place to start is with what you already know. Side hustling is MUCH easier when you leverage either a strength or an experience (or perhaps both).
Identifying Your Strengths
Everyone has either something they’re good at or something they enjoy. That’s your strength. It’s the thing you know you can always fall back on. Maybe you already know your strengths. That’s great. If not, take some time to analyze yourself to figure out what you’re good at. Here are some ways to do that:
Make a list: Sit down and make a list of all of the things you think you do well or that have people have told you that you do well. You can do this on your computer or phone, but paper and pencil work just as well. Making a list forces you to do some self-reflection.
Ask other people: Sometimes family, friends, and coworkers can give you insight into something you don’t see in yourself. Ask people close to you what they think you’re good at or what type of business you should start. If you have friends that are already freelancing, start with them. They may have the best insights.
Use Resources: If you need help discovering your strengths you can turn to online strength assessments. Another good resource is the book “Now Discover Your Strengths” by Gallup.
Your strengths are someone else’s weaknesses, so your strengths represent opportunities to start a side hustle.
Review Your Work Experience
No matter your level of expertise, you have work experience you can leverage for your side hustle. Whatever industry you’ve worked in, from retail to medical to sales to law, you can take those experiences and start a side hustle.
Take a look at your resume. Where have you worked? What industries have you worked in? What work did you enjoy most? Your background can lead you to a successful freelancing career. Your resume may bring to mind business ideas, even if it’s in an unrelated field.
Check out this must-watch TEDx Talk from Jullien Gordon about leveraging your experiences to create multiple streams of income via side hustling.
Find Inspiration from Other People
If you’re not sure of what you can offer as a freelancer, check out what other people are doing. Sometimes hearing or reading about what other people are doing can jump start your brain and unlock your creativity and imagination. You can do this start reading books and blogs, listening to podcasts, and watching YouTube videos. You’ll be amazed at the business ideas people create. Here are a few of my favorite resources to get you inspired:
- 100 Side Hustles: Unexpected Ideas for Making Extra Money Without Quitting Your Day Job by Chris Guillebeau
- Will It Fly by Pat Flynn
Related: 8 Service Business Examples
Not only is it important to figure out what you want to do as a freelancer, but also who you want to serve. Narrowing down your ideal customer is key in building a successful side business freelancing.
For those who want to launch a service, whether it’s writing or digital marketing, it helps to have a niche so that you can speak to precisely the needs of the people you want to help. A niche is simply an area of specialization within a broader market. By having a niche means, you can focus squarely on the needs of a particular group of customers.
How important is it to niche down? Check out this episode from Side Hustle Nation that talks about how narrowing your side hustle niche can lead to more revenue and profits.
There are dozens of freelance writers who attend FinCon every year. While they are all talented, if these writers had decided to write about anything and everything, they probably wouldn’t be as successful as they are today. Instead, they decided to focus on personal finance. That’s a niche.
Many freelance writers got their start writing for financial blogs like mine. Instead of trying to write for large publications and websites, they focused on more realistic clients in their area of expertise. It might seem like narrowing down your services or who you work with would limit your potential. I’ve found the opposite to be true. You’ll find that as you narrow your focus, you’re able to provide better service and do what you do more effectively.
How to Get your Freelancing Business Noticed
Online side hustles are some of the easiest side hustles to get started. What’s even easier nowadays is the ability to get your name out there.
Let’s say that you’re thinking about starting a side hustle. How do you get your name out there to find clients?
Create Your Own Website
Creating your own website is not required for all side hustlers, but having one can help you launch and accelerate your side hustle. It allows you to market all of the various services you are offering clients. Having a website also serves as an online portfolio to your previous work, giving clients an idea of the kind of work you do.
Creating a website is easy and inexpensive. Here and two web hosting services to check out before creating your website:
- Bluehost (Web hosting service I started with and great when starting out)
- WP Engine (Web hosting service I use now)
If you’re not ready to build your own website, you could simply start with your own Facebook Page. Facebook Pages are free and easy to share with your friends and family. Depending on your side hustle, a free Facebook Page might be all you need to get started.
Creating a LinkedIn profile will help you connect with prospective clients and other entrepreneurs. LinkedIn also allows you to publish content to market yourself and the services you provide to your ideal clients.
Advertising can be a good strategy for drawing attention to your business. What are good places to advertise your freelance services?
Facebook: Facebook is a great place to run targeted ads to people with similar interests to your specific freelancing niche. Facebook offers customization when choosing who sees your ads, including focusing on just your own zip code.
LinkedIn: You can run ads on LinkedIn, which is great for B2B side hustles. If you want to offer a service like virtual assisting or digital marketing, you might consider running ads on LinkedIn to your target audience.
Craigslist: Another place to advertise is to post your services on Craigslist. Many people use Craigslist to find people who offer services like yours. If you’re trying to reach potential customers in your region, Craigslist is a great start.
Keep in mind most advertising costs money. Exhaust free options first, like social media and online profiles, before looking into paying for ads.
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.
Find local networking groups and events to start. Meetup.com is a great place to connect locally with small business owners and other freelancers. Facebook groups can also be a great spot to connect with people who may be looking for the services you provide.
Attending big events and conferences can provide unlimited opportunities to connect with potential clients.
I started FinCon as a way to connect with other financial bloggers and entrepreneurs like myself. It’s grown into so much more over the past decade. Every year, hundreds of freelancers attend FinCon to either start or grow their businesses. It’s amazing the number of opportunities you can find when you are actively looking for them.
Whether you’re an experienced side hustler or just trying to kick off your side hustle, prospecting is a tool you want to keep in your back pocket. Prospecting involves building a list of prospective clients. These can be businesses you aren’t working with yet or past clients you’d like to work with in the future.
Your goal with prospecting is to build a list of your ideal clients so that when you have time in your schedule, you might have some clients to work with. It’s good to have a list like this, whether you are busy or not. You never know when a client may stop using your services or go through a slow period.
How can you build a list of prospective clients?
Start within your niche: What businesses in your niche would benefit from your services
Look locally: If your business focuses on local clients, what businesses do you drive by that might need your help?
Look at other industries: Are there other types of industries that you haven’t tapped into yet?
Once you have your prospects list, work to find contact info for key individuals at those businesses so you can reach out. You can do this by searching either their website or by looking them up on LinkedIn.
If you have names, but not email addresses, you can use a website like Hunter.io to locate them.
Using resources like online job boards, you can find clients in your area and across the world who need extra help with one of the skills you offer. Popular job boards include:
Build Up Your Freelancing Business
After you’ve established your freelancing business, you should continue to work to make it a sustainable business long term. How can you do this?
Provide Your Best Work
If you make promises to clients, then back them up with solid work. You want satisfied clients who tell their friends about your work. It’s a good idea to “under-promise” and over-deliver”.
Retain Customers for the Long Run
While you may only need one client to meet the financial goal for your business, one of the most important things is keeping this client for the long haul.
A key to growing your freelancing business is providing the best possible service to your clients. You do this through communication, serving your customer well, and doing your best work, and going above and beyond what they expect. This is how you keep clients long term.
Making your client happy means they will keep coming back to you for more help. You’ll earn their trust. They may also refer you to all of their friends. And if your contact person leaves a company, they will remember you when they end up working somewhere else.
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.
After you start freelancing, you’ll notice 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. You are doing yourself a disservice by charging too little for your services. There’s a fear of losing out on potential work because of pricing yourself too high. If you charge too little, though, you aren’t valuing your skills and your time.
If you aren’t getting paid what you’re worth, you won’t be a successful freelancer–that’s all part of the gig.
Check out this interview with Freelancer Miranda Marquit, where she discusses negotiating and raising your rates. Also, see our guide to taking credit card payments online as a freelancer.
Ask for Referrals
Be a tremendous resource to your client, and your client could be of even greater value to your business than the rate they pay you. Happy clients provide testimonials and referrals to other small businesses. Positive, helpful freelancers who provide top-notch service to their clients soon find themselves with lots of referrals. Ask clients who they know who would benefit from your services.
Tips for Following Through with Your Freelancing Business
Whether you are learning how to start freelancing as a way to make extra money or as a future full-time career, the most important thing is to just get started.
You can do it! Really!
There are enough resources online to help motivated individuals start the freelancing side businesses of their dreams. All it takes to launch a business is an idea and action to bring it to life.
Here are a handful of tips for challenging, changing, and focusing your mindset so that you start your freelancing business off on the right foot.
Tip #1: Crush Your Self-Doubt
If you don’t feel confident in your abilities yet, fake it until you make it. You have the ability to change your life, launch a business, and achieve your goals. I know it, even if you don’t know it yet, that you can develop self-confidence and confidence in your ability to have a successful side business!
I have been my own worst enemy, doubting myself, and my abilities at every turn. I started reading books like The Alchemist and Think and Grow Rich to help me build up my confidence. I worked on my self-talk by filling my brain with positive, supportive statements to crowd out the self-doubt.
As time passes, my confidence grows. Your confidence will, too. Smile proudly. You are on your way to being a small business owner!
Tip #2: Eliminate Doubters
Motivational speaker and Entrepreneur Jim Rohn said we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with, so choose to be around those who believe in you. Surround yourself with five people who believe in you. Immerse yourself in a community of like-minded supporters to cheer you on as you work hard to launch your side business.
Recognizing that there are those in my life who doubt me, I started spending less time with those individuals and more time with others who believe in me and share a similar vision for their lives. At first, it was tough. However, the outcome was better than I could have imagined.
Today, I am surrounded by people who love and support me. You have people in your life who love and support you, too. Find them. Let them know how much you appreciate their support as you embark on a new quest: your very own side business!
Tip #3: Banish Worry
Focus on celebrating successes each and every single day. Spending all of your time working hard on your business and celebrating your success leaves you little time to worry. It’s a big world out there, full of potential clients who could benefit from your help. Celebrate your wins, big and small.
You launched a website? Celebrate! You sent an email to one potential client? Celebrate! Your enthusiasm for the big stuff and the small stuff will carry through all aspects of life and business–your clients will see it, too!
Each day, I celebrate small wins in my life and business. Even after a challenging day, I can always find one ray of sunshine. Choosing to focus on the successes each day, rather than the struggles, was key for me to be able to adopt a positive, future-focused mindset.
You have the right people behind you to support you. You’re celebrating daily wins. You’re working to crush any worry or self-doubt you have.
The Next Step
The best step you can make is simply to get started. You don’t have to be perfect right out of the gate at whatever business idea you have. Building a business is a work in progress. Five years from now, you’ll look back and think your beginning work was terrible. I know I did. But you’ll never reach that point five years down the road if you don’t get started today.
Are you thinking of becoming a freelancer? What type of freelancing business do you want to launch?