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Freelancing Guide: How to Start Freelancing Step by Step

  • Sabina Lohr
  • Guide

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Most people have no idea how to start freelancing.

That is totally understandable. Getting started with anything can be really difficult. This is especially true of starting to do something as big as working for yourself as a freelancer.

Over 1.2 billion people around the world are freelancing, though, so it is definitely possible.

Not only is it possible, it is smart. Freelancing is a really effective way to help secure your future financially and professionally. Working for yourself as a freelancer gives you job security you’ll never find working as an employee. When you work for yourself, you’re always going to have a job.

But exactly how do you start freelancing? That’s a great question.

I have the answer.

I’ve worked for myself as a freelancer my entire adult life. This transitioned into working for myself as the creator of World of Freelancers and also setting up some additional streams of income for myself.

Freelancing is a really enjoyable way to work, in my opinion. The freelance lifestyle is a really great way to live. Fortunately, anyone can start working for themselves as a freelancer, including you.

In an earlier post I gave you a quick look into what you need to do in order to start freelancing.

Here, in this freelancing guide, I’ve expanded on that earlier post to give you in-depth information on how to start freelancing. Whether you’re wanting to start a new full-time freelance career or just a freelance side gig, these 11 steps will get you started on the right path.

How to start freelancing step 1: Get into the “I’m my own boss” mindset

When you’re a freelancer, you not only need to have good skills, you need to have the right mindset. The very first step you need to take in this freelancing guide is to understand that you’re going to be your own boss.

You’ll have freelance clients who will be giving you work and paying you money. But none of them will be your boss. You’re the boss.

Being your own boss is a great thing. It can also be quite an adjustment if you’ve worked for someone else up until now. You need to get in the frame of mind so you’ll be able to quickly adapt to you being the only person in charge of your work.

A lot of people have trouble with this, so I wrote an ebook about it. How to Shift Your Mindset from 9-5 to Freelancing will guide you through the very first step of working for yourself – getting into the boss mindset. You can download this ebook for free right here.

How to start freelancing step 2:
Assess your skills, talents and interests

Everyone has at least one skill or talent, including you.

Ideally, you’ll have a skill or a talent that you’re really good at, that you enjoy and that you can earn good money using. You may already know what type of work you want to do as a freelancer, and that is great.

If that’s not the case, don’t stress. There are many different types of work you can do as a freelancer. You will find something that suits you well.

Just a few of the many types of jobs that you can do as a freelancer are:

Look around World of Freelancers and elsewhere on the internet to learn about different types of work. It’s no problem if you don’t have any type of degree. There are many different types of freelance work you can do with no degree. 

Focus on finding a line of work that you think you’ll really enjoy and one that will give you a good freelance income too. That’s really everyone’s goal when they enter the working world, and as a freelancer you can make it happen.

(If you’re American, you may have heard of the PRO Act bill. If passed into law, PRO Act would greatly restrict freelancing country-wide. A lot of freelancers are fighting against this, and it is very likely that PRO Act will never pass and freelancing will continue to boom in the U.S.)

Freelancing guide for how to start freelancing with a home office setup including a desktop monitor

How to start freelancing step 3:
Do your research

Spend some time doing internet research to learn what it’s like to earn money doing what you want to do.

If you’re not sure yet what type of work you want to do, that’s okay. Working on this step will help you decide.

Do some research for each of the types of freelance work you’re interested in. Find out the answers to the questions:

  • Is there good demand for freelancers in that line of work?
  • Where are people finding jobs?
  • Are jobs easy to find, or hard to find?
  • What kind of money are other freelancers earning doing that type of work?

It’s important to understand that what you can earn as a freelancer varies quite a lot. Among other factors, it depends on what kind of freelance work you do along with other factors such as your experience and what website your clients hire you on.

A good way to learn the average income for freelancers in the line of work you’re interested in is to do a search for that type of work on Payscale here. You’ll be able to see the average monthly income and average annual income for that job.

Also, if there’s anyone you know or know of who’s freelancing in the type of work you’re interested in, ask them about it. Find out what their experiences have been and ask them whether they think their career is a good way to earn freelance income.

Now that you’ve completed step three of this freelancing guide, you have enough information to decide what type of freelance work you want to do.

How to start freelancing step 4:
Work on your skillset

Now it’s time to put some thought into whether your skills are up to par with what’s required in the type of work you’ve chosen.

The freelance marketplace can be really competitive. If you’re not sure that the skills or talents you have are well-honed enough to charge people money for them, don’t stress. You can brush up on your skills or learn brand new skills by taking an online course.

Realize that not all online courses are alike. There are a huge variety of courses out there which teach people how to do different types of freelance work. Some are great courses and some are not. Some are free courses, some are pretty expensive.

A free course can be a great introduction to what you’re interested in and a great way to find out if you want to learn more. If you’re serious about learning your craft, however, you should be willing to pay for a really good course.

The many freelance careers you’ll find on World of Freelancers all have info about online courses you can take to start in those careers. Many of those courses will teach you from A to Z how to start freelancing in that type of work.

You can also find lots of reasonably-priced courses to learn different freelance job skills on online course websites like Skillshare. These courses may not teach you everything you need to know from A to Z, but they will teach you how to do various aspects of the type of work you’re interested in. You can get a one-month free trial of Skillshare using this link.

Before you spend any kind of money on an online course, do some research to learn what people who’ve taken the course say about it. Check to see whether the course or the website you buy it from have a refund policy. Be sure you don’t waste any time or money taking a course that isn’t going to give you what you need.

Bookcase with hundreds of colorful books of freelancing guides on how to start freelancing

How to start freelancing step 5:
Beware of scams

Scams, unfortunately, are everywhere and freelancing is no exception. You want to get off to a good start in your freelance career, and falling for a scam is not getting off to a good start.

Some job search sites might be scams. Some job offers on job search sites might be scams. If someone offers you work somewhere besides on a job search site, that can be a scam too.

As a beginner freelancer you need to know what to look out for. You’ll learn about 10 red flags indicating that something is a freelance scam here.

Don’t let scams make you hesitant about freelancing, though. The longer you freelance, the easier it will be for you to spot job scams and avoid them.

How to start freelancing step 6:
Find out where to look for freelance jobs

Where you’ll be finding clients and getting work depends in part on what type of work you’ll be doing.

There are many, many job search platforms where you can find freelance work. They are not all alike. Some, like Fiverr and Upwork, tend to feature lower paying work, while other job search sites offer more lucrative jobs.

Some job search sites offer all kinds of jobs for people all over the world. Others are specific to certain countries or to certain kinds of freelance work.

Before you sign up for any job search site, do some research to make sure that site is a good fit for you and your skills. Read its payment policy so you’ll understand how and when you’ll be paid. Determine if there’s a good likelihood you’ll find clients there.

As a beginner freelancer, it’s not a bad idea to start at the bottom and work your way up. Create a profile on a few different job search sites. Look through job listings on those sites. You will find something. Gain some experience, get a review or two from your clients and start working your way towards higher-paying work.

You can look for freelance work on social media too, including on LinkedIn Jobs, so be sure to start a LinkedIn account. You may want to start a Twitter account too. You’ll be surprised at the connections you can make on social media.

How to start freelancing step 7:
Reach out to any and all connections

The internet is one thing. Real life is so much more.

If you know people, or know of people, who might want to hire you to do freelance work, be sure to reach out to them. Tell them you’re going to start freelancing. Ask if they might be able to give you some work.

Don’t be shy. Personal connections you know in real life can be very helpful. Connections with people you’ve met in person and know outside the internet are usually much stronger than virtual connections and can lead to bigger and better things.

Three people sitting on a bench looking at a wall of headshots of dozens of people who've learned how to start freelancing

How to start freelancing step 8:
Do your best work

Make sure you know how to do your freelance job as well as possible before you start.

Study up on what it takes to do this type of work well. Ask questions of other freelancers. If you think your skills are rusty, hone them if you can before you start working. If you’re not sure you know how to do the type of work you’re interested in, make sure you definitely know how to do it before you begin offering your services.

Even if you’re only interested in freelancing as a side gig and never want to freelance full time, you still want to do your best possible work. You want to build a good reputation for yourself.

A few important ways you can to build a good reputation as a freelancer are:

Do your job the best you possibly can and you’ll not only gain a good reputation, you’ll end up being better than the competition.

How to start freelancing step 9:
Start a freelance blog

You don’t need to place top priority on creating a freelance blog or website when you’re first starting to freelance. Focus your time and energy on starting to get freelance work in the ways I’ve outlined above.

You’ll definitely stand out from the crowd if you have a freelance blog, though, and you’ll look more professional too. Your blog will be a place where people can find you and hire you. So definitely start a blog sooner rather than later.

A blog is a place where you can let potential clients know a little about you and your services. If applicable, you can share some of your work on your blog, such as if you’re a freelance writer or photographer. You can also share testimonials there after you’ve gotten some from your clients.

It may sound daunting, but starting a blog doesn’t have to be too difficult or time consuming. Here is how you can start a freelance blog to get more freelance clients.

After you launch your freelance blog, people can hire you directly from it. You’ll be able to charge more money and not have to pay a fee to a job search site.

How to start freelancing step 10:
Get reviews and testimonials

If you want something, you need to ask for it. Don’t assume that your clients will leave you reviews.

If you think a client is happy with your work, ask them to write a short, favorable review on the freelance website where they hired you. If they didn’t hire you off a freelance site and there’s nowhere to leave a review, ask them if they’ll email you a testimonial.

Online reviews and testimonials are very powerful statements. They can mean the difference between lots of new clients or no new clients.

After you launch your freelance blog, you’ll create a testimonials page where you’ll post the reviews and testimonials your clients have given you. When you’re using your freelance blog to offer your freelance services, a page with several testimonials looks really good to potential clients.

How to start freelancing step 11:
Get payment

We’ve come to the final step of this freelancing guide. Payment.

You’re definitely going to want to get paid for your freelance work.

Pinterest image, 11-step freelancing guide for how to start freelancing right now

Good clients will pay you in full on time. Unfortunately, not all clients are totally good. Getting paid can be an issue for freelancers.

Many freelance job websites like Upwork have contracts that people hiring freelancers  must sign. They also have the client put payment in escrow even before work begins. This means you’ll be sure to get paid. Make sure to understand how and when a freelance website pays you before you create an account and look for work on it.

Getting hired through freelance job sites where there is no contract and you’re responsible for invoicing and payment, you may run into payment issues. You may also run into issues when clients hire you from your blog or from anywhere that you have to do your own invoicing and collections.

A few ways you can avoid payment problems are:

  • get work from freelance websites that handle payment
  • make payment terms crystal clear in your invoices
  • get repeat business from good clients who’ve paid you promptly
  • be polite and professional but don’t be too nice about getting paid
  • understand that your work is worth something and you deserve prompt and full payment

Conclusion to Freelancing Guide: How to Start Freelancing Step by Step

Starting to freelance is a big deal, whether you’re already in the traditional workforce or you’ve never worked in your life.

Now that you’ve read this freelancing guide, you know step by step how to start freelancing. Learn more about how to find just the right freelance career and create the freelance life that you want by enrolling in my free mini-course Get on the Right Path to Freelancing right here.


Images by Georgie Cobbs, Lubos Houska and Gerd Altmann

Sabina Lohr is a lifelong freelancer turned entrepreneur who created World of Freelancers to help others discover how to work for themselves online and live the freelance lifestyle. She’s always really enjoyed the freedom that freelancing brings, including several years on and off of working online while traveling and living abroad.

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. Hi Sabina, Some great tips to get started. Learning to be my own boss definitely has been challenging, not just for me but even more so for the family. They just can’t seem to wrap their head around the fact that MOM/WIFE IS WORKING!!!

    1. Hi Sharla – Thank you 🙂 And EXACTLY!! Getting ourselves used to being our own boss is one thing; getting family used to it is another. The adjustment will be worth it!

  2. Great article, Sabina. #7 is especially hard for some freelancers when just starting off. But if you get out of your comfort zone, your contacts, friends, and family can be hugely helpful.

  3. I completely agree with this blog post. Starting to freelance can be really daunting and overwhelming. However, the author provides some great steps to follow that can help you get started on the right path. I appreciate the emphasis on having the right mindset and honing your skills. It’s important to remember that freelancing requires discipline and hard work, but it can also be a fulfilling and enjoyable way to work. I especially appreciate the warning about scams, as that’s definitely something to watch out for when starting out. Overall, this post is a great resource for anyone looking to start freelancing.

  4. I recently read the “Freelancing Guide: How to Start Freelancing Step by Step,” and I must say it’s an incredibly informative and well-written resource. The step-by-step approach provides a clear roadmap for anyone looking to venture into freelancing.
    As someone who is also in the process of writing a similar guide, I can appreciate the effort that goes into creating content like this. It’s evident that the author has a deep understanding of the freelancing world and has shared valuable insights that will undoubtedly help freelancers at every stage of their journey.
    Kudos to the author for putting together such a comprehensive and helpful guide. I look forward to incorporating some of the insights from this guide into my own project. Great job!

  5. I read an article on your website and I am very impressed by your blog.
    This article is very informative and inspiring. I learned a lot about how to start freelancing with no experience. I especially liked the tips on creating mock projects and networking with other freelancers.

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