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How to Start Freelancing – The Absolute Basics

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How to start freelancing is a question more and more people are asking, as so much of the world turns towards working for yourself rather than working for someone else.

If you’re interested in freelancing, you may not know where to begin. You start trying to figure it out and end up finding so much information from so many sources that you feel a little confused and overwhelmed.

In this article I’ll walk you through the absolute basics of how to start freelancing for beginners. From discovering what type of freelance skills you already have to learning how to find freelance work, here you will learn how to freelance, step by step.


How to Start Freelancing
Step by Step

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If you’re just starting out in your work life and are interested in freelancing, then start freelancing. Don’t get caught up in the corporate world if it’s not want you want.

If you’ve already been in the traditional workforce for a while, it’s probably best to slowly introduce freelancing into your life so that you can continue to make money from your day job while you build your skills and experience and income in your freelancing job. You can read what I wrote about how to transition into freelancing here.

No matter whether you’re interested in transitioning into freelancing with a side hustle or you’re reading to dive in full time, you definitely need to know what kind of freelance work is best for you.

Related post: 11-Step Freelancing Guide

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Discover Your Freelance Talents

The very first step to freelancing is deciding what type of freelance work you would like to do. You may already know what you’d like to do and, if so, that is excellent. If you’re someone who just really wants to get away from their job and work for themselves, though, you may not be sure yet what type of work you should try.

First, realize that you don’t have to stay trapped in a job that you don’t like and that isn’t well suited for you. So many different freelancing jobs exist. You definitely possess at least one skill that you can use to earn money freelancing.

Actually, a lot of people don’t understand exactly what freelancing is. You can read a pretty detailed definition of freelancing that I wrote right here.

In order to discover your freelance talents, think about everything in the world that you can do. Sit down and write down a list of at least 25 of these things. You can do this in one sitting or over a period of time. Don’t focus on things that you think can earn you money. Focus on things you know how to do, period.

This list can consist of anything. Mowing lawns, designing websites, writing poetry, cooking healthy meals, reading, arranging flowers, driving a car, doing yoga. You might find yourself throwing in a few like watching TV and eating, too. That’s okay, you can include those. Just keep the flow going and keep writing down things you know how to do. Everyone knows how to do things.

Now put check marks next to those things that you actually enjoy doing.

Next, write a separate list containing only those things which have check marks next to them, the things that you both know how to do and enjoy doing.

Last, go through this second list and put check marks next to the things that you think – or know – you could earn money doing.

Now you have a list of things that you can earn money doing as a freelancer.

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Choose Your Type(s) of
Freelance Work

So now you’ve gone from thinking there is no type of work you can do as a freelancer to seeing that there is at least one kind of work you can do as a freelancer.

Your list may have revealed that there’s more than one type of freelancing you have an interest in. That’s a good thing. Multiple income streams are safer financially than just earning income from one source. So if you’re interested in more than one freelancing job, you have the possibility of eventually offering your freelancing services in more than one area.

For now, though, it’s a good idea to choose just one so you can fully focus on learning how to earn money freelancing in that one field. Later, when you’re up and running in that line of work, you can pull the second and even third choice out of your pocket and start learning how to earn money in those fields as well, if you wish.

In order to decide the first type of freelancing work you should focus on, It’s time to do some research.

Every type of freelancing job is different, so you need to find out what you can expect in the specific line of work in which you’re interested.

Research how much work you can expect to receive, how and where you can find freelance clients, what the competition is like and how much you can expect to earn.

Do internet searches and also talk to people off the internet about this particular freelancing job. There are so many freelancers out there, it will be easy to find people already earning income freelancing at the type of job in which you’re interested. Ask any other questions that are important to you as well.

Home in on the type of work which will suit you best as far as competitiveness, income potential, and any other factors which are important to you. Search and ask questions of yourself and others until you land on the type of work that will bring you the income and job satisfaction that you want.

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Learn and Hone Your
Freelancing Skills

There is an increasing amount of competition in the world of freelancers. You need to really be good at what you do, not only to earn a good income but to stand out amongst the competition.

If you already know how to do the type of work at which you want to freelance, practice your skills. Begin freelancing as a side hustle and keep money coming in from your day job while you hone your skills at your new freelancing job.

While honing these skills, spend some time doing online research about your specific type of work to learn more about how to do it and do it well. Also, network with other freelancers in your field and learn what you can from them.

Practicing as well as learning from others in the know will definitely help you improve your skills. Now you very well may be able to achieve the level of skill and income that other freelancers in your field are enjoying.

If you don’t know how to do the type of freelance work in which you’re interested, you’ll need to learn from scratch. Probably the best way to learn a freelancing skill is through professional online training.

Online skills training exists for most types of freelance work. Skills training can take you from your status as an absolute beginner to a well-trained professional pretty quickly. Taking official skills training will also likely do a lot to give you the confidence that every freelancer needs.

How long skills training lasts depends on the type of work you’re interested in doing. Some freelance jobs are pretty easy to learn. You might be able to complete skills training from start to finish in a week or so. Other types of freelance careers are more complex and require training that can take months.

Skills training courses not only teach you what you need to know from scratch, they also frequently offer lifetime access to the course’s private Facebook group. There you can network with other students, keep in touch with the instructor and ask all the questions you need to ask as you begin your freelance career.

Professional skills training will take you from knowing nothing to understanding just about everything you need to know in order to succeed at the type of freelance work you’ve chosen. For a lot of people in a lot of different lines of work, this is the best and quickest way to succeed as a freelancer.

Freelancer at a laptop writing in a notepad with a woman's hand holding an upside down light bulb with a large green dollar sign on it

Find Freelance Work

Now you’re ready to look for a job as a freelancer!

How you will find freelance work depends on the line of work you’ve chosen. If you’ve taken a skills training course, the course often includes a component with advice on how to find freelance work.

There are also a growing number of freelance job platforms where you can look for individuals and companies who need someone to do the type of work you do. You can also list your services on these sites, so that individuals and companies who need freelancers can find you.

Many of these freelance platforms you’ve probably heard of, like Fiverr and Upwork. Major freelance sites like these are for freelancers worldwide.

There are also dozens of other small smaller job search sites where you can find freelance work. Some of these sites focus on freelancing in specific countries. For example, there are job websites for Australia freelancers, there are U.K. job websites for only U.K. freelancers, and there are Canada job sites for Canadians only.

Thousands of freelance jobs are listed on these sites, and thousands of freelancers list their services on these sites as well. You’ll almost definitely be able to find work on these platforms. The rates freelancers ask for on these sites can be quite low, though, and you also may have to pay a commission or other fee. There are other avenues you can take to find freelance work.

Networking on social media can be a huge help in finding freelance work. Start a Twitter account and LinkedIn account if you don’t already have them. Find and engage with other freelancers and relevant people on those platforms, and post your own engaging and useful content. Locate businesses and individuals on these networks that you’d like to approach about work. It will be much easier to inquire about freelancing for them once they’re familiar with you from social media.

Starting a website is always a really good idea. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Even a free one-page website with information about yourself and what you have to offer as a freelancer will increase your visibility and possibilities. Much better is to create a website that is a portfolio of your best work. This will let potential clients see up front what you can do.

You can also read my advice on how to find freelance clients here.

There are several ways that you can find freelance work off the internet as well, such as:

Asking people you know (family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances)
Asking local businesses
Asking former bosses
Asking former colleagues
Asking other freelancers
Joining professional groups
Attending meetups

When you have the knowledge, skills and tools to freelance and you know where to find the work, you will definitely be able to earn money as a freelancer.

Now that you know the basics of how to get started as a freelancer step by step, you can successfully walk the path to working for yourself.

Images by Gerd Altmann   mohamed Hassan Alltechbuzz and Mango Matter

Sabina Lohr

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.

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