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How to Start Freelancing – The Basics

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When you’re interested in how to start freelancing, it’s hard to know where to begin. You want to not only start freelancing but get started on the right path so you can succeed. There’s a lot you need to know and so much information out there, you can easily end up feeling overwhelmed and confused.

In this post I’ll walk you through a basic four-step process of how to start freelancing. For more in-depth information, read my 11-step guide to freelancing.

How to Start Freelancing
The Basics

Freelance

 

Discover Your Freelance Skills

The first step to freelancing is discovering your freelance skills. You may already know what skill or skills you can use to earn money freelancing. If you do, that is great and you are ahead of a lot of people.

If you don’t know, don’t worry. You probably already have at least one skill that you can use to earn money freelancing. You just need to find it.

Here’s how you can find your freelance skills. 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 only on things that you can earn money doing. 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. Just keep the flow going and keep writing down things you know how to do. You’ll see that you know how to do a lot of things.

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

Next, write a separate list containing only those things which have check marks next to them.

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

Now you have a nice list of things that you know how to do, you enjoy doing and you can earn money doing. Most things you can do to earn money working for someone else you can also do to earn money freelancing. So this is your list of marketable freelance skills. 

If you haven’t landed on something you know how to do that you can earn money doing – or if you just want to start doing something totally new – that is no problem at all. There are many online courses you can take to learn pretty much any type of freelance skill in the world.

Choose Your Type(s) of
Freelance Work

Your list may show you that there’s not only something you already know how to do and enjoy doing that you can earn money with, but that there’s actually more than one thing.

That’s more than okay. It’s a good idea to earn money from more than one type of freelance work. Multiple income streams are safer financially than just earning income from one source. You can choose one type of work for now, and after you’ve started freelancing doing that type of work, you can introduce another type of work as well.

For now, though, it’s a good idea to choose just one so you can fully focus on learning how to freelance in that one field. In order to decide on the one type of freelance work you’ll do at first, it’s time to do some research.

Research:

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

Do online searches to learn about this type of freelance career. Also talk to people offline about it. 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.

Woman holding a photo of stacked coins surrounded by dozens of multi-colored Post-it notes containing words related to how to start freelancing step by step

Learn or Hone Your
Freelance 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, you might want to go ahead and start looking for work, or you might want to hone your skills.

If you currently have a traditional career as an employee, one good way to hone your freelance skills is to begin freelancing as a side hustle while you’re still working at that job. This way you can keep money coming in from your day job while you hone your freelance skills and segue into your new freelance career.

To learn more about how you can segue from your traditional career into your freelance career, download my free e-book How to Shift Your Mindset from 9-5 to Freelancing here.

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 your skills as well as learning from others in the know will definitely help you get ahead. You’ll be better 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 you’re interested in, you’ll need to learn from scratch. Probably the best way to learn a freelance 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.

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

Professional online skills training will take you from knowing nothing to understanding just about everything you need to know.

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 Jobs

Now you’re ready to look for a freelance job.

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

There are also a large number of freelance job search websites where you can look for individuals and companies looking to hire freelancers with your skills. You can also list your services on some of these job search sites, so that individuals and companies who need freelancers can find you.

Many of these freelance sites 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. Some are for specific types of freelance jobs. Some are for beginning freelancers and some are for freelancers who have more experience.

Thousands of freelance jobs are listed on these sites. You’ll very likely be able to find work on them. The rates freelancers ask for on some of these sites can be quite low, though. You also may have a fee taken from your payment if you’re hired through them. Fortunately, there are other avenues you can take to find freelance work as well.

Networking on social media can be a huge help in finding freelance work. Search for Facebook groups in your freelance niche. 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 freelance blog or website is also a really good idea. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Even a 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.

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

Conclusion to How to Start Freelancing

Discovering what your freelance skills are, deciding on what type or types of freelance work to do, learning or honing your skills and then looking in the right places for freelance jobs is the short and simple answer to how to start freelancing. To learn how to get on the freelance path that is exactly right for you, enroll in my free 7-lesson minicourse Get on the Right Path to Freelancing here.

 

(This updated post was originally published in December 2019.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images by Gerd Altmann   mohamed Hassan Alltechbuzz and Mango Matter

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 4 Comments

  1. Hello Sabina,

    I absolutely love your tips on how to find your freelance skills. So easy and actionable. We often forget just how much we know, and know how to do.

    I am excited to try this exercise and see what I come up with.

    SharlaAnn

  2. Super job with this post Sabina. Skills work is a biggie that many freelancers skip, largely. One needs to practice writing often to migrate out of the $5 / article world holding back most freelancers. Writing often gives you confidence and clarity to charge top dollar.

    This is one reason why I removed my eBooks from Amazon; why make a few bucks or less when you can offer help through PDFs that yield a good deal more than a few bucks. 20 bucks and 10 bucks beats 2-6 bucks of profits per sale! However, writing a ton over the years gave me the clarity to charge an eBook premium. The same rung true for me when I was a freelance writer over a decade ago.

    Thanks for sharing with us.

    Ryan

    1. Well, thank you, Ryan. 😊 Good skills is one of the most important parts of freelancing! I think most people who hire freelancers want to hire the people with the best possible skills, understandably. The better your skills, the more you can earn. You did the right thing by focusing on selling products that bring you more income. You’re a really good writer and you deserve it!

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