How to Start Freelancing

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How to Start Freelancing

What is freelancing?

First of all, a freelancer can be many things, and it’s ultimately dependent on the individual. A freelancer is someone who is self-employed or hired by companies to do work within their skills. It can be any work and is a great alternative to the more commonly structured employment process.

How can you start?

There are many ways and roads for you to take to become a freelancer, and you’re not limited to any specific rules. What’s important is knowing what’s right for you, and knowing how to work it in a way that leads to success. If you’re not driven, it can be hard to achieve your goals, and even more difficult to have others trust you with their business.

Here are some of the avenues you could go down if you’re interested in freelancing:

  • Starting with a freelancing course
  • Join different communities
  • Joining freelancer platforms
  • Building your brand independently
  • Learn how to market your skills

Freelance courses

While freelancing might seem like a dream for most people, it’s not always easy to pull off, and nor does it bring any guarantee for your success. There’s a lot you need to know before you try to depend on your skills, and it can be beneficial for you to take a course on them. You can learn how to market yourself, how to deal with clients, and how to avoid dealing with difficult clients.

When you’re freelancing, you’re often on your own in terms of care - so it can be difficult to handle certain scenarios if you feel you have been wronged. 

You’ll also learn about how to build your own portfolio, which is an essential part of freelancing. If you want clients to believe in you, and trust you with their business, you’ll need a portfolio to show off what you can offer them.

There are many freelancing courses online, and it’s best to learn from the veterans in the industry, that way you know you’re being taught by someone who’s made it as a freelancer - and therefore has more wisdom to teach you.

Joining communities

Networking is a huge part of success for any business, and it becomes even more important when you’re freelancing. You only have yourself to depend on when you’re just starting out, and the more people you can meet, the better. You need a presence if you’re going to get noticed, and joining communities is the perfect way to do that. 

Say you’re an artist, there are many forms of clients that you might run into - whether it’s employment from a business, or commissioned work from a customer; there are many ways to get yourself noticed by them. Joining a community where your artistic skills might be appreciated can be a great way to find yourself some business. The more active you are, the more people are going to be aware of what you can offer, and the more you’ll find business for yourself!

You’re likely not going to be advertising via the typical methods, so personally putting yourself out there in front of these communities is going to be one of your best chances at having your business get the recognition it needs.

Freelancer platforms

What are freelancer platforms? As the name suggests, they’re a place in which freelancers can go to show off and offer their services to others. They offer freelancers a direct window to their customers and can be very beneficial to you if you’re struggling to put yourself out there. Not all freelancer platforms are the same, and some offer different purposes to their users. What you pick is completely up to you, and it will depend on the kind of business you’re looking for.

Fiverr, for example, is a great example of a place where you might find a freelance professional offering their services. There are many kinds of freelance businesses set up on Fiverr, and there’s space for your business too! You can use this platform to showcase your services, free for anyone to browse - and you can even add a small portfolio for your potential customers to browse!

Skillshare is a site where a lot of freelancers go to teach their skills, rather than offer their services. Customers can visit this site to learn nearly anything they want to, of course, for a fee. Freelance professionals can share their knowledge with others freely, and the success will be based on how popular and high-rated their course is. So even if you’re still selling your services as a freelancer, you can make some extra business by teaching your skills to others.

Just like with communities, these platforms can provide you with the business and exposure that your freelance business needs to take off. It’s not like you’re tied to just these sites either, and you can market your business elsewhere so long as it meets the terms of the agreement.

Even if you’re a beginner in freelancing, and don’t necessarily offer services to others, there are still platforms where you can get support from others. Sites like Patreon offer a way for creators to receive donations from their patrons. There doesn’t have to be a benefit, but you have the opportunity to list what patrons receive if you want to incentivize them - but some just like to show their support to creators they appreciate or see potential in.

Building your brand independently

A lot of work goes into building your brand from scratch, and it’s not a task that should be underestimated. Many freelance professionals have to put their blood, sweat, and tears into making their business succeed, even if you’ve studied a freelance course. When it comes to getting the notice, dealing with customers, and putting in the work yourself - it’s a lot easier to think about than actually doing it.

As for getting noticed, you can do a lot more than just joining communities and using freelancer platforms. You can build your own communities, where people recognise you, and further, promote your business. Social media can be a great way to do this - as it’s going to help the exposure of your work significantly. Having the ability to show others examples of your work, and then having those same people share it with others can cause your business to snowball. You’ve even more to gain if you’re able to jump on trends with your work.

When it comes to media, the mainstream releases can be a great opportunity for those who work with arts, designs, or similar crafts. Sites like Twitter will always have these kinds of topics trending, and it can be a great way for you to get your own work noticed if you use the hashtags properly. Knowing how to exploit and use social media for your exposure can help you significantly with your success.

When you’re getting the notice that you need, you’ll then have to deal with a whole range of different customers - which can be difficult if you’re inexperienced. No matter what kind of business you run, what kind of skills you have to offer, you’re always going to have to deal with difficult customers here and there. Some people don’t understand the work you do, nor do they appreciate the time that you have to put in, so there are going to be scenarios where customers give you a hard time over things that they shouldn’t. In these situations, you risk tarnishing the image of your brand - which is vital when it comes to building a reputation. You need to know how to best deal with these customers, so that you don’t unnecessarily lose business, nor change how people view you.

When building your image, you have to hold yourself to a certain standard, which means that you cannot afford to produce work that undersells your business. Impressing your clients is completely up to you, and if they leave unsatisfied, they’re not going to come back or recommend your business to others. You need to give your work everything you’ve got if you want to succeed and rise above your competitors, else no one is going to give your business the time of day.

Marketing your skills

So, while a freelance course is going to tell you what you need to know about how to carry yourself, it’s still important that you understand the direction that you need to take your business. It’s different for every freelancer, and your preference is very important for where you want your business to end up. You choose your target audience, and you need to know them if you want to appeal to them. That’s why joining communities is important, as it gives you some insight on what it is that they appreciate, and what they would invest in.

If you want to appeal to businesses, of course, an Upwork course might be for you, but you’re still going to need to show them a portfolio worthy of their interest. Even if your standard of work is up to scratch, making the extra effort to appeal to them can be of great help. If you have a particular industry you’re interested in, it can help to show them that you can relate your skills to it - along with other work to demonstrate your range of talent.

Like mentioned earlier, jumping on the mainstream media bandwagon is a great way for you to advertise yourself, and it can be manipulated by any business. Fans of mainstream media often love to see interpretations, fan arts, or even parodies of the things they enjoy, so it’s a fairly open market for you to play with - you may even enjoy yourself while doing so!

Managing your expectations

Be realistic

There’s only so much one person can achieve over time, and it’s important that when you’re setting your goals, you know your limits of what you can do. It’s no good setting yourself very high goals and deadlines to meet, as it’s only going to hinder your progress. Look at what others in the same field as you have done, what they have achieved; and how long it took them to get there. Some people are lucky and their business snowballs quickly, but that cannot happen to everyone in the industry. 

Knowing how to set realistic goals can help you thrive, and give you the confidence that you need to keep going with your business. If you have realistic expectations, it can be a clear indicator of when you need to change direction, or if you need to keep doing what you’re doing - it can help you succeed.

Be ambitious

Being realistic with yourself doesn’t necessarily mean you should aim low, either, it’s still important to be ambitious with your work. Sometimes you cannot achieve anything without taking a few risks here and there - it’s all about knowing when you should take those risks. If you work hard and recognise your own talents, then you can make yourself those ambitious goals for the future. They give you something to strive for and can help you maintain your direction with your business.

Have a clear direction

While it does help to set yourself these goals and ambitions, you must know how to stick to them. It can be difficult to stick to a goal if you’re not certain about what you want to achieve. No one can blame you for not knowing your ultimate goal, but if you’re going to succeed, you need to learn not to keep switching up your direction. Success takes time and effort, and you won’t achieve it if you keep dropping what you’re doing.

Freelancing can be for anyone who wants it, so long as you know how to carry yourself as a freelance professional. Dealing with customers is difficult, but it can be learned. Upholding your image can be difficult, but you can figure out how to maintain it properly. Working hard for something that’s your responsibility takes discipline, but it becomes much easier if you’re passionate about it.

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WRITTEN BY
Andrej The Freelancer
Andrej is a professional freelancer for over 10 years, and has started his career on Fiverr and Upwork, where he built his own brand to become financial independent and work projects he chooses to.

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