why become a freelancer
Wondering if you’d enjoy freelancing? There are a lot of benefits to freelancing full-time or even just on the side. Work from anywhere and set your own hours and rates? Sounds great.
Quite often, freelancing articles are going to portray the dream of sitting on the beach with your laptop, sipping a cold beverage and getting paid anywhere.
The reality of this is that it’s going to depend on your services offered and really why you get into Freelancing in the first place. There are certain services and skills that are going to require more resources than others, and I don’t necessarily mean financial resources.
Take for example, myself, there are quite a good amount of things I can do anywhere on a laptop and some internet connection (building websites, creating content, data analysis), but there are also times when I need a desktop computer with more power and a better video graphics card (2d animation and rendering out large video files). In these instances, video editing, I am tied to the house for the day and need to plan my time accordingly. More on this later.
Your reason for getting into freelancing might also be different than mine, I am the kind of individual that truly could not see themselves at a 9-5 job. My personality needs the variety of working different parts of my brain when I want to and not when the boss says so. Yes there are still ‘working bosses’ when you have clients but I assure you, it doesn’t feel like anyone is standing over my shoulder telling me what to do.
I also found myself wanting to combine different skillsets I’ve acquired over the years and found that a freelancing-route was the best path for me. As I mentioned before, it really depends on what you want to do, there are certain skillsets that can absolutely be used anywhere in the world and some that can’t.
determine what services to offer
The first step to starting your freelance career is determining what services you want to offer. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s important to think about the specific services you want to provide, as well as the industries or niches you want to focus on.
For example, if you’re a web designer, do you want to design and build custom websites from scratch? Or would you prefer to work with existing templates and tools to create websites more quickly?
And if you’re a writer, do you want to write blog posts, articles, or even books? There are many different types of writing, so it’s important to decide which one(s) you’re most interested in. I assure you this is going to save you countless headaches down the road. Realistically you can’t be everything to everyone so defining your target audience at the start is important.
For example, my core services center around a venn diagram of 2D Animation, Website Design and Lead Generation. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I don’t enjoy learning about other topics but I’ve found that the most sustainable balance of projects (more on balance later) leads to a more engaged creative.
blend your services with real needs
The most important aspect of any business is offering a service or product that people actually want or need. This is especially true when you’re starting out as a freelancer. When you first start freelancing, you may not have a lot of experience or a huge portfolio to show potential clients. So it’s important to focus on the services that you ‘re most skilled at and that there is a demand for.
To determine what services to offer, first define your skills and interests. What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? Once you have a list of your skills and interests, research the services that are most in demand. You can do this by searching for freelance gigs online, or by asking people you know if they need any help with a specific task.
A good resource that I found at the beginning was a gig platform such as Upwork or Fiverr. This was a great way to match up what jobs are being posted with my available skills. If you don’t see any gigs that match your skills, don’t worry! You can always create a gig yourself and market it on the platforms themselves.
Initial jobs and extra money in your pocket may indeed come from these places but I caution you against making this your primary or only source of work. These types of platforms can have certain “race-to-the-bottom type posting” but they can also be a good way to get your name out there and start building up a portfolio.
I will mention however that a nice thing about these types of platforms is that there is a big community with jobs being posted all the time, as well as groups and forums to network with other freelancers. From time to time I will find myself learning a different perspective or tip on a reddit thread within these platforms.
getting found and marketing yourself
Before you can ever start optimizing your website for conversions, replying to clients and making sales – you need to get found by potential clients in the first place. You need the (relevant) eyeballs on your services before anything else can happen. Marketing is a critical aspect of any business, and it’s no different for freelancers.
There are many ways to market yourself as a freelancer. You can start by creating a website or online portfolio to showcase your work. I would argue that the majority of searches and research start on a search engine but I’m also quite biased as I prefer to build websites and focus on digital marketing. If you’re not as web savvy, no problem! You can also market yourself offline by networking at events or through friends and family.
Something that I enjoy going to, at least here in my Area of Colorado, is something called Startup Week (the name may have changed since I started going) but the premise remains the same. Business owners (small and large) from the community come together for a week of events, mainly lectures and presentations, to learn and share their industry knowledge. I find that many freelancers, entrepreneurs and small business owners attend these events which makes it a perfect place to network.
Even social media, something that I don’t focus my time on, can be a great way to market your freelance business. Creating social media accounts on platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook can help you connect with potential clients and promote your services.
The main factor to keep in mind is promoting or showcasing your services and offers in places that your target audience is most likely to see it. If you’re marketing yourself as a web designer, for example, you’ll want to focus your efforts on promoting your services on websites and online platforms where web design jobs are posted.
At this point in time, I’m focusing my time mainly on Google Search Marketing. Finding people who are searching for specific skills that I posses is a great way to match up buyer intent with my available offerings. I never liked the ‘cold-pitch’ sales approach so this has been a great way for me to focus my efforts.
what if i don't know how to build a website
There are many user-friendly website platforms that make it easy to create a website these days, even if you don’t have any technical expertise (i.e. know or want to know how to code). I would recommend WordPress as it is the platform that I use and am most familiar with. However, there are other great options out there like Wix and SquareSpace.
Page building platforms like these are a great way to get a landing page up and running, receive queries and let others read about your services (and why to choose you over the competition).
The build that I currently use is WordPress along with the page builder, Elementor. This makes getting my ideas out of my head, and onto “paper” so to speak, a much quicker process.
what to charge as a freelancer
Setting your rates as a freelancer can be scary at first. Imposter-syndrone is real, my friend.
You might find yourself thinking “who am I to charge someone for X” or “I’m not good enough to charge that much”. Let me just say this – you are good enough, and you deserve to get paid what you’re worth. It’s an ongoing process to value your time and energy but it’s worth it to continue working on this skill as you go. It’s taken me years to fully believe that.
I mentioned earlier that certain job postings may read as a “race to the bottom” in terms of pricing. I would recommend avoiding these types of clients as it will only serve to devalue your time and skills. This also is a learned skill, figuring out how to spot good and bad clients.
A good way to start thinking about what to charge is by looking at what other freelancers in your field are charging for similar services. Once you have an idea of the going rate, you can then adjust your prices based on your own unique skillset and experience.
Something else that I found after raising my rates consistently over time was to get more comfortable with saying “no” to certain clients or projects. I used to take on anything that came my way because I was afraid of missing out on an opportunity. This led to a lot of low-paying work and some really bad experiences.
Now, I’m much more discerning about the type of work that I take on and who I work with. This has resulted in me having more time to work on projects that I’m passionate about, and that also pay well. I assure you I’ve never felt so ‘balanced’ in regards to work/life (most likely the extra time to make logical-based decisions).
Invoicing & Getting Paid as a Freelancer
Invoicing and getting paid on time can be one of the most stressful parts of freelancing. But it doesn’t have to be. There are a few things you can do to make sure that you’re getting paid on time, including being clear about your payment terms from the start, sending reminders before payment is due, and using online invoicing tools.
As a freelancer, you’re in control of when you get paid. So it’s important to be clear about your payment terms from the start. You can do this by including your payment terms in your contract or agreement with the client at the start.
I won’t sit here and write about how you need a specific type of contract over another, I like to focus on the big picture and in this case it’s minimizing risk on your end. There are quite often times nowadays when I don’t use a contract, mainly because they can be a large amount of time to draw up and ensure that both parties are fine on the little details.
My two cents is that if you have a good feeling, and the project is small enough where a contract wouldn’t make sense, go with your gut.
If you’re working with a larger company or on a longer project, a contract can be helpful to protect both you and the client. Sometimes a deposit is required, other times a contract with milestones is used so that each time a milestone is hit, you get paid a certain %.
It’s really up to you what feels best and what will work in the specific project.
receiving the money
There are a few different ways to get paid as a freelancer, including online and offline. The most common way to get paid is online, through platforms Square, PayPal or even Venmo. These platforms are convenient because they allow you to get paid quickly and easily.
You can also get paid offline, through methods like check or bank transfer. These methods are not as common, but they may be necessary depending on the client’s preferences.
Personally, I use a few different methods, the first being Square Invoicing to create and send invoices quickly with automated reminders. I use the free version but there are also paid for versions that come with unique layouts for the invoices and more. I’ve always been a bare bones kind of guy so the free one has suited me just fine.
Something that I pay for on an annual basis, as a payment service is called Sellfy. Sellfy is a platform that allows you to sell digital products and I use this for some of my animation-based work. It allows for a digital file to be released upon the confirmation of a payment from the client. Sellfy takes care of the payment processing and file release, something that I could not code myself or want to spend the time doing for each individual stage.
I found that I was spending a lot of time in the back and fourth of removing and sending back the un-watermarked version of a final animation. This way the client wouldn’t be waiting for me if I was asleep or over the weekend (when I’m supposed to be offline).
payment on freelancing platforms
If are wondering, how do you get paid on a freelancing platform like Upwork or Fiverr (for example), the answer is that they take this headache away from you. For a fee of course.
My opinion on fees aside, I will say that it’s a one-time bank connection setup and then the money from your online jobs go directly into your bank account. In most cases the deposit schedule is every 2 weeks, so take this into account when looking for work and knowing that it may not be an immediate payment.
pitching to clients and learning from it
The best way to get clients is by pitching to them. You can do this online or offline, but the most common way is online. There are a few different ways to pitch to clients, including through platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, and Craigslist.
I mentioned earlier that search marketing through Google has been my preferred method of new projects lately but that definitely wasn’t the case at the start. It was a lot of trial and error to see what worked for me in terms of getting new clients and learning what people were actually saying between the lines.
A great way to learn how to pitch is by reading other people’s pitches and seeing what works and what doesn’t. You can also try pitching to friends or family members to get practice. The more you pitch, the better you’ll become at it. There are going to be many no’s but eventually, you’ll get a yes. And that one yes will turn into two, and three, and so on. Freelancing does take some patience and a desire to learn.
When pitching to clients, you need to be clear and concise about what you can offer them. You should also be prepared to answer any questions the client may have. It’s important to be professional and courteous when pitching, and to make a good impression on the client.
Pitching can be done online or offline, but the most common way is online. There are a few different ways to pitch to clients, including through platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, and Craigslist. You can also pitch to clients through email or phone call.
I always had the preference of pitching to people who were already looking for what I wanted to do so freelance job posting sites (such as Upwork and People Per Hour) were my platforms of choice. The two platforms allowed clients to post their needs for someone with X, Y, or Z service. Let’s say I were a writer, so I would have pitched to job postings that wanted an article or blog post written. The interest was already there so it saved me time in cold-calling people but that’s not to say that it can’t work.
The important part is that you are clear and concise about what you can offer the client, and be prepared to answer any questions they may have.
what to write in a freelance pitch
I think the “what you write in your pitch” post is overstated. I think at its core, you need to answer these four questions for your potential client:
1. Who are you?
2. Can you Solve X for me?
3. How much will it cost me?
4. How can you solve X for me?
The expectation for most pitches and what most employers expect to see is this series of questions above. Think about it, in most in-person job interviews these days the second round of interviews are mostly higher strategy and less resume-based, focusing on question #4 in the list of questions above.
I quite often find that if you swap out question #4 above for question #3, you end up standing out and are asking better questions from the start. Here’s an example of what I would do for a web design posting with a fixed fee:
“Hi Job Poster Name,
I’m Jon, I saw your posting about needing a new WordPress website. I can definitely help, here’s a link to some recent creations at: www.yoursite.com.
I saw you mentioned in your posting that you were looking for “B” but have you considered A and C instead? Starting with A, I would see how that supports B, before moving on. This all might save your resources in the long run.
Glad to chat further and accurately quote you out, here’s a meeting link to schedule at your convenience:
That’s how the majority of my pitches might look these days, Google aside. I start out with a brief intro, name formalities, and move into a quick affirmation that I understand their problem and have similar experience.
After that, I’ll skip to question #4 and give them a brief preview of how I would approach solving their problem given what I know. If they’re interested, they’ll book a meeting with you to discuss it in more detail.
My reason for using Calendly above, and what I actually use because of this, is that it syncs with my Google Calendar and books off my time from other meetings automatically. I get a reminder, and a Google meeting link is automatically created for their desired time. All of this is done with a buffer of time that I’ve set so nobody can surprise me with same-day meetings.
This saves me a ton of time and headache and something that I found to help since I started. This too used to be a manual process of “well what time works for you” but I’ve since evolved, yes I use the paid plan of Calendly but there’s no reason for you to at the start.
winning the job
What happens if they say yes? You’ll want to make sure your risk is minimized so that you can get paid for your work. This is why I’m a fan of milestones in project proposals, this lets the employer know that they will only pay you once you have completed a certain task and you don’t have to wait until the end of the project to get paid, especially if the client changes their mind before then.
But once you have this all squared away, risk minimization on both ends, you’re in a good spot. Now you can get to work, and if you’ve done your job correctly thus far the project should go swimmingly.
Problems To Look Out For
The biggest problem I see when starting out is that people want to help everyone and are afraid of saying no. This is a major problem and will cause you to take on projects that are a waste of time, or aren’t worth your while. If you find yourself in this boat, it’s okay, we’ve all been there before but you have to get out of it.
I’m not saying to be a jerk and start turning away everyone that needs help but you should be more choosy with your projects, and get paid what you’re worth. Not only that but you should try and work with clients that you actually like, and end up working with for a while. This too is a learned skill and you’ll get better the more you practice it.
final thoughts on freelancing for now
For now these are my main thoughts on what it entails to get into freelancing but If you have other topics that you’d like to see covered or have any general questions, please feel free to get in touch and I’d be glad to chat.