If you are tired of the 9-5 grind, you need to know how to become a successful freelancer so you can leave your job and be rewarded. There are 10 essential steps to becoming a freelancer and earning success. Let's dive in and get you on the path you were meant to be on.
In the gig-based economy, freelancing is a great way to support oneself or one's family. Establishing a client base and becoming known for your work are great steps to sustainable income. Becoming a freelancer can be easy or difficult, depending on many factors. This article provides tips to help guide those who want to take the correct path and come out on top.
What is freelancing?
Freelancing is a contract-based profession where one uses his or her skill and experience to provide services to several clients instead of being recruited by an organization. It involves jobs (called gigs) that allow you to do freelance work from anywhere.
If you have a skill set that allows you to work independently from being part of a company, you can set your hours, rates, and types of projects you want to work on. Freelancers use third-party platforms like Fiverr, Upwork, 99designs, etc., or they source their projects from social media platforms like LinkedIn.
Freelancing is an enticing profession that allows you to control how you want to work. As a freelancer, you can work your own hours and the method you choose to do your freelance work. You are the master of your own domain. You can't easily be let go or laid off. You can always learn a new skill, and if you ever lose a client, you can replace it with a new one.
Freelancing is not as easy as we've made it out to be thus far. In fact, for as many people who have found success in the field, there are more who have failed. There are intrinsic and extrinsic benefits attached to freelancing, which include allowing you to work at your own pace and gaining confidence and skills that can lead you down exciting roads.
Freelancing will expose you to various companies and industries. You may find you are a perfect fit for a client after freelancing, and they may feel the same and want to hire you. It can be an inroad to new opportunities in several ways.
Freelance Opportunity and Landscape In 2023
Freelancing continues to become one of the leading work opportunities in 2023. In fact, according to Upwork, a third of the U.S. workforce is currently freelancing. The last two years have put freelancing in a new light. With all the uncertainty we’ve faced, it’s no wonder many people are moving from full-time jobs to pursuing freelance gigs.
Contract workers and gig workers have become more and more the norm. Freelancing has long provided the flexibility to work from home and start a business. The last two years have allowed traditional workers to see the benefit of working from home, and many have opted to begin freelancing. The freelance opportunities have grown tremendously, and the work is abundant.
Companies across different countries are looking for freelancers to solve their problems, get reliable expert service, and not deal with employee headaches. Below are some of the most popular and high-demand freelance jobs in 2023 and beyond:
- Digital marketers
- Writing (copywriting, contenting writing, eBook writing)
- Web/Mobile developers (Coders, Developers, Programmers, Software Engineers)
- Graphic designers
- Social media managers
- Photography and Videography
- Virtual assistants
The freelance landscape is growing three times faster daily than the traditional workforce. In an article written by Forbes, it is predicted that before 2027, the majority of the workforce will be freelancing. Freedom and flexibility are becoming too difficult to pass up, and everyone embraces them.
Not only that, the technology we are seeing today is pulling our society away from the cooperative style of conferences and meetings and morphing us into the digital world. Businesses are no longer limited to finding employees in their local areas. They can now employ experts and specialists from anywhere.
Historically, people have had to choose between work and family, a high-paying job, or traveling the world. With freelancing, it is possible to have the best of both worlds. Freelancing bridges the gap between having a stable source of income, traveling with your family, and doing what you really love to do.
Today, skilled professionals can earn as much money or more freelancing than they would if employed. This has become a popular option for people looking to supplement their income based on their work-life balance. According to 2020 freelancing research data, freelancers, on average, earn an hourly rate of $20. (Kris Broka, 2022)
Whether you are a new or an experienced freelancer, freelancing holds many opportunities for talented professionals in the freelance economy. Millions are improving their skills and making much more money than in regular jobs.
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How Do You Become a Freelancer?
Are you considering a freelancing career or looking for better ways to take your business to the next level?
Freelancing may seem challenging from a beginner's point of view. You may be overwhelmed by the number of opinions on how to get started, but that needn't be the case. If you want to take the bold step of becoming a freelancer and do not know how to get started, you are in the right place.
This article will share 10 critical steps to becoming a freelancer. Whether you are just starting or want to take your freelance career to greater heights, these tips will help you grow your freelance business sustainably.
Step 1 – Decide if freelancing is a fit for you
You must possess a specific mindset to be successful as a freelancer. Freelancing allows you to become your own boss, set your own schedule, and work where you want. But remember, no one pays you for the holiday you take as a freelancer. No one else is responsible for paying your taxes. No one else bears the brunt of deadlines and keeping clients happy.
Some of the requirements of being a freelancer are structured and demanding.
- Maintain a daily routine whenever possible, or you'll find you get behind, are overly stressed, or cannot meet deadlines.
- You must juggle several projects simultaneously with competing priorities and deadlines to ensure satisfied customers.
- You must continually look for new projects to maintain a steady workflow. You don't want the work to dry up, so bringing your sales department is critical.
- Create a budget so you know how much you need to make and how much you need to spend to ensure sustainability.
- If you have a full-time career, don't quit your job immediately for freelancing. Instead, you can combine both jobs and your free time to freelance until you have accumulated enough repeat clients and connections to support yourself.
Even if the long-term goal is to work as a full-time freelancer, it is not always immediately feasible. It is an illusion to think that the marketplace is waiting for you with open arms.
It's relatively easy to call yourself a freelancer, but if you fail to make it sustainable, you'll likely find yourself questioning the viability of the lifestyle. Without sustainability, even those with limited expenses can rely on their savings to the point of urgently having to find a new job. To avoid this, you have to define why you want to become a freelancer and make sure freelancing is for you.
Step 2 – Define the service you're offering
Turning your skill into service is the main idea behind freelancing, so you must clearly define what skill you can offer. This is one of the mistakes people make when trying to become a freelancer; they jump into the market without thinking about the service they are about to offer.
It is essential to acknowledge that clients are looking for a solution to their problems. To get new freelance jobs regularly, you must understand the client's problem and how your service will address their issue.
You can provide services like graphic design, social media management, website creation, copywriting, email marketing, project management, virtual assistance, and other popular services. Make sure you choose a service the client pays well to keep your freelancing career afloat.
You should do market research to understand the field you are about to enter and the demand and competition in that field. This can give you insight into where and how to market your skill. When you define and understand the service you are about to offer, you will know how to package it, market it, and sell it to prospective clients.
Step 3 – Find a suitable freelancing platform
Most freelancers use freelance platforms to get projects; others use social media and recommendations on platforms like LinkedIn. Freelancing websites are popular because they allow freelancers to connect with different entrepreneurs searching for freelancers. Also, most of these platforms have policies that offer protection for both freelancers and clients.
The platform you select will largely depend on the type of service you can offer and if the people on that platform are looking for that service. If they are not, you'll want to find out where they are so you can more easily find your target audience.
Start by identifying the type of client needing your services and where they can be found. For example, if you are a copywriter, you want to consider becoming a freelancer on Fiverr. If your services are outside of the digital space, you might consider trying Task Rabbit.
You must build a profile on sites where you will be exposed to more people looking for the same services you are offering. You will need to take an active role in finding a platform that suits your service.
Step 4 – Build your freelance business profile
You don't have to prepare a classical CV. Most freelancing websites have a predesigned template you need to fill out with your information, but that doesn't mean treating your freelancing profile as a check-the-box exercise.
Create a substantial profile informing potential clients about your education, skills, expertise, and experience. You don't have to write an epistle – keep it short and sweet. List your skills, experience, and notable achievements, and explain why you're the best fit for this type of work.
Step 5 – Build your portfolio
This step is an integral part of becoming a successful freelancer. A professional portfolio is required to start your freelance journey. Your profile may state that you're a graphic designer. Still, potential clients are unlikely to believe you unless you upload your past work to showcase it.
Make sure to provide a portfolio that illustrates your skills and experience. Your portfolio showcases who you are and your experience to a potential client. This is a time to show and not just tell. Your portfolio should highlight your best work; it should clearly depict your work and how it will contribute significantly to the client.
WordPress websites are best to showcase your skills. It doesn't cost much to get web hosting for a WordPress site. You can create logos using Canva. Freelancers choose WordPress mostly because it doesn't require coding skills to create a website with WordPress.
Every prospective client or potential buyer is looking for value, and you'll want to show them the value you have created for other clients in the past. It is also important to receive permission from your past clients before putting up their work in a public-facing portfolio.
If you're asking how you can become a freelancer with no experience? The answer is, as a beginner, who does not have any experience, do not panic. You'll need to bid lower to get more projects and offer more value for the project than others to build credibility and positive ratings and reviews.
Many clients won't work with freelancers who don't have positive ratings and reviews, but some will purely focus on cost, and that is where your entry point will be to build your portfolio.
Step 6 – Write a tremendous proposal
To start freelancing, you will need to focus on how creating a great proposal will make a difference. To ensure a successful start as a freelancer, you need an excellent proposal that clearly outlines your capabilities and shows that you are genuinely interested in the project.
When you find the project that fits your skill set, you will be confident that you have a proposal that aligns well with the goals and objectives. The proposal should be a selling point for your skills. Professional and friendly are key. Your proposal should demonstrate your sincerity, enthusiasm, and professionalism.
Step 7 – Determine your pricing structure
Once you define your service and target market, you next must set your price, which you get to choose as a self-employed individual. Your rate or project price heavily depends on your skillset and experience. Don't work for peanuts unless it is to build credibility, ratings, or a portfolio.
If you have limited experience, you won't be able to charge the same rate as freelancers with a decade of work experience. Your rate will be able to improve over time and with successful projects under your belt. The rate should cover your monthly expenses if you have steady work, no matter how experienced.
To do this, you must maximize the amount you are paid without losing out on potential opportunities. Start by looking at your competitors in the same niche and finding out what they charge for the same contract work.
In reality, there is no perfect method for pricing your freelance services. Many variables can influence your rate, including the niche, experience level, deliverables, project duration, and complexity. Do not let the uncertainty about pricing and rate keep you from getting started.
Remember, in freelancing, your price is flexible. You can always change it when you deem it fit. Start with whatever price makes you comfortable and is worth your time and expertise.
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Step 8 – Find work
If you're actively looking for projects, here are some tips to help you find them.
First, apply only for the jobs you are confident you can do. There is no point in applying for a project you cannot complete on time with satisfactory results.
Second, as a freelancer, you're building your reputation from scratch. In the beginning, it's of utmost importance to secure positive feedback. When you apply for jobs, make sure you craft a relevant cover letter that explains why you're the best choice for that particular project. Highlight the skills and experience that are relevant to the requirements.
Third, over time, some freelancing platforms reward top-rated freelancers with badges, lower fees, and access to specially tailored job offers, so it's in your best interest to keep your clients happy. We've rated and reviewed some of the best freelance sites to help get you started.
Some freelancers avoid online marketplaces because they come with fees (usually between 5% and 20% of your earnings), which can add up by the end of the month. If that's you, explore social media channels and various groups on Facebook and LinkedIn to find work. However, be aware that there is no contract with this kind of paid work and no guarantee that someone won't take your assignment and never pay for it.
You can also find projects through word of mouth, referrals from other freelancers, past jobs, and professional and personal relationships. The point is, if the freelance lifestyle is what you want, the opportunities for work need to come from all angles.
Step 9: Focus on client relationships
An established relationship with your buyers is essential in becoming a freelancer. As a freelancer, your clients are your business, so you must maintain a cordial relationship. You should not think of them as a one-and-done deal.
Key Takeaway: By maintaining a good relationship with your current clients and providing quality work to them, you'll be more likely to secure consistent jobs.
It is not just about maintaining a connection with them but also ensuring you meet every deadline, listen to instructions, make necessary edits, and communicate efficiently any problem. A positive working relationship with your client is the key to a successful freelancing experience and having return clients.
While you aren't tied down to set hours, you should still be available for more clients if they have questions, requests, or concerns.
Here are some essential tips to keep in mind for a good client relationship.
Deliver high-quality work. Excellent quality work is necessary for your client's satisfaction. To build a long-term relationship with them, you must deliver top-notch work. This is the best way to ensure they return and trust you with future work.
Communicate effectively with them. Excellent communication creates a solid work-relationship bond between you and a client and encourages your client to continue working with you. Make sure you clarify the details with them to avoid confusion, and always assure them that you will consistently deliver the best quality.
Build trust through consistency. This is where many freelancers fail to get it. To build trust, you must consistently deliver top-notch service, complete your work on time, etc. Don't relent in quality delivery at any time, as it was quality that brought a new client to you in the first place.
Find ways you can add value. To maintain your relationship with your buyers, you should go out of your way to find a means of wowing them. Take the initiative to find ways to add project value or partnership value.
You can identify new strategies to provide solutions to problems, upgrade your skills in certain key areas, deliver ahead of the deadline, and generally become better at what you can offer. Open new pathways to work together, and your client's satisfaction is assured.
Build your portfolio to attract new clients. A good reputation is vital as a freelancer, so ensure you deliver your best work and earn good ratings. You can advertise your services on other social media platforms and your website, which should be updated regularly.
Key Takeaway: A strong digital presence is crucial, as clients want to feel like they can trust you and your personal brand before working with you.
Step 10: Set your goals
Without a well-defined set of actionable goals to create gainful employment from freelancing, you will be in a vicious cycle of feast or famine. Many freelancers experience this because of a lack of proper planning.
You must have clear and measurable goals for what you want to achieve as a freelancer. Break down your goals into daily activities to build weekly goals, monthly achievements, and career success.
Key Takeaway: You should invest heavily in having a routine to ensure all projects meet deadlines. Taking steps towards this goal, no matter how small, is key to realizing the bigger picture.
Bonus Step: Continue developing your skills
Freelancers are hired for the services and skills they offer. It is essential to keep improving your skills, adapting to changes, and expanding your knowledge. Keep up with the trends essential to providing your clients with high-quality services.
Some simple ways to do this include online courses or reading resources specific to your expertise. You can upgrade your skills from many different sources online. You can attend seminars, conferences, or career improvement centers. Google offers a certificate program you can take advantage of.
Key Takeaway: Whatever the means, ensure you constantly improve your skills, as this wins you new clients and keeps old ones coming back.
How Does Being a Freelancer Impact Your Taxes?
As a freelancer, an area of critical importance is taxes. You are your own small business; owners need to be mindful of tax planning. If you are not careful, you could have an enormous tax bill, which will likely cut your end-year profit. Here are some questions we typically hear.
What minimum do I have to earn to pay taxes as a freelancer?
If you earn at least $400 or more as a freelancer in the United States in any given year, you're responsible to pay self-employment taxes on those earnings. This is different for other countries.
What is the freelancer tax rate? What can I expect?
According to irs.gov, The tax rate for self-employed is 15.3%. The rate consists of two parts: 12.4% for social security (old-age, survivors, and disability insurance) and 2.9% for Medicare (hospital insurance). This means that as a freelancer, you are responsible for this tax in full as you play the role of employer and employee.
There are various reasons why someone would want to be an employee and a freelancer at the same time. Some may want to earn a little more, while others may enjoy the security of their full-time job and the freedom of freelance jobs. Avoiding having to deal with taxes is another reason.
As a best practice, you should set aside around 25-30% of every freelance payment you receive in a separate account to cover taxes. It is advisable to pay quarterly self-employment taxes as well to avoid a large and surprising tax bill at the end of the fiscal year. The IRS offers many tax resources on its website at https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/estimated-taxes.
6 Keys To a Successful Freelance Career
1) Start freelancing as a side hustle
Unless you are fortunate, it's unlikely you will leave permanent employment one day and begin a busy freelance career the next day. The reality for most freelancers is to start small, that is, start freelancing as a side hustle and, over time, decide if freelancing will work for you.
It is wise to plan your freelance business before you leap. This means that you should think carefully and sincerely. Rushing in without proper research may cause you to rush out regrettably. If possible, save up before giving up your regular income and job security. You will have no regrets, as a few months of fallback funds will make your new career less risky.
2) Work out how much you are worth
One of the trickiest decisions to make as a freelancer is deciding how much you are worth. Generally, freelancers earn more than general staff, but that doesn't work all the time. It is not appropriate to base a figure on your past salary. Instead, try researching what other freelancers in your field charge.
At the end of the day, if you find a figure you think is worth your time and you are happy with it, then quote it. But always remember that you may grow faster than competitors, so do not always stick to whatever they charge.
3) Stay organized & keep track of your finances
Staying organized and keeping track of your finances is another key to success as a freelancer. This includes keeping a paper or electronic trail of any instruction given to you by a client and the quote you agreed on. At the end of the day, month, or week, go back to the drawing board to see if things got good or worse.
Freelance job sites often take 5%-20% of your earnings. Put this factor into consideration when deciding the cost of your services. Track your income and record your expenses too. Make sure you always balance your account; this is an excellent way to know if you are making progress.
4) Get good at networking
If you want to be a highly-paid freelancer, learning how to network may be unavoidable. You may be lucky to inherit a complete set of loyal and regular clients, which may not be the case for new freelancers. These days, networking has many guises; you can choose to make new connections at face to face or through social media platforms.
With the right skill, it is easy to build followers on different social media platforms, but if you prefer the idea of meeting new clients personally, then start going to local networking meetings, clubs, and other relevant events.
5) Learn to sell yourself
You have to learn to sell yourself if you really want to succeed as a freelancer. You may be well-skilled in your category, but if you are not able to showcase yourself, it will be difficult to get clients to trust you. Learn to brag a little about your strength, answer questions even before they are been asked, and anticipate objections.
It is necessary to communicate often and even personalize the communication. Some of the messages sent to potential clients end up in the trash except they are well targeted. Update your site regularly, if you have one, to showcase your dynamism and development. A prospect will only become a client if he or she is convinced that your solution matches their needs
6) Find a mentor
If you are looking for how to become a highly-paid freelancer, finding a professional who can help you grow can be enormously helpful. You can approach a potential mentor with your business plan, website, and digital marketing strategies. This will show them your zeal to succeed in your freelance business and help them guide you.
Questions You Must Ask Yourself to Help Guide Your Freelancing
With the many high-demand skills, one might get confused when trying to get into freelancing. You may not even know if you are worthy of being a freelancer in the first place. It can be tempting to jump into freelancing and just into any niche. After all, you are new to the platform and want to start making money off it. No, it doesn't work that way.
If you lack experience in how freelancing works or you lack the knowledge or skills you need to work. You most likely won't deliver the quality of services your ideal client is looking for. Before you quit your day job and start your freelancing business, ask yourself this question to know if freelancing is actually for you.
What are you passionate about?
This is an important question to ask yourself if you're looking to venture into freelancing. Are you passionate about the skill? Know this before you launch and start selling that skill as a freelancer.
Unlike the traditional work method, you can be unmotivated and still get a paycheck. Passion plays an essential role in your success as a freelancer. You need passion and motivation to grow and maintain a successful career as a freelancer.
While you are tempted to choose a niche that is high paying, also ensure to choose an area where you can see yourself working hard and happy, day after day.
Do you have any formal education in that area?
Many freelancing careers do not require a college degree. However, suppose you have a degree or formal education. In that case, this can make it easier for you to land future projects as a freelancer and demand higher pay from different clients.
When working with a freelancer for the first time, buyers may be wary of hiring a newbie without experience. So having a degree on your resume will help set your mind at ease. You may not have the experience needed, but you have formal education to help you get the job done right. A non-degree education like an online course can greatly add to your portfolio.
What equipment will you need for your niche?
This is one of the differences between a traditional job and freelancing. In traditional employment, the employer will provide almost all the equipment needed to complete the job. As a freelancer, you will provide all the necessary equipment needed to get your work done.
This may be as simple as a laptop or elaborate as recording equipment and a studio setup. Either way, here are some essentials that almost every freelancer will need to purchase. A computer, a desk, a chair, a second monitor, a cell phone, software to do the work, and accessories to keep you organized.
The expenses might add up quickly, but you can claim these business expenses when it is time to file your taxes. Take note of the equipment you will need in your newly chosen career before you decide to jump into freelancing to ensure it is not too much of a cost burden. And keep your receipts for tax time.
Where can I sell my services?
Why not build a website to automate your freelance process? While building your website is important, it can also be challenging to see your website clients, which also means an additional cost. Tracking clients and contacting them individually is time-consuming because many compete for the same attention.
This is where freelance websites come in. A freelance website is a vital marketplace that helps connect clients looking for freelancers with freelancers that match the skill they need.
There are tons of freelance websites designed to find clients. You will find hundreds of these sites, but not all are a great choice. Luckily, a few popular freelance sites have been handpicked for new and experienced freelancers.
Fiverr allows both new and experienced freelancers to explore their skills and expertise. On Fiverr, freelancers can create a job post for their skills or, better still, bid for a client's job within their skill set.
Freelancer fees: 20% fee on every project regardless of price.
Toptal is a freelance website for the 3% of freelancers with incredible talent in their discipline. The clients pay more, and the projects you get are sometimes more involved and more fulfilling than on other platforms. And freelancers don't pay fees. Definitely, one to check out.
Freelancer fees: No fees for freelancers.
Freelancer works similarly to Upwork. You'll bid on projects that suit your skillset and win bids. Freelancer is free to join, and fees vary based on different criteria.
Freelancer fees: The fee for fixed-price projects is greater than 10% or $5.00, and 10% for hourly projects. Services can incur a 20% fee.
This is another great website that connects freelancers and clients looking for the same skill set. Guru may not be as well known as others, but the platform is inexpensive and easy to navigate.
Freelancer fees: A sliding scale of 5%-9% depending on the paid plan. A free plan comes with a 9% fee per project.
How to Become a Successful Freelancer Wrap-up
Freelancing is a great complement or alternative to a full-time job and a great means to earn extra income, build notoriety and maximize the opportunities for those with skills to offer others. Regardless of your skill, you can find compatible clientele who are in need of the service offering. Building your success can seem arduous, but if you navigate carefully and have an action plan, the path to sustainability can be yours.
Ensure you build upon a routine, handle your tax burden and treat your clients like you would want to be treated and you'll see noticeable results within a relatively short time. Be patient, it's likely a client is ready to work with you once you've found them.