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How to Start Freelancing in 2021

How to Start Freelancing
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Anyone can make money by freelancing online.

Yes, anyone. 

No matter what your existing skills are (and even if you think you don’t have any), you can launch a successful freelance business in 2021. 

For me and many others, making that first dollar freelancing was a life-changing moment. It opens up a world where you take control of your career and your income. 

It’s also the future of work, as our economy is shifting more and more towards freelance workers.

So, freelancing isn’t just a way to make money today, but also one that provides more opportunities for growth going forward.

It’s for this reason we’ve put together this in-depth, expert-led guide on how to start freelancing. 

4 Steps to Freelance Full-Time Successfully

We’ve broken down the process of landing that first client into four simple steps:

From there, we’ve created a number of niche-specific freelancer guides (writing, proofreading, etc.) to help you kickstart your freelance career. 

Sound good? Let’s get started.

How to Choose a Freelancing Niche

What can be both a blessing and a curse for freelancers is that they have complete control over what services they want to deliver to clients. 

The standard advice you’ll get when it comes to freelancers choosing which services to offer is to “follow your passion and the money will follow you.” But this advice ignores something fundamental to creating a successful business, which is value creation. 

People want and are willing to pay for value. This value can come in many different forms, such as your ability to save the client time, save or make them money, or make their life easier. 

What’s important to understand is that the highest-paid freelancers are the ones that provide the most value to their clients:

Next Steps: Read our guide on How to Choose a Freelancing Niche, which goes in-depth on helping you discover the highest value skills and services you have to offer. Plus, it lists four exercises to help you narrow down the best freelancing niche once you understand what you’d like to offer. 

How to Create a Freelance Portfolio

Experienced freelancers have an overwhelming advantage over most beginners. When asked by a client, they’re able to provide references, portfolio samples and client testimonials.

As a beginner freelancer, how do you compete with this?

At its core, what these experienced freelancers offer potential clients is social proof. It’s social proof that then makes the client confident they’re hiring the right person. 

Social proof is a powerful force in decision-making. It determines a lot of our everyday decisions. After all, who buys a three-star product on Amazon when a five-star product is available?

As a beginner, you might not have a long list of references or a case study that makes the client feel like you’re a great fit. However, there are still a lot of different ways you can demonstrate social proof to clients, and therefore make the client much more comfortable that they’re making the right decision. 

Next Steps: Read our guide on How to Create a Freelance Portfolio from Scratch. Here you’ll learn how to develop a website and other materials that significantly increase the chance of you getting your first client. 

How to Get High-Quality Leads For Your Freelance Business 

Having a service that delivers a lot of value, and demonstrating that you deliver that value, isn’t enough. You also need potential clients to know about what you have to offer. 

Successful freelancers have a proven method for attracting the people looking for their services, and a way to make these people interested in what they have to offer. 

The cheaper and more efficient you can generate quality leads for your freelance business, the faster you can grow. 

Next Steps: Read the complete guide: How to Get Clients Online (Guide For Beginner Freelancers and Consultants). It’s here you’ll learn how to find your ideal, high-paying clients affordably and fast. 

How to Convert Leads to Clients

You now have the client’s attention. They’ve raised their hand and said they’re interested in what you have to offer.

Your next step is to take them from “interested” to “sale.” Specifically, you need them to commit. And more often than not, that means giving you money. 

Accomplishing this is easier said than done (especially for first-time freelancers). 

Yet there is a way to approach this stage so that your prospects are excited to hire you and excited about the results they can expect to get from working with you.

Yes, this is the sales process — and it’s a core part of every freelance business. 

Sales itself has a bad reputation. But that’s because a lot of people go about it a very wrong way. 

The best sales processes establish trust between the freelancer and the client. This way, both the client and the freelancer know exactly what to expect (and what a successful engagement looks like). 

Next Steps: See our guide How to Write a Freelance Proposal to Win More Jobs and Get Better Clients. Here you’ll learn what it takes to successfully move your prospects from “interested” to “yes.”

Freelance Websites That Can Help You Land Your First Job

No beginner’s guide on how to start freelancing would be complete without mentioning large freelance marketplaces like Upwork and Fiverr. 

For most freelancers, it’s these two marketplaces where you’ll find the highest number of freelance jobs available with clients who are eager to hire. 

Of course, there is also a lot of competition on these platforms. So going about them the way most freelancers do might mean a very long uphill climb.

We’ve prepared two in-depth guides on getting started on these platforms:

If you’re considering getting started on Upwork, also make sure to check out our article 7 Expert Upwork Tips For Beginners

Next Steps: Interested in becoming a freelance writer on Upwork? See our article How To Apply For Upwork Writing Jobs, which includes real examples from one of The Ways To Wealth’s contributors who has built a highly-profitable freelance writing career on the platform. 

Niche-Specific Freelance Job Resources

Upwork and Fiverr are great starting points for many freelancers. However, there are a lot of niche-specific websites and freelance job boards that can help you find a job. 

In the articles below, we curated the best websites for finding freelance jobs for a specific niche.

How to Start Freelancing: Closing Thoughts

Gaining that first client as a freelancer is no easy task. 

But like anything that’s hard, the more you do it the better you get. And most importantly, the more power and options you have over your financial future. 

Ready to get started? Jump to our guide on choosing a freelance niche.

R.J. Weiss
R.J. Weiss is the founder and editor of The Ways To Wealth, a Certified Financial Planner™, husband and father of three. He's spent the last 10+ years writing about personal finance and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg, MSN Money, and other publications.

2 Comments

  1. Hi R.J. Weiss,

    Thanks for the great ideas you’ve shared with us here!
    I started out as a freelancer writer and now own my blog.
    I can confidently say that these tips cover a lot about freelancing.
    I must also add that Facebook groups and subreddits are good for finding jobs and recurring clients. You only have to find a group/forum related to your niche, connect with other users, and apply for any gigs posted.

    1. Hey Mike,

      Thanks for the kind words. Actually had a similar path of freelance writer turned blogger.

      Good point on the FB Groups. There are a few FB Groups in the personal finance space (most notable Fincon) with consistent work for freelancers.

      Great tip

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