Freelancing is my favorite way to make good money, fast. If you have some basic skills, earning an extra $1,000+ a month or so from freelancing is achievable, even for beginners.
The hardest part of course is getting that first client. It takes courage to go out there with no client experience, pitch a client on your skills, and ask for money.
But every successful freelancers had to sum up the courage to get that first client.
Today we have a guest post from Lidiya of the personal growth blog LetsReachSuccess.com.
Lidiya is what I would call a successful freelancer. She’s living her goal of being location independent, has multiple income streams, and most importantly, enjoys what she does.
Her story and advice on how to get that first client is worth a read.
How To Start Freelancing Without Experience
The digital world is filled with opportunities to work from home and make enough money online to not just live well, but quit your job, travel the world, or else.
Not every side hustle is something you’d enjoy or are good at, though. If your path to self-employment is freelancing, you might worry the lack of experience in your niche or as a freelancer means you’ll never get that first client. But it’s not like that.
I started from scratch, English was just my second language, I had no Writing degree, and zero confidence in my skills. However, over time, I became a location independent freelance writer earning from my blog Let’s Reach Success (thanks to sponsored posts, mostly) and offering my services to clients as a writer.
I’ll now go back to those first steps I took that changed the game for me down the road. They are crucial to believing you can make it as a freelancer just starting out, to eventually landing not one but a few clients, then learning how to negotiate your rates, enjoy the freedom working from home provides, and more.
Step #1 – Choosing your niche and being passionate about it.
While I started with a pretty broad niche – personal development – I believe it was the passion for it that helped me publish hundreds of long-form articles on my blog.
One of the worst things is when people are determined to start something big online, set up a blog, publish a few posts, then leave it like that. They are either bored, not sure what else to write about, move onto another business idea, or else.
That means you never give your blog a chance to thrive. Although the number of blogs is growing rapidly every second, it’s still possible for anyone to build a name in their industry and gain attention.
To be honest, you don’t need hundreds of thousands of people landing on your pages daily. It’s much better to appeal to a smaller audience but to know exactly what they want and give them just that with your content. That means they will tell their friends about it, will sign up for your newsletter, will read new posts, will click affiliate links, and more.
That’s the type of website visitors you’re looking for. And what better way to get to them naturally (through organic traffic, social media such as Pinterest, or referrals) than to become the go-to guy in your field and write practical content like crazy.
That’s why the process of defining your strengths, skills, and passions and choosing a niche is key. Even if your domain consists of your name, you still need to think of a unique angle, make a plan for the content, and more.
I never felt like working when writing about personal development. Over time, I began covering mental and spiritual well-being, lifestyle design and entrepreneurship. But it was key to start with just one niche and build my writing skill by publishing a ton of content on my own platform. Which brings us to the next point.
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Step #2 – Don’t postpone starting a blog.
A huge mistake potential freelancers make is to never start a blog. While it’s possible to make it on a platform like Upwork without your own website, you’re missing out on a lot.
The benefits of having your own blog are more than we can list in one article. From having full control over a website and being able to call it your home on the Web to using it as your portfolio, growing an audience, improving your personal brand and making money on the side.
You never know where this can take you and it’s not hard at all to start a WordPress blog these days. In fact, it doesn’t need to take you more than 20 minutes to set it up, after which you’re ready to publish your first post and then plan strategically the content creation and distribution.
If you find you’re struggling with procrastination, check out some of the best tips for learning how to overcome that particular obstacle.
RJ’s note: I’ve hired dozens of freelancers via sites like Upwork. In competitive niches like freelance writing, most proposals are templated. If you have a website, even if it’s just a few pages, it’s an instant credibility builder. Here’s a detailed guide that provides step-by-step instructions for getting your first job on the platform.
Step #3 -Your portfolio is in your hands.
Most new freelancers are scared to pitch any individual, brand or business because they have no sample work to show them. You can change that.
For me, although I did have Portfolio and Hire Me pages on the blog, it was all about the articles in the self-help niche I was getting out there regularly. Then, when it was time to actually pitch my first freelance client, I simply showed them links to relevant blog posts of mine over at LetsReachSuccess.com
When that happens, they can either decide you’re the right fit for the job or move onto someone else. In both cases, you’ll know you’ve shown them what you can do about them and their business.
If your thing isn’t writing though, you still need a website. But you should also reach out to friends or even random people who seem to be interested in services like yours, and do work for free.
It could be web design, copywriting, video editing, coaching, personal finance planning, creating a business plan, virtual assistance, or else. Whatever the skill you’re about to build is, do it for free first. And not just that. Give it all your time and focus and do a great job. Because these will be your first samples and testimonials and the clients you’ll find soon will judge your expertise based on that.
Make sure you add these to your website too.
Now, you have something to show and also some experience in your niche. Which means you’re ready to land your first client.
Step #4 – Landing Your First Client
Take your time when creating a profile and use your description to not just mention who you are and what you do, but to show potential clients why you’d be a great fit for them and also give them a sense of your personality.
I, for instance, talk about the importance of web content today in my profile over at Upwork.com.
That’s because I want them to know I care about creating practical and empowering blog posts, reports, guides or eBooks. I want these to make a difference and they can. But the employer also needs to care about this, to have the budget for this, to want to provide value to their audience. If not, they probably aren’t the right fit for me.
In the beginning, however, I wasn’t confident enough to be picky. And it helped me learn a lot.
I suggest you start pitching once you complete your profile. Browse the jobs in your category, see what people are looking for and are ready to pay for, check out other freelancers too. This is similar to market research and gives you an idea of what you need to work on more to start making money as a freelancer with no experience.
Be okay with rejection. It might take a few no’s before someone gives you a chance. Once you land your first job, make sure you set the right expectations, discuss all details related to the project, and end this on good terms (unless that first client becomes a regular one). They will then leave you positive feedback and you’ll begin building your reputation on that platform.
The same goes for other websites. And while such bidding platforms have a lot of competition and people who charge less, over time you can switch to sites like ClearVoice, Cloudpeeps, Contently, Quiet.ly, and more. There you’ll be appreciated and will be paid hundreds of dollars for a job instead of just a few bucks from an employer with an unverified payment method.
One of the best things about landing your first client is to see someone believe in your skills as a freelancer. That gives you the confidence that you’ll find many more like him and will make a living from your services.
Additional Steps to Grow as a Freelancer
Master your skill.
Never assume you’re good enough at what you do. That’s where being passionate about it comes in handy. Your skill should also be your hobby, something you love to do all the time and which is your therapy. It shouldn’t feel like work.
Don’t be afraid to invest money in online courses and learn from the experts in your niche. Join mastermind groups, read guides and constantly ask yourself ‘How can I grow as a freelancer?’
Build other skills.
Don’t stop there. Many other digital skills can be a great addition to what you’re already doing as a freelancer.
As a writer, I enjoyed learning how to build a site with WordPress, optimize content for keywords, write for newsletters and social media posts, edit and format eBooks for Amazon Kindle, and more.
Now all this is something I can do for a client in addition to writing the piece and it makes my rate higher, of course. Not to mention I’m doing all these for my blog and online business and it’s fun.
Diversify your income.
Freelancing is just the beginning. It’s indeed one of the quickest ways to start making money online, but it’s also a stepping stone to many other things.
Whatever your skill is, you can begin teaching other aspiring freelancers how to get started. Depending on your favorite type of content, you can write articles about it, create a course, upload videos on YouTube or else.
If you’re truly sharing practical advice, you’ll start gaining attention. You can soon create your first digital product such as an online course, an eBook, a membership site, etc. That’s passive income right there.
Never stop working on your personal brand.
You aren’t just a freelancer now. You’re a brand. And as such, you need to always be improving your online presence.
That means being active on social media, sharing other people’s content, connecting with influencers, getting a web designer for your site, taking professional photos, and so on.
Thanks to all that, you’ll be taken seriously as a freelancer even if you haven’t been in the field for years. All this is the foundation of a lifestyle of freedom and independence. Enjoy!