Most people give up freelancing down the road. Only a very small portion of freelancers are successful and able to manage their living & lifestyle. So it’s very important to know the freelancing environment, the process of getting consistent work, and how to dominate your niche as a beginner.
Before I walk you through the beginner guide, let me clarify what is not freelancing:
- Freelancing is not a get-rich-quick scheme.
- It is not outsourcing.
- Freelancing is not easy.
Wait! Do not become upset yet because it’s still possible to make full-time earnings on a larger scale than you think.
Please note: this freelancing guideline is applicable to anyone who is trying to start working as a freelancer and who is seeking clear instructions that will resolve the myths. And no matter if you are a website designer, graphic designer, web developer, SEO service provider, digital marketer, programmer, content writer, etc. Anyone who is in the beginning stage can take advantage of this guideline.
Table of content
- Prerequisites of freelancing
- Choose the correct niche
- Build your portfolio
- Find clients for your freelance business
- Client source-1
- Client source-2
- Client source-3
- Client source-4
- Client source-5
Prerequisites for starting freelance work
Requirement-1: You need a computer & internet connection before you start learning & offering freelance services. It does not have to be a high-end configuration or Macbook. A simple Widows computer is okay.
But you can not expect to work from a mobile phone. Having a computer is a must for freelancing.
Requirement-2: You should have a proper mindset in order to succeed. It involves the niche, expectations & goals. I will get into it in more detail.
Requirement-3: A financial backup is also required, or at least highly recommended. Everyone is not able to fulfill this requirement but it will help you to focus on your path more precisely.
It takes time to land jobs in the freelance market. This time differs from person to person and on average it’s 3 to 6 months. Also, there is no consistency in getting jobs at the beginning stage.
Moreover, if you’re thinking to leave your day job for freelance work, financial backup is mandatory for you.
These are the prerequisites of starting freelance work that no one tells you. Especially, requirements 2 & 3. I learned these things hard way when left regular jobs and started freelancing. Luckily, you don’t have to make the mistakes that I made in the past.
Choose the correct niche for your freelance work
Many newbies do a common mistake when it comes to choosing the niche or field of work. Their highest priority is the rate of work.
For example, if programming has the highest rate, then they will start programming. If graphic designers earn the most, then they will go for graphic designs. And so on and so forth.
However, this is the first big mistake that may hold them back from freelancing and most of them will quit down the road.
As I said earlier, freelancing is not easy because the market is super competitive. And every day new freelancers are joining the industry.
So in order to succeed in freelancing, you have to put your highest effort into the learning path. And this is why you need to keep a good mind-body relationship.
Otherwise, you’ll feel bored and lose interest in the subject matter. If you need brainstorming then you can take an idea from this list. Also, feel free to pick a niche that doesn’t exist on the list.
So my recommendation is to choose a niche that you love & enjoy working in. Keep in mind that every sector has its own potential. The rate (earning) depends on the level of your expertise and not on the niche. As an example, you’ll find many people working in the same field but their working rate is different. And this is mostly because of their level of expertise.
Build your freelance portfolio
Every freelancer should have a portfolio website to showcase their past work samples and landing jobs. It creates trust and gives your prospects a chance to explore your competence.
But you may think that why beginners should have a portfolio while they don’t have any past experience.
In reality, you can still create work samples and showcase them in your portfolio. And even you have no experience working with real clients.
If you’re a website designer or developer, see this post to learn how to showcase your portfolio when you have no experience.
But if you’re in a different niche, create some real-world projects and upload them on your portfolio website. Those projects could be writing articles, designing logos, optimizing websites for search engines, or anything else depending on your expertise.
Luckily, you don’t have to buy a template or theme to build your portfolio website. I have created a portfolio template that works for any niche. All you have to do is replace the demo texts, photos, pricing, sample projects, etc. It’s a giveaway for my readers and beginner freelancers.
The first button will take you to the portfolio template where you can see the live demo. And the second button will take you to another post that will show the setup guideline. And you will find a downloadable link to the template.
Find clients and start to offer your freelance service
You have chosen a field for work, you have a portfolio to showcase your experience. Now it’s time to find some clients who need your service. And this is one of the most challenging parts of the whole cycle.
Keep in mind that you have to reach out to the right person at the right moment. Instead of bombarding all over the internet, you have to find the persons who need your service and who are willing to pay for it.
There are a couple of ways to find your prospects and clients. Let me help you with a couple of them.
Client source-1: Local businesses on Google Map
It’s one of the biggest platforms where you’ll find a lot of clients that you may not be able to handle. However, most freelancers ignore this hot client source, and even many of them know about it. But you can take this advantage.
Go to Google Maps and search for businesses that may need your service. Every business has a pin on Google Maps and after you click the pin, you’ll see the detail of the business. Such as their phone number, website, location, etc. Not all businesses have sufficient information on the map but you can find their email or phone or contact detail easily on the internet (search).
Create a spreadsheet and keep information about your prospects. Reach out to them one by one and take notes for each prospect. Not everyone will convert but you can expect a 1/10 conversion rate.
I recommend you to find businesses within your local area at first. Because there are reliability and trust factors. Especially, it’s recommended for newbies and when you’re just getting started with your freelance business. For example, if you live in the US and if you pitch a client/prospect who lives in Japan, the person may be afraid to deal with you.
Client source-2: Linkedin connections
I did not mean only the job posting on Linkedin. You can build a professional network and pitch the right people within your contact & even up to 2nd level connections.
Linkedin is totally different than any other social media platform. It’s a place where people connect with each other only for the sake of professionalism. However, there are people who don’t understand the platform and create unnecessary content (post) that is not aligned with the platform.
But you know the sole purpose of Linkedin and start building your own network. After you connect similar persons within your skills, you will find suggested people that may be your future clients.
However, a professional profile does matter on Linkedin. Especially the title, photo, description, projects, etc. You can also take skill assessments (tests). If you do not pass, Linkedin will not show the results to the public but if you pass, other people can see it.
After you complete work with a client, don’t forget to ask them for a recommendation (review).
Those recommendations will attract more clients and make your profile heavyweight. However, don’t misuse this opportunity, otherwise, it will cause problems getting clients from Linkedin. It’s better to have 2/3 natural reviews instead of 50 biased reviews from friends & families.
Client source-3: Facebook pages
Many of your prospects have business pages on Facebook. And you can search for related business pages and reach out to them.
On the screenshot below, you see that we have the option to search & find Facebook pages for specific terms (keywords), locations, etc.
I personally don’t like to use Facebook, nor do I spend too much time on it. But when it comes to finding clients, the Facebook business pages can be a good source.
However, do not expect a prompt reply from the Facebook pages. Typically those people reply within a week. And this time may vary in your case.
Client source-4: Freelancing websites
Freelancing websites already have a hot client base. At the beginning stage of freelancing, you may or may not receive direct clients too early. In most cases, it takes a couple of months.
So in the meantime, you can join freelance marketplaces like Toptal, Upwork, PeoplePerHour, etc. Actually, there are lots of them and I don’t even know all their names. But try to avoid Fiverr because it’s one of the worst freelance marketplaces among the popular ones. However, it’s my personal opinion and review depending on practical experience. But the choice is always yours.
Since the freelancing marketplaces already have existing clients who are ready to hire freelancers, so it’s easy to land jobs through their websites. While I say easy to land jobs, it compares to your direct/personal communication at the beginning.
At the early stage, you do not have enough reputation. On the other hand, freelance marketplaces offer escrow protection. So the buyers feel safe keeping their money in escrow rather than in a stranger’s hand. That is why you can try the freelancing marketplaces at the beginning and keep focusing on your own client source.
If you don’t know the freelance marketplaces will take a 20% commission from your hard earnings and give you the rest of the money to your pocket after 2 weeks. It’s something you should be mentally prepared for.
Client source-5: Your personal website
Do you remember I discussed your portfolio earlier? And this could be the main source of getting clients regularly.
In the beginning, you started only with the portfolio. But if you keep improving your portfolio website and add more pages/posts, this will grow your total website day by day. Once you have enough traffic to your website, you’ll get clients from it consistently.
In this context, enough traffic does not mean a large number of random visitors. Those should be targeted people who may have buying intent. This will depend on the type of content you write on your website or blog.
So it’s important to know your prospects & clients and create the content they are looking for.
Getting clients from your personal website generally takes a year. And even you write content regularly. However, you get those clients organically and without spending money on marketing & advertisement. It starts but does not end until you keep maintaining your website. So it’s the best option to find clients for your freelancing.
To wrap up
Freelancing gives you financial freedom and brings peace of mind when it is done in the right direction. Many people start working in the wrong field which holds them back from making progress in their careers. And sometimes they give up and try another field of work. But now you know why it’s important to choose a niche before you start freelancing.
Do not forget to mention the portfolio link when you contact a prospect. A portfolio can help you to land jobs quickly. Because it creates trust and your buyer can see the benefits of hiring you. And if you keep improving your portfolio website, it will become the most reliable client source for your entire freelance career.
Thre are a couple of sources & ways that you can use to get clients. The earnings on freelancing marketplaces are not consistent and it does not have any reliability. Moreover, they take a 20% commission and give you the rest of the money after 14 days. Though you can work on their platform when you start freelancing at the beginning. But keep your eyeballs on the direct clients.
If you made this far and follow the guideline, you will be able to start freelancing properly and avoid most of the mistakes that other beginners make.