Starting Your Own Business as a Freelancer: A Step-by-Step Guide

Gone are the days when a degree and a job in a large corporation were enough for a successful career. Nowadays, a significant portion of today’s workforce in several countries consists of independent freelancers with occupations that can be performed online. While experienced freelancers can handpick their assignments, novices may prefer the flexibility that comes with freelancing as they fear getting laid off in a permanent position. This post is a beginner’s guide for aspiring freelancers, covering essential topics such as the suitability of freelancing, pricing strategies, job hunting, and necessary skills to thrive in the field.

Opting for freelancing as a full-time career requires careful consideration as it might not be suitable for everyone. It is always advisable to try part-time freelancing while still holding down a job before making the final decision. It is also advisable to secure a few projects in advance to avoid any gaps in income. Understanding the common myths about freelancing is crucial for making a well-informed decision.

Freelancing is a profession that should not be treated as a hobby but as a serious business. As many established freelancers started working part-time in their field of interest, this can be an excellent way to start a career, but it demands professional dedication. When serving clients, it is essential to respect their requirements and complete the work as agreed upon. Not taking the job seriously may jeopardize a freelancer’s professional reputation, leading to failure.

Compared to regular employees, freelancers typically work longer hours as they need to handle extra responsibilities like self-promotion, juggling multiple assignments at once, and negotiating fees. However, in exchange for this dedication, they enjoy more financial flexibility and independence in their work-life balance, and they have the potential to earn higher incomes.

Unlike a regular job where the emphasis is on showing up every day, as a freelancer, you are valued as an individual asset and must be utilized efficiently by businesses. This new approach can bring recognition, but it also requires demonstrating the necessary quality and volume of work to justify your fees. The old norm of being just another employee with a fixed salary, irrespective of productivity, no longer applies.

One of the biggest challenges of freelancing is that you need to proactively search for clients to get paid. While seasoned freelancers have mastered this art, novices oftentimes need to apply for assignments, demonstrate their skills and wait for approval. Although some experienced freelancers can select their projects, beginners usually have to persevere and build their reputation from scratch, sometimes by offering free work initially as a way to establish their portfolio. If you are determined to succeed, you should follow the tips for success in the field.

Gather Adequate Resources, Including Hardware and Software

While it may be tempting to use a smartphone for all your work needs, it is not the most practical option as a freelancer. To carry out your work successfully, it is crucial to have a laptop or desktop computer with a larger screen, a dedicated keyboard, and better processing abilities for more sophisticated assignments.

Software is a core requirement for freelancers, as important as the hardware they need. Below are some examples of software essential for success:

  1. Software and Time-Tracking Apps

    Freelancers rely on platforms such as Bonsai and Top Tracker to keep track of their projects and the time they spend on them. This is particularly valuable for those who charge by the hour, as it generates reliable records of their productivity.
  2. Efficient Communication Platforms

    Slack is a popular communication platform for freelancers to collaborate, although Skype and Google Hangouts are also reliable alternatives that can help reduce unmanageable email chains.
  3. Cloud-based Data Storage

    As a freelancer, you can store and share client and project files securely using cloud storage services. Google Drive is a recommended choice as it offers the convenience of associated programs that can be used to edit files, like documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, making it a versatile mobile workspace. There are also other options, such as Dropbox, that are available.
  4. Websites Offering Digital Learning Programs

    This is particularly useful for beginners who are looking to enhance their skills and for instructional freelancers who offer their services, often for a fee. Additionally, tools such as password managers, online compilers, multimedia editors, and others can come in very handy.

      Earn Money as a Freelancer by Acquiring Marketable Skills

      It is crucial for freelancers to consider that the skills and knowledge they possess right now may not have been there when they first started. Identifying a specialization that suits you best, either because of your expertise, interest, or market demand, is vital to lay a strong foundation for your career.

      Programming freelancing is gaining popularity. Regardless of your specialization, whether it be web development, app development, UI/UX design, or game design, there are job opportunities available due to the intensive learning curve required to become proficient in these fields. As a new freelancer, being open to learning new skills is essential as certain jobs may demand specialized knowledge. It is worth noting that the video game industry has come under criticism for its reported toxic work culture, long working hours, and high stress levels. In contrast, independent or smaller firms are obliged to manage a competitive market and take on a significant workload.

      Freelancers with writing skills can avail themselves of various opportunities. Writing content for websites, e-books, blogs, and other digital platforms can be a lucrative source of income for freelance writers. Content creation can take various forms such as academic writing, technical writing, or marketing copywriting, with SEO being a widely employed technique in digital marketing. In essence, freelancers with a flair for words can tap into a plethora of writing-related opportunities. These could include producing blog posts, essays, or other forms of copy.

      Data science and analytical positions are in high demand and require proficient knowledge of mathematics. While Microsoft Excel may suffice for technical needs, it is beneficial for freelancers to have familiarity with various database management tools. As these roles are centered around data analysis, they can be more accurately defined as financial positions rather than purely technical ones. To learn more, check out our blog post on the role of RFID in medicine.

      Freelancers in the design industry have various opportunities to select from, including product designers, logo designers, web designers, animators, and illustrators. Professionals in product design, web design, and logo design must be skilled in the relevant design software, while those in animation and illustration require a good understanding of front-end design. Therefore, it is crucial for designers to possess both technical aptitude and creativity to succeed in this industry.

      Let’s move on to our second main topic and talk about the ideal online platform for finding freelance work – the freelancer workplace. The first step in creating an online presence is to establish a LinkedIn profile. With many organizations present on this networking platform, it is a primary source for individuals seeking freelance work outside of specialized platforms. Apart from the networking opportunities, many employers who don’t use paid platforms also advertise on LinkedIn, making it a great option for finding online employment.

      If you are searching for freelance work beyond your current area of expertise, it can be advantageous to explore opportunities beyond popular platforms like Upwork. Although these platforms can benefit seasoned professionals, they may be challenging for new entrants due to high competition. While specialized sites can offer prospective options, it is worthwhile to investigate alternative platforms conducive to your skillset.

      Enhance Your Freelancing Skills

      Freelancers understand that gaining practical experience is the best way to acquire new skills. Before pursuing experience, having a solid foundation and skill set is essential. Taking charge of one’s own learning and development is a crucial step in gaining or acquiring the necessary abilities. Many e-learning websites also function as a freelancing platform. Although courses may be perceived as an added benefit, they are typically of high quality. Moreover, various courses are available online through platforms like Udemy and SkillShare for a fee, which may require membership. Alternatively, one can access numerous free courses and resources on YouTube, requiring only internet access and any necessary equipment.

      Depending on the task’s nature, different strategies offer unique benefits to freelancers. Diverse writing styles, incorporating visuals, and mastering WordPress are a few approaches writers can adopt. Similarly, freelance programmers can pursue learning new languages or expanding their knowledge of existing frameworks and libraries for existing languages.

      Take Action to Demonstrate Its Effectiveness

      Creating a showcase of your best work in a portfolio is crucial when pursuing a career as a freelancer. A portfolio can start from as early as your internships throughout college till your graduate studies, during which you can take on projects that highlight your skills. Including college-level work in your portfolio is also advisable. Freelancers should keep their portfolios current, as it is often critical when applying for higher-paying roles in the future. For example, developers can feature their projects in their portfolio to showcase their expertise, while writers can submit guest articles. You can also create your own website to display your abilities. In the beginning, new freelancers may need to charge less and focus on building their clientele. In rare instances, experienced yet undiscovered contractors may offer to work without compensation for the sake of experience and exposure.

      Determine a Pricing Strategy and Budget

      When starting as an inexperienced freelancer, it is crucial to price your services appropriately for clients. Establishing a clear financial objective is critical before commencing your search for customers. When creating a budget, you must determine whether to use a fixed rate or an hourly rate. A fixed rate can be quoted to clients irrespective of the time needed, while an hourly rate can be adjusted to account for any work that needs to be redone. Alternatively, setting rates provides more flexibility when allocating time to various tasks.

      When formulating a budget for a project, a typical approach is to assume a standard 40-hour workweek. The total project cost can be determined by multiplying it with a multiplier of two or three and dividing it by 40 hours. It is advisable to research what comparable professionals are charging for similar work on freelancing websites such as GlassDoor and LinkedIn. If required, clients can be consulted to determine a project’s pricing, and negotiation can be initiated.

      During negotiations, start by proposing a reasonable rate with an additional 10% premium. If the project cost must be reduced, agree to do so but ensure that the rate remains greater than the original sum. Do not undervalue your services in an attempt to secure the job, as this could result in losing a more profitable opportunity.

      Lastly, ensure that the cost of any extra work is discussed beforehand to avoid non-payment problems that may arise due to scope creep.

      Establish Your Presence to Potential Clients

      Developing digital proposals, presentations, or brochures can allow you to showcase your abilities and promote yourself to prospective clients. These mediums must incorporate crucial information such as job description, your freelancing approach, timeline, and cost estimates.

      Although freelancing platforms can aid inexperienced workers in streamlining the job application process, submitting a CV is still a common requirement. This is particularly true for freelancers seeking positions in unrelated fields at international organizations. Assembling a CV that is neither too simplistic nor too detailed can be difficult. Without a well-crafted CV, many capable freelancers may fail to secure an interview. There are tools, such as resume-editing services and pre-designed templates in Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and other software, that can assist in creating an impactful resume.

      It is highly probable that a video interview will be necessary; therefore, it is advisable to verify that your video conferencing abilities are current, examine the client company, and present yourself in the best possible light to make a favourable impact on the clients.

      Works wishes you all the best!

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