One of the easiest ways to build a side business online is to get started with freelancing. While it’s not a business per se and you’ll be trading hours for dollars – it’s still an easier way to get your foot in the door when building an online income. Maybe you are wondering what is freelancing and is it for me?
So what exactly is freelancing? Freelancing is when someone uses their skills, knowledge, and experience to perform tasks and/or provide services for clients. With freelancing you are your own boss and can have as many or as few clients as you like. Freelancing is a great way to ease into starting your own business. As you gain experience and clients you may want to turn your expertise into a successful business.
There are many freelancers who make a very attractive monthly income from freelancing and travel the world while working from their laptops. To become a successful freelancer, there are a few fundamentals you must get right.
- Choose a niche
Before even learning any skills, you need to know what you’re naturally good at. Some have a flair for writing while others are artistically-inclined and can do good graphics.
Choose a niche and a skill that suits you well and you’ll not only enjoy doing what you do, but will excel at it.
- You need a marketable skill
It goes without saying that you need a skill such as writing, video creation, graphic design or one of the many skills that are in demand in the marketplace.
Your success as a freelancer will depend on your skills and your proficiency. The better and faster you are, the more income you’ll generate and the more repeat clients you’ll have.
- Not all skills are made equal
Some skills such as copywriting, running paid ads, and writing marketing emails are more in demand than social media graphic design or WordPress installations, etc. The reason for this is that people will pay more to a freelancer who can generate more profits for them.
This is why copywriters are paid so well. The same for agencies that run paid ads. The work done by these freelancers earns the clients more money – so they’re more than glad to pay the freelancer.
- It’s a numbers game
The more freelance platforms you sign up for and the more gigs you have out in the marketplace the higher your chances of getting hired.
Ask for reviews to get social proof… and offer a discount to your existing clients if they can send you a qualified referral.
Network in Facebook groups, marketing forums and other places where people will need your services. The more people who know you and what you’re offering, the better. Consider creating a profile on sites that cater to freelancers such as Fiverr. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to start a business on Fiverr with no experience.
- On time, every time
We live in a fast-paced world and people are impatient. If a client is expecting you to deliver the job by a deadline, it’s of paramount importance that you meet it. If for some unforeseen reason you can’t make the deadline, you’ll need to inform the clients.
A good personality, timeliness and integrity will serve you well when building a reputation as a trustworthy freelancer.
- Have an impressive portfolio and samples ready
Many times, potential clients will ask you for your portfolio or samples of your work. They’re trying to ascertain if you’re capable enough to do a good job.
So, you have to impress them with your past work. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Make sure your body of work speaks so loudly that you won’t need to.
- Other pointers…
The pointers above are just the tip of the iceberg. You’ll also want to study the competition, level up your skills and maybe even start a blog to attract more potential clients.
Do your research and see what else you can do to make yourself stand above the noise in the marketplaces teeming with other freelancers. Once you find your place, you’ll be able to build a profitable freelancing income in time to come.
Understanding the Pros and Cons of Freelancing
The online marketing space is teeming with marketers who need several tasks outsourced. Just about everything from graphic design to article writing is offered by freelancers to busy marketers.
As a result, many freelancers make a good living doing jobs for others and can even hit six or seven figures a year. The scene is ripe with opportunities and the astute freelancer will know which services to offer to make the most money.
While freelancing sounds great and has many advantages, it also has a few downsides you should be aware of. In order to make an informed decision, you must look at the pros and cons and see if it’s right for you.
Being a freelancer means having the freedom to accept jobs you want and ignore those that doesn’t take your fancy. This isn’t the case with other online business models.
For example, if you’re running an ecommerce store or an affiliate marketing business, there will be a few tasks that you dislike doing… yet, do them you must – in order to keep your business going. Or you could outsource the job.
Whatever the case, you’ll need to do what you need to do – unlike freelancing where you get to choose what you want to do.
If you’re a successful freelancer, you could easily run your business from a laptop anywhere in the world. As long as you have clients and the income keeps coming in, freelancing is a very viable option.
• Decide just how much you’ll work
As a freelancer, you can take on work only to an extent you’re comfortable with. If you’re crunched for time or stressed out, you don’t need to take on more work.
With other business models, sometimes the work can be overwhelming, and the demands of the business can be unrelenting.
E.g., If you’re running paid ads, you’ll need to study the numbers daily so that you’re not losing money. You can’t slack off here.
• Not really building a business
As long as you’re doing work for someone else, you’ll be trading your time for money – and building their business.
Yes, you can make a good income freelancing, but setting up other income streams such as affiliate marketing or ecommerce will help to bring in passive profits.
• Feast and famine
When you’re starting out as a freelancer, gaining traction will take a while. During this time, you may get some work… but it won’t be enough. You need time to build a list of clients so you can get repeat orders and a stable income.
Ideally, you should have a day job or at least about 6 months of expenses saved up to help cover any expenses if you don’t get sufficient work in the beginning. With time, you’ll get more work and your freelancing income will be sufficient to cover your expenses.
• Legal matters
This applies to both freelancing and online business. You’ll need to keep good records and pay taxes and so on. Unlike having a day job where the accounting is all done for you, as a freelancer, you’ll need to figure it out on your own. Make sure you cover yourself with the proper legal protections.
• Other issues
Freelancing may give you a lot of freedom and allows you to work from home or wherever you want. However, if you live alone, you may feel isolated. Unlike a conventional job, you don’t really have colleagues.
It’s you by yourself most of the time. Some people may find the loneliness of being a freelancer quite stressful.
At the end of the day, you’ll only know if freelancing is right for you when you give it a try. Choose a niche, level up your skills and start offering your services. You might find that you truly enjoy being a freelancer.
Why Do So Many Freelancers Struggle to Earn a Full-Time Income?
Being a freelancer sounds good in theory. You have the freedom to do what you want when you want. You can choose the clients you want to work with and set the prices you want.
Many freelancers are digital nomads and travel the world while making a living from their laptop. Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it?
But here’s the ugly truth…
Only a small fraction of all the freelancers online truly makes a full-time income. The rest struggle to find work, which tends to be sporadic. Some don’t even get hired.
• So, what do the winning freelancers do that the rest don’t?
For starters, they’re humble when starting off – especially when no one knows them. Charging high rates when no one knows you is a sure-fire way to sabotage your chances of getting hired.
The hard truth is that success begets success. The more work you’ve completed and the more positive reviews you have, the more people will want to hire you.
This is why the popular freelancers keep getting work while the struggling newbie can’t get anyone to hire him/her. They lack the social proof. Skills-wise, the newbie and the successful freelancer might be equally matched.
In some cases, the newbie might be more skilled than the experienced one… but no one wants to take a chance on him/her.
So, what do you do?
How’s a beginner going to get people to take a chance of them when they have no track record?
• Follow this strategy
Initially, no matter how skilled you are, if no one knows about you, you’ll need to eat some humble pie just to get the first few sales. A tiger always crouches before it leaps.
In this case, it may mean lowering your prices and offering more value which will be delivered in a faster time. While you may attract more difficult clients (since those who pay less may tend to be more problematic), what you’ll be gaining is experience and reviews.
This social proof is priceless to getting the ball rolling. When someone hires you, do the best work you can in a speedy manner. The goal is to get as many positive reviews as you can.
If your client loves your work, do ask them to leave a positive review, if possible… and maybe even send a few referrals your way.
Once your freelancing business gains traction, you’ll reach a stage where you have more clients than you can handle. If you don’t get here yet, join more freelancing platforms and open accounts there. Set up gigs so that you get more eyeballs on your services.
This is a numbers game. When you have more business than you can take on, gradually increase your rates in small increments… at intervals. Over time, you’ll reach a sweet spot where you’re charging the prices you want and getting sufficient work.
Not to mention, at higher prices, you’ll attract a better clientele and will not feel like you’re pulling your hair out to satisfy cheap and demanding clients.
This is the best way to approach freelancing. Most beginner freelancers feel like they’re too good to under-price their services initially. So, they struggle to find clients and gain momentum. The end result is that they quit and blame the market for being saturated.
Always remember that the cream rises to the top. If your work is excellent, you’ll never be short of it and join the small, elite group of freelancers that rake in six figures or more yearly.
Is Freelancing Suitable for Beginners?
This is an excellent question. There are many ways to make an income online ranging from affiliate marketing to ecommerce and Kindle publishing.
Very often, marketers tend to turn their nose up at freelancing because they believe that by trading hours for dollars, they’re not really creating income-generating assets or building a business.
However, there’s two sides to this freelancing coin. While freelancing means that you’ll be trading time for money, there are many freelancers who make a six-figure income online too… while many business owners struggle to even make a fraction of that.
Freelancing can be very lucrative if you know what to do.
• Should newbies become freelancers?
If you’re on a tight budget, freelancing is definitely a way to boost your income. Unlike business models such as dropshipping, etc. very little outlay is required to be a freelancer.
There is a plethora of freelance sites you can join and start completing gigs for money. Since a percentage of your earnings will be deducted, you won’t need to have any cash up-front.
In fact, freelancing is one of the best ways to bootstrap an online business. Use a portion of your freelancer earnings to build another stream of income. It could be affiliate marketing, product creation or an ecommerce store.
Whatever the case, now you’ll have more funds to invest in your online business. Freelancing and other business models online are not mutually exclusive. You can do both.
• What are your goals?
Some people may prefer the ‘digital nomad’ life where they travel and work from a laptop anywhere they please. Generally, freelancers tend to fall in this category and use their freelancing earnings to support their lifestyle.
If you want lots of freedom, freelancing is for you. Your personality plays a huge role here.
More serious marketers may prefer staying home and building a solid, more time-intensive business (initially). Taking on ad hoc jobs is not their idea of fun. If you’re in this category, freelancing might not be for you.
• Having a buffer
One downside to freelancing is that you have no income security (when you’re starting out). Your earnings will be sporadic and that can make many beginners panic.
The best way to overcome this problem will be to have a day job or about 6-12 months of income saved up. These funds can tide you over ‘tough’ times when pickings are slim.
During this time, you can carry on focusing on your freelancing as you build up your client base. Once you have a steady stream of regular clients, you’ll have more income security.
• You’ll learn new skills
One of the biggest benefits about freelancing is that it will force you to level up your skills so that you can compete in the marketplace. Since you’ll need to pitch to prospective clients, you’ll develop some copywriting skills too.
Furthermore, you’ll earn your first few dollars online and this will show you that you too can generate a monthly online income. Once you can see that it’s possible for you, the sky will be the limit.
• In conclusion…
Freelancing is an awesome way for a beginner to get his/her foot in the online marketing door. With all the freelancer platforms available today, you’re not only spoiled for choice, but the entire process is easier now, even if competition is more intense.
Be proactive and get involved on these platforms. Make sure you understand how to start a freelancer business and what it takes. Within 6 months, if your work is top-notch, you’ll be an in-demand freelancer who makes a decent monthly income. From there, you can decide how to add more income streams to your arsenal.
How to Get More Clients as a Freelancer
The biggest bugbear most newbie freelancers face is finding a steady stream of clients. Very often, freelancers find themselves in a ‘feast or famine’ situation. They either get several jobs at once or it’s crickets.
The constant lack of financial security can take a toll on the freelancer’s emotions. After all, it can be stressful not having any gigs when you see the bills fast approaching.
In this article, you’ll discover several ways you can get more clients for your business. Apply a few of these and you’ll see a noticeable difference.
• Ask for referrals
Be personable and friendly with your clients. Ask them to refer others they know to you (if they need your services). If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. So, ask for referrals and you just might get a few new clients this way.
• Learn more skills
The more services you can offer, the more clients you can attract. Pigeonholing yourself into just one service will cramp up your freelancing business.
If you’re a writer who specializes in writing ebooks, how about writing marketing emails or copywriting?
Give yourself the opportunity to earn more by levelling up your skills. It’ll take more work and time when you’re mastering the new skills, but this effort will yield financial rewards many times over.
• Improve your pitch
Very often, on sites like Upwork, etc. you’ll need to make a pitch when applying for a job posting. Since you’ll be competing with many other proposals from fellow freelancers, you’ll need to craft a pitch that stands out and gets attention.
Be interesting, personable and don’t follow the norm. By improving your pitch, you’ll land more gigs.
• Be proactive
Constantly network and sell yourself to an audience who is looking for the types of services you offer. Marketing groups on Facebook, forums, Instagram pages dedicated to marketing are all places where you can let others know about your services.
• Repeat clients
The best type of client is one who has already used your services and is pleased with your work. They’ll then return over and over to hire you. The lifetime value of the client will increase exponentially when your work is good and delivered on time.
It’ll be great if you can build rapport with the client and be unique enough for them to like you. Freelancers who have a good personality and go the extra mile are never short of clients.
• Build a website
Besides just using freelancer platforms like Fiverr, Upwork, etc. you can build your own website offering your services. By running paid advertisements or using free traffic generation methods, you’ll be able to find more clients.
Relying solely on freelancer platforms is short-sighted. You never want to build a house on rented land. If the freelancer platform gives you the boot because you flouted one of their vague terms of service, your business will grind to an abrupt halt.
If you have your own site, you’ll still be able to take on new clients while you assess your situation and remedy it.
Apply the tips above and it’s inevitable that you’ll get more clients. Do good work and never fail to impress them. The bar these days is so low that a reliable freelancer is a sought after ‘commodity’.
Prove yourself to be a freelancer that delivers, and you’ll have more work than you can handle, and you’ll make an attractive income.