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How to Start A Freelance Career 08 July, 2021   

Freelancing is becoming an increasingly popular career choice. With the desire for remote and flexible work on the rise, this type of career is the perfect option for many. Not only are companies offering an ever-increasing number of opportunities to freelancers, but there are more websites, services, and tools available for independent workers than ever before. 

Regardless of the industry you find yourself in, becoming a freelancer can be an excellent way to live a more autonomous life and to make a living doing what you love. This article will show you all the necessary steps, important considerations, and strategies you should take to begin a successful freelance career. 

Identify the Skills You’ll Be Freelancing With

It goes without saying that the skills you’re able to offer will be the driving force behind your freelance career. In particular, any abilities that are in high demand and difficult to find on the market will be paid for highly by potential clients. 

The easiest way to identify which of your skills you’ll be able to sell is to look at your past work experience. If during one of your previous jobs you were being paid to perform a particular task or duty, it’s likely that someone else might also pay you for similar work. However, you may also have other skills that you’ve developed on your own time, either with formal education, extra courses or even through self-learning. 

Our recommendation is to create a list of all your skills and to do some online research to see which ones may be marketable.  With this list, you’ll also be able to find connections between your different areas of expertise so that you can package together skills that are related in some way. Below are some of the best skills with which to start a freelance career: 

  • Writing

  • Graphic Design

  • Illustration

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

  • Video Editing and Videography 

  • Editing

  • Copywriting and Content Writing 

  • Data Analysis 

  • Photography

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) Development 

  • Translation

  • Customer Service

  • Sales 

  • Mobile App Development

  • Excel Management 

  • Customer Research

  • Social Media Marketing

  • Programming

  • Career Coaching 

  • Cybersecurity 

  • Lead Generation

  • Data Mining 

  • Digital Marketing

Create a Portfolio or Resume to Market Yourself

The most important factor in getting new clients is to establish trust. Your clients must believe in your ability to deliver your work in both a timely and quality manner. This means that once you’ve determined which of your skills you’ll be basing your freelancing career on, you’ll need to find a way to market these services successfully.

The best way to build trust in your prospective clients is by showing examples of past work that you’ve carried out within the same area. This can either be done through a portfolio or resume. There are various portfolio and resume builder options available online with which you can showcase your best projects and instill confidence in your abilities. 

If you don’t have any past work experience to show, this doesn’t have to stop you from starting a freelance career. First of all, search for any projects you may have carried out for friends or school, even if you weren’t paid for them. In the case that you don’t have these experiences, you can create some examples of your work for yourself, or as pro bono work for someone you know personally. For example, if you’re a freelance copywriter, you can begin your portfolio by creating sample ad slogans for some of the companies whose marketing you admire the most. Don’t be reluctant to get creative with this, as the more your work stands out from other freelancers, the higher your chances will be of getting hired. 

Determine Your Target Market

After having selected your most profitable skills and created a winning personal presentation, you’ll have to define exactly who you’ll be selling your services to. Here it’s important to think about your ideal clients, and what characterstics they should have. In other words, who could benefit the most from your services and who you would like to work with. 

It’s natural that this should be directly related to the skills you’ve chosen to base your freelance career upon. However, it’s important to be specific when defining your target market and to establish clear customer personas. Research what type of clients will suit your offering the best and try to determine what type of challenges they might be facing, or what objectives they want to achieve. Essentially, create a background and story for your prospective customers. 

Putting all of this information together will enable you to define clear customer personas to help guide your search for clients. Here are some examples of different client profiles that freelancers of varying industries might have: 

  • Small clothing store owners looking to grow their online presence through digital marketing

  • Mid-sized marketing agencies that want to outsource their graphic design work 

  • B2B tech startups interested in increasing their sales to a certain industry 

  • NGO’s that want to be found more easily on search engines by prospective donors

Once you’ve created these profiles, you need to research whether they’ll have the willingness and budget to afford your services. After this has been verified, it’s time to identify the actual companies or people you’ll be searching for. You can begin this process by creating a list of 50-100 ideal clients, alongside information such as their location or contact details. Don’t be afraid to be ambitious with this list, as the higher you aim, the farther you’ll reach.

Develop a Methodology to Obtain Clients

With your target clients defined, it’s time to develop a strategy to reach them. There are various methods which you can use to find new customers, and each one comes with its own benefits and challenges. Some of the most effective strategies to obtain new clients are the following: 

  • Directly outreaching to potential clients: One of the most common ways to get new customers as a freelancer is by working with clients directly. This method has the key benefit of letting you avoid additional fees from platforms that help you find work. With this type of working arrangement, you also own the relationship, which can help you extend it for the long-term as you learn more about their needs. Online research is a great way to find clients that suit your target customer profile, and you can proceed to contact them using phone, email, or platforms such as LinkedIn. A notable drawback of this strategy is that it can take a significant amount of time to find and reach out to potential clients, which can use up valuable working time. 

  • Creating subcontractor working arrangements: Another method to find new clients is by working with a larger company that provides you with freelance work. A common example of this is an advertising agency subcontracting certain creative tasks, such as graphic design or copywriting. This is a good strategy to help you find your first clients, especially if you don’t have any professional contacts in your industry. However, you’ll be dependent on your contractor for work, and they’ll keep a cut of the client fee for themselves. You might also not have direct contact with your clients, which means that it’ll be difficult to create a working relationship with them in the future without the agency. 

  • Using freelance job websites: In recent years, one of the most popular ways to find work is through freelance job websites and platforms. You may have already heard of sites such as Flexjobs, Fiverr, or Upwork, which allow you to view a large selection of freelance jobs. These websites allow you a high degree of flexibility with how you choose projects and present your work, but each one has its own rules you’ll need to abide by. You’ll also be facing some costs for whichever service you use, whether it’s through transaction costs, or by having to pay fees to bid on projects. There’s also a high degree of competition on these sites, and it can be challenging to get your first projects considering your profile will have less past work to show than others. 

  • Finding clients through your existing network: If you already have some contacts in your industry, or someone in your wider network can help connect you with prospective clients, this is an excellent way to find your first projects. One of the most important factors in building a client relationship is establishing trust, and there’s no better way to achieve this than by being referred to by someone that can attest to your credibility. This is especially true when you have little to no past work to show on your portfolio, 

Regardless of which of the above strategies speaks to you the most, we recommend utilizing more than one of them at the start of your freelance career. Until you’ve generated demand for your services, it’s best to dedicate time to each methodology to ensure you get your first projects quickly and find out what’s best for you. 

However, before you start looking for clients, it’s important that you legally register your business. The exact way to do this will vary greatly depending on the country or state you’re based in, so it’s crucial to check the legal requirements in your area. In general, this process will usually involve choosing a business name, filing the necessary legal documents to incorporate your business, and opening a business bank account. 

Wrap Up

In summary, freelancing can be a suitable career choice for a variety of different skillsets and industries. When beginning a freelance business, it’s important to decide which of your skills and past work experiences you’ll be basing your services on. Once you’ve decided this, you can create a portfolio to package these abilities, and then create a clear strategy to get clients. 

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