Ultimate Guide: How to Get Started as a Freelancer
Through the years, more people in the workforce have switched to freelancing. A global Ernst & Young study in 2012 predicts that by 2020, almost one in five workers will be freelancers. Meanwhile, Asian countries like Vietnam, India, and the Philippines are optimistic about the growth of their freelance business in the future.
Freelancing has evolved into a viable way to earn money. Aside from being their own bosses, freelancers enjoy other benefits like having a better work-life balance, getting their preferred lifestyle, being more politically active, and many more.
Seems enticing, right? Are you thinking about being one? You can!
But first, it pays to know a few things before you get started. Make some preparations now.
What to Do Before Jumpstarting Your Freelance Career
Define your goals
First and foremost, ask yourself why you want to be a freelancer. What do you want to get out of it?
- Side income to supplement what you earn from your day job?
- Being your own boss?
- Working wherever and whenever you want?
- Achieving a better work-life balance?
No matter what your goals are, it’s important that you make them clear for yourself. These goals guide you on the things you have to do: the skills you learn, and the resources you acquire as a freelancer.
Your goals are your North Star. Defining them will guide you on which way to go in your freelance business.
Determine what skills to offer
After you’ve defined your goals as a freelancer, choose what line of work you want to do.
There are many industries and skill sets to choose from:
|IT||Web development |
QA and testing
|System administration |
Data mining & management
|Design & Creatives||Graphics design |
|Audio production |
Branding & logo design
|Writing||Content writing |
Editing & proofreading
Resumes & cover letters
|Admin Support||Data entry |
|Project management |
|Customer Service||Customer service||Technical support|
|Sales & Marketing||Marketing strategy |
|Email marketing |
Market & customer research
Now, choose a field based on what you’re good at, what you enjoy doing, or what you’ve experienced doing before (in your full-time job).
Feel free to offer more than one service — as long as you are able to manage your time and projects wisely.
Prepare a portfolio and get recommendations
A portfolio showcases your work and level in skill to potential clients. It’s among the important things to have on hand – preferably on your website.
What do you add to your portfolio?
Work for previous employers or clients
If you have professional experience relevant to your chosen skill set, include the work you’ve done in the past.
You don’t need to add all of them — just the best ones that demonstrate your skills. You want to impress potential clients even with just a simple glance at your work.
Your work samples don’t necessarily have to be complete. You can even include works in progress — excerpts of your write-ups, sketches of your graphic art, wireframes and mockups of your websites, a single proofread page of a manuscript, and more.
Your work samples don’t need to be paid. You can also show passion projects, works you made in school or for internships, and other outputs that you did for non-professional purposes.
Client testimonials are powerful at building trust and credibility. They convince potential clients to hire you as a freelancer. So highlight past feedback of your work on your portfolio, and ask for recommendations on your LinkedIn profile.
Mini case studies
To prove your skills and work experience, showcase your project through case studies — records about clients you’ve helped with your services.
- Write about what problem that person was facing.
- State what you did to solve that problem.
- Indicate the results of your solutions. Make it as concrete as possible — illustrate it through tables, charts, and the like.
- If there was an increase in leads, high engagement rates, greater sales, and more, show that, too.
This gives clients a clear picture of how your skills have helped other people. If they are facing similar problems to what you’ve tackled, they’ll be sure to reach out to you.
Name your freelance business
Add a personal touch to your freelance business by giving it a name. This sets your identity as a freelancer and gives people something to use to remember you.
This business name can be as straightforward as your name, or something more creative — as long as it reflects your character.
Create a website
Once you’ve decided on a business name, create a website for your freelance business. A website establishes your online presence and makes your business more accessible.
Include in your website the following:
- An overview of your services. What should visitors know about your services?
- Your portfolio. Show people what you got! Follow the tips we mentioned above.
- Your contact details. Let visitors reach out to you if they’re interested to work with you.
- A domain name. Here’s a tip: Use your business name for this! This makes your freelance business more legitimate, which will make potential clients take you more seriously.
Decide on your rates
Figuring out how much to charge for your services is challenging. But look at the bright side. As a freelancer, how much you want to earn is definitely up to you.
How do you decide how much to charge to your clients?
One way to do it is to calculate your hourly rate. Here is a formula you can use:
This one’s straightforward: How much do you want to earn in a year?
If you’ve been in a full-time job, consider your latest salary rate as your target salary. However, if you’re starting as a freelancer or if you want to consider other rates, research on average salary rates in your chosen industry on sources like Glassdoor and Comparably.
When you work for a company full-time, you don’t worry about internet, equipment, software, and other things because your company has them all.
However, when you work as a freelancer, you have to provide all of these on your own.
This is why it’s necessary to include your costs for doing business in computing your hourly rate. That way, you get to save your target salary to grow your freelance business and save yourself the financial trouble.
Add up all of your business expenses in a year — rent, office space, equipment, software subscription fees, website hosting fees, accounting fees, advertising and marketing costs, taxes, insurance and benefits, and others you want to add.
You’d expect your clients to bill you for every hour you spent working. By standard employment regulations, that’s 40 hours in a week.
However, like every typical employee, you don’t expect yourself to work every day in a year. You’d want to take vacations. You may also get sick. There are even government-mandated holidays.
Therefore, in computing your billable hours, you have to include in the equation the days for your much-needed breaks. Here’s how to do that:
- Determine how many hours you want to work in a week. Multiply that by 52, and you get the annual working hours.
- Add up the number of holidays there are in a year, the number of vacation days you want to take, and the number of sick days you want to give yourself. Multiply the sum by the number of hours you expect to work in a day, and you get your total non-working hours.
- Deduct the answer you get from number 2 from the answer in number 1. You now have your total billable hours!
Have an emergency fund
The greatest challenge a freelancer experiences is unstable income. So it’s essential that you have enough savings for emergencies. This becomes especially helpful, at times, when you have a lull in work.
Ideally, your emergency fund has to cover three to six months of your expenses.
Keep track of your income and expenses
As we’ve mentioned, you’ll be dealing with an income stream that changes from time to time. So it’s also important that you keep track of how much you’re earning and how much you’re spending.
There are two common ways of doing it:
- Web and mobile apps. Applications automate your finances. You even enjoy features made for freelancers. These include contract creation, invoice tracking, expense tracking, budget planning, bank account management, tax calculator, and many more.
- Spreadsheets. If you prefer to customise your tracking system to your preference, spreadsheets are the viable option for you. Create your own using tools like Google Docs or Microsoft Excel or use ready-made templates on the internet.
Here are some apps and templates we recommend:
|Web and mobile apps||Spreadsheet templates|
| ||Downloadable income and expense sheet coming soon.|
Decide your work location
One benefit of being a freelancer is being able to work anywhere you want.
Want to work from home? You can. Want to work in a coffee shop or a co-working space? You can. Want to be a digital nomad and work anywhere you feel so? You can.
Where you want to work is definitely up to you. However, you do have to consider these factors:
Is the environment conducive for work?
Sometimes, home isn’t the most conducive place to work at. And you may want to have people to bounce ideas with. Depending on your needs, you may look into working at a cafe or co-working space.
Does the location have a stable internet connection?
Don’t you hate it when you feel unproductive when dealing with a poor internet connection? You need access to a stable connection, especially when you’re working freelance.
Does it have stores nearby that sell essential for your freelance business?
This especially applies to those who need materials, tools, and equipment to produce their output, like designers and creatives. Without accessible stores in your area, you wouldn’t be able to get your tools of the trade.
Is the time zone convenient for you to communicate with clients?
If your work often needs you to do conference calls with clients, it’s better for you to be in a similar time zone, where talking with them would be convenient. Ignore this if you’re a night owl or prefer working at odd hours.
Can you afford to work in that area?
Choose a location with a cost of living that fits your budget.
Market your freelancing business
Now you got most of the essentials to start a freelance business. It’s time for people to see what you got!
But of course, people won’t see what you have to offer if you don’t promote it.
Here are some ways for you to market your freelancing business:
Post in social media
With practically the whole world thriving in the digital space now, social media is key to growing your freelance business.
Publish your website and your portfolio in social media. Make sure to choose the right social media platforms and create an efficient posting schedule for your business.
Ask for referrals
If you have an existing network of professionals, all the better! Leverage their network by asking them if they can refer you to people who may need your services. In fact, ask for their recommendation on your LinkedIn profile.
Clients trust referrals from people they know. This increases your chance of scoring clients faster.
Reach out to businesses
Scout for businesses that are hiring freelancers or independent contractors, and express your interest to work for them. Present your products and services and how they may benefit them.
Send emails to as many businesses as you can to increase the chances of you getting a reply. Be patient — with the right sales pitch and hard work, the right client will respond to you.
Build a network
Network with fellow freelance professionals online by participating in forums and answering questions related to your line of expertise. This increases the chance for people to know you, visit your platforms, and check out your products and services.
Take it up a notch by networking personally! Attend events within your area that are related to your chosen field or industry. This is an opportunity for you to meet people that may work with you or even refer you to potential clients.
Ready to start your business?
With this starter pack, you’re all set on your freelancing journey! Beat the ordinary and do what you need to to make freelancing work for you.