Freelancing can be an incredibly rewarding way to make money online. But it can also be quite difficult if you don't approach it in the right way.
It takes more than a stable internet connection to make a living as a freelancer. In order to make the big bucks, you’ve got to put in your time and know your stuff when it comes to selling your services.
In fact, there are quite a few things that most freelancers don’t even do that could save them a bunch of money. This article covers some of the most efficient ways for you to get started as a freelancer, and how you can hit the ground running right from the beginning.
Is freelancing right for you?
This is the gig economy!
The future of freelancing looks bright – and not just in regards to national workforce growth. The number of self-employed workers has grown steadily over the years, and at a rate higher than employment growth for employees.
It’s estimated that by the end of 2021, 42% of the American workforce will be freelancing.
As someone who has worked both as a freelancer and an in-house professional, I know that things aren’t always as straightforward as they might first appear.
I’ve never known anyone who went from having no clients to lots of clients overnight. It takes time to gain the confidence of potential clients and win their trust.
And if you want to work with big companies or internationally famous people, this process is even harder.
Make sure you want to work for yourself
Firstly, you need to be independent. The nature of freelancing means you’ll be working for yourself. If you’ve never worked in this way before, it can be a tough and isolating experience.
It takes a lot of time and effort to deal with the demands of running your own company, so you need to be an independent worker if you want to succeed.
Whether you’re a web designer, developer, or content creator, you have the opportunity to work on projects that you truly care about. And you'll get both the praise when something goes right, and the blame when it doesn't. Either way, if you’re a freelancer, then every outcome is a direct result of your efforts.
The flip side of being self-employed is that you have no one to rely on but yourself. There’s no one to assign tasks or remind you when they’re not completed.
At the same time, you need to market yourself. But how do you do this and still have the time to work on the actual assignments that you love?
How to Find Freelance Clients
Many new freelancers underestimate how important marketing is to getting hired as a freelancer. To some degree, you can make yourself look more professional and respectable by taking the time to show potential clients how you do business.
It’s not just about drawing up a few mockups, sending them to a client, and waiting for the cash to roll in. Craft, creativity, and promotion are all equally important when it comes to being a successful freelancer.
We could talk all day about the best practices for achieving success as a freelancer—or even the way to use tools like LinkedIn effectively.
But today, I wanted to provide you with specific ways to get more freelance clients, whether you’re just starting out or are looking for new approaches.
Network with other people in your industry
Your potential client pool is probably much easier to access than you think.
Don’t just ask your friends and family for work – this is a good way to burn bridges and to get into the habit of waiting for others to give you work.
Instead, engage with people in your industry and come up with ways you can help each other out. Maybe your colleague from your first job needs some voiceover work done on their podcast. Recommend yourself for the job. And if they say no, offer to record it for free as a special gift for helping you out.
Even if you don't know people in your industry in your city, search for them on LinkedIn and start getting in touch with people in that network—even if it isn't local. Ask them if they know anyone looking for a freelancer or if they have any advice for finding clients. You might even make some new friends!
This offline-to-online connection will put them in a prime position to be your advocates.
If they know of any opportunities, or if they have advice for finding clients in your field, you can bet they’ll pass it on to you, and likely with enthusiasm. And who knows—they might even hire you on the spot for a project once they know that you are freelancing.
Cold calling best practices
Cold calling is still a viable lead generation tactic, second only to social media. For example, during 2019, 69% of buyers report accepting one or more cold calls.
I know, many people will say that the number of organizations that actually do it are few and far between. But what they fail to recognize is that this is where the opportunities are hidden – the ones not being addressed by your competition.
If you plan on using this technique during your sales process, you need to get over your fear of rejection.
All you need is someone to practice with. Then ask them to give you mean criticism, without any tact or sugarcoating, for something you’re seeking from them. It can be a critique on a product idea, a pitch, your blog post, your haircut — whatever.
Remind yourself of the great testimonials you already have and move on to the next call.
Initially, you can think of a cold call like a job interview, making it easier to stay on track with the prospect and avoid going off on a tangent about your business. By prospect, I mean anyone you communicate with who has not requested information from you or your organization.
The only way you can get better at cold calling and closing sales is to keep doing it over and over again.
Writing effective cold emails
Cold emailing is exactly what it sounds like—contacting people you don’t know without any introduction. You’re putting yourself out there by putting your reputation on the line. Cold emailing gives you the ability to connect with anyone, but it can also put you in uncomfortable situations where your messages are not welcome.
Cold emailing has been a controversial undertaking for a very long time. Every now and then, an article comes out about how you shouldn’t be doing it at all.
However, cold emailing is a solid way of leaving your mark in the business world. There is a fine line between spamming people and giving them a good offer that they cannot refuse.
In order to generate the most response from cold emails, there are certain things you need to keep in mind.
Build a connection before selling to your prospect.
Not every recipient will be familiar with what you do or who you do it for, so give them some background information about your company or service.
If you’re writing to them because you want to provide them with some sort of solution, identify what problems they might be facing and explain how you can help.
Do your research.
Especially during the earlier stages, you need to choose your clients carefully. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that something that works for one type of client will work for another.
When it comes to your prospect, you should know as much as possible about them. If you understand who they are and what their interests are, you can strike up a conversation that will give off the impression that you know all there is to know about them. Just don't go overboard.
Introduce yourself as the solution to their problem.
You’ve heard it before: “People don’t buy products, they buy solutions to their problems.” Well, no matter what you’re selling, the prospect is going to ask, “How is this going to help me?”.
You can also try creating a list of their pains and the ways you can solve them if they choose your product or service. Make sure that your product or service is something that will genuinely benefit the customer and that the customer needs.
Collaborate with other agencies or freelancers
As you begin working on your own, you’ll go through growing pains. No one can deny that. But moving towards becoming a freelancer allows you the chance to have control over your time, your projects, and your future.
If you miss working in a team, you can always collaborate with other freelancers or agencies. You need to create a network of freelancers with different skills. While you have your favorite writers, designers, or social media marketers, think about new people who might provide great value for your business and vice versa.
As any professional freelancer or agency knows, the best way to collaborate with other freelancers and agencies is by establishing good relationships.
These ties can help you in furthering your career and in doing your work in the most efficient and productive manner possible. But in order for you to collaborate successfully with other freelancers and agencies, you should take into consideration the following tips:
Learn as much as you can about them.
Working with a collaborator is a great way to get a project done to a high standard, but it’s important that you choose the right person. Asking someone to work with you can be a little daunting, especially if you don’t know them personally at all, so it’s best to have some information about them beforehand.
Use the same collaboration tools.
You might be working in a completely different field and collaborate with someone who is miles away and in an entirely different part of the world.
The technology that we use every day can bridge that distance and make it easier for you to communicate and form the bonds that will define the way you work together. Make sure that you both work with the same tools to maximize efficiency.
Always ask for feedback.
Whether you’re collaborating with an agency or other freelancers, it’s important to continuously give and receive feedback. This should never be seen as criticism or a personal attack. It’s simply feedback on how you worked on the project. The person you worked with may even have ideas on how they would work differently in the future too.
Join popular marketplaces
There are many freelance platforms where you can win projects and make a lot of money.
However, before signing up with any website, you must do some background research on whether or not they are legitimate. By making a comparison of the best freelance marketplaces, you will be able to find a trustworthy platform for freelancers.
Here are the top 3 freelance platforms that are vetted by thousands of people:
Option #1: Upwork
Upwork is an online platform that allows freelancers to publish their skills and employers to search for the right person for the job.
It lists some 3 million freelancers across more than 100 different categories, some of whom will be capable of handling more complicated projects than others.
Its clients also spend at least $5,000 per year.
The users can set out their hourly or daily rate, experience levels, relevant skills and what languages they speak. The employer then selects freelance candidates and can use an instant messaging tool to chat with them directly through Upwork. After a fee is agreed, everyone moves on to Upwork's secure payment system.
Option #2: Fiverr
Fiverr is an online marketplace where you can sell any kind of service for $5. Though they started as a place to find simple tasks, Fiverr has become competitive with freelancer services that charge anywhere from $50 to thousands of dollars for projects.
Option #3: People Per Hour
PeoplePerHour (PPH) is one of the largest freelance marketplaces in the world, with over 2.5 million users and 400,000 freelancers. It brings companies and independent professionals together for projects ranging from graphic design to programming and writing.
No matter which marketplace you choose, make sure it suits your needs and services.
Becoming a freelancer can’t happen without its uncertainties, and there are roadblocks along the way to watch out for.
But don’t let that put you off, because it’s well worth it in the end. Allow yourself to be inspired by other freelancers and learn from their mistakes.
If you can do this, you’ll be well on the path to greater success with your freelancing career.