Getting Started as a Freelancer

There are many different ways to start freelancing. One of the most common ways is to use freelancing websites such as Upwork, Freelancer, and many similar platforms. The main reason why these are a jumping board for those starting with freelancing is that they enable you to begin immediately. All you need to do is to create an account, and you can start browsing the jobs. Also, these platforms have established a reputation in the online world and already have a considerable number of clients looking for freelancers. You will simply browse the platform looking for the specific jobs or skills, and you instantly get access to a massive number of job posts that match such search query.

What most freelancers see as a drawback is the fact that you will mostly find less paid jobs on these platforms. Have in mind that this is not the rule. But the idea with clients who post ads on freelancing platforms is to find good freelancers usually at the lowest price. The whole system works like a sort of bidding, and your price quote is something that will usually influence the decision.

In addition, these platforms charge a fee or a membership. Either way, a certain percentage of the payment goes to the freelancing platform. This means that a certain fee will be reduced from your payment, and sometimes you will have to charge your clients more to be able to cover this fee. When placing a bid on a job proposal, you need to take a look at who is paying the fee. In most cases, the fee is deducted from the freelancer’s fee. For example, Upwork usually takes a 20% fee from freelancers, but the fee is reduced if you have long-term clients and reach a certain threshold regarding payments. Occasionally, there may be an additional fee for the client as well.

On the other hand, you can avoid freelancing platforms and start on your own. It might be more difficult to promote yourself and get job opportunities, but it is not impossible, and you have a lot of promotion tools to help you along the way. The main benefit is that you are completely independent. You are not at risk of getting your profile suspended out of the blue or paying extra fees. Being your own boss gives you more freedom and flexibility.

The usual road is starting with a freelancing platform, building experience, and portfolio, and eventually becoming independent. Once you have the expertise and reputation, and perhaps a couple of long-term clients, it is much easier to become fully independent.

In both cases, regardless if you choose to start with one or the other, here are a couple of things that are good to have:

Create an online profile

You should create an online profile people can check out to find out more about you. Share your portfolio as a part of the profile. Use social networks such as LinkedIn or Twitter to create your social media profiles and help you with building your reputation. You could also create a Facebook page. In general, social networks can help you interact with other freelancers, share experience and get in touch with potential clients.
Also, it is helpful to have a website. It does not have to be anything fancy or complicated. A simple website with a couple of pages, maybe with a blog if you are hoping to get writing projects or to share your best designs or photos. All of this is going to help you show off your work and advertise your services.

Choose a niche

Even though you might be willing to try many different freelancing jobs, there is usually a specific niche you can focus on. For example, design, translation, writing, web development, etc.
When you determine this field you work in, you can go even a step further and be more specific. For example, you might be a designer that only works on logos. Or a writer who writes only about a particular topic.
Even though this limits your potential contracts at first, in the long run, it gives you sort of an edge. It is like this. When you begin your freelancing career, there will be a sort of a learning curve. You will need more time and effort to complete jobs that will later become your routine. If you do more similar jobs, you will acquire this routine much faster. This essentially means that you will get better at your job. And the better you are, the better your reputation is. Of course, you will be able to charge more as an expert and someone who specialize in a certain niche.

As a beginner, you might avoid choosing the niche at first, and take the opportunity to try out many different job types. This is also a helpful approach because you will see first hand what kind of jobs you like and enjoy doing.

Determine the target clients

Having a niche and knowing precisely what you want to do is also going to be useful when determining who your clients are. While freelancing platforms mainly focus on browsing jobs, not clients, if you are starting solo, you will benefit a lot by knowing who your potential clients are. For example, those can be small or medium-sized companies. Or companies that work in a particular industry or are established in a specific location, etc. You will create a portfolio that is more effective and you will shape your approach to make it more relatable to them.
Also, you can contact the clients directly when you know you could potentially be interested in your work.

Set your rates

A lot of people are uncomfortable discussing money, especially those starting out. They do not know industry standards, they do not even know how much they are worth. However, it is something essential when starting out.
Start with an hourly rate, as it is kind of easier to decide. Try to determine an hourly rate you are comfortable with. Have in mind that the money you get needs to cover your expenses related to being a freelancer (health insurance, website hosting, etc.). Try to explore the rates in your industry and in your country.
Have in mind that rates can be quite different from industry to industry. Even if you are in the same industry, people from different countries have different rates for the same service, simply because they are adapting their rates based on the living standards. It is a lot to think about, but it is a calculation that will help you narrow down the jobs you want to pursue, and avoid wasting time on jobs that just do not pay enough. Also, your rate might be different for weekend work, working under a short deadline, etc.
When it comes to project rates, you will usually discuss the rates for each project individually. To make an estimate, you will need to have the insights into the work that needs to be done. You should also be able to roughly estimate the time you will need to complete such a project. Based on all of those, you can create your project rate.


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