How Do I Start Freelancing?

As I’m sure you’ll agree:

Freelancing is one of the most fulfilling and lucrative career options out there.

In fact, up to 60% of freelancers report high job satisfaction for the following reasons:

  1. Having a better work/life balance
  2. Being in control of your own work
  3. Being able to maximize your earning potential.

However, one of the most common questions among budding freelancers is how to get started. Should you take the time to master your skillset first? Should you focus on building up a network of prospective clients before taking the leap?

In this edition of Freelancers’ Corner, we’ve once again brought together our incredible global freelance community to break down exactly what you need to do to get your freelancing career started.

Ready? Let’s dive in!

How Do I Start Freelancing?

Vlad Savva, Music Composer in Russia

Your skills should be your first priority. When you’re a freelancer, you’re providing a service and selling your time; if there’s nothing you can do, there’s nothing you can sell.

Here, Vlad highlights the importance of building a foundation of skills and gaining a good working knowledge of your craft before making the jump to freelance work.

While your skills don’t have to be at their peak potential before you get started with freelancing, they at least need to be good enough for a client to pay you to work on their project.

Raf Tad, Animator in Armenia

Sharpen your skills first.

Raf reinforces the importance of building a solid skillset before jumping into freelance work.

While it might be tempting to start seeking paid work as soon as possible, it’s vital to make sure that you’ll be able to complete your first few paid projects to a high standard.

Jumping the gun could lead to a host of negative reviews on your freelancing profile, which could do more harm than good for your freelancing career.

Jelena Vukolic, Designer in Serbia

Just start, there is no other way. When you think you are ready regarding your skills that have to support at least minimal industry prices – create a portfolio on social media, portfolio sites, or freelance sites and just start applying for multiple jobs on different platforms.

Here, Jelena explains that while it’s important to focus on your skillset first, it’s important not to procrastinate once your skills are ready. 

One of the best ways to hone your skills is to reach out to your friends or family and take on a few small projects for free. Once you’re happy with your ability to complete a project to a good standard, you can then use the work to shop around for paid clients on freelancing platforms such as Twine.

Nikki Jain, Graphic Designer in India

You need to work towards being able to trust your gut on every decision you make. You’ll technically work more than you’d work at a regular job, but then you’d earn more too. Of course, after having your business grow, you can hire people to work with or under you too.

Here, Nikki suggests focusing on understanding your industry and becoming confident in your abilities as a freelancer.

While it might be tempting to jump straight into high-ticket work or outsource parts of a job to other freelancers, this will end up backfiring on you if you don’t have a good understanding of your industry as well as the ins and outs of freelance life.

When taking on your first few projects, prioritize learning and developing your skillset over earning a significant amount of money. By taking this approach, you can very quickly build up to higher-ticket work.

John Meiring, Animator in the UK

The best I think, is to just jump in and start working. Figuring out your methods, techniques and order of how you work. There will be mistakes along the way but that’s how you figure out the best process for yourself

John reinforces the importance of not procrastinating, but raises a super interesting point:

Mistakes are the best way to learn. 

While you won’t want to pitch for work that you aren’t experienced enough for, making mistakes is an inevitable and valuable aspect of starting your freelancing career. By making mistakes, you gain first-hand experience which can be used to improve your skillset as a freelancer.

Jake Schneider, Music Producer in the UK

You need to identify your niche; your niche is what sets you apart from other freelancers in your industry.

There’s no doubt about it:

Freelancing can be extremely competitive.

However, the more you niche down, the less competition you’ll have for work. 

For example: If you’re a music composer, you might consider niching down to indie video game music. 

Freelancers who are highly-specialized are attractive to clients for two reasons:

  1. By narrowly focusing on one subset of their field, they’re likely to be extremely well-versed in the specific needs of relevant projects.
  2. By focusing all of their efforts on one particular niche, they’re likely to be much more skilled and efficient in their work.

Remember: a jack of all trades is a master of none. 

Kyle Misko, Composer in New York

Up to you! It really depends on your skill in the area you want to be freelancer in and how confident you are in yourself as a professional. Because you should most definitely be confident in yourself.

I’d also say that learning as you go is a good strategy, and practice will almost always win over theory.

Kyle also notes the importance of getting stuck in as soon as you feel ready. 

An important takeaway is that freelancing is a practical endeavor rather than a theory-based concept. While you might know all the graphic design theory there is to know, it doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to juggle the demands of life as a freelance designer straight out of the gate.

While it’s important to gain a solid knowledge of your field before diving into your freelance career, be aware that it’s won’t necessarily compensate for practical experience in the field.

Miloš, Music Producer in Serbia

Well you can take some jobs on your hand immediately and see where that takes you, but I would suggest taking some kind of course, just to get that helping hand. I finished an advanced course in music production and I’m still not 100% sure about doing some of the jobs that people require.

To expand on Kyle’s point, Miloš recommends taking a hands-on course in your chosen field, which will significantly advance your knowledge and skillset in your chosen industry.

By investing in a highly-relevant and hands-on course, you’ll be mentored by a professional and gain a solid understanding of the core aspects of your job, which you can take forward into your freelance career.

Many courses will also allow you to specialize in a certain area, which will help you niche down your target market as a freelancer.

Justin McPhee, Animator in Australia

In order to stand out, while being good at your work is important, you need to show others that you’re good at your work, and you can deliver what they want.

Firstly, you need to promote yourself. Place your best work on a portfolio site, like Twine, then tell everyone about it. If you have no work that you’re proud of, you may wish to learn more about the work you’re doing. Or practice your skills until you are better at it.

Justin stresses the importance of not being afraid to pitch your services when winning over your first few clients. Once you’ve gained a solid foundation of skills and produced work that you’re proud of, it’s important to work on a solid pitch so that prospective clients will take you seriously.

Justin offers up a foolproof pitch strategy that’s helped him win many jobs on Twine:

  1. Greet the job poster, or if they’re an unknown user, use a general greeting like “To whom it may concern.”

  2. Who are you, and what can you do?

  3. How much experience do you have in what they are asking?

  4. How are you able to deliver exactly what they ask for? Or ask them for further details if the posting doesn’t tell you.

  5. How much will it cost them? How many times can they revise your product once you’ve started work?

  6. Thank them for reading the pitch and tell them that you look forward to hearing from them soon.

Matt Banky, Songwriter in the UK

First make sure you create a portfolio of some of your work samples; anything at all that shows you off.

I definitely advise just trying it out and learning as you go, because there’s no better way to learn. But always be open to change and always be helpful to the clients’ needs! Reputation spreads faster than anything else!

In a similar vein, Matt recommends putting together a portfolio and pitching on relevant jobs as soon as you feel ready.

He also notes the importance of reputation in the freelancing world.

Word of mouth is directly responsible for up to 84% of the average freelancer’s work. Therefore, it’s super important to make sure you’re pitching on relevant work and providing a good client experience.

Even if something goes wrong with a client project, a client will look favorably on you if you take appropriate action to rectify and learn from it. This will improve your reputation and help spread the word about your freelance career.

Yevgeniya Tyumina, Videographer in Spain

Set up a profile on a freelancing site, and at the same time read articles how to make your profile more attractive and professional. Also, your pitches to prospective clients should be solid; Not too formal, not too casual. Without a good pitch, you can miss out on a lot of good opportunities.

Yevgeniya also comments on the importance of being able to sell yourself as a freelancer.

While it’s important to have a good bank of hard skills, it’s important not to neglect your soft skills when starting out as a freelancer.

Your soft skills are essentially your ticket to winning paid work. If you deliver a badly-constructed pitch to a client, it’s unlikely they’ll take you seriously. If you neglect your customer service skills, it’s unlikely that clients will want to work with you on a repeat basis.

Florence Hill, Musician in the Dominican Republic

You need to ensure you can provide high-quality work first. Then, sign up for a freelancing platform such as Twine. Fill out your profile, add samples to your portfolio and write a detailed overview of what you provide.

Florence recommends setting yourself up on a freelancing platform as soon as you’re ready to start pitching for paid work. She also offers up some extra insight into how to make your freelancing profile stand out:

Explain important matters such as the terms for commercial rights, copyright, ownership of the project, royalties, etc. Evaluate the market by checking your peer’s profiles and prices. If you’re just starting out, make sure you aren’t charging sky-high prices work work. Once you’ve built up your clientele and are receiving more demand for your work, you can start to raise your prices. Calculate how many hours/days it takes for you to work on a particular project and check if the price per hour is reasonable for you.

And there you have it! A complete breakdown on how to start freelancing. If you enjoyed this article, why not check out some of the other segments in our Freelancers’ Corner series?

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