I’ve been freelancing since 2013. I also have a full-time day job and after office hours I do side hustle.
It helped me to work with businesses across the globe and industry experts. And in this guide, I put all the lessons and things I’ve learned so far (you’ll also find some advice from other successful freelancers).
I’m not an expert and I’m still learning like a beginner. This guide is ONLY for serious freelancers. If you want any overnight success tips, then sorry I don’t have a magic wand!
Are you ready to start reading? Promise me you’ll read the complete guide patiently.
Can you promise me that?
Raise up your hands. Great!
First, Develop a Freelance Mindset
This is the most important skill that most freelancers avoid and struggle. Being a freelancer start when you think and act as one. It will help you to become pro.
I stumbled into freelancing because I couldn’t make it any company. But I didn’t develop a right mindset so I always struggle to get the projects (even I proposed the cheapest price).
As a full-time freelancer, it was tough for me to make some number. I stopped freelancing and started looking for a full-time opportunity. And I got a good job.
After 2-3 months I started talking with some pro freelancers. And I decided to do freelancing again (as a side hustle) but this time with a right mindset.
Do you want to be a full-time freelancer? Or do you have a full-time day job like me?
Here are some points that will help you to develop a freelance mindset:
- Why do you want to be a freelancer? Any specific goal? – Be clear with your reason (whatever it is).
- Think about how you’re going to get the work? Is it Upwork or similar sites?
- Always work on signed contracts (or confirmation emails). Don’t believe promises like: “Yes, I’ll give you many projects.”
- Always ready to add some value in people’s lives and businesses with your work.
- Never stop reading and learning (if you REALLY want to become a pro).
You can start developing this mindset right now. Change the way you think about your work.
There are different reasons for freelancing, but becoming an expert is a choice.
Choose Your Niche
The most common and biggest mistake new freelancers do is:
“They are ready to take any kind of work.”
Do you do the same?
Stop doing it!
The main difference between average freelancers and pro is: Pro freelancers niche down their market.
Be more strategic about your niche and your specialty. It will help you to become an expert in a specific field.
See how specific I’m for my niche:
Let’s say, you want to be a content writer, you can get into a niche like copywriter, writing blog posts, and content marketer.
“Pawan, what if it didn’t work for me?”
Don’t Panic! This is the beauty of freelancing.
If you find it’s not a good fit for you or your pocket, you can always change your niche.
Define Your Services and Ideal Clients
There’s one thing I wish I could make early in my freelance career: What I do and What I don’t do.
You need to be specific about your service offerings. It will help you to brand yourself and paid high.
The second important thing you need to remember is: Who’s your potential client?
Ask these questions to yourself:
- Do you want to work with startups?
- What types of business you’re targeting?
- Do you want to take long-term projects? Or Paid as you work projects?
- What types of problems your services solve?
Once you define your services and ideal clients, then you can make your pitch.
Create a Website to Showcase Your Portfolio
When it comes to building a successful freelance career, your portfolio website plays an important role.
Because your website showcases your previous work, your expertise, and skills.
No matter if you’re a copywriter, graphic designer, or developer, your website is your home on the internet.
If you’re a writer, create a blog and publish the stuff there on a regular basis. Something like this:
If you’re a designer or developer, then you can put your best work there. See how Jess did this:
You can put your contact information and social media profiles (Call to Action) on your website. It will help clients to contact you easily.
To create a website, you just need two things: Domain Name and A Website Builder.
For portfolio site, I recommend using your personal name as your domain name. GoDaddy is a good choice to purchase a domain name.
What about website builder? I suggest WordPress. You don’t need coding knowledge to create your website. WordPress offers your liberty and a lot of customization.
Use The Power of Testimonials
Have you ever got praise from your previous clients?
If your answer is affirmative, then you can use these positive reviews on your website as social proofs. It will help you to increase your credibility and grab new clients.
You can also ask your happy clients to write a recommendation on LinkedIn or a short testimonial.
See how one of my friends (and pro freelancer) Abhishek does this:
Here’s a sample email that you can send to your clients:
Happy to hear your business is going great and achieving success.
I’m glad my work could add some value to your business. I was wondering if you could write a testimonial that I can use on my website.
Is that cool?
The email is short, direct, and friendly.
How Much to Charge
This is one of the most asked questions: “How much should I charge?”
I’m afraid I don’t have a specific answer to this question. There are some factors you need to look before determining your pricing.
- Your experience
- The deadline
- Type of client
- The type of work (long project or constant work)
How can you give a quote to an entire project? Let me tell you my technique:
I ask all the important details about the project (and be clear what isn’t included). Then I break it down into small tasks and calculate how much time each task will take. Then I quote the price.
I have some clients who don’t hesitate to pay higher rates if I deliver quality work to them.
Here’s one thing to remember: Know your worth and never go for cheap rates. But you need to level up your skills to justify your higher rates.
You’re Your Own Account Department
You’re the person who track your income, expenses, invoice, etc. You’re your own accounts department. For some people, it can be a nightmare. But if you organized things a little bit then it’s not that complicated.
In starting days, it was tough for me to track my income and expenses. Then I did one simple thing: I opened a separate bank account just for my freelance work money. It’s a normal saving account.
I recommend you to separate your “personal” account and “Freelance work” account.
Now talk about invoice. I send the invoice to clients before starting the project and after finishing the complete project.
You can find a simple “Sales Quote” format in Google Doc. Use this template and customize it according to your needs.
Here are some elements to mention:
- Place the word “INVOICE” at the top of doc page.
- Mention the current date.
- Clear description of the work you’re charging for.
- Your bank account or PayPal account details.
- Your signature and contact details.
Unlock the Power of LinkedIn
My LinkedIn profile has been the single biggest contributor to my success in freelancing.
LinkedIn helped me to show my voice and expertise to a big audience. I got many freelancing opportunities from here.
Use this platform to show your skills, expertise, and tell people that you’re available for work.
No matter how much you hate marketing, but you have to market yourself to get some good projects.
Just a few days back I posted this and got three BIG projects:
LinkedIn will help you to build your personal brand (it’s more beautiful than your crush). Here are some points to remember:
- Clear and professional profile picture which represent you in the best way.
- Engaging headline.
- Summary which describes you and your work. Mention the keywords and CTAs.
- Update your skills.
- Connect with the right people.
- Share content and ideas regularly on LinkedIn.
Ask Help From Your Network
Do you know there are only two ways that helped me to get higher quality and better paying freelance projects?
LinkedIn and My Network.
I never used any website like Freelancer.com or Upwork (these are the good websites to get some really good projects).
I ask my happy clients to introduce me to companies which are looking for freelancers. And they are more than happy to do that.
You can also reach out to your friends and co-workers and simply ask them to introduce you to someone who has some work.
When I read about a freelance opportunity on LinkedIn, I go to the person’s profile and do a little search if we both have any mutual connection. If I find one I just simply reach out to my friend and ask him/her to send an email introduction on my behalf. This technique is more effective than cold emailing.
See one of introductory emails here:
Start leveraging your network to land some great freelance opportunities.
Start Guest Posting On Relevant (and Popular) Blogs and Publications
You have website that shows your skills and service offerings. Now you have to build your credibility and earn audience trust.
How to do it?
Guest posting can be your best friend.
Try to get featured on relevant blogs and publications where your target audience spends the time. These blogs have a huge amount of reader base. It will you to get noticed by your target clients.
NEVER Quit Your Day Job to Start Freelancing
Are you thinking to leave your job to start a full-time freelance career?
Maybe these are your reasons:
Stuck at dead end job?
Probably you’re someone who hates Mondays?
Or hate answering your boss every day?
But you SHOULD NOT quit.
… Not yet!
Brace yourself: Beginning a freelance career can be challenging. You haven’t built up a strong portfolio and reputation in the market.
You can start your freelance career as side hustle while you’re doing the day job. I know many successful freelancers who built their businesses while doing full-time job.
What are the benefits of this:
- You’ll earn more money every month (Fixed monthly salary+Freelance Money)
- It will lead to financial security
- You make a bigger room to learn new skills and finding right opportunities.
Give yourself at least One year to build your personal brand, high quality portfolio site, have some good projects, and a steady flow of regular income.
And after that, you can easily quit your day job without taking risk.
Here are some actionable advice from some successful freelancers:
Abhijeet Kumar, Content Writer and Content Marketer (LinkedIn Profile)
There are thousands of experienced ones out there already but don’t doubt your capability, ever. It’s a big world, with space for everyone; not so difficult to find.
Now when you have found yours and want to prove yourself, remember – “As a freelancer, you don’t do things because you have to… You do them because you love to.”
When you are freelancing you can’t take the approach as if you are an employee, who does the work and gets paid.
Concentrate on building relationships instead, and that involves devoting yourself completely. Build a network, keep in touch with people, be your own salesman, but stop being competitive. A freelancer is no good without a strong community. Your social group, online or offline, knows you well and will be a lot helpful in bringing you projects through references.
And when you finally start getting work, prove your mettle. It’s never about money there. The more you focus on quality and timely performance, the better are your chances to succeed.
Priyanka Desai, Founder iScribblers
Before starting iScribblers, a content marketing agency, I was a freelance content writer for 2 years. No matter how amazing freelancing looks, it comes with its own pros and cons.
From a beginner’s perspective, the benefits of a flexible schedule, ability to work with multiple clients and the more-you-work-the-more-you-earn looks appealing. A few months into the freelance career and you’ll realize the downsides of this. They include the feeling of isolation as you work from home, the inability to stick to a routine and the irregularities in payment – becoming a part of your life.
If you’re a newbie freelancer, to save you some distress, I’ve listed down some pointers that you should take care of. Why learn from making mistakes when you can learn from the advice shared by those who’ve already been there!
Have a fixed routine – Don’t ever sit to work in a night dress. Decide a time you would dedicate to your work. Go to your desk only after getting well-dressed. Allocate a specific place in your house to work – never work from your bedroom. Not working from a desk harms your posture and back. Take breaks. Make it clear to your family members that you are not to be disturbed during your work hours.
Exercise – A healthy body makes you confident. Set aside a time where you’ll go out of the house and workout. It could be as simple as taking a walk. This becomes your chance to get out of the house at least once a day.
Sign contracts with your clients – Never make the mistake of jumping into working with a client solely based on their word. Signing a contract ensures that you and the other party, both are confident about this. You’ll notice the accountability increases. Instead of taking one-off projects, prefer having contracts with a 4-6 month commitment. This way, you would not have to look for projects every other month.
Work from a different place once a week – Working alone from home for most people becomes monotonous. Have this one day in a week where you work from a different place. This could be a café, a co-working space or a client’s office. It is your chance to meet new people and network with them, which is not otherwise possible for work-from-home freelancers. Also, a change of place and being surrounded by people is a positive experience.
All this being said, if you really want to take the plunge into being a freelancer or a solopreneur, don’t let anything stop you. You’ll learn the tricks of the trade with time.
Charu Mitra Dubey, Content Writer and Marketer (Personal Blog)
Build a Portfolio. The first and foremost thing that any freelancer would need is a portfolio. Try to curate your best online pieces at one place because your prospects do care about your what you’ve done in the past. In the beginning you can use Guest Posting to serve the purpose.
Have some patience. Be it freelancing or running a business, you need patience along with consistency to make it thrive.
Build a website. Build your website around your field of expertise. Use your niche website to build your own audience and boost your personal brand.
Hardik Lashkari, Content Marketing Evangelist and StoryTeller (LinkedIn Profile)
Here is my advice for Newbie Freelancers:
1. Don’t overfocus on choosing a particular niche. Write on whatever topics come your way. Gradually, you’ll discover one or more niches where your maximum creativity comes out.
2. Your pricing shouldn’t be proportionate to the experience; rather, it should be based on your skill set and creativity level. There is no harm in charging higher for compelling and attractive content, even if you are relatively new in the market.
3. Consume content and information through a medium that interests you most – it doesn’t have to be necessarily a book. Read blogs, browse through various Instagram and Linkedin posts, watch videos or listen to podcasts; gather new information from sources which suit you most.
Vagisha Arora – Featured In Top 10 Content Writers Of India (LinkedIn Profile)
Here’s my advice for beginners:
1. Newbies should focus on building their portfolios. At the end, the key to getting the right clients is to enhance your credibility in the market. Generating leads is easy when you have an established name in the market.
2. Explore as much as you can in writing on various niches. Choosing area of expertise is easy when you have already dwelled in nitty gritties of writing for various industries.
3. Don’t sell your creativity at a lesser price. Ask the clients the price you deserve according to your skill set.
Now It’s Your Turn
These lessons will help you in your freelancing career. I hope you find this guide helpful.
Did I miss something? Please drop it in the comment section and I’ll update the guide.