Freelancing: What You Need to Know

Before you get into freelancing, you need to know what to expect and how to succeed.

Published on September 30, 2019

Freelancing can be a great way to earn money, whether you intend to take it on part-time or full-time, but it can be tough to get started. When you’re considering freelancing, you should ask yourself a few questions first. What brings you to freelancing in the first place? What are you skilled in? Is it enough to turn a profit? How much of your day can you freelance? Answering these questions will help you determine the path you should take as a freelancer.


Consider your reason for freelancing

You might look towards freelancing for a number of reasons. Some of the most common reasons are to bring in another source of income, to escape burnout from traditional work, or because of a particularly strong skill set in a field suited for freelancing. Determining what you want to do is an important distinction to make, because it’s not an easy job, so you should be sure you’re going into it for the right reasons. Often, you won’t be able to entirely support yourself with freelancing right away. If you’re looking to exit your traditional job, you should hold off and build your side career until you feel confident that you will be able to freelance full-time.


Assess your skills

Have you already determined what services you’ll sell? If you still need to determine what you want to do, consider your past experiences and how they can help form your career. Years of experience in your area of expertise are great to communicate. Your past experience doesn’t necessarily need to define your freelancing career, but it can give you something to reference when taking on new clients. If you’re diving into something entirely new, take on projects for free or build your own projects to get experience and share your finished projects in your portfolio. 

Once you’ve decided on the service you want to provide, or if you already know the work you’d want to do, the key to your success will be whether you can provide something unique or do something better than your competition. You might also get ahead by offering higher quality and a lower price. Potential clients will want to see examples of your work to determine whether the price you list matches the work that you can do, so a well-crafted portfolio will also factor in to your success. 


Know your availability

Determining how much time you can spend each day freelancing will help you decide whether or not you can be fully sustainable without another job. If you’ll only be available after work and on the days you have off, you can certainly begin building a presence on major freelancing websites and start reaching out to potential clients, but be careful not to take on more than you can complete in the time that you have off. Also consider your free time; just about all the time you have will be spent either at work or building up your career. Eventually, after you’ve found success as a freelancer, you can start getting your free time back – and you may have more than ever before – but know that it comes at the cost of losing the free time you have now.


Be realistic about your freelancing career

Freelancing sounds great on paper. You can set your own schedule, earn a sizeable profit, and even work from home if your trade is digital. It can be rewarding, and it’s a good fit for many people – but to succeed, you need to remember your responsibilities and overcome the stress that can come along with being your own boss. You’ll be responsible for finding your own clients and projects, and you’ll need to manage your time to make sure each customer is happy. When you’re just starting out, it’s a good idea to take on as many projects as you can reasonably complete, even if it means working more than you’re comfortable with initially. The first stage, where you build your reputation and establish a few repeat customers, is the most difficult. To move on and develop your freelance career, you’ll need to win people over and sometimes work at your maximum capacity. 

Building your reputation and winning people over is all a part of marketing yourself. It takes awhile to get trusted on any freelancing site – you’ll need positive reviews and ratings, as well as an enticing profile and portfolio. Be sure to include samples of your work and any relevant contact information so that you can answer questions as they come through. You should also set a standard of quality for your work and always meet that standard, because negative reviews can be extremely detrimental to your business. You have to be really good at what you do to keep people coming back, so setting your standard and meeting it is the only way to build your reputation and succeed.

When you start building your business, you also need to be honest with yourself in determining the value of your service, which goes back to assessing your skills. The best thing you can do when setting a price for your service is research what other freelancers in your field are charging and the quality of their work relative to that price. You should compare your work with others in your field and allow that to determine your pricing. You don’t need to undercut your competition, just use their pricing as a guide and think of the most suitable price for your service. As your ratings go up and you become more experienced, you can use that opportunity to raise your price as well. 

If people find your service to be overpriced for the work that you do, they’ll likely turn to a different person, which poses another difficulty: other freelancers are quickly accessible. When a potential client thinks they can find better or cheaper services from a different freelancer, they’ll move on to someone else. If you’re looking for work on some of the major freelance websites, your profile can also get lost in the flood of featured users. People who have used these sites for longer will appear more prominently and will have established themselves with reviews and their portfolio work. This can make it tough to rise up to the top, or even find any clients when you’re just starting out.


Weigh your options

Among the most popular options for finding freelance work are Fiverr, Upwork, and Freelancer.com. Freelancer.com and Upwork allow you to search for various roles and apply. Freelancer.com uses a bid system, where different freelancers offer their help at their price, and whoever owns the project can select from the bidders. With Fiverr, people seek out your help by finding your profile and portfolio.

If you’re looking for something you can do more immediately, you can look towards gig work platforms like Uber, Lyft, and Grubhub. Although it may not be the work you’d be most interested in and it may pay less than you’d want, you’ll have the same flexibility as any other freelancer. You can determine your own schedule and you can start getting work immediately without creating a portfolio of work or building a reputation.Think back to why you wanted to start freelancing in the first place – if it’s because you need extra cash or want to get out of the traditional employment world, you can get a quick start with a gig work platform. You can also use gig work to support you as you’re just starting your solo career in the field you’re most passionate about.

If delivery and driving jobs aren’t for you, you can also look towards tilr for more traditional short-term employment. tilr offers jobs in customer service, warehouse, general labor, and other fields through a mobile app. When you’re first building your solo career, you can pick up positions on tilr to make money in a field you’re comfortable in without taking on permanent employment. This can help you be more flexible as a freelancer while maintaining a steady source of income.

If you’re considering freelance work that isn’t entirely digital, it can be a lot harder to get your start. If you don’t already have people in mind that would be interested in your service, you’ll likely need to do some advertising in your area, whether it be through Craigslist, the newspaper, flyers – whatever you can think of to get the word out. Finding clients can be tricky, but you can build your reputation just as you can with an online freelance service.


Now that you know what you need to start freelancing – and other options if it’s not for you – you can get started right away. Sign up for any of the websites available and build out your profile on each. After you start getting projects on each, you can start to focus more on the platform that brings in the most new clients. Equipped with this knowledge, you can start working for yourself and walk on the path to success. Good luck!