5 steps to become a freelancer

5 Steps to Earning a Side Income Freelancing

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This week I have an awesome guest post from Araminta who blogs over at Financially Mint, where she teaches students how to make, save and manage money. Araminta has been working online for years and she knows her stuff! So enjoy the post, then head on over to her blog for more finance tips.

I started freelancing at the young age of 16. I was desperate to earn money and there were 0 jobs in the tiny village I lived in near Barcelona, Spain.

Now I freelance part-time along with blogging – and if you’re interested, you can too. There is a difference to freelancing full-time and just as a side-income. Here I’ll be outlining it as a side-income.

The first thing I need to say about freelancing is: it requires a lot of hustle. You’ll earn next to nothing in the first month, a little bit more in the second one, and it won’t be until 6 months later of hard work that you’ll see good results. Bloggers out there, you understand very well.

But freelancing is still great: you get to be flexible, you get to manage your own clients and you get learn some skills (writing, editing, design, programming, etc).

Here are some snazzy steps to get the freelance ball rolling:

1. Determine what you’re good at

First of all, you need to figure out what you could offer to clients. Have you always had a knack for writing? For designing? Even coaching? Pop onto Fiverr.com and see what other people have to offer. Some people do crazy stuff (yes, writing funny messages on your belly is totally freelancing), and many make serious money out of it.

Some classic freelancing could be: ghost writing, pic designing, research, digital marketing, virtual assistant, teaching, etc. At 16 I started with ghost writing and article research. I was underpaid to write episodes of a Minecraft story. It wasn’t much, but I loved it – I was finally making some money.

If you have no idea what you could do, just try a bit of everything and see what you like best. But after that it’s good to focus on one freelance activity and get really good at it – you’ll have a lot of competition out there.

freelancer at a computer in exotic location - could be you!

2. Plan a portfolio

If you wanted to become a full-time freelancer I would suggest creating a website with all your cool projects and a nice sleek design. But as a side-income, I believe that isn’t necessary.

So how do you plan your portfolio? You start with finding the different things you could use as proof when pitching a client. It could be a random project you did years ago, or an interesting article you wrote – anything that shows you did something.

If you have nothing, no worries – with enough hustle you will always get clients. You’ll be using this portfolio to show potential future clients what you’re capable of and what your experience is – try to find some of your best stuff.

3. Start simple

The first clients are the hardest: you’re not sure what to do, how to set it up and how to talk to them. I suggest starting with Upwork. They have contracts in place and it’s pretty easy to find people to work for. Yes, they will underpay you and it won’t be the most interesting work, but it’s a good way to get a feel of what freelancing is all about.

Pop on to Upwork, set up a profile (make sure it looks professional) and look for some quick and cheap projects people are willing to pay someone for. This will allow you to build up a portfolio pretty quickly and it’ll therefore be easier to get more clients in the future.

This is what I mean when I say you won’t earn anything the first month of freelancing: you need to build up your portfolio and work with clients. But don’t fret, it gets easier to build up.

4. Work on connections

A network is the key to getting clients when freelancing. Word of mouth is your friend. As you get more clients on Upwork, you’ll slowly start forming connections (if you do a good job of course) and those same people will refer you to more clients. And just like magic, your client base doubles and you can decide to charge them more.

For this reason, it’s important to keep the testimonials every time you do a good job – it’s always more good proof.

Once you move away from Upwork and have your own client base, you’ll be able to charge more normal and higher rates. And that’s when you start making good money out of it. I suggest making a contract every time you do work for a client (outside Upwork), outlining what you’re doing, how much you’re charging and when they need to pay.

freelancer sitting in the window on her laptop

5. Build yourself up

Once you feel you’ve got a good hold of the whole process and you want to go to the next level, create your own website. You can do something free like a page on WordPress/Blogger/Weebly, or go pro and buy a domain name.

On this website you will have all your projects, starting from the beginnings with Upwork, and all the amazing testimonials and the cool clients you’ve worked for. At this point in time, you will be getting more and more client requests – so you need to set a limit of hours to work during the day and be disciplined, or you’ll burn yourself out.

Freelancing is true independence, since you are setting your own hours and your own rates. If something goes well, all credit goes to you, but if something goes wrong, it also all falls on to you. This is why freelancing is not for everyone – but I still find that even as a side-income it can teach you a lot about people, yourself, and your work ethic in general.

How do I do it now? Now that I have my own personal blog, I use that as my portfolio. Most freelance work I do is for other bloggers or people in the network, so a blog is enough to see that I can do what they want me to. If you’re a blogger, you can try that too!

As I said before, freelancing takes hustle, patience and can be frustrating. But it’s something that’s scalable and enjoyable if there’s something you’re good at and like doing (freelance painting dogs – it exists). Good luck on your freelance journey!

About the author

Araminta is creator of Financially Mint, a personal finance blog for university students written by an actual student. She interviews experts, does weird experiments and a ton of research to help her and others graduate financially intelligent.

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2 thoughts to “5 Steps to Earning a Side Income Freelancing”

  1. Thanks for the article. Freelancing is a great way to make money, but I think it often gets overlooked. I used to do a little bit of freelance web design and a lot of freelance writing. I really liked the writing gigs I had because most of them were regular, recurring jobs. I would write an article every week or every month for different blogs. The nice thing was that after I had the jobs lined up I didn’t need to constantly look for work.

    1. Recurring jobs like that sounds ideal! One downside of freelancing is the time finding and pitching clients so you’re on to a winner if you can just get paid to write 🙂

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