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How To Become a Freelancer in 2024: The Complete Guide

Looking for the 30 second summary? To become a freelancer you need to define your services, identify your target audience, set the right pricing, create a compelling portfolio, select suitable platforms, write effective proposals, build client relationships, and continuously upgrade your skills.

Don’t want to read? Heres a video explaining the whole article:

How to become a freelancer in 8 steps – the ultimate guide

1. Define Your Service & Offering:

  • Begin by conducting a comprehensive skill assessment. Reflect on your previous job experiences, education, hobbies, and even volunteer work. The objective is to find a unique combination of skills that sets you apart in the marketplace. Websites like LinkedIn Learning offer courses that can help you identify and enhance your skills.
  • Research the market demand for your skills. Understanding market trends is essential in determining which of your skills are most valuable and in demand. Resources like Statista can provide valuable insights into current market trends.
  • Develop a Unique Selling Proposition (USP). This is a key aspect that differentiates you from your competitors. It could be a unique skill, a particular way you deliver your service, or a unique combination of services that aren’t commonly offered. To learn more about crafting a compelling USP, visit Entrepreneur, which offers excellent resources.
  • Continuously evaluate and refine your service offering. As the market and technology evolve, so should your services. Regularly updating your skills and services ensures that you stay relevant and competitive. Platforms like Coursera offer a wide range of courses that can help you stay up-to-date.

2. Find Your Target Audience:

  • Identifying your ideal clients is crucial. Analyze different market segments to understand who would benefit most from your services. Build a customer profile that includes demographic, geographic, and psychographic characteristics. Tools and resources provided by HubSpot can be particularly helpful in this endeavor.
  • Conduct market research to understand your potential clients’ needs, challenges, and behaviors. This involves understanding where they spend time online, the type of content they engage with, and the challenges they face that your services can solve. Neil Patel’s guide on building customer profiles offers practical tips.
  • Use social media and online networking to get insights into your target audience. Platforms like LinkedIn and industry-specific forums can provide valuable information on what your potential clients are looking for.
  • Regularly review and adjust your target audience as your business grows and as you gain more insight into the market. As you evolve as a freelancer, your ideal client profile may change.

Here is a great video on how to do this

3. Develop a Pricing Structure:

  • Setting the right price for your services is crucial. It’s a balance between valuing your skills and experience while remaining competitive in the market. Researching what others in your field charge for similar services is a good starting point. Websites like Glassdoor can provide insights into average rates in various industries.
  • Consider different pricing models such as hourly rates, project-based fees, or retainer agreements. Each has its pros and cons, and the best choice depends on the nature of your services and client preferences. Investopedia offers detailed information on various pricing strategies.
  • Be transparent about your rates. Clear communication regarding pricing helps in building trust with clients. Also, be open to negotiating your rates based on the project scope, duration, and complexity.
  • Regularly review and adjust your pricing based on your growing experience, changes in market rates, and feedback from clients. As you gain more experience and build your portfolio, you can justify higher rates for your services.
  • Freelancers typically charge for their services using one of three common pricing models:

    – Hourly Rate:
    Charging by the hour is a straightforward method where the freelancer bills for the actual time spent working on a project. This model is common for tasks where the scope is variable or not well-defined. It can be beneficial for work that requires ongoing maintenance or iterative development. An hourly rate ensures that the freelancer is compensated for all the time they spend on a project, including unforeseen complications or additional revisions requested by the client.

    – Project-Based (Fixed) Rate:
    Under this model, the freelancer charges a flat fee for the entire project. This is common for projects with a well-defined scope and clear deliverables. Fixed pricing is beneficial for both freelancers and clients as it provides predictability in terms of costs and payments. The freelancer estimates the amount of work the project requires and sets a price accordingly. This model encourages efficiency and is often preferred for one-off projects or tasks with a clear end point.

    – Retainer:
    A retainer is a recurring payment model where the client pays the freelancer a set fee regularly (usually monthly) for ongoing services. This model is common in relationships where the freelancer provides continuous services over a longer period, such as content creation, social media management, or ongoing consultancy. A retainer guarantees a steady income for the freelancer and ongoing support for the client. It’s beneficial for long-term projects or when a client needs a freelancer to be available on a regular basis.

Here is some examples of typical rates by freelancer types:

Freelancing Field Description Average Hourly Rate / Salary Source
Freelance Writers Includes content writing, copywriting, and technical writing. $30-40/hr, Annual Salary ~$42,000
Programming Covers various programming languages for software and web development. $60-70/hr, Annual Salary ~$120,000
Web Design Encompasses user interface, user experience, and visual design for websites. Median Annual Salary ~$77,200
SEO Specialists Focus on search engine optimization strategies and implementation. Average Salary ~$59,871
General Rates (US) Includes fields like web/mobile development, marketing, legal, and accounting. $28/hr, Salary Range: $41,500 – $80,000
                                                        Great example of different pricing strategies from Xolo

4. Create Your Portfolio with Past Jobs:

  • Constructing a compelling portfolio is a crucial step in establishing your credibility as a freelancer. It should be a curated collection showcasing the breadth and depth of your work. Include varied projects that highlight different skills and challenges you’ve tackled. Adobe’s guide on creating a portfolio is a useful resource.
  • If you’re new to freelancing, you might not have a vast array of client work to display. In this case, consider including personal projects, coursework, or pro bono work that demonstrates your abilities. The Muse provides excellent tips on building a portfolio from scratch.
  • Organize your portfolio in a way that’s easy to navigate and visually appealing. Group similar projects together and provide context for each piece, explaining the problem you solved and how you approached it. This helps potential clients understand your thought process and skills.
  • Regularly update your portfolio to reflect your evolving skills and experiences. As you complete more projects and grow as a freelancer, ensure your portfolio remains up-to-date and showcases your best and most relevant work.

You will likely end up using some sort of freelancer marketplace when you get started, here is a great video on making a killer Upwork profile that you can expand to other platforms too:

5. Choose Your Freelance Platform:

  • Selecting the right freelance platform is essential for finding clients and projects that match your skills. Platforms like Upwork and Freelancer cater to a wide range of industries and skill sets. Each platform has its unique features and client base, so choose one that aligns with your skills and career goals.
  • For selling digital products or services, consider using a platform like Graphy, which offers tools for creating a professional online presence. This can be especially useful for freelancers who offer courses, digital goods, or consulting services.
  • Create a professional and comprehensive profile on the chosen platforms. Highlight your skills, experiences, and include a link to your portfolio. Regularly update your profile and actively engage with the platform’s community to increase your visibility.
  • Understand the fee structure and terms of service for each platform. This includes commissions, payment terms, and dispute resolution processes. Familiarize yourself with these aspects to ensure a smooth freelancing experience on the platform.

‍Here is a good overview of the main freelancer platforms

  • Writing a compelling proposal is key to winning freelance projects. Start with a clear and engaging introduction, summarizing your relevant skills and experience. Bidsketch offers practical advice on writing effective project proposals.
  • Tailor each proposal to the specific project and client. Demonstrate your understanding of the client’s needs and how your skills and experience make you the ideal candidate for the project. Include specific examples or snippets from your portfolio that are relevant to the job.
  • Be concise and clear about the scope of work, deliverables, timelines, and pricing. This helps set clear expectations and builds trust with potential clients.
  • Follow up on your proposals. If you haven’t heard back after a reasonable period, a polite follow-up message can demonstrate your eagerness and commitment to the project.

Although this might differ by platform and approach, personalization is key. Here is what this could look like:

Hi [name of the client],

I’m [your name], and I’d love to [what is the job]. I have thoroughly read your job description and understand exactly what you need.

I’m a great fit because [explain why you are a great fit]. (optional: I also attached an example of [what is the example] which I find similar to your project.)

I’m ready to start working on your project [when] and can complete it by [when].

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,
[your name].

7. Create a Relationship with Your Client:

  • Building a good relationship with clients goes beyond delivering quality work. It involves effective communication, professionalism, and reliability. Be responsive to communications and transparent about project progress and any issues that may arise.
  • After completing a project, seek feedback from your clients. This can provide valuable insights for improvement and also shows that you value their opinion. Harvard Business Review discusses the importance of handling feedback effectively.
  • Look for opportunities to provide additional value to your clients. This could be offering insights on other aspects of their business where you can help or suggesting new ideas that could benefit their projects.
  • Maintain contact with past clients. Regular check-ins or updates about your new services can lead to repeat business or referrals.
  • If you can keep your clients happy, you will ultimately set the foundation for the future. Don’t take our word for it …

8. Continue Developing Your Skills:

  • Continuous learning and skill development are crucial in the ever-evolving freelance market. Stay updated with new trends, tools, and techniques relevant to your field. Online learning platforms like Udemy and Coursera offer a wide range of courses to help you keep your skills sharp.
  • Diversify your skill set by learning complementary skills. This can open up new opportunities and make you more attractive to a broader range of clients.
  • Join online forums, webinars, and attend workshops or conferences related to your field. Networking with other professionals and learning from their experiences can provide valuable insights and opportunities for collaboration

Stories of successful freelancers

We took a look at some successful freelancers and summarized their stories. It’s never a straight easy path, but it is absolutely do able – and the rewards are fantastic.

From Campus Columnist to PR Pro – Sagan Morrow:

Original Story:

Sagan Morrow’s freelancing journey is a story of growth, learning, and eventual success in the field. Initially, Morrow didn’t envision a career as a small business owner. Her first freelance writing project began in 2008 as a weekly health column writer for her university paper, a role she secured thanks to her health blog and personal connections. This opportunity expanded into other areas, including critiquing theatre and art shows, and eventually, a volunteer role as a proofreader for the entire paper.

Post-university, Morrow faced challenges in securing a job in her desired field of proofreading in publishing, mainly due to the small size of local publishing companies and her lack of specific qualifications in publishing. However, a turn of events led her to be hired by a public relations firm, largely due to her writing experience. This role marked a significant shift in her career, enabling her to transition into full-time freelancing. She gained clients through recommendations and gradually built her portfolio with diverse projects.

Despite her growing success, Morrow experienced uncertainty about the sustainability of her freelance work. This led her to take a full-time job at a local charity from 2011 to 2014 while continuing freelancing on the side. Eventually, discontent with her 9-to-5 job and the desire for greater independence pushed her to return to full-time freelancing with a more strategic approach. She focused on building her business with a concrete plan, marketing strategy, and client outreach, which led to her success and growth in freelancing.

Morrow’s story underscores the importance of building positive relationships, strategic planning, and adaptability in the freelancing world. Her journey from writing a health column to becoming a successful full-time freelancer illustrates the potential for growth and success in the freelancing industry.

Amine Boukhari’s Odyssey: From Self-Taught Developer to Digital Nomad Freelancer

Original Story:

Amine Boukhari’s journey as a self-taught developer and freelancer is a remarkable example of determination and adaptability in the tech industry. Initially uncertain about his career direction after high school, Amine was attracted to software development for its potential for freedom and lucrative income. His early steps into the field involved writing a health column for his university paper, which opened doors to further writing and editing opportunities. Although his initial motivation wasn’t a passion for coding, Amine eventually developed a love for solving problems and the creative aspects of coding.

His path was filled with challenges common to self-taught developers, such as figuring out what skills were essential and overcoming the steep learning curve without formal education. A key realization for Amine was the importance of actually enjoying coding, especially when facing the early difficulties of self-learning. He emphasizes the value of hands-on experience, advocating for moving beyond tutorials to building projects and understanding the core concepts through practice.

Amine’s success in freelancing was significantly boosted by networking and forming strategic partnerships. He teamed up with a friend who was adept at securing contracts, which led to more substantial and lucrative projects. This partnership was crucial in building a sustainable freelance business. Amine’s story highlights the importance of building a network, personal branding, and focusing on specific areas of interest. He advises aspiring developers to focus on learning and seeking opportunities that align with their personal and professional goals.

Amine Boukhari’s story is not just about learning to code; it’s a narrative that illustrates the journey of self-taught learning, the impact of practical experience, and the strategic approach required to build a successful freelance career in the ever-evolving world of software development.

Dana Miranda’s Freelance Writing Evolution: From $12K Novice to $150K Expert”

Original Story:

Dana Miranda’s journey as a freelance writer began in 2011, starting without a clear roadmap to success. Initially aspiring to “be a writer,” her career evolved through three phases: struggling as a “starving artist,” side-gigging while working as a staff writer, and finally, becoming a six-figure freelancer. In the early years, Dana grappled with common pitfalls: lack of belief in her potential, not choosing a niche, and treating writing more as a hobby than a profession. Despite these challenges, she valued this period for personal growth, even though it wasn’t financially rewarding.

A significant turning point in Dana’s career came with her first full-time writing job at The Penny Hoarder, working under Alexis Grant. This role not only quadrupled her income but also immersed her in a professional writing environment, providing invaluable experience in content strategy, teamwork, and understanding business goals. It was here that Dana honed her skills as a professional writer, learned the importance of a structured schedule, and expanded her writing abilities across various contexts.

The most transformative aspect of Dana’s career was her specialization in the personal finance niche, thanks to her role at The Penny Hoarder. After returning to full-time freelancing in 2020, she leveraged her extensive portfolio and industry connections to secure consistent work. Dana’s income significantly increased, with her earnings rising from a $67,000 salary to $150,000 in freelance revenue. Her experience underscores the importance of choosing a niche, which provided her with a focused direction for training, networking, and building expertise, ultimately aiding her transition from freelancer to entrepreneur.

Kat Boogard – From $30K to Six Figures: Mastering the Art of Freelance Writing

Original Story:

Kat Boogaard’s article “5 Steps I Took to Become a Six-Figure Freelancer” narrates her transition from a humble freelancer earning just over $30,000 to achieving a six-figure income. Initially skeptical about the feasibility of a lucrative freelance career, Boogaard’s journey is marked by significant growth and strategic decisions over the years. She reflects on her initial contentment with earning a respectable living from her passion but acknowledges her surprise and humor at the idea of eventually earning six figures, a concept she found somewhat ostentatious and unrealistic at the beginning of her career.

Boogaard outlines key strategies that contributed to her success. These include refining and expanding her freelance niche, which provided clarity and focus, attracting more relevant opportunities. She also highlights the importance of dropping low-paying clients to concentrate on more profitable and satisfying work, effectively optimizing her workload. Consistently pursuing regular contributor agreements rather than one-off gigs also played a crucial role, leading to a more stable income.

Assertiveness in negotiating higher rates, especially for less essential projects, was another pivotal step in her journey. Boogaard emphasizes that achieving a six-figure income in freelancing requires considerable dedication, hard work, and strategic planning, contrary to the perception of freelancing as a quick and easy path to wealth. Her story is a testament to the rewards of perseverance and strategic planning in building a successful freelance career.

What is a niche and how do I create one as a freelancer?

An example of a freelancing niche is “SEO Specialist for Small Businesses.” In this niche, a freelancer specializes in providing search engine optimization (SEO) services specifically tailored to small businesses. This can include keyword research, on-page optimization, content creation with a focus on SEO, and developing strategies to improve online visibility and search rankings for small business websites.

This niche is valuable because small businesses often lack the resources or expertise to effectively implement SEO strategies themselves. As an SEO specialist, the freelancer brings specialized knowledge that can significantly impact the online presence of these businesses, potentially driving more traffic, leads, and sales through improved search engine rankings.

Moreover, by focusing on small businesses, the freelancer can tailor their services to the unique challenges and opportunities that smaller enterprises face, such as limited budgets, local SEO needs, and more personalized service requirements. This specialization makes their services more attractive to small business owners looking for targeted, effective solutions.

Here is an example of a few of these niches:

Freelance Specializations and Niches

Specialization Niche Description
Software Development Web Development Creating and maintaining websites and web applications.
Software Development Mobile App Development Designing and developing applications for mobile devices.
Design and Creative Graphic Design Visual content creation for branding and communication.
Design and Creative UI/UX Design Designing user interfaces and user experiences for digital products.
Writing Content Writing Creating written content for websites, blogs, and other media.
Writing Technical Writing Writing technical documentation and instructional materials.
Marketing SEO Specialist Optimizing content and websites to improve search engine rankings.
Marketing Social Media Marketing Managing and growing a brand’s presence on social media platforms.
Finance Financial Planning Advising on financial strategies for savings, investments, and retirement.
Finance Accounting & Bookkeeping Managing financial records and transactions for businesses.
Legal Contract Law Assisting in the creation and analysis of legal contracts.
Legal Intellectual Property Law Specializing in laws protecting inventions, designs, and artistic works.
Consulting Business Consulting Providing expert advice to improve business operations and profitability.
Consulting HR Consulting Advising on human resources policies, systems, and practices.

Commonly asked questions when becoming a freelancer:

How to Become a Freelancer Online

To become an online freelancer, you need to establish a strong online presence. Create a professional website or portfolio and maintain active profiles on key social media platforms. Join online communities and forums related to your field to network and stay informed about industry trends. Use freelance marketplaces to find and bid on projects. Regularly update your skills and offerings based on market demand, leveraging online learning platforms for continuous skill development.

How to Become a Freelancer as a Student

As a student, start by leveraging your current academic work to build a portfolio. Participate in relevant extracurricular activities or internships to gain practical experience. Offer your services at a lower rate or volunteer to build your portfolio and reputation. Balance freelancing with your academic responsibilities, ensuring effective time management. Platforms like LinkedIn Learning can help in skill development while you’re still in school.

How to Become a Freelancer in 30 Days

To become a freelancer in 30 days, you need to have a focused and intensive approach. Begin by determining your skills and creating a quick portfolio. Spend the first few days setting up your freelance profiles on various platforms and your personal website. Actively apply for jobs and send proposals tailored to each project. Dedicate time every day to networking, applying for jobs, and improving your skills. Set short-term goals and measure your progress regularly.

How to Become a Freelancer on Fiverr

To start freelancing on Fiverr, first create a seller profile highlighting your skills and experience. Research the platform to understand what services are in demand and how you can fit into the market. Create gigs offering your services, ensuring each gig has a clear and compelling description, pricing, and delivery timeline. Promote your gigs through social media and other online channels. Deliver high-quality work and maintain good communication with your clients to get positive reviews, which are crucial for building your reputation on Fiverr.‍

The Top Freelancers on Twitter

Here are our favourite freelancers on Twitter – hopefully they inspire you on your journey!

Name Twitter Profile Description
Nia Gyant @optimized3x Freelancing and effective messaging for businesses.
Kat Boogaard @kat_boogaard Freelance tips, resources, and job leads.
Kaleigh Moore @kaleighf Writing for retail, eCommerce, and consulting services.
Emma Siemasko @EmmaFayeS Managing a freelance business and content creation.
Matthew Gattozzi @MatthewGattozzi Content, social media, and entrepreneurship.
Codi Johnson @Codishaa Social media marketing for small businesses.
Tom Basgil @TomBasgil Social media, lead gen, and freelancing insights.
Rosemary Egbo @rosemaryegbo Content creation and writing skills.
Kaitlyn Arford @kaitarford Publishing, writing, and freelance journalism.

What tools and resources might help you in your freelancing journey?

Freelancing Job Boards

Freelancer job boards like Upwork, Fiverr, and GURU can help get your name out to clients and establish your reputation as a reliable freelancer who provides quality work product. Different sites focus on different industries and types of jobs, so whether you’re a writer, a video editor, an SEO specialist, or anything in between, you can find the niche you want to work in.

Website Builders for Freelancers

When it comes to freelancing, however, the goal is to not have to rely on job boards for income. It’s much preferable to have a steady stream of recurring clients that you’ve built a relationship with and who would be happy to share your information with their colleagues. That’s why it’s important for freelancers to have a website for their services. Website design can be difficult, however—that’s where website builders come in. These are services that take most of the coding and “hard stuff” out of website design and let you customize the design to your aesthetic and desired functionality. I use Squarespace for my personal website, but some others that I’ve heard good things about are Wix, GoDaddy, and Weebly. These services will host your domain name for you and will run your website, which you can redesign whenever and however you want, for a monthly fee.

Project Management Tools for Freelancers

Hopefully, you’ll be managing several different projects for different clients at any given time. If this is the case, good for you! But you’ll probably want an app that can keep track of what you have accomplished for each client and what remains on your to-do list as deadlines begin to loom. The tool that works best for you will likely depend upon the type of work that you do and what your workflow looks like, so check out your options. Many project management apps are free, and the ones you pay for usually have trial periods, so definitely don’t be afraid to shop around to see what fits! Some popular options are Asana, Trello, and Taskboard.

Time Trackers for Freelancers

Freelancers often bill hourly, so keeping track of the time that you work for each client is critical—you should never work on a freelance project without proper compensation! The easiest way to keep track of your time working, right down to the minute, is by using a time-tracking app. Options include apps like Due, TopTracker, and Toggl, all of which record time for clients, as well as apps like RescueTime, which can help you see how exactly you’re using your time on your computer and shows you ways in which you could be more productive.

Invoicing Software for Freelancers

Here comes the fun part of freelancing—getting paid. Some freelancing job boards will take care of the payment stuff for you, but if your service doesn’t or if you’re working for a client directly, it’s important to invoice all your projects properly—in part for the client so they can see how much they owe and for exactly what services and in part for your own records. Tracking your invoices and payments is particularly important when it comes time for tax season—you’ll definitely need to know exactly how much you made while freelancing. Many of the time trackers I mentioned include invoicing options, since the two often go hand in hand, though there are other apps available as well, including Freshbooks, QuickBooks Self-Employed, and Bonsai. Many companies will require an official invoice in order to pay you, so definitely don’t forget this tool—unless you want all your work to be pro bono!