Whilst there’s certainly no shortage of information online when it comes to starting as a freelancer, you’ll often find a lot the step-by-step in exactly what you need is held back - that is, unless you’re prepared to hand over your credit card for an online course or training program.
Taking courses is definitely not a bad thing, and investing in your education, both personally and professionally is always a great idea, but if you’re just getting started, you may not have the kind of money that a lot of these courses are asking for just lying around.
So below, I've listed some of the best ways to get your start as a freelancer...FOR FREE!
This is basically reaching out to people who you want to work with, and who you think you could help.
Many people avoid this because they imagine they have to become an annoying telemarketer, but the opposite is true, and whether you choose to reach out via phone or email is entirely up to you, but I can assure that this is a highly effective, yet majorly under-rated way to bring in new business quickly.
Whether you prospect online or go to networking events is really up to you, and if you are going to events to meet potential clients, then showing up in a professional way is important, so things like dressing well and coming prepared with a rate card or a pack of business cards printed with your details is going to help you massively. The more people you connect with and build genuine relationships with, the more opportunities will come your way. The more people you speak to daily, whether on the phone, email, or even in person to let them know about what you offer, then the greater your chance of success in getting clients.
In general, I’m not a fan of these sites because of their low rates and the way they force people to outbid each other based on price for projects.
However, if you have no experience and need to build a portfolio as well as your confidence, then they can be a great way to get started, and can lead to bigger things.
Many high-earning freelancers also started there, so it definitely can work when you’re able to identify the decent clients over those who are just looking for the cheapest offer without actually caring about the quality.
Just make sure that if you’re serious about your business, that you view these sites as a short-term plan, and not for the long-haul, because your talents are valuable and you will get paid accordingly by people who value them.
Referrals and joint ventures
In business, who you know is everything, and your reputation better be a good one if you want to stay in business, so you should be getting out there and networking with people who can refer you.
These can be people who work in a complimentary profession, and who you share an ideal customer with, but who aren’t in direct competition with you. For example: if you’re a freelance copywriter, you could team up with a graphic designer and split projects as a team, or even just refer clients to each other.
Other possible referral sources are past clients, friends/family, colleagues, etc.
These are one of my top favorite recommendations for anyone starting out in freelancing - especially for design and writing work. Creative agencies, such as digital marketing, advertising, and even SEO agencies are constantly looking for great freelancers to outsource work to, and if you do a good job, they’ll keep you in work for a long time because it’s easier for them, too.
Many agencies will allow you to work from home these days - especially since they know you’ll be working with other clients, but some may ask you to spend a few days or a project duration in-house, so it’s really up to you if you feel comfortable.
Just keep in mind that as a freelancer you’re responsible for all your own taxes and health insurance, so if you’re being treated as an employee without the perks, then you may need to reconsider that particular relationship.
As much as it’s a numbers game, it’s also about quality over quantity.
Stepping up means you have to stop being afraid to put yourself out there. You have to make the first move and reach out to potential clients and partners - especially at the beginning when no one knows who you are. You're responsible for marketing, lead generation, and ensuring that you have the right skills and processes to nail the work you actually get.
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