My first freelance project came in 2003, when I had no idea what freelancing for beginners means. Back then, there were not many freelancers delivering great quality so I was lucky enough to get a really quick job. I was so green that in the following years I did make many mistakes. Now, when I talk with aspiring freelancers, I see that most of the problems I had are there.
The internet is filled with wonderful freelancing guides that teach people everything they need to know. However, most of them are quite technical. By this I mean that the advice given is really general and has always been the same. The only thing that really changed with these guides is the list of recommended sites.
Obviously, there are also resources that are great for beginners. For instance, in freelance writing, Carol has some wonderful articles to get things started right. Also, Dustin and Lacey talk really well about food blogging. You can find guides that help you do exactly what you want if you dig deep enough. But, for most beginners, there are some things that are much more important than reading guides.
When talking about freelancing for beginners, the advice I wanted to know when I started boils down to the following simple things.
Choose A Niche To Specialize In
Beginner freelancers looking for those first jobs normally accept all paid work. This may be great when you start since you do need money but it is a really good idea to be strategic.
Most people think it is not a good idea to be picky but the truth is you, the freelancer, choose the client, just like the client chooses the freelancer.
The idea is really simple: as you specialize, you become an expert. Experts are paid a lot more. This is true for any type of freelance work. Are you a web designer? Specialize in something like web design for health sites or logo design for NGOs. Are you a writer? Specialize in something like cryptocurrency writing or health news sites. The more you are niched, the higher the chance you can be paid more!
Put yourself in the shoes of those that would hire you. Let’s say someone needs Facebook ads to be created. Why would that person/company hire a generalist that works with all platforms as opposed to someone with a lot of experience in Facebook ads?
Learn how to brand yourself as a specialist in a niche and you will make more money as a freelancer.
Decide Early What You Will Not Do
It is important to choose early what you will not do. You have to be really specific or you will end up being taken advantage of. At the same time, when you know what you offer and what you do not offer, it helps with branding as you control how you are perceived by potential clients.
Let’s say you decide to do work in the cryptocurrency industry as a writer since the demand for professionals is high and the pay can be really good. If this is the case, you should only consider these jobs, unless it is necessary to get more money.
Sometimes, especially when you start out, you need to accept some extra jobs that are not necessarily what you want to do. However, you do want to quickly change this and focus on what you will do.
Do Not Accept All Clients That Come Your Way
Even before you look for clients it is a great idea to know who you want to work with. Are you a web designer and you want to build sites for small businesses? Do you want to work with larger corporations? Do you want to work in the fashion industry? All these questions help you to decide what your ideal client looks like. After you know who you want to work for, it is easier to get such a client as you know who to focus on.
Learn To Say NO!
This is one of the most important things you need to remember as a beginner freelancer.
The client does not own you. If you discussed project details, this is what needs to be done. Unfortunately, there are many clients that keep asking for more and more and then even more. This is not something that should be accepted. It is your right to be paid for the work you do.
At the same time, if there is something that is asked of you that you are not comfortable with, you have the right to refuse. For instance, if I am asked to do anything that disregards human life or respond in a way that is disrespectful, I highlight why this is not a good idea. If the client does not accept this, I instantly terminate the contract, no matter the repercussions.
Many do not say NO because of the fear of not getting paid or getting a bad feedback. Fortunately, this is no longer a problem. It used to be. Nowadays, all mediation services take into account what was discussed and contracts can be terminated under numerous cases. It is better to lose some money than to hurt your professional and personal life.
Create Your Site As Soon As Possible
This is another freelancing for beginners tip that I wish I knew during the first years. The very best way to prove you have the technical skills to get the job done is to have your own site where your portfolio is presented. Even as a brand new freelancer, when you have such a site built, you gain a lot of authority and visibility.
As soon as you can, build a website that:
- Shows your experience and expertise.
- Highlights all the relevant past jobs, projects, experiences, all based on what you want to do as a freelancer.
- Includes direct contact information.
Even if you did not land many jobs in the past, this site can do wonders for you. It does take time for clients to find you directly through your site, but it will happen if you do it right. Also, when you look for a job on a platform like Upwork (or the other freelance website alternatives here), you can point the client towards your blog to showcase your skills and experience, even if you did not have jobs on the platform till then.
As an extra tip, after the site is done, be sure to include it in your email signature and all social media profiles.
Do Not Quit Your Job
This whole idea of “quit your job” and be your own boss is great and all but it is presented in such a bad way on most sites out there. You should never quit your job, if you have it, in favor of freelancing.
The best thing you can do is to start your freelance business when you are already employed since this allows you to grow in a highly organic way. It is so much easier to build your portfolio, your site, work on your branding and much more. You can take time to choose what jobs to bid on and do it right.
If you want to have a clear point when you can leave your full-time job in favor of your freelance projects, do it when you get to at least 75% of the current total income you have.
I have to add that having a job while you also do freelance work has an extra advantage few people think about. It teaches you what it means to have your own business. This is because you need to deal with limited time resources as you are responsible for deliverables.
If you have a job, keep it. Be as selective as possible when you choose your client and grow your business slowly with a clear focus on quality.
No matter how good you are, there is always someone better. Because of this and especially when you want to be paid more, you have to keep getting better at what you do. Get new appropriate skills and keep learning. It does not matter if you are a writer or you do WordPress development work. It is a certainty that there is something that will help you to do better work.
There are countless online courses that you can use these days to improve. Find those that complement your current skills while getting you closer to your goal.
Build Authority And Credibility
You can build credibility and authority in so many ways but most freelancers, especially beginners, do not do it. They just focus on looking for jobs, usually at the same rates. This is not the right way to grow your business.
Obviously, the best thing you can do is to create really good blog content. Then, you can look for guest posting opportunities. Always look for delivering quality so you can show your knowledge. Even writing an ebook helps.
Speaking about blogging, if you have a website to showcase your portfolio, you also need to have a blog. One thing that few people will tell you is that your blog is what will bring you some of the best clients since people will look for you as opposed to you searching for gigs.
Be Careful When Determining How Much You Want To Be Paid
When I first started doing freelance work I was around 18 years old and I was still staying with my parents. I did not really care how much I was getting paid since it was extra money for me. This is a huge beginner freelancing mistake that most people make.
Everything starts with your personal minimum acceptable rate. You have to know how much money you need as a minimum and how much you can charge and actually be hired, based on your skills. Clients will pay more if you make a really good first impression and you prove that you can do great work.
Many beginners just set prices at a minimum level. Then, in time, fear steps in and rates are rarely increased. A much better approach is to think about how much value you create for the client. Money should not be left on the table. Obviously, prices can be increased in the future and the client might accept it but it is so much better to start at an appropriate price right from the start.
I can talk so much more about the subject and will do so in future blog posts but freelancing for beginners is a topic that is usually not properly understood. Everything written above helps and I really wanted to know these things before I started.
If you are now making your first steps in freelancing, do not be afraid and keep learning. Improve your work, build a portfolio, blog and be active. You will need to work hard but you also want to be focused on your end goal: creating a business. Treat freelancing as a business, not as a part time job.