You may have been recently laid off, or you may have simply decided to start working for yourself. Either way, you may be wondering how to get started as a freelancer.
It can be a bit daunting. Suddenly it seems that just about everyone is operating as a freelancer in some form or another.
Enterprising people are increasingly using their technical or design skills to make a living, or even just to generate a bit extra on the side.
Which can leave you wondering how to best get started as a freelancer to create an income of your own.
1. Assess your skills
The first thing you need to consider before getting started as a freelancer is exactly what your skills and talents are.
You need to determine exactly what it is that you will be offering your clients.
Will you provide a service, or perform a specific task?
Maybe you are an expert in organizational record keeping or perhaps in-depth data analysis is your forte.
Whatever it is you need to be very clear about the services that you will be offering.
2. Identify available time
You will need to honestly and realistically decide just how much time you are able to dedicate to your new venture.
When getting started as a freelancer it can be easy to accept any and every job that comes your way which results in you being overstretched – not good business.
If you plan to work only-part time then you need to be honest about the hours you can commit and realistic about the volume of work you can perform during that time.
3. Determine your niche
Just as its tempting to accept too many jobs, it is also common to accept ANY job.
This inclination is understandable, especially with new freelancers as you want to make as much money as possible.
Unfortunately, the reality is that accepting jobs that you may not quite have the skills for usually means that the quality is less than expected by the paying client.
Which does not encourage them to send future business your way.
When getting started as a freelancer it can be best to ‘stay in your lane’ then branch out later into different things as you become more competent.
4. Target specific business areas
Once you have decided on your services and the hours you can commit to, think about which areas of business you want to target.
Maybe your products are primarily a business to business (B2B) service, or perhaps they are totally a business to consumer (B2C) proposition.
When getting started as a freelancer it can be helpful to understand WHERE your customers are, just as much as WHO they are.
5. Think about buyer personas
So, WHO are your buyers then?
This will take some perception on your part especially if just getting started as a freelancer to identify the traits of your potential customers.
That can be combined with research to identify the traits of your current customers if you already have some.
Are they mainly in a specific industry? It could be that your services attract with a certain age, or demographic, or interest group.
Like under 40s, a delivery service, or new parents.
You may have several different buyer personas depending on the profile of your clients, but it can help you identify who they are and provide insights to help you reach them.
6. Utilize job search platforms
The reality is that when you first get started as a freelancer it can be an uphill battle to gain your first few clients.
With no experience to show or proof of work it can be tough to get clients to select you from the huge number of freelancers out there.
Job search platforms can come in useful here.
Build a profile, get some good work samples together, and craft a VERY compelling cover letter.
Clients want to know how you can help them so think about how you can position yourself as an asset to them.
Sites that you may find useful are:
Upwork – all freelance jobs
Freelancer UK – all freelance jobs
Guru – tech freelance jobs
People per Hour – UK freelance jobs
GigLeads – writing and content jobs
Worksome – freelance jobs in the UK
TopTal – tech freelance jobs
7. Search local ads
Along with using the online job platforms to help you get started as a freelancer you can sometimes score a win or two from local ads.
Smaller companies and local business often advertise within their own service areas so local newspapers or publications can contain jobs that never hit the big listing sites.
Check out local listing sites like Gumtree or Freeads to get one or two smaller jobs and build your portfolio.
8. Understand your tax obligations
As much as we would all love to not pay tax the reality is that you have to. Its the law.
Being a freelancer means that you will be responsible for calculating and paying taxes on the income that you make, and ignorance of the law is no excuse if you are found trying to cheat the system.
You will need to keep records and receipts for expenses and outgoings and file your own self-assessment each year.
If you don’t have the time or expertise it may benefit you to outsource to a bookkeeper or an accountant.
If that’s not feasible then some kind of accounting program will help to keep you up to date with your tax bill.
9. Consider a billing program
Speaking of money……if you are turning over a decent amount of business it can be easy to lose track of who’s paid and who owes.
This can be further complicated if you take any kind of partial or installment payments or need to track deposits.
Billing software will help you keep ahead of your cash and prevent you losing out due to missed invoices.
It might not be necessary if you are just getting started as a freelancer but as your business grows it can be something to consider.
10. Set your rates
Now you know how to bill you will need to decide how much to bill.
To avoid confusing yourself and clients it is advisable to put together a list of services, pricing, add-ons, deposits, surcharges, and anything else that rolls up into your charges for services.
As we have determined, the freelance arena is becoming a competitive market, so correct pricing is important.
Do not fall into the trap of selling yourself short, or thinking that people will buy your product or hire you just because you are ‘cheap’.
The majority of people do not buy based on price alone so it is a mistake to assume they do.
Many factors will play into to the buying decision, thinks like turnaround time and quality and big influencing factors.
Research competitors to see what their prices are and set your own accordingly.
The trick is to price yourself to what the market will bear without putting yourself out of the ballpark.
It can take a while to get this right so don’t be afraid to adjust – but try not to do it TOO much.
11. Consider some branding
Along with finding your customers and billing them correctly you will also need to effectively pitch your services to potential clients.
When you are getting started as a freelancer it can be useful to do some branding to help clients identify you and your business.
This can be a simple as designing a logo or business cards but your branding should also deliver a clear and consistent message about who you are and what you do.
Branding helps to identify you in the marketplace and sets you apart from everyone else.
Here is a helpful article that goes more in depth on branding.
12. Design a website or portfolio
Along with branding, it can be worthwhile to develop your own business website or portfolio page.
It looks professional and is a great way to showcase your projects, clients you have worked for, and display positive feedback or testimonials.
Once again it is a way to set yourself apart from the rest of the freelance crowd when getting started.
13. Use Google my Business
For local services, Google My Business is an extremely powerful tool, and claiming your listing is totally free.
It is an excellent way to promote your business to people in the local area and you can collect reviews and ratings.
In the previous section we mentioned designing a website, if your tech ability is completely nil then Google My Business allows you to design a very simple but nice looking webpage for free.
14. Connect with social media
Another valuable method of promotion is via your social media accounts.
Use services like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to connect with people and other business in your area.
Have your current connections and friends like and share your business posts and pages for exposure.
Build your audience and engage.
You can showcase work from recent projects and post handy tips. It’s a great way to expand your reach.
15. Don’t forget about LinkedIn
In addition to your social media accounts don’t forget to use LinkedIn, it is an extremely powerful platform, and one that is often overlooked.
As its targeted to business and professional users it can prove extremely effective in helping you connect with people and companies that need your services.
When getting started as a freelancer it is a free way to connect with buyers.
Just be sure to remain professional and tactful as no-one wants to be bombarded with sales messages.
Look out for opportunities to help or answer questions and build a real rapport with other users, it can lead to some really great opportunities.
When first getting started as a freelancer it can be tough to break into the market. Persistence and tenacity along with providing quality work will help you to build a clientele. Using the tips in this article will help give you an edge and get you noticed above the crowd.