In the past few months, I have gotten countless requests asking me what freelancing is, how to be a freelancer, what you need to do to earn really well as a freelancer. So, I decided to write this out as an intro guide to freelancing. If you are looking to enter into the world of freelancing, then this article is for you.
What is Freelancing?
Freelancing is a business model where you trade your skill with multiple clients and are not beholden to anyone beyond the deliverable that you are hired to deliver.
Here’s what I mean, if you are a freelance graphic designer, it means that you can work with as many clients as you want, as long as you submit each design/logo/poster on time. One of the hallmarks of freelancing is that it does not have any fixed office hours. So, you don’t have to go to the office or anything like that.
Freelancing in the 21st century is almost digital and remote. This means that you can work from anywhere in the world, and work for a company anywhere in the world. This ‘international” freelancing arrangement works for both companies and freelancers. Companies can hire excellent talents in other countries or even continents, and often at lower prices. While freelancers get to charge at higher rates than they would have if they transacted their skills locally.
There is a bit of economics at play here too. Labour is generally expensive in richer economies, such as countries like the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and so on. Therefore, by outsourcing jobs to skilled freelancers who are located in poorer economies, they get to pay less than they would pay for the same talent in their country, and the freelancers earn more than they would in their native economies.
How to Succeed as a Freelancer
For you to be a successful freelancer, three components need to be in play.
- Payment Platform.
Most freelancers struggle because they do not have one of the three.
Building a Profitable Skill
The first and most important thing that you need to become a successful freelancer is to have a profitable skill.
This is where the importance of digital skills come in. As a freelancer, you will only get paid to the degree of value that you bring to the table.
The more valuable your skill is, the more successful you are likely to be.
If you don’t have any skills, this is the perfect time to start learning. Most freelancing skills are digital in nature, so you can easily learn them. Some of the most profitable freelancing niches from my experience are:
a) Content and Copy Writing
b) Graphics and UI/UX design.
d) Video editing/animation/motion graphics
e) Web Design/Development (esp. WordPress)
f) Data Analysis/Visualization
g) Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence
h) DevOps (esp. with extensive experience in popular languages)
As a freelancer, pick one of these skills and start learning them. A simple google search online for “free Udemy courses:” will give you download links to hundreds of courses, totally free.
Freelance Platforms Vs. Personal Agencies
Now that you’ve improved your skills, it’s time for you to look to the remaining two components, which are clients and then payment platform.
From my experience, there is no perfect way to get clients. But majorly, there are two ways to it. The first way is to use a freelancing platform, while the other is to go solo.
Each of these ways has its advantages and disadvantages. Freelancing platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, etc., provide you with access to a wide array of clients who have been verified. So, there is little to no fear of getting scammed. For instance, Upwork has over 500,000 clients across various categories, and more are added daily. They also take care of the payment platform, because they have an e-wallet that you automatically receive payment in. Then, you can withdraw into your bank account.
On the other hand, opening an account on these platforms are extremely hard. You will most likely have to get someone who knows a back door or a trick before you can get in. Creating an account directly won’t work. I’m speaking from experience. Competition is also high on freelancing platforms. People from all over the world, with varying levels of skill, are competing for the same jobs that you’re looking for. And that can make it quite hard to get into.
If you decide to go solo, though, you’ll have to source for clients by yourself, try and give yourself visibility and then negotiate for payment. This is very hard, at least in the beginning, and I can tell you that most of the jobs that you’ll get in the beginning will be outsourced to you by freelancers who work on these platforms.
As you grow, however, you’ll get to have your pick of clients. But this will only happen when you have a couple of years under your belt, and you have the required connections.
It’s a tradeoff. If you use a freelancing platform, you’ll make money quickly, and you’ll become better. Still, there are no long-term growth opportunities, you’ll always be looking for new clients over and over. If you decide to go solo and build your own freelance agency, you’ll not make a lot of money at first, but you’ll eventually make it.
My advice is to do both. Work on a freelancing platform, but keep building a personal agency on the side regularly. As you do both, you grow on both sides.
Let me round up by talking about how to navigate freelancing platforms. I’ll be talking more about Upwork, but the principles here apply to all freelancing platforms.
Optimize Your Profile
The way most freelancing sites are set up, your profile is one of the first things that any client sees. So, you should set it up well. You want to sound like you are an expert. At the same time, you want to sound human and personal. This balance is somewhat hard to achieve, so there’s a hack I use.
Basically, it involves searching for an expert and experienced freelancers on the platform, in this case, Upwork, and then tweak their own profiles.
On Upwork for sample, as a content writer, I’ll just search for “content writer” under the freelancers and agencies tab. By filtering the results, I see to people that have earned above $10k+ and then looking for any striking profile. After I combine 3 to 5 types of profiles, boom! I have the perfect one. Cool right?
Apply for the Right Kind of Jobs
The next thing is to ensure that you only apply for the right kind of jobs. Not every job is right for you, and so you must look at each client carefully before you take jobs from them. Upwork allows you to see the reviews that a client has gotten from other freelancers. This will give you an idea of the client’s personality and who they are. It will also tell you if you can work with them.
Craft the Perfect Proposal
Once you have selected a job that you are capable of handling and the kind of client you want to work with, all that remains is for you to create a proposal. When creating a proposal, avoid using the normal “Hi, my name is, kind of intro,” Spice it up and make it interesting. I’ll attach some samples of my proposals to this post.
Add samples to your Proposals
Finally, always add a sample to your proposal. It is extremely important as a freelancer that you have some sort of portfolio that shows the client that you can do what you claim you can do.
Add all these together, and your chances of succeeding as a freelancer will skyrocket.
Oh, and you check out my Upwork profile here: https://www.upwork.com/o/profiles/users/_~01b6dc68cd663e5d96/
N.B: if you would love hands-on, practical, and in-depth training on how to succeed as a freelancer, I run a freelancing course that has helped over 20 freelancers start earning in dollars. If you register now, you’ll get a 50% discount. For more information, you can reach out to me here