How to Become a Freelancer: Everything You Need to Know to Succeed

Become a Freelancer
Created by CakeResume

Freelancers are self-employed workers who offer their services on a project or contract basis. They offer their skills, talent and assistance in areas such as:

  • Web, graphic or interior design
  • Copywriting or copyediting
  • Tutoring or career coaching
  • Contracting work (plumbing, painting, movers)
  • Development (coding, app making)
  • Closed captioning or transcribing jobs
  • Artwork, music, photography services

If you want to start freelancing, consider the tips below to ensure you freelance successfully!

Step 1: Define your services

In order to start freelancing, you need to narrow down your scope of services. 

For instance, if you want to become a freelance writer, you should list all the types of writing projects you’d be comfortable with. Writing essays, news articles, resumes and advertising copy is very different from writing contracts, scientific articles and terms and conditions. 

When advertising yourself, specify the industries, formats and length of writing you are capable of, as well as revisions and adjustments you can make from client feedback.

Step 2: Find your target audience

Succeeding as a freelancer is highly dependent on having a client base. Finding clients who you can successfully freelance for will help you boost your reputation and help you make your services known. To find an audience you can start freelancing for, you first need to:

🎯 Analyze clients

Find the common types of projects that your niche audience is asking for, and analyze their criteria, industry, company and projects. This will help you refine your services to be most suitable to their needs. 

🎯 Research competitors

Take a look at other freelancers’ portfolios who do the freelance work you’d like to do. You can also look at freelancer websites to see what’s in demand. 

🎯 Create User Personas

User personas are a way to represent the ideal clientele you would like to freelance for. Narrow down the demographics of your ideal ‘users’ as well as their industries, objectives, goals and lifestyle to form a user persona related to your work. This will help both you and your clients evaluate your services.  

Step 3: Create a financial plan

Starting a freelance business means you have more autonomy and freedom; however it can be volatile financially, especially at the start. Providing your services at competitive yet sustainable prices will help you freelance successfully and without financial stress.

💰 List your expenses

Consider the time and resources you need to start your freelancing work and factor these in as baseline expenses which your prices need to cover. 

💰 Set an income goal

In order to start a freelance business which can replace your regular 9-5, you need to set an income goal for your services. Think progressively – it's unlikely that you will be able to transfer from your existing salary as soon as you start freelancing. Compare prices on freelancer websites and calculate an estimated monthly income. Make goals for 3 months, 6 months and 1 year to track your progress. 

💰 Create a pricing plan

Brainstorm the services you can provide and price them competitively. At the start, you might need to price your services quite low to entice clients to work with you. Consider doing one-off services, packages and add-ons so clients can customize their orders. 

Step 4: Create a strong freelance resume and portfolio

💡 Writing a killer freelancer resume

Just like any other job, you need to have a resume to showcase how you’re fit for the role. Freelancer resumes can be more personalized to the services you offer, which can include:

  • Showcasing key skills

Make sure you highlight the tools, skills and programs which you can use for client projects in your freelancer resume. For instance, being proficient in photoshop, procreate and Adobe InDesign will boost your resume if you want to become a freelance graphic designer.

  • Include relevant work experience

Your freelance resume can focus solely on relevant work experience to help you convey that you are well-versed in your field. If you want to become a freelance artist, listing previous exhibition pieces or published work will showcase that you have a wide range of experience in artmaking. 

As your clients are only hiring you for your advertised skills, you don’t need to include all your experiences in chronological order in your freelance resume like you would in a traditional resume.

💡 Creating a strong freelancer portfolio

When hiring a freelancer, clients want to see samples of the types of work you are capable of. A freelancer portfolio should showcase the quality and range of work you offer. To make a successful freelancer portfolio, think back to the works you have created and what they showcase.

  • Choose your best and most relevant works

Pick high-quality examples of your work which are similar to the services you want to offer as a freelancer. If you want to become a freelance writer, but only want to write short-form content, pick samples of shorter works to use in your freelance portfolio. 

Or, if you want to become a freelance web developer, include examples of both simple and complex designs for various industries in your freelance portfolio.

  • Include explanations of each work

Use your freelance portfolio to provide context to the clients about the work, but also to highlight your proficiency. If you want to become a freelance photographer, include explanations of the type of camera, editing software and the story of the photos. 

To start a freelance business as an artist, you might need to include a more nuanced explanation of the art beyond the mediums used. 

  • Explain tools used

Expand on the medium of art, editing, development or graphic design software used in each sample in your freelancer portfolio. If clients are looking for a specific format, style or program made for them, the tools you are able to use will be a deciding factor.

📚 Further reading:  Let’s Build an Attractive Freelancer Portfolio

Step 5: Find work

Now that you know how to get into freelance work, your next step is to make yourself available for hire. Utilize your freelancer resume and portfolio and advertise yourself to your audience using one of these options:

📍 Freelance job platforms

Freelancer websites are a great first option to start freelancing work, as they are well known and used by many. Sites such as Fiverr, PeoplePerHour and UpWork are great places to find the most popular freelancers to research how to become a freelance writer, photographer, artist or designer. You can also share your freelancer portfolio on these sites, so you have everything in one spot.

📍 Job Portals

Many job websites have an option to search for freelance work, which also might be called ‘piecework’ or ‘contract work’. Companies who want to work with you for a short-term project are a good way to start freelancing, as you can use both your skills from the traditional work environment and your freelancer portfolio to apply. Try sites which support these job types, such as CakeResume to search for your first job and start freelancing.

📍 Networking

If you already have a large network from your previous 9-5, you might be well acquainted enough to start freelancing by networking. This option would work better for hard skills such as editing, web development and writing, since you might have used these skills in a professional capacity already.

If you can start your freelance business via networking, you should still have a freelancer portfolio that is available to access. Many freelance writers have an online writers portfolio showcasing the pieces they’ve written across many publications, making it easier for them to link their freelancing portfolio when networking.

Step 6: Maintain client relationships

As your freelancing success relies on having a client base consistently paying you to freelance, maintaining professionalism with them is essential. It can be a bit overwhelming juggling work and client rapport when you first start freelancing; you can handle this more effectively by: 

✨ Deliver good quality work

Clients are paying you for your output. Make sure you only offer skills, tools and projects which you can use to a high level and make quality work with. Successful freelancers that have good reviews are more likely to be hired again, so make sure you can meet the expectations you set in your freelance portfolio.

✨ Be on time 

Delivering fast as a freelancer is enticing to customers. However, don’t sacrifice the quality of work for speed. It might be tempting to choose the fastest turnaround time when setting up a profile on freelancer websites. However delivering on time, no matter how long, is more valuable to clients. 

✨ Communicate with clients

Clients will often reach out to you, especially on freelancer websites, so it's important to be able to communicate on time and effectively with them. Discuss the goals of their project and give progress updates throughout to maintain a relationship with your clients. The most successful freelancers are praised for their politeness and capacity to communicate. 

✨ Provide extra value

A client might come to you and ask for a project a bit out of the scope of your freelancer portfolio or what you have listed on a freelancer website. However, if you are capable of their requests, going the extra mile to incorporate their ideas will be highly appreciated.

Providing extra value such as unlimited revisions, progress discussion, previews of work and added touches in your work will be reviewed highly by clients and ensure you succeed as a freelancer. 

🔑 Key Takeaway:

Overall, starting a freelance business involves planning and understanding your clients, capabilities and goals. Now that you know how to become a freelancer, being prepared and realistic will help you start freelancing on the right foot.

Go at your own pace, build rapport with clients, and once you can start expanding your business, consider setting up your own website and finding work through networking. Good luck!

With CakeResume, you can easily create a resume online, free download your resume in PDF, and utilize ATS-compliant templates to create a resume. Create your resume online (free download) now and land your dream job!

--- Originally written by Bronte McNamara ---

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