Working as a freelancer is not as easy a sit seems. You have to make a lot of sacrifices and spend considerable sleepless nights to become a successful freelancer. Check out my comprehensive guide to find out what it takes to make money as a freelancer in 2021.
Let’s go on a trip down memory lane around ten years ago today. How many people would have thought of making a living while sitting at home? Even if that luxury existed, it was only reserved for business owners and wealthy investors.
Luckily, we’ve come a long way since then. Whether you give credit to technological advancements or the increased preference for flexibility, freelancing is becoming a norm these days.
About 48% of the entire US workforce is working from home, while globally, freelancers represent about 35% of all professionals. If you’re an established professional in your respective field, what’s stopping you from jumping on to the bandwagon and working on your own terms?
Don’t worry; if guidance is what you lack, here’s my comprehensive guide for how to make money as a freelancer so you can get started today.
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How to Make Money as a Freelancer – A Step-By-Step Guide
There’s a long list of benefits you’ll get when you make money online freelance. From working on your couch in your sweats, to setting your own rates and work timings, freelancing is the ultimate way to fuel your creativity.
However, a critical aspect of freelance ways to make money is that you have to operate them as your own business instead of working as a typical day job.
As a freelancer, you’re your boss, but that comes with a whole set of responsibilities as well.
If you’re thinking about how to make money as a freelancer, you’ll have to take up the following tasks alongside your job. These include,
- Marketing yourself online
- Pitching potential clients
- Providing support
- Time management
Besides that, getting started as a freelancer isn’t easy. No matter how talented you are at what you do, hundreds of individuals are just like you looking for work.
That’s why, if you don’t devise a proper strategy for yourself, you’re likely to fade into oblivion along with 49% of all freelancers who return to their day jobs.
Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Go through my guide for how to make money as a freelancer for all the details you need. In this comprehensive guide, you’ll find,
- A step-by-step guide to becoming a freelancer
- Profitable and popular freelance disciplines you can choose from
- Reliable freelance platforms where you can connect easily with potential clients
So, while freelancing is not a walk in the park, you can make it accessible for yourself if you know the right way. Let’s start with the steps for how to make money as a freelancer first.
Step 1 – Choose Your Field
If you’re wondering how to make money as a freelancer, the first thing you’ll have to do is choose your field of work.
In this case, you can make your choice depending on two main factors. Either you pick a niche that you’re skilled at or one that sparks your passion. Whatever you do, don’t just sign up for any job advertisement you find online while starting your freelance career.
While this might help you get started on popular freelance sites, if you want to stay on for the long run, you’ll have to narrow your search down to a specific niche.
There are many fields in which you can provide your services on a freelance basis. These include writing, designing, and even high-paying jobs like financial consultancy and digital marketing.
The benefit of choosing a single specific niche is that it helps you establish your personal identity on any platform you consider.
Think about it this way, if you want to hire someone for a task, would you choose an expert in his respective field or a person who is the jack of all trades? Probably the former.
That’s why, instead of just getting any work, you should restrict your job prospects and only go for the leads that match your profile as a professional. This will help you gain more credibility in the long run.
Step 2 – Specify Your Services
Once you’ve figured out your specific field, you’ll have to narrow down the services you’ll provide as well. I know what you’re thinking. What if you stop getting any work if you restrict the number of job leads you’ll approach?
That isn’t the case. If you keep working consistently providing one primary service, you’ll slowly gain popularity and credibility. Besides that, you’ll even get better at it as you connect with diverse clients from all over the world.
For example, if you’re a graphic designer, you cannot expect to go into every designing discipline there is. You’ll have to pick whether you’ll do UX, UI, visuals, illustrations, logos, advertisements, or complete brand identity.
Similarly, instead of generalizing your approach by becoming a digital marketing expert, you can specify your services to content marketing or social media marketing.
The main idea is to keep your eyes on your ultimate goal. If you want to become the most popular UX designer on the internet, don’t entertain any other projects even when starting.
Yes, sometimes you may need to grab any job opportunities you get to generate an income, don’t make it a habit, as it will stop you from making any real progress as a freelancer.
Step 3 – Compile a Digital Portfolio
Next, if you’re thinking about how to make money as a freelancer, you’ll have to build an impressive work portfolio. Now, when I say portfolio, I don’t mean you should cram all your work up into a single document and post it online.
Instead, if you want to display your professionalism creating your portfolio website is the ideal way. Remember, a website portfolio’s whole idea is to attract your potential clients and impress them enough to hire you for their job.
The fundamental aspects you should include in your portfolio include:
- An insight into your personality
- Past work experience
- Education details
- Work samples
- Testimonials from former clients
It doesn’t matter if you don’t have some of the components I’ve mentioned above. But, if you create an appealing portfolio, you’re sure to land clients even without previous work experience.
You can check out resources about building your portfolio and create one that defines your approach as a freelancer.
Once you’re done, remember to include a link to your website whenever you pitch your clients. This will help you maintain the transparency you need in an ideal freelance work relationship.
Step 4 – Choose Your Clients
If you’re still wondering how to make money as a freelancer, the idea of skimming through long lists of clients may seem entirely far-fetched. However, that’s not what I am talking about either.
By choosing your clients, you’ll have to define the type of problems your services will solve. Even if you don’t have clients swarming around to hire you initially, you’ll need to specify this concept in your head to streamline your approach on a personal level.
That’s why, before you start pitching clients, decide whether you’re going to work with established companies, ambitious start-ups, or small businesses.
For instance, if you offer a six-figure designing package for a small business, they won’t be able to afford you in the first place. Similarly, if you’re not equipped to handle a project for a multi-international company, you can end up getting bad reviews even if you put in your maximum potential.
So, choosing the specific types of clients initially will help you pinpoint the standard of work and the price range you’ll set for future prospects.
Step 5 – Take a Headstart Before Leaving Your Job
If you want to freelance while working full time at your office job, it’s not a good idea. Yes, side hustles can get you a few extra bucks every month, but that’s about it.
But when you actually decide to become the captain of your ship, there’s no turning around. That’s why you’ll have to give your freelancing career a go before you leave your day job.
Yes, I know, working on your start-up while continuing your day job can be exhausting. But, it is what it takes to become an established freelancer. It will also help you determine whether you’re equipped to handle the pressure that comes with becoming a permanent freelance worker.
Besides that, I am not saying you should leave your job as soon as you land your first client. Instead, wait for your passive income to grow before you put in your resignation.
Your freelance income should at least be 50% of what you’re getting from your day job. This way, you’ll be taking a calculated risk by jumping into the freelance industry.
Most importantly, having an established day job while you’re beginning as a freelancer will help you stick to your goals.
You’ll select your clients and projects appropriately, rather than signing up for any job available to pay your bills. This ultimately promotes your professional growth as a self-employed individual in the long run.
Step 6 – Sharpen Your Saw
When you’re working as a freelancer, your remuneration depends on the work you put in. This means if you want to increase your rates, you’ll have to work on your skills.
Even if your existing skills help you generate a steady workflow, look to enhance your portfolio further in your respective field.
You don’t necessarily have to enroll in a university program or earn a degree when it comes to enhancing your skills in the freelance world. Instead, you can try out online courses and tutorials to sharpen your skills.
After that, try to indulge in some high-profile projects to make your portfolio more attractive. This shows your clients your diversified skill set and helps you gain more credibility in your field.
Step 7 – Approach Clients
The basic rule for landing clients in the freelance world is to widen your reach. Create your account on popular freelance sites like Fiverr, Upwork, and Freelancer. Besides that, look for potential clients on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
Whenever you get a lead, skim through their friend’s list to see if they have any mutual connections like you. After that, use that connection as leverage to land the client.
Besides that, take some time and do some background vetting of the company. Looking closely at the company’s profile will help you determine its needs. Using that information, you can easily create a proposal that meets their demands and even make some impressive recommendations in the first meeting.
Remember, the more time you put in while pitching a client, the higher rates and longer work relationship you can ensure for yourself.
Step 8 – Be Consistent
According to the general outlook, freelancers seem like people who’re spending their days tucked into their blankets. The reality is quite the opposite.
Most freelancers are usually overworked compared to people with typical 9-5 jobs. Moreover, freelancers rarely take vacations and are generally working throughout significant holidays as well.
However, these are a few disadvantages that come with the flexibility of working on your terms. If you’re really thinking about how to make money as a freelancer, the trick is to stay consistent.
You’ll have to maintain your work quality and impeccable work ethic at all costs if you want to stay in the game. Furthermore, work to increase your visibility online by creating your blog or writing guest posts for other blogs in your field.
Additionally, you can even create tutorials and courses to increase your popularity on the internet and create a steady workflow for yourself.
How to Make Money Freelancing? – Popular Freelance Niches
After reading through my step-by-step guide, you probably know how to freelance online full time. However, if you’re a beginner, you must be confused about which niche to go for.
As I mentioned, you can either go for in-demand opportunities that pay well or choose a job you love doing. Either way, you’ll have to go through a few choices initially before picking out the ideal option for yourself.
That’s why I’ve listed down the most popular freelance job disciplines that pay well, so you can consider them when diversifying your skillset.
If you’re wondering how to make money freelance coding, I’ve got all the details for you right here. Believe it or not, the US economy is facing a lack of talented developers due to the industry’s high demand and continuous advancements.
If you’re a trained individual in web development or are pursuing a career in the field, you can efficiently work from home as a freelancer. Mainly, you can choose from three basic jobs in this field,
- Full-Stack Development
- Front-end developing
- Back-end developing
As a front-end developer, you’ll have to create digital products displayed directly to the users. These include the log-in pages, site navigation options, and contact pages.
On the other hand, a back-end developer will be dealing with the servers and the databases of the website and fix any problems that arise in its working.
Ultimately, a full-stack provider will give the entire package to his clients and charge a large sum for a single project. You can choose any of the three depending on your expertise and work capacity while working as a freelancer.
If you belong to the creative field, you’re probably thinking can you make money as a freelance writer. Well, good news for you, writers are some of the most sought-after professionals on the internet.
For those asking how a freelance writer makes money, every business needs content to promote itself to the masses and stay relevant. However, instead of hiring in-house professionals, about 62% of all companies outsource their writing services.
If you’re wondering how much money you can make as a freelance writer, it depends on your skillset and the genre you select.
For example, if you’re a tech expert, you can easily earn six figures by monetizing an informational blog. Similarly, if you’re thinking about how to make money as a freelance journalist, you can easily do so by creating your newsletter and post meaningful discourses on news updates.
You can earn through affiliate marketing and selling merchandise on blogs based on various popular niches like,
Professional graphic designers wondering how to become a freelance graphic designer can easily do so by specifying their skills and advertising them online.
Graphic designing is a broad field, so you’ll have to create a portfolio, pitch clients, and set your freelance graphic design rates based on your expertise.
Whether you’re good at creating infographics, logos, social media posts, or want to go for high-end projects like UX design, you can easily create a freelance career using your skills.
Remember, your potential clients will judge you through your portfolio, not through your educational background. That’s why, even if you hold a degree in another subject, you can learn to operate the necessary design software and become a freelance designer.
Additionally, you can take certified courses and watch tutorials online to sharpen your saw and create design samples to post on your portfolio website.
Similarly, suppose you want to increase your income in the long run. In that case, you can learn website coding languages and take up complete website designing projects, including UX, UI, and visual components design.
Digital marketing is a rapidly growing industry that requires creative minds that help brands and industries stay relevant in today’s fast-paced world.
As more and more companies target the millions of eyeballs scrolling through social media fields, those who’re asking how to make money as a freelance digital marketer can easily find work.
If you’re a beginner looking for a job that won’t bore you a bit, this is the ultimate option for you. That’s because, in this case, no two projects are the same.
With every project, you’ll be targeting a different audience with creative campaigns to increase the company’s sales.
You can take up small projects like designing social media banners and posts. Or you can go for high-paying projects like devising a complete brand identity or running a social media marketing campaign.
Virtual assistance is another freelance discipline that is gaining immense popularity these days.
That’s because hiring a VA is equal to employing a customer support representative, admin operator, email assistant, typist, and receptionist, all in one. This means by hiring one person; a company can save a huge sum on operating costs.
Naturally, this prospect is quite attractive for small businesses working on a tight budget. Besides that, individuals wondering how to make money as a freelancer can use their respective skill set and do VA work efficiently.
All you have to do is get the necessary know-how of business operating software like Microsoft Excel and acquire good communication skills.
Moreover, once you gain enough experience, you can work for multiple companies and maximize your income as a freelancer. Virtual assistants can earn anywhere from $30-$50 per hour, depending on their responsibilities and expertise.
In the past few years, we’ve seen a significant shift in the advertisement industry. Nowadays, companies are using enticing visuals with minimal written material to attract viewers. That’s because an image stays with audiences and engaged them for longer periods compared to text.
So, if you’re a photographer wondering how to make money as a freelancer, you’re not restricted to covering events and weddings. You can earn money by becoming a freelance photographer in various disciplines such as product photography and food design.
You can also generate a steady freelance income by posting your work on stock websites and selling your editing presets.
Best Freelancing Sites to Make Money
Now that you’ve read through my step-by-step guide along with the popular ways you can earn money as a freelancer, you’re ready to get started.
Here’s my list of the popular freelance portals where you can advertise your skills and find relevant clients who need your services.
Toptal is an online freelance platform that boasts to hire only 3% of the best talent available online. The highlight of this platform is the thorough 5-week vetting process to test beginning aspiring freelancers.
To get high-paying jobs on Toptal, you’ll have to display your talent and expertise in your respective field. Along with that, Toptal will test your communication skills, evaluate your personality, and check your work consistency to let you stay on the platform.
Although the screening process is rigorous, it is what attracts top clients to the site. If you get selected, you’ll get a chance to work with high-profile companies that’ll enhance your portfolio.
However, the platform currently only employs professionals from five disciplines, namely designing, developing, finance management, project management, and product development.
Flexjobs is another reliable site where freelancers can find remote work and generate a steady workflow. The website checks every job it posts beforehand. This way, you don’t have to worry about wasting your time on scam clients.
Similarly, they list their job opportunities in an organized manner so that you can easily find the job that fits your skillset. Although you’ll have to pay a small premium to regularly access their job lists, it pays itself off quite easily.
For beginners thinking about how to make money as a freelancer, finding the right job is the biggest challenge.
If you conduct a Google search about the job postings from your specific niche, you’ll get hundreds of results. You’ll have to scrounge through those results to pitch the right client, and if it turns out to be a scam, you’ll waste your time.
SolidGigs is a platform that saves your time by providing weekly job lists. They create these lists by rounding up suitable job options on the internet according to your profile.
Not only do these gigs fit your skillset, but they’re also thoroughly vetted to be genuine high-paying clients. Besides that, it offers productive training resources for beginners looking to establish themselves in the freelance industry.
Fiverr is the go-to platform for beginners wondering how to make money as a freelancer. Here, you can post your gigs by defining your rates, work hours, and expertise.
After that, your gig will show up whenever a client searches for services related to your field. The client will contact you and provide the necessary details through Fiverr itself, and you’ll get paid when you complete the project.
You’ll have to start by setting a $5 rate. But, you can provide options with higher rates if your prospects are willing to pay. Similarly, Fiverr charges a small amount as a service fee from every payment your receive through the platform.
99designs is the ultimate platform for freelance graphic designers. Business owners worldwide can post the services they need on this site as design contests.
After that, freelance members on the site can participate in these contests and get a chance to win the project. However, the probability of winning the contest amongst hundreds of talented designers is relatively thin.
But, you can get the exposure you need through the site. And if you win a contest, you’ll gain enough credibility to generate a steady workflow. Moreover, 99designs provides fantastic resources for design enthusiasts to sharpen their saw.
Can You Make Money as a Freelancer?
However, like all good things, a steady freelance career does not come easy. You’ll have to put in a lot of initial work to acquire high-quality skills, build a portfolio, and land clients.
Sometimes, you’ll even feel that choosing to be a freelancer wasn’t the ideal choice for you. But, if you work relentlessly, keep your eyes on your goal, and learn from every failure on the way, you’ll establish yourself as a successful freelancer in no time.
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