Have you ever wondered, how would it feel like to have a career where you will be your own boss?
No restrictions, no fixed work hours, no office desk, and work of your own choice.
Sounds fascinating right? That’s exactly how it feels to be a freelancer. But how to start freelancing work? and more importantly why?
In today’s world freelancing has created a shift in the way companies operate. Many businesses are choosing to work with freelancers rather than hiring permanent employees. There are many factors involved in making freelancing ‘The new thing’, but the most important factor that makes it special is the flexibility that it provides to individuals and also to businesses, making the work more effective. As more young people are losing their interest in 9-5 jobs, freelancing is proving to be the ideal alternative for them.
So, what is Freelancing? And how is it different from Entrepreneurship?
As the name suggests free-lancers are those lancers (warriors) who have not sworn to any lord. In simple words, those people who choose their own work. While entrepreneurship is more about problem-solving and building teams, freelancing focuses more on individual growth. Many start freelancing as a side- hustle and after certain progress, they switch to full time freelancing. Some freelancers have also grown to become one-person businesses and have managed to create a brand out of their work.
Even though it sounds fascinating, getting started as a freelancer can be very simple. You’re just some decisions away from becoming your own boss. Here are 7 simple steps that will help you to know how to start freelancing work.
How to start freelancing work? [7 Simple Steps]
- Start with introspection
- Define your end goals
- Find your own niche
- Identify your audience and potential clients
- Choose platforms and build a portfolio
- Choose numbers wisely
- Get started
1. Start with introspection
Before you start thinking about ‘How to start freelancing work?’, you need to make yourself clear about ‘Why do you want to start freelancing?’. Many people get so influenced by the idea of freelancing that they forget to spend enough time on introspection. They focus more on getting started in a hurry and end up losing their clarity in decision making.
People become copies of other successful people because they don’t spend enough time thinking about why they want to do it.
When you start introspecting, I will suggest you take a paper and write down answers to these three questions.
- Why do I want to start freelancing work?
- How am I planning to grow?
- What kind of impact do I want to create?
Once you decide why you want to get started, you get ready to face the challenges. Even though its a work of your choice, every career has ups and downs. In such times, clarity over your purpose will save you from giving up. The importance of starting with why is explained in one of my favorite books ‘start with why’ by Simon Sinek.
Book reading is also a very important habit that will help you bring clarity in your thoughts. There are many books that people highly recommend for getting started with freelancing work. I will list some of my favorites in this article.
2. Define your end goals
Now that you’re clear with why you want to start freelancing, its time to set some goals. There are two kinds of goals you need to set, first the long term goals and then the short term ones. Let’s call them end goals and step goals. But what is the difference between these two and how do they help?
Let me explain it with an example, let’s say you like photography and you have decided to start freelancing in that field. you’ve made yourself clear that you’re choosing to freelance because you want to build an audience through your work and at the same time make money through it. Now its time to set goals. Things like being able to travel the world, building a strong community, and earning demand for your work, qualify as the end goals. End goals are always experiences that you want to have. These end goals together create a vision for you to follow.
Once you have a vision, that’s when step goals come into action. Step goals mostly include logical checkpoints that you need to attain a strategic approach. For a photographer, who also has a 9-5 job, step goals can be like the following:
- Dedicating 1 hour a day to creating and editing content.
- 1 hour a day learning new skills and strategies.
- Making (1) and (2) daily habits.
- Leaning time management and prioritizing work.
When you are planning on how to start freelancing work, make sure that your goals excite you enough. They should be well thought and not adopted by someone else’s ideas. Only you know what works for you and how you operate. Ask yourself ‘What exactly are you trying to achieve with your work?’ and be honest about it.
If you want to learn more about goal setting practices then there is an amazing book called ‘The code of the extraordinary mind’ by Vishen Lakhiani in which he has explained how to set end goals and how the end goals are different than means goals.
3. Find your own niche
Alright! You have spent enough time thinking and introspecting. Now is the time to start experimenting. When we think about starting something on our own, it seems simple and straight. In reality, it’s not as straightforward as we think. So, it’s very important not to get demotivated if your initial work does not stand up to your expectations. The key here is to keep working and start adapting to better ways of implementation.
When you start your initial work, its just experimentation, so give yourself some space and wander around with your creativity a little bit. Find out ways that suit you better. After some period you will start realizing what’s good for you and whats not. That’s when you can start building your niche.
But, what is a niche?
Niche is a contracted and more focused form of your interests. Let’s say if you’re a football player then your niche is a football turf. It is an area of interest where you feel like you own it. It is very important to find your niche because it helps you to stay focused. Working in a dedicated niche prevents you from becoming ‘jack of all trades and master of none’.
There is a very interesting concept called ‘law of contraction’ in the book ‘The 22 immutable laws of branding’ by Laura Ries and Al Ries, in which the authors explain how it is important to contract the area of expertise to dominate in a field or market. If you have an interest in creating a brand of your own, this is a book that I highly recommend.
Having a dedicated niche helps you to keep your work original and also to build your brand value.
4. Identify your audience and potential clients
You have clarity over your vision, you have set your goals right, you have decided a battleground for yourself that is your niche, now its time to think about others. When you’re planning to become a freelance you should know that there are two ways to monetize your work.
The first and difficult way is to keep your focus on the quality of your work and work consistently until someone sees value in it and then you get paid for your work. It is a very artistic way, but a very long way. The second way is to understand how marketing works, not the whole concept but enough to help you build a network or community of potential clients.
When you know what you’re good at and what kind of value you’re going to deliver through your work, you can find out who is your potential consumer just by asking a very simple question:
What kind of people may get benefited from my work?
When you’re thinking about ‘how to start freelancing work?’ you need to understand that you’re (in a way) starting a one-person business and in the business world, this process is called customer building. Even though there’s a difference in two processes, the basic idea is the same. You need to find out the kind of people that may be interested in your work and then you can start approaching them.
Remember, the more value you deliver, the more benefit you gain in return.
If people appreciate your work they recommend it to others. This is the best way to gain an authentic audience.
To understand it better I will suggest you read an article by Kevin Kelly called ‘The Technium: 1000 true fans’.
5. Choose platforms and build a portfolio
Now that you have your strengths in check and you know the kind people you need to engage with, its time for you to choose the right tools. There are thousands of platforms available for freelancers to start their freelancing work. But don’t get overwhelmed by those numbers, every platform is different from other and comes with specific types of features. You need to choose a platform that suits your style better.
Let’s say you’re into writing, like me. There are majorly three platforms that dominate the blogging market – WordPress, Medium, and Blogpost. For a writer to post on all the three platforms can be a very tiring process. That’s why it’s better to understand what kind of content are you planning to create through your writing and choose one or at most two platforms.
Understand, how exactly the platform works? what features does it serve? And most importantly how you can leverage it for your benefit?
By now you must have observed that, to answer one question ‘ how to start freelancing work? ‘ you need to ask yourself many questions. Understanding what you’re stepping into is very important and this is exactly what platform developers think about while developing platforms. They ask and answer many questions before they launch a platform and that’s why each platform is unique in its own way.
Once you choose platforms, its time for you to start building a portfolio. In business terms you can call it a minimum viable product. This can be a website, a social media page, or even a podcast. The portfolio should be the direct reflection of your strengths and niche that you’re working in. It is also very important to keep it simple and easy to handle.
There’s a saying called ‘first impression is your last impression.’ and to start a freelancing work, your portfolio is your first impression.
6. Choose numbers wisely
Once you’ve built a nice portfolio, it is more likely that you will get approached by some clients. In many cases you need to approach the clients first. But both ways you have to have proper pricing set for your services. I know that it’s hard to evaluate your own work in terms of money because only you can understand the efforts behind it.
But it’s very important to price it in such a way that neither the clients should feel that you have overpriced it nor you should feel that it is underpriced. There are standards for each kind of service. You should research it and come up with a minimum and maximum price that you charge. Then consider your efforts and added value that you’re serving, and decide the final number accordingly.
I will suggest consulting with other people working in the same area, to understand how much you can expect. Initially it should not be about how much money you’re making through your work. I am not suggesting you sell cheap but don’t overprice. Work on what you have and build your brand value. A recommended and quality serving freelancer can charge high prices, so work to build that reputation first.
If you want to read more about money management then there’s a book that I think each and everyone should read – ‘Rich dad, poor dad’ by Robert Kiyosaki. There is a very famous quote in that book which is,
Don’t work for money, make money work for you.
Re-read it and let that sink in. It is very important.
7. Get started
And finally, I would like to suggest you is, just get started. There are thousands of ways to achieve the same thing, what you need to find is the one which suits you. You can start with experimenting and with time you will get a better hold of your way towards success.
Many ask how to start freelancing work? But not all of them put in practical efforts to make it happen. Now you know the 7 steps that you can follow to start freelancing and its time for you to start working on it.
Those who start early may or may not win, but those who start and be consistent definitely win!
All the best!