Learn

A Comprehensive Guide to Starting your Freelance Career.

I started as a freelancer on Elance (now Upwork), twenty years ago. You could say that a lot has changed, and you would be right from a technology perspective, but the core functions as a freelancer haven't changed surprisingly.

A Comprehensive Guide to Starting your Freelance Career - By Scott Luscombe



6 answers to know before starting your freelance career.

I started as a freelancer on Elance (now Upwork), twenty years ago. You could say that a lot has changed, and you would be right from a technology perspective, but the core functions as a freelancer haven't changed surprisingly.

 

 

What many new freelancers fail to realize is that they are a salesperson first, simply because you need to be able to sell the project before you work on each one. You also need to be able to upsell projects to keep your business running and keep working with clients.

During the one-on-one freelance success coaching sessions I have with my students I often get asked these questions when someone is considering becoming a freelancer:

Frequently asked questions about starting a freelancing career:

  1. Should I quit my full-time job to start freelancing?
  2. How long does it take to start earning money as a freelancer?
  3. What do I need to start a freelance business?
  4. Where do I find freelance clients?
  5. When should I start freelancing?
  6. Is it stable to start a freelancing?

So let's jump into these answers so you can start your journey to becoming a successful freelancer with a blossoming freelance business.

Question 1: Should I quit my full-time job to start freelancing?

My freelance coaching students who are considering a freelance career often ask this question first. Many new freelancing students always worry about the financial impact related to potentially leaving your day job.

My answer: When you get started freelancing, keep your day job, that way you will have that foundation until you are ready to leave.

I could have said "it depends," but it's a terrible answer because you're most likely considering becoming a freelancer because you want location freedom (I travel between Canada and Brazil with my family), and financial freedom to work when and how much you want.

The only time I recommend leaving your job is understanding a few circumstances:

  1. If you have a great runway of savings for at least 6-12 months as you build up your freelance business

  2. If you don't have a family depending on your income

  3. If you have the mental ability to realize that you will most likely be with a low or no income while you build up your freelance business and get clients

  4. If you have an abusive job or are suffering from a toxic work culture that it destroying your motivation and confidence

  5. If you are feeling extremely unfulfilled with your full time career and need something new

Question 2: How long does it take to start earning money as a freelancer?

We work for money, first. You get bonus points if you enjoy the work you do. I've been a freelancer for over twenty years and I personally love it, it gives me unlimited earning potential and flexibility to scale my freelance business up or down depending on my life circumstances.

My answer: If you do weekly coaching coupled with the pieces in Question 3, you can start earning an income within 3 months as a freelancer. Often within the first few weeks.

If you do it my way, with no mentor, and purely trial and error it may take years, I remember making $8,000 in my first year. I learned a lot, and I was fresh out of school with a full time Junior Graphic Designer job, so it wasn't terrible, but I had no idea what it took to be an entrepreneur, and learned slowly.

Understanding how to convert potential clients into paying customers, marketing your skills, making sure you are producing quality work, building your portfolio, and an online presence is a lot to learn.

Learning on your own costs a lot in the long term, if you have some savings I would suggest doing, at minimum, one or two freelance coaching sessions per week so you're never learning the hard way and stay on track for freelance success.

One-on-one Freelance Coaching, Digital Courses, Books, and Templates to Level-up your Freelancing.

Question 3: What do I need to start a freelance business?

Everyone has a computer now, so I'm leaving out hardware and software items for the purpose of brevity, because you can literally run a freelance business on your phone or tablet now. There's really no purpose in buying expensive computer equipment when you're getting started.

What is important to have within your first month of freelancing are these items to build your personal brand:

Logo

Having a Logo, name for your business, a matching domain name, and email gives clients a good first impression that you are a real business and won't disappear after they pay. Clients want to see stability with their freelancer, you should be giving your clients the impression that you are the lowest risk option possible, you are here to help them with their business goals and solve their business problems well into the future.

Need a Logo Design? Click Here.

Website

One thing to remember with your website is that it will never be done. Say it out loud "my website will never be done." But getting it started, having a concise About page that acts as your resumé, a Contact page, a Blog section to help you start ranking on search engine, and Portfolio section to show off your work and prove your skill, and a way to pay through eCommerce is the best way to start.

Need a Website? Click Here.

Presentation Pitch Deck

When you get started with freelancing you will do what is called Outbound Marketing. Simply put, Outbound Marketing is you sending contacts to potential clients to try to get work, whether you are using LinkedIn, contacting businesses directly, or Upwork, you need a nice Presentation that tells the client how you solve their problem and that you are the one to hire.

Need a Pitch Deck Presentation? Click Here.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the business social media network, and instead of just posting work on Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok, you can connect and contact people looking to hire you directly. When you start as a freelancer I would devote all of your time to this one social network. LinkedIn is a staple freelance platform which is free from political problems associated with other social networks and it is very easy to find work.

Question 4: Where do I find freelance clients?

You want to get paid as a freelancer, everyone knows that, and you will have a lot of competition out there to land your first client and build your freelancing career. I recommend these core freelance platforms to sell your services, find jobs and build your freelancing career.

Start with: LinkedIn

Get started freelancing with LinkedIn by making sure you have:

  1. Complete and optimized profile
  2. Work samples
  3. Daily original content
  4. Daily engagement with other users
  5. Connecting with your target clients

Then: Upwork

Get started freelancing on Upwork by making sure you have:

  1. Profile application and approval
  2. Complete and optimized profile
  3. Portfolio pieces
  4. 3 Profile Specializations
  5. Complete Project Catalog

And: Fiverr

Get started freelancing on Upwork by making sure you have:

  1. Profile application and approval
  2. Complete and optimized profile
  3. Complete Project Catalog

Question 5: When should I start freelancing?

You know the old adage "The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, the next best time is now." This holds true for everything, including starting as a successful freelancer. You can't go wrong just starting, with whatever budget you have. You CAN start freelancing for free on LinkedIn, you don't need to pay for anything but a computer and some software.

Dive in and just start working through the above checklist, but make sure that you have a daily system in place to ensure your best chances at success. You first client will take some time to develop, but as you build up your personal brand, client after client will come to you.

When your client comes to you, this is called Inbound Marketing, and it is the holy grail of becoming a successful freelancer. When clients come to you, your conversion rate skyrockets and you are almost ensured to get the job.

The only way you can mess it up with a client coming to you through Inbound Marketing is if your above personal branding pieces aren't up to date or don't meet the needs of your client. This is why I always say that you will never be done working on your personal brand, you will constantly be fine tuning it for your clients and should be looked at as an ever-evolving piece of marketing for your freelance business.

Whether you are building a freelance business as a web designer, copywriter, financial analyst or any of the thousands of freelance jobs you can do for clients; remember that you are a salesperson first. I highly recommend building your skills as a writer and communicator as this will be a primary function when you get started as a freelancer.

The benefit of having writing as one of your skills will give you a massive advantage and keep you in demand with your client as you can help them with almost every job they have. When you client wants a new email template, website writing, or a new sales brochure, ALWAYS develop your writing skills.

Question 6: Is a freelance career stable?

Yes, easily, yes. After twenty years, and fifteen years in agencies I've see everything from layoffs, to pandemics, to economic recessions, terrorist attacks, you name it. One thing that I have always had is freelance business.

You owe it to yourself to start freelancing, by just thinking of freelancing you have made your first step. Even if you have a busy job, you can always fit an hour or two per day to moving your freelancing career ahead inch by inch.

Freelancing for me has been very freeing. My wife is Brazilian, I'm Canadian, our two sons are Cazilians, and without freelancing I could never live the life I do right now (skipping cold Canadian winters). Freelancing gives me time to spend every day with my sons and even they want to each become a freelancer.

If you're looking for a freelance coach, look no further!

 

A Comprehensive Guide to Starting your Freelance Career - By Scott Luscombe

Then, pick one of these:

Freelance Success Coaching
Freelance Success Digital Course
Freelance Success Shortcut Book
Third, try these:

Freelance Designer or Developer?

What to read next: