Earning money as a freelancer doesn't have to be a long process. You can begin to earn money in your first week of freelancing. Here's how you can.
I started freelancing over twenty years ago, and although there has been a massive shift in the platforms, the basics of earning money as a freelancer really haven't changed. In this blog I will teach you how to get paid, quickly, so you can get your freelance career up and running.
How to make money freelancing
Step 1: Learn how to ask for freelance projects
Finding potential clients is always the first step in earning an income, it seems obvious, but is always the major barrier to entry.
I truly believe that every freelancer can earn well over $150,000/year within their first three years of freelancing.
How do I get my first freelance projects?
To get your first freelance projects many freelancers miss the mark by simply coming out and saying "I have this skill, are you hiring?" or begging with "I need a job to support my family!" These are completely understandable but these aren't viable solutions to getting you first freelance projects.
Getting paid as a self employed small business is hard and requires you to build a relationship with clients. Instead of simply coming right out and asking potential clients for work, take some time and get to know the client, ask them what problems they are facing, and discuss solutions.
Build relationships with freelance clients
As you build this relationship, you will build trust, and eventually the client will simply ask to pay you for your solution, and if they don't they will most likely see you as a valuable resource and may refer business to you.
Remember that businesses typically spend anywhere from $20-150 to acquire a customer, this is most commonly referred to in sales terms as Customer Acquisition Cost, or CAC. As a freelancer it is important to understand this. If your average project size is $2500, and it costs you 3 hours of your time at a $50 hourly rate to acquire a customer, this is a very profitable trade off.
One cold email isn't enough to build a freelance business
The problem arises when you expect a customer to do business with you after one cold email. This almost never happens, there is always a relationship building phase. Just as someone you meet at a bar probably doesn't want to get married and have children right after you first say "hello," you're unlikely to have a client for +5 years by just telling them that you are a website developer (or insert another freelance profession here).
Building your portfolio is important as often the next step in the conversations with potential clients is proving that you can actually do the project. If you have taken the time to develop an actual relationship with the client, the next step is to send them to your portfolio. When you create an online portfolio you can quickly refer to other projects where you have solved similar problems.
Developing strong relationships and become the expert your clients rely on
Your goal with developing relationships with potential clients is progressing your freelancing career by being a problem solver. Once you solve enough projects while freelancing, clients will begin coming to you.
How do I know how much to charge as a freelancer?
How much money you earn as a freelancer is really up to you. Many of my freelance coaching students often ask "how much do I charge as a freelance writer, or for web development services?"
The answer I give is fairly simple. Instead of focussing on how many dollars you earn, focus on how much time you want to work. By choosing a particular time, you can start at a low rate, then max out those hours, then increase your rates for every new client.
For example, if I charge a $40 hourly rate, and want to work 40 hours a week, but am only work 10 hours per week, then if I reduce my hourly rate to $30 per hour I can fill that time. This leads to more projects, more testimonials, more portfolio pieces, and gives you much more content to refer to when selling new clients.
Aim for quantity of freelance work over quantity in the beginning
I believe it's much better in the beginning to work on building up the quantity of your work than trying to get one lucrative contract. By spreading out into multiple projects you will increase yoru stability and reduce your anxiety, because you will always have work to do.
There will always be the one big pay day with a particular client, but they can be few and far between when you're starting your freelancing career. Focus on quantity over quality at the beginning and soon enough you will have hundreds of projects to refer clients too, and easily prove that you can take on their larger projects.
How to find potential clients as a freelancer
Step 2: Find the right clients willing to pay you for your time
Finding paying clients is always the first hurdle freelancers have to leap over, and understand that you are a salesperson first is the first step towards making the jump.
New clients are everywhere online, from Upwork, to LinkedIn, to Instagram, even a simple Google search will show you millions of bad websites, bad logos, bad writing, bad marketing which you can fix to increase the sales of a business.
Also make sure to read: How do I rank on Google with SEO Writing?
Business owners want to increase their sales, I've never met one whose primary goal was to reduce their profit. By finding problems, and proactively solving them for clients, you can show that you are an expert in digital marketing, freelance writing, or a vast array of other freelance disciplines.
Small business owners appreciate it when you are proactive, if you see a problem, point it out, and discuss a solution with them. If you can communicate that the solution will increase their profit, or save them money, you can grow your freelance business and get more clients easily.
Prospective clients are always on the look out for talent, whether you do freelance graphic design, freelance writing, or website development, there is a way you can help every small business thrive.
By focusing on 5-10 potential clients per day and offering solutions to their problems, I guarantee you will get work eventually. Remember the CAC, it will take time to nurture each business relationship, so start today and solve problems for people, it will pay off.
How to get paid for your freelance work
Step 3: Ask for a deposit of 50% for your first project to establish trust
Your goal is to make money as a freelancer, it supports your lifestyle, your family, and everything else you want to do.
Prove that your freelance jobs have a high return on investment
The key to getting clients is to make sure that your solutions bring in more money than your cost. I can prove that my average project returns 384% in the long term, when you are able to prove this, you become extremely valuable to your clients.
Freelance jobs which communicate, "when I do this, your business will benefit like this," have a much higher rate of success, than simply telling potential clients what it is you do.
Clients are more than willing to pay for solutions with a positive return on investment. If you could prove that you could turn $1 of effort into $2 of profit you will never go hungry again. It is a very difficult thing to do in reality however.
Document the process of your freelance jobs in detail
Ensuring that you are documenting the process is incredibly important and showing the customer your positive effect on their bottom line over time makes you important to their organization.
Organize your freelance services into per hour, flat rate, and monthly retainers to make pricing transparent for your customers. By giving each customer options to have they go about completing a successful job with you, you make getting paid that much easier.
Keep the freelance project moving towards completion
Step 4: Use project management software to define the project and keep it on track
It is a good idea to learn project management skills to keep projects on track and profitable. One of the first things you should do when working with your clients is to produce a list of items that will be completed.
This list of items is often called a Scope of Work, or SOW, these are vital to your freelance project's success as it defines the end of the project. Without an SOW you may be working an indefinite amount of time towards a vague goal that is most likely different in the minds of you and your client.
Skills in project management are essential for freelancers. If you are doing flat rate or fixed price projects, project management becomes vital to ensure that you are profitable and that you can continue your freelance career.
How do I get large freelance projects?
Want to work on a large freelancer project? You must have the ability to demonstrate that you can handle complexity. Every large project has hundreds of moving parts. In the beginning it is important to try multiple freelance skills so you can make yourself well rounded. Specialists can earn a lot by being extremely good at one thing, but generalists can dominate because they can work on virtually any project.
Long term clients need generalist freelancers, you can write, design, and develop, which means that you can understand these positions and effectively manage team members who are specialists. I recommend taking on numerous different types of freelance positions as you grow your freelancing career.
Never become platform dependent as a freelancer
Keep in mind that as a generalist you will be asked to switch between projects. Being resourceful becomes essential, and it's not for everyone. But there can be instability as a specialist, if you are a specialist in a particular platform, and that platform disappears you can find yourself without work very quickly.
Here are the most popular freelance businesses you can start in 2023:
Social Media Expert
For a list of the easiest freelance careers, check out 3 Best Freelance Jobs for Beginners in 2023.
How to grow your freelance business to earn more money
Step 5: Propose new projects when you have almost completed the current project
Skills are the foundation to building a freelance career, and deciding whether you want to be a specialist or a generalist is an important step. Being a freelance writer AND an SEO specialist is better than being one, or the other.
Jobs are plentiful online, and the one task you should complete every day is to find 10 jobs you can apply to and contact 10 potential clients to always keep your sales pipeline full of prospects. If you set aside an hour each morning and just contact clients before starting your work day, you will always have work.
The value you bring to potential clients will always be repaid, so make sure that as you are talking to customers that you are always pointing out problems that you have a solution for. Never only propose a problem, or a solution, without defining the other.
Higher rates are possible by first defining the amount of time you want to work, then reducing your hours to hit the time mark, then increasing your prices with each subsequent customer.
Earning potential is expanded by being a generalist. When you are a generalist you are always in demand, and current clients will see that you can do other things than just one specialty. Specialists are great, but I have found through my experience that they often make a lot of money for each project, but have large gaps of off-time in between. You have to decide on what you prefer, stability and potential are two very enticing options!
How Long does it take to earn money freelancing?