Freelancing 101 - Freelancing For Beginners

Freelancing has become a very popular way to earn money, whether as your primary income or as a side gig. People appreciate the flexibility the freelance lifestyle gives them. The hard part is often getting started. This freelancing for beginners guide may help you find your first gigs and get things moving.

What’s So Great About Freelancing?

There are many things about freelancing that people find appealing. When freelancing works, it’s pretty wonderful.

Great pay – Once you know how to set your rates, pay for freelancers can be higher than working for someone else.

Flexible work – So long as you satisfy the needs of your clients, you’re the boss. Work when you want, where you want, using the tools you prefer.

Lots of options – You have many options when starting a freelance business. Here’s a list of freelance business ideas to get you started.

What Parts Of Freelancing Are Difficult For Beginners?

Getting your freelance career started isn’t always that easy for beginners. There are a lot of challenges you must face.

Getting started – Your first clients may be very difficult to find. Jobs may be few, far between, and may not pay as much as you would like.

Getting paid – Clients can be slow to pay for the work you do. Sometimes one won’t pay at all.

Lack of benefits – If you need medical insurance, you have to find it yourself as a freelancer, and it can be expensive.

Self-motivation – It’s all up to you to get it all done. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the mood or not when you have a promised deadline. Sometimes this means working long hours on a project that isn’t going right.

Create Your Freelance Portfolio

A solid portfolio is key to getting clients. They need to see the work you’ve done before they’re ready to hire you.

Your portfolio should contain a variety of examples of your work. You don’t want it all to look alike, as that won’t show the range of your skills. A sample of your work demonstrating each of the skills will build client confidence in your abilities.

Your portfolio should show your best work. If you consider a sample merely adequate, it’s probably not a great choice for your portfolio. A portfolio should impress potential clients.

Your portfolio should be available online. Setting up a website or having someone set one up for you is not terribly difficult, and will make it easier to show clients your portfolio. A professional website is a vital tool for most freelancers these days.

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Set Your Pricing

Setting your prices as a freelancer can be difficult. It’s tempting for a lot of beginners to set their prices too low so that it’s easier to get work. This should only be done with caution, as it can be difficult to raise your prices later. You should always try to get paid what your work is worth.

How you set your prices is up to you. Your rate should take into consideration that you probably won’t work 40 hours a week on paid projects. Much of your time will be spent looking for projects, especially in the early days. Most freelancers choose either an hourly or a project rate. Each has advantages and disadvantages.

Clients often like the project rate because they know upfront what they need to pay you for your work. The disadvantage to you is that you don’t get more money if the project is more difficult than you expected. On the plus side, if it’s easier than expected, you just earned more money in less time. Your project rate should be based on what you would like to earn per hour and how many hours you think the project will take, even if you don’t share those numbers with the client.

Hourly is good because you’re getting paid for how long the project takes you. If you’re fast, that gives you time to take on more projects.

Hourly makes many clients nervous because they don’t want to be on the hook for more money than was estimated at the start. It’s good for the freelancer, however, as they get paid for however long the work takes. You will need to carefully track your work hours so that the client can see where the time went if they ask.

However, you set your pricing, make sure you require a down payment from clients at the start of your project. This is protection for you if payment in full is difficult to get later.

Get Ready To Work

While you can work wherever you want as a freelancer, you should have a good home office setup for regular use. This is a space you can work when you need to be undisturbed.

A dedicated room with a door you can close is ideal, but not possible for all freelancers. Some set up space in their bedroom; others use the kitchen table because that’s the only practical spot they have.

Your workspace should have all the tools you need to be productive easily accessible. This may include your computer, internet access, printer, reference materials, and so forth.

It also makes sense to look into setting up accounts with various tools to make your freelance life easier.

Toggl, for example, is a time tracking tool many find useful. The basic version is free, and paid plans are reasonable. You can set up tasks and time how long you work on each.

Slack is very popular for teams, but may not be suitable for all freelancers. There’s only so much an individual can do with Slack. If your clients use Slack, however, it’s a good way to keep in contact with them. Independent workers can use Slack to join communities of other independent workers, so that you have someone to chat with during the day.

Asana is for project management and can help you whether you’re working alone or as part of a team. Set it up with due dates for your projects and tasks. You can view everything on a calendar, making it easier to see where you’re overscheduled and where you have openings. The basic version is free and allows up to 15 people on a team.

Job Boards Make Freelancing Easier For Beginners

There are a lot of freelancing job boards you can consider using. They aren’t just for beginners, but they make it a lot easier to find work.

This is a selection of websites you can look at for freelance work. Some specialize in particular types of work, such as writing or tech. Others offer regular work as well as freelance, and you may need to narrow your search on them.

Upwork
Linkedin Profinder
Flexing It
People Per Hour
ProBlogger Job Board
Freelance Writing
We Work Remotely
Working Nomads
Virtual Vocations
Stack Overflow
Sologig
Smashing Jobs
WP Hired
Local Solo
Toptal
Places To Find Freelance Writing Gigs – a list I created.

Get Paid

Your contract with clients should make it completely clear when you expect to be paid for your work. Clients won’t always pay on time, so having penalties for late payment spelled out in your contracts will help you deal with that. Freelancer’s Union has a contract creator you may find helpful.

A part of getting paid on time is taking a partial payment upfront. If a project will take a long time, invoice your clients during the project as well. This way you don’t have to worry about collecting the entire payment at the end, when some clients tend to become forgetful.

Invoicing and accounting are important to the health of your freelance business, and there are some wonderful tools for that. Freshbooks has been around for a while and does a good job.  It will help you send out invoices and estimates, track time and expenses, and accept credit card payments.

If you want a free invoicing software, try Wave. It charges for credit card processing, bank payment processing, and payroll. The invoicing and accounting sides are completely free. You can use it on your computer or use mobile invoicing and receipt scanning through its apps.

Keep It Legal

A freelance business is still a business, and in most areas you will need a business license. If you aren’t seeing clients in your home, this is usually a simple process. If you have people coming to your home, that’s where it can get more complicated, as you may need to show that you will not be bringing an excess of traffic into the neighborhood.

You may also need to register a business name. In many places, if your business name is simply your name, it’s not a concern. If you want a different name, you probably have to register it.

Taxes are another concern. If you’re doing at all well with your freelance business, it is a very good idea to pay quarterly taxes. This way you will not need to pay a huge sum at tax time, and it helps you avoid tax penalties.

Keep receipts for anything you want to deduct from your taxes. They might be important.

Fear Is Normal

Freelancing is a scary business for everyone, not just freelancers. It takes time to get enough clients, and even experienced freelancers sometimes won’t have enough. You have to keep on top of things.

Use that fear. It’s a push to work a little harder. Send out more proposals. Learn something new that will improve your skills. Get out of your comfort zone.

Final Freelancing For Beginners Tips

Don’t overload yourself when you’re a beginning freelancer. You do not need to take on every possible client. Overloading your schedule is a sure path to failure.

Keep business hours, and try not to work too often outside of them. There will be times when it’s necessary, but you need downtime too. Don’t let overwork ruin your enthusiasm.