How to

How to start freelancing : getting started right

6 Mins read
  • 1. Define your freelancing career goals;
  • 2. Develop your skills;
  • 3. Identify your prospects;
  • 4. Develop a robust pricing strategy;
  • 5. Feed your portfolio;
  • 6. Build your personal brand

To start freelancing, having the right mindset is not nearly enough. To get your freelance career started, you need to follow a few specific steps. This freelancing guide will outline the main steps you need to know and their importance. In short, it’s the kind of insight I wish I had when I was starting out as a freelancer. The kind of steps every independent worker goes through sooner or later.

A freelancing career needs to be approached as a personal project. Meaning, that you need to set goals, study your market or professional space, identify your clients and determine your pricing. Besides the managerial aspects, freelancing will require you to market yourself. In other terms : showcasing your services and building your reputation. There are plenty more things that could go into this freelancing guide. However, we shall just focus on the most frequent questions.

Before getting your first freelance jobs

1. Having the right mindset and setting goals

Just as not everyone is meant to be an entrepreneur, not every single person is geared toward freelancing. Some of the main reasons will be detailed in the freelancing guide. But, in order to get the full picture, feel free to check the Freelancing 101 article.

Before you start freelancing, you need the right mindset. Way too many people still think that freelancing is something they can do in their down-time. For most people, it’s just something they can do “in the meantime”, while searching for the “real jobs” out there. This is not wrong per se. Unfortunately, the lack of commitment of the worker always ends up showing in their work. In particular, when they don’t actually want to become a freelancer.

However, if you’re among those that see the actual potential of freelancing, the next step would be to set your goals. No overarching goals such as “earning a living” won’t help. You need to have a precise picture of the goals you want to reach in 5, 10 or even 20 years. In short, you need to act as if your freelancing career were your own personal project. Because it is.

2. Determine your skills and adapt them to the freelancing landscape

The freelancing landscape is not some fantastical completely removed from the traditional professional world. In both cases, it’s the same kind of clients, the same kind of projects and the same kind of skills that are expected from the workers. It stands to reason that you will need to know what are your profesional skills and how you can put them into play. And being a beginner is not enough. You actually need to have an acceptable level in your field. Freelancing is not synonymous with amateur hour.

Marketers, writers, translators, graphic designers, web developers or data analysts? You must be able to provide the services for which you will be hired. When you start freelancing, you will soon realize that you interact directly with the final clients. Said clients don’t always have the same understanding of the job or vocabulary. To become a good freelancer, you will be required to present your services as direct solutions to the issues your prospects are dealing with.

As a data analyst or Excel guru? Don’t offer complex analysis of multi-tiered data sets. Just offer to deliver real insights into the weaknesses of their business and how to optimize. As a content writer, you shouldn’t simply sell the merits of your SEO optimized texts with semantic cocoons and long-tail keywords. Just tell them how your texts will contribute to their natural search optimization.

3. Market analysis and client profiles

It’s both a well-kept secret and an obvious truth. No product, no service is meant for the whole market. It’s the same thing for your talents as a freelancer. Once you’ve identified the skills that will allow you to start freelancing, you’ll need to focus on your niche.

Let’s say you are a french-speaking content writer with a passion for travels and an encyclopedic knowledge of soccer. Make that your “flavor”. Or maybe you are a graphic artist with an expertise in flat design and pixel-art. That can also be your strength.

Finding the right profile for your client means being able to recognize the clients that are willing to pay the price to get access to your expertise. This doesn’t mean that you should refuse other clients. But, at the very least, you will be able to deliver your very best work with the clients that actually need it.

Thus, our travel and soccer content writer will be able to write for a travel magazine or one specialized in international soccer leagues. Our graphic artist will fit perfectly with a high-tech and gaming magazine rather than a mode magazine for example.

4. Determine your prices

The most common mistake freelancers make is not having a robust pricing strategy. To be perfectly frank, we can’t blame them. After all, most freelancers don’t have a real notion of the value of their work. And platforms are built in a way that encourages pricing policies that seem to benefit clients. If you only get something out of this freelancing guide, let it be this : “Low rates don’t benefit anyone. The race to low prices is a race to mediocrity“.

Establishing your rates will allow you to atteint financial autonomy. You must be able to ask for prices and rates that are actually good for you. Having a robust pricing strategy means that you know how you want your rates to evolve over the years. To do so, you must be able to dissect your services and itemize their components.

For example, writing an article starts with research, then writing, proofreading, SEO optimization for search ranking and potential revision rounds after feedback from the client. The rate has to include your authentic 100% plagiarism-free guarantee. In some cases, you can also charge for formatting and submission into the client’s CMS.

After getting your first freelance jobs

5. Feed your portfolio

I do hope that this freelancing guide will help you get your first contract. Congratulations! I’m tempted to say that the hardest part is done, but it’s not completely true. Right now, your budding freelancing career needs to be maintained. To do so, you will need to feed your portfolio. Each project you list in your portfolio sends two messages.

Firstly, it proves that you have the skills required to tackle projects of a similar type and scope. For example, having worked on the graphic charter of a blog doesn’t automatically make you a good fit for a viral online magazine.

Secondly, each project in your portfolio show that you have been trusted by your previous clients and that you didn’t disappoint. You stayed available from start to finish, you stayed committed and didn’t disappear after getting your first pay. Most of all, it shows that you weren’t a nightmare to work with. The feedback given by your previous clients can embolden your career; or kill it, depending on the feedback.

6. Develop your e-reputation

This step is intrinsically linked to the previous one. In order to develop your e-reputation, you will need to get concrete proofs of your skills. Which explains the need to get excellent feedback on all of your projects. That being said, e-reputation can be built without needing freelance contracts.

If you haven’t done so yet, you should create professional accounts on social media. Unless you are absolutely sure of what you’re doing, they should be distinct from your personal accounts. Next, your mission will be to position yourself as an expert in your field. If you’re a content writer, you can achieve this by sharing news related to SEO and giving your opinion. As a developer, you can analyze new updates and share tips and tricks. If you’re a data analyst, you can share interesting case studies.

Don’t simply develop your personal brand on LinkedIn and other “profesional” social media. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest… each and every platform can serve this purpose. And above all else, don’t forget to build links leading to your profiles on freelancing sites and – even better – your profesional website.

How to start freelancing : getting started right
How to start freelancing : getting started right


This freelancing guide’s mission is not to answer all the questions or anticipate all the situations you may encounter. I do hope, it will bring you some wisdom regarding actionable tips and advice that will help you start freelancing right. By following these six easy steps, you will be able to start your freelancing career on the right path.

  1. Define your freelancing career goals;
  2. Develop your skills;
  3. Identify your prospects;
  4. Develop a robust pricing strategy;
  5. Feed your portfolio;
  6. Build your personal brand

The illustrations on this page were provide by PixelTrue

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