Freelancing offers an incredible opportunity to control the way that you work. As a freelancer, you have the freedom to work from anywhere, at any time.
Appealing perks like these are leading to the growth of the freelancing industry. More than one-third of the U.S. workforce is currently freelancing in some capacity, according to Upwork’s recent freelancing research study.
But how do you get started as a freelancer? If you want to take the first step towards becoming a freelancer but aren’t sure how to begin, you’re in the right place.
This article will discuss seven steps to becoming a freelancer in 2021.
Popular freelancing occupations
Clients are looking for successful freelancers to solve their problems across almost every industry, job, and skill set.
Regardless of your occupation, a client is looking for a freelancer like you to solve their problem. Below are some of the most popular freelancing jobs in 2021:
Millions of businesses use Upwork’s work marketplace to find talented freelancers based on over 5,000 skills and 100+ categories of work. Over 10,000 freelance opportunities are posted on Upwork each day.
Becoming a freelancer in 7 easy steps
Why do you want to become a freelancer? Is freelancing an additional income stream, a chance to expand your work experience, or a replacement for your full-time employment?
Freelancing offers the freedom of choice. There are many different paths to success for freelancers in 2021.
You can begin your journey in your spare time or approach it as a full-time career. Regardless of your approach, the seven steps listed below will guide you past many of the common hurdles that new freelancers face.
1) Define your service & offering
Turning your skills into service is the first step to becoming a freelancer. To do this, you’ll need to understand how your skills can help a prospective client.
Try to put yourself in the shoes of your ideal client. What problems do they have, and how can your skills be used to resolve the issue?
It’s essential to recognize that clients are looking for a solution to a problem. To be a successful freelancer, you need to understand the client’s situation and use your service to address their issue.
The answer to these questions will be the foundation of how you package your skills as a service. Now it’s time to develop a brief description of the service that helps you sell your freelance service to companies.
Try to concisely explain what you can do, how you do it, and for what type of business/client. Don’t worry about the price yet; we’ll get to that in the later steps.
2) Find your target audience
Now that you have a freelance service to offer, you’ll need to find a target audience. Start by identifying the type of clients that will be a good fit for your service.
Do these clients have a shared problem and common characteristics? Are they in a specific industry?
As a new freelancer, merely being great at what you do is not enough to automatically have clients seeking you out. It’s crucial to position yourself in front of your potential clients so they can learn about your services.
You’ll need to take an active role in finding potential clients. For most freelancers, there are three ways to acquire clients:
- Freelance job posting platforms
- Leverage existing connections and networking
- Marketing, advertising, and outreach
Understanding which of these options works best for you is key to finding relevant clients for your services.
“I started my freelance business on Upwork in 2020 and found my first freelance client through Upwork’s platform. Over the last year, I have grown my business exclusively through Upwork and client referrals without paying for advertising or having to attend a networking event.”
Upwork is a work marketplace that helps freelancers and clients connect and engage in meaningful work projects.
On Upwork, clients actively post available projects across multiple categories and pay top price for quality work. You can search here to find projects that match your skills.
3) Develop a pricing structure
Once you have clearly defined your service and your target market, it’s time to set your price. The goal is to maximize the amount you’re paid without losing out on potential jobs.
So, start by looking at your competitors in the market. What are they charging for similar freelancing services?
In reality, there is no perfect formula for pricing your freelancer services. Many variables can impact the amount that clients will be willing to pay:
- Project duration
- Project complexity
- Client’s geographic location
Fortunately, Upwork has some valuable resources to help you navigate how to price your freelance services. For more information, check out the two major pricing models that freelancers use: hourly pricing and project-based (fixed) pricing.
Do not let uncertainty about your pricing structure keep you from getting started. Your rates are not permanent. You can change them in the future.
Start with a price you feel comfortable with and try not to overthink it.
4) Create your portfolio with past jobs
Creating a compelling portfolio is an integral step to becoming a successful freelancer. As a freelancer, your portfolio establishes your work quality by showcasing your accomplishments and past projects.
This is your opportunity to show—not just tell—clients what you are capable of doing and the value of your expertise.
Your portfolio should highlight your best work related to your service offering. Each piece in your portfolio should paint a clear picture of your contributions and how that project benefited the client.
Some of the things that a strong portfolio could include are case studies, testimonials, data-driven results, images, charts, work samples, and mock-ups. It’s important to receive permission from your past clients before incorporating their project materials into your portfolio.
5) Write a great proposal
To ensure a successful start as a freelancer, your first project should closely match your work experience and capabilities. When you find a project that you’re confident that you can provide excellent service, it’s time to submit a proposal.
The right proposal can mean the difference between securing a job or not, so it’s critical to have a proposal that works for you.
On Upwork, submitting a project proposal is easy and straightforward. Using sites or platforms other than Upwork, you can still utilize this proposal structure to demonstrate your value to potential clients.
For best practices, see freelance copywriter Andreea-Lucia Mihalache’s article on how to build a winning proposal. In short, a proper proposal should be a strong selling point for your abilities. It needs to outline the company’s needs, how you can help, and provide your credentials and qualifications.
Finally, remaining professional and friendly is vital, so try to use professional language to help you stand out.
Creating a template can help you organize your proposal, but the most successful freelancers tailor it to the specific client and project. Taking that extra up-front time and effort demonstrates your sincerity, enthusiasm, and professionalism.
6) Create a relationship with your client
As a freelancer, your clients are your business. While it may seem obvious, it’s essential to develop a positive working relationship with your clients. Successful freelancers establish relationships with clients rather than thinking of the work as a one-and-done deal.
Building a long-term partnership can lead to repeat business and new client referrals. Here are some key points to keep in mind when creating a relationship with your clients:
- Do excellent work: High-quality work is necessary for client satisfaction. You need to provide value and solve the client’s problem to have a chance to build a long-term relationship with the client.
- Communicate with the client: Effective client communication creates a more substantial business relationship and encourages clients to continue to work with you for future projects.
- Build trust through consistency: By consistently completing your work on time and providing accurate deliverables, you can build trust and show that your client can depend on you in the future.
- Find opportunities to provide more value: By taking the initiative, identifying new solutions, and taking on additional responsibilities, you demonstrate your potential value to the client and open up new ways to work together.
7) Continue developing your skills
Freelancers are hired for the service and skills that they offer to their clients. As a result, it’s crucial for freelancers to consistently improve their skills, adapt to changes, and expand their knowledge.
Keeping up with current trends is also essential to providing your clients the highest service level. Online learning resources such as Udemy, LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, and even YouTube are great starting points for ensuring that your skills are always up to date.
Start your freelance career.
Are you ready to begin freelancing in 2021? It’s up to you. As a freelancer, you’re in control, and you get to make the decisions for your business. Clients are actively looking for new ways to address their problems, and your freelancing services could be the solution.
By following the seven steps in this article, you can get started on the path to becoming a successful freelancer in 2021. Don’t get stuck in the planning phase.
You must take action to make your freelancing career become a reality. Sign up for a freelancer account on Upwork and gain access to millions of freelance opportunities.