Freelancing gives people the opportunity to work at home part time or full time. It also is an incredible way to have a profitable income. Freelancing is different than owning a business because freelancers provide services instead of products and don’t hire people to work for them. The overhead of freelancing is typically lower, and the initial start-up costs are also lower depending on their specialty. We discuss how to set up a profitable business online on our free webinar training, and you’re in luck because in this article we’ll outline some tips on how you can create a profitable freelancing business with no experience.
Figure out what you want to do
Before jumping into the freelance world, Mashable recommends figuring out what you want to do. You need to decide on what you’d like to focus on and stick with that to start paving the way to a profitable future.
Just about everything can be outsourced these days. That's why there's a strong likelihood that the skills on your résumé contain one or more freelancing opportunities.
You may be required to think outside of the box — we're not all graphic designers or programmers. However, you may find that your “secondary” skills can offer up freelancing opportunities. For instance, if you are a strong writer, then you have the potential to develop a freelance writing business.
Don't be paralyzed by a preconception that you do not have the necessary skills or experience — you would be surprised how little experience you need in order to get started. A little faith in your abilities will take you a long way.
Starting small is also a wise idea, and Medium the Startup reiterates that by stating that it’s best to start small so you can work your way into it and not get overwhelmed. Who knows — maybe starting small will lead to bigger and better gigs!
If you’re in a part-time or full-time job now — or you’re a student — you’re in the best place to start freelancing. Jumping straight into full-time freelancing from nothing is a shock. It takes time to build up a client base, especially if you haven’t previously grown a network of connections to call upon.
Absorb as much as you possibly can from your current employer. Learn their project management process. Learn how they communicate with clients and manage accounts. Be a sponge who can absorb all those supporting business skills that will be invaluable when you’re out on your own as a freelancer.
Start freelancing with one small project at a time on the side. When I started out as a college student I only worked about 5 hours per week on my first project. My client knew what he was getting, and he was happy to give a student some experience in exchange for slower, cheaper work.
When that jobs done, take on another. Maybe a slightly more demanding one this time. Is your confidence growing yet? After you’ve gone through the process once, does it feel more natural the second, third, and fourth time around?
Before you know it, you’ll have completed 5 or 10 little project and you’ll feel like you know what this freelancing thing is all about. (You won’t really know yet! But every little bit of confidence and experience adds up.)
Create a portfolio
Once you get your freelance business up and running Mashable recommends setting up a profile online. Even if you are a new freelancer, you can include blog articles from your blog in your portfolio or guest articles. If you’re a graphic designer, your portfolio can consist of designs you made at school or for practice. The idea is to get a portfolio set up so you can show companies what skills you have to offer.
The world of freelancing lacks the red tape of the corporate world. Many prospective clients are not concerned with qualifications; they simply want to see what you have done in the past and judge whether it is the right fit for them.
Therefore, if you are good at what you do and can demonstrate your skill through a quality portfolio and positive client testimonials, you have every chance of success. The conundrum, however, is in building a portfolio without experience.
Many freelancers will react to this by picking up the smallest and least lucrative jobs around, but that puts them into a vicious cycle of bargain-basement work. To work for high-paying clients, you need to demonstrate that you are worth big money by doing good work.
So don't be afraid to do pro bono work for the right clients when you are first starting out. The free work you do at this stage can ultimately be priceless when it clearly communicates your worth to future potential clients via an extensive portfolio and glowing testimonials. Also, offering your services at no cost is a gentle introduction into the world of freelancing where you do not feel the pressure of having to deliver a service of requisite value.
Check in with your professional network
Once you start freelancing regularly, Forbes says you should continue to check in with your professional network. It’s easy to lose touch with people online while you’re busy working, so it’s best to check in from time to time and network with new people as well.
While freelancers are finding more work online, their biggest source of leads are family and friends, followed by professional contacts (81% combined). That percentage mirrors the oft-quoted statistic that 80% of new jobs are found through networking. Regardless of whether you go out on your own, you’re well served to make networking a priority.
The survey also listed social media as the third most popular source of leads for freelancers. That’s a helpful reminder to take at least a few minutes each week and check in with your professional network on LinkedIn or Twitter. You never know when those connections might lead to an exciting new opportunity, perhaps in your future life as a freelancer.
You may also want to consider advertising your services. At least, that’s what The Balance Careers recommends. You don't necessarily have to pay for advertising — you can post your services on job boards and Facebook groups to get the word out that you’re looking for work.
Once you begin freelancing you will need to advertise. You may want to start with word of mouth and apply for freelance jobs that you see on various online sites. Several industries take an insider contact to begin working, and it may take awhile for your work to build up to a good point. Successful freelancers are the ones that are able to sell themselves. Depending on your line of work, you should find the online organizations where you can advertise your services. You can set up an online portfolio to show your work and make connections online. Many freelancers will work primarily with clients that they meet online.
Build a customer base
After you get a steady client base, The Penny Hoarder suggests continuing to build on that customer base. If someone who you wrote for appreciates your services, they’ll most likely recommend you to others. That’s why you should do your best work and continue to build up customers.
It’s one of the dirty little secrets of running a freelance business: You can make the best hand-knit baby blankets in the world, but nobody will ever know unless you take the time to build your customer base.
The internet is full of freelancers, many of them doing the exact same thing you want to do. Just because you put out your online shingle doesn’t mean the customers will start clicking at your door.
You have to slowly build up your fan base, one satisfied customer at a time.
How do you build a customer base? Plenty of online resources discuss the finer details of mailing lists, promotions, Facebook business pages and Google Ad campaigns.
But the real way to build a customer base is to make good products (or offer good services), get satisfied customers, and use a combination of advertising and word of mouth to slowly bring more and more people to your business.
The emphasis, of course, is on slowly. There are very few overnight successes, so be prepared to have a lot of lean months until you start turning a serious profit.
Becoming a freelancer is exciting, and even though there are many steps, you must take to get there, with dedication and thoughtful planning you can make it happen. Follow these tips and others that we share on our free webinar training. You don’t have to be experienced to make money — with our help and by you continuing to improve your skillset you should become a profitable freelancer in no time!