The freelance market has grown by 78% in the U.S., with currently over 70.4 million freelancers. The reasons? For many, becoming a freelancer has given them more control over their work schedules, allowing better work-life balance, more independence on the projects they want to work on, and higher salaries.
However, the first thing you need to know about freelancing is that it takes time. Building a client base is not that simple, and you learn on the way the best tactics to sell your services.
During this article, we’ll explore a more detailed view of how to become a freelancer, with advice from successful freelancers who now make a living out of this lifestyle.
What is the Meaning of a Freelancer in The First Place?
A freelancer is a self-employed individual who offers their skills, services, or expertise to clients on a project basis without being tied to a single employer.
Freelancers are independent contractors who work for various clients, often in industries like writing, design, programming, marketing, consulting, and more.
According to Statista, these are the most popular freelance industries:
- Arts & design (77%)
- Marketing (58%)
- Computers & mathematics (53%)
- Construction (52%)
- Personal care & wellness service (48%)
- Transportation (39%)
- Finance & business operations (37%)
- Sales (33%)
Is Becoming a Freelancer Truly Worth It? Pros and Cons
Shifting from 9 to 5 to becoming a freelancer can be both rewarding and challenging. Whether it’s worth it will depend ultimately on your individual circumstances, preferences, and goals.
Let’s go over the main pros and cons:
Pros Cons of becoming a freelancer Flexibility Income stability Choice of projects Lack of benefits Potential earnings Client dependence Location independence Administrative tasks Ownership and autonomy Isolation
Pros Of Becoming A Freelancer
- More flexibility – Freelancing offers the freedom to set your own schedule. You get to balance work with your personal life more effectively.
- Choice of Projects – As a freelancer, you get to choose the projects you want to work on, leading to greater job satisfaction and the chance to focus on work that aligns with your interests and strengths.
- Potential Earnings – Freelancers often have the potential to earn more than traditional employees, especially if they can find high-paying clients and manage their time efficiently.
- Location Independence – Many freelance jobs can be done remotely, giving you the option to work from home or travel while still earning an income.
- Ownership and autonomy – You have more control over your work, business decisions, and the direction you want to take in your freelance career.
Cons Of Becoming A Freelancer
- Income stability – Freelancers often experience irregular income, with busy periods and slow periods that can make budgeting and financial planning challenging.
- Lack of benefits – Unlike traditional employees, freelancers typically don’t receive benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, or paid time off.
- Client dependence – Your income depends on finding and retaining clients. If you lose a major client or if work dries up, it can be stressful.
- Administrative tasks – As a freelancer, you’re not just doing the work itself but also managing contracts, invoicing, marketing, and other administrative tasks.
- Isolation – Freelancers may feel isolated since they often work alone. This lack of social interaction can affect mental health and motivation.
💡Interesting read: Best Coworking Space Apps to Find Your Community in a New City
7 Ways to Break Into Freelancing Without Experience
Stepping into the freelancing realm without a prior track record may seem challenging, yet it’s far from impossible. Having traversed this path myself, I’ve gleaned invaluable insights that transformed the daunting unknown into a thriving freelance career.
In the upcoming section, I, along with other freelancers from and outside of ThinkRemote, share seven pragmatic steps to propel you into freelancing, even with zero experience. These tailored strategies are your blueprint for cultivating essential skills, building a compelling portfolio, and building long-lasting connections with your clientele in the freelance sphere.
1. Define Your Niche
According to Zirtual, niche freelancers earn more, with an average hourly rate of $30 or more.
But, besides monetary benefits, when you focus on a specific service, you increase your chances of being selected by clients who likely want to hire freelancers with a deep understanding of their industry or needs.
The easiest way to define your niche is by evaluating your skills, passions, and areas of expertise. What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? Consider both hard skills (technical abilities) and soft skills (communication, problem-solving) that you possess.
“Strong niches don’t come from randomly selecting an industry or specialty. They come from your proven experience. For example, an industry niche makes sense if you have proven experience there. For me, my niche is a type of copywriting specialty: SEO Website Copywriting. I got there after I discovered how it catapulted my own business. I applied my fledgling SEO knowledge to my own copy, and within a few months, I was getting hot, hot leads from Google search without ongoing marketing effort. Today, 80% of my clients find me by searching Google… and this is what I help my clients achieve, too. It’s a natural fit! When choosing a niche, try to feel around for that “natural alignment.” – Krista Walsh, freelance SEO Website Copywriter.
2. Start Building an Online Presence
While word of mouth is a great way to start making your clientele, to get more leads, you need to have a strong online presence.
Start by creating a personal website where you showcase through a portfolio your experience, past work, skills, and more. You can have success stories or testimonials from your clients to gain even more credibility.
Additionally, social media platforms are also useful to highlight your experience and connect with potential clients.
“As a freelancer, you do not exist today if you cannot be found online. Being invisible online is a terrible strategy, so making sure your site is keyword rich/mobile friendly/loads quickly/produces meaningful content is the price of entry/great foundation for effective SEO. Social media and technology are 24/7, so it is easy to get sucked into it but don’t let them drive you crazy. You do not need to be everywhere; it does not matter which platform you choose, just pick one or 2 that are authentic to you.” – Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEO- Mavens & Moguls
3. Set Your Rates
Once you have defined your niche, and you know which platforms are useful to build your online presence, it’s time to define your rates.
If you have no idea how to do this, you can start by researching the going rates for your freelance services in your industry and geographic location.
Consider factors such as:
- Your costs: Determine your monthly and annual expenses, including living costs, business expenses (software, equipment, marketing), and taxes. This will give you a baseline figure for covering your financial needs.
- Experience and expertise: Consider your level of expertise, education, years of experience, and the quality of your work. Higher skills and experience often warrant higher rates.
- Time and effort: Estimate the time and effort required for different types of projects. Complex or time-intensive work might justify higher rates.
As a new freelancer, it’s often wise to start with slightly lower rates to build your portfolio and gain experience. You can gradually increase your rates as you gain more credibility and positive feedback.
You can also consider offering different tiers of services at varying price points. This gives clients options and allows you to accommodate different budgets.
“My advice is: productize your services. So instead of getting paid per hour (where you’re punished for working faster), create a tiered pricing system for the services you offer.” – Fintan Meagher, freelance SaaS content marketer.
4. Create a Business Plan
Develop a business plan that outlines your services, target clients, pricing, marketing strategies, and financial goals. Having a clear plan in place will guide your freelance journey and help you stay organized.
Creating a business plan might seem at first like a significant undertaking, but it’s a valuable tool that can guide your freelancing journey and help you make informed decisions. It also provides a reference point to measure your progress and adjust your strategies as needed.
How to get started?
- 1. Executive Summary – Summarize your business goals, target niche, key services, and unique selling points. This section gives a quick overview of your business for anyone reading your plan.
- 2. Business Description – Provide detailed information about your freelancing business. Explain your chosen niche, the services you offer, your target audience, and your long-term vision for your business.
- 3. Market Analysis – Research your industry, target clients, and competitors. Identify trends, opportunities, and challenges. Understand your client’s needs and preferences to tailor your services accordingly.
- 4. Competitor Analysis – Analyze your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. Identify gaps in the market that you can fill or areas where you can differentiate yourself.
- 5. SWOT Analysis – Conduct a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) to understand your business’s internal strengths and weaknesses as well as external opportunities and threats.
- 6. Services and Pricing – Detail the services you offer and your pricing structure. Explain how you’ve arrived at your rates based on market research, skills, and expenses. Discuss any tiered pricing options you offer.
- 7. Marketing and Sales Strategy – Outline how you plan to market your services and attract clients. Describe your online presence, social media strategy, networking efforts, and any other marketing tactics you’ll use.
- 8. Client Acquisition – Explain how you intend to find and acquire clients. This could include strategies such as pitching, responding to job postings, networking events, and leveraging your online portfolio.
- 9. Financial Projections – Estimate your projected income and expenses over a specific time frame (usually one to three years). Include costs such as software, equipment, marketing, and overhead. This section helps you gauge your financial health and set realistic goals.
- 10. Budget and Financial Management – Describe how you’ll manage your finances, track expenses, and handle taxes. Consider setting aside a portion of your income for taxes and emergencies.
- 11. Operations and Workflow – Explain how you’ll manage your workflow, handle client communication, and meet deadlines. Detail your process from receiving a project to delivering the final work. In this section, you need to select your work tools and applications to help you keep things organized.
- 12. Goal Setting and Milestones – Set clear short-term and long-term goals for your freelancing career. These goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART goals).
- 13. Risk Management – Identify potential risks that could affect your freelancing business, such as inconsistent income, client disputes, or changes in the industry. Develop strategies to mitigate these risks.
- 14. Legal Considerations – Address any legal aspects, such as registering your business, obtaining necessary licenses, and outlining your terms and conditions for working with clients.
5. Find the Right Platforms
Explore online platforms that connect freelancers with clients, such as Upwork, Freelancer, Fiverr, Toptal, and more. Create compelling profiles that highlight your skills and experience. Bid on relevant projects and gradually build your reputation.
These are some of the most popular platforms to consider:
Freelancing Platform Industries/Services Catered To Upwork Writing, Design, Development, Marketing, Administrative Support, Customer Service, Sales, Legal, Accounting, Consulting, and more. Freelancer Writing, Design, Development, Marketing, Data Entry, Engineering, Sales, Legal, Accounting, and more. Fiverr Graphic Design, Writing, Music & Audio, Digital Marketing, Video & Animation, Programming, Business, and more. Toptal Software Development, Design, Finance, Project Management, Product Management, and more. Guru Writing, Design, Development, Marketing, Administrative Support, Legal, Engineering, and more. PeoplePerHour Design, Development, Writing, Marketing, Video & Animation, Sales, Business, and more. 99designs Graphic Design, Logo Design, Web Design, Branding, Illustration, and more. FlexJobs Remote and Flexible Jobs across various industries, including Writing, Design, Development, Customer Service, and more. SimplyHired Jobs across multiple industries, including Healthcare, Technology, Education, Finance, and more.
6. Network and Market Yourself
Getting clients is not only about working with freelance platforms; it’s also about marketing yourself and networking.
Attend online events, webinars, and forums related to your industry. Connect with other professionals, potential clients, and collaborators. Utilize social media to share your expertise and engage with your audience.
“Networking used to scare me, but I pushed myself to attend events and chat with people in my industry. It’s incredible how many opportunities came from just striking up a conversation. I’ll admit I was pretty addicted to social media even before freelancing. But I learned to use it to my advantage – sharing my work, connecting with people, and showing off my unique style.” – Samuel Park is the Founder of TechMaestro.co
7. Develop Your Skills
Continuously improve your skills through online courses, tutorials, workshops, and practice. The better and more specialized your skills are, the more competitive you’ll be in the freelance marketplace.
“The first piece of advice I have is to specialize your offering. So, for example, don’t write blogs, emails, landing pages, and copy for the automotive, eCommerce and finance industries. Just do one type of writing. Then do it for one specific industry. For example – “I write powerful case studies that’ll close 2x as many B2B SaaS leads”. Specializing is when you’ll get really proficient and can start charging clients a lot more based on the value you deliver. This doesn’t just apply to writing but to any type of freelance work.” – Fintan Meagher, freelance SaaS content marketer.
How Can I Get My First Clients as a Freelancer?
How do I start freelancing with no experience? While starting to freelance without experience and clients requires time and work, it’s all about the strategies you use.
The best way to get your first clients is to go through social media, use freelancing platforms, and directly contact potential clients who might be interested in what you have to offer.
“One of the biggest challenges to getting a freelancing career off the ground is booking your first clients. If you’re using a platform like Fiverr or Upwork, many people will flock to more established freelancers with reviews. Offering incentives — such as introductory pricing or additional revisions — for your first clients can help you get those initial bookings. You can also advertise your services at low cost through social media sites. Many businesses focus only on Instagram and TikTok, but publicizing your freelance services through sites like Pinterest and LinkedIn can have big returns.” – Josh Weiss, founder and CEO of Reggie.
Additional tips to land your first clients:
- Cold Outreach – Identify potential clients and send personalized pitches or emails introducing yourself and explaining how your services can benefit them. Research their needs and tailor your outreach accordingly.
- Content Marketing – Start a blog, create videos, or share valuable content related to your niche. This showcases your expertise and attracts clients who are interested in your skills.
- Offer Special Launch Promotions – To attract your initial clients, consider offering special promotions or discounts for your services. This can incentivize potential clients to give you a chance.
- Craft Compelling Proposals – When bidding on projects, craft tailored and professional proposals that highlight your skills, experience, and how you can solve the client’s problem. Address their specific needs.
- Ask for Referrals – Once you complete a project, ask satisfied clients for referrals or testimonials. Positive word of mouth can significantly boost your credibility and attract new clients.
Ready to Dive in Freelancing Waters?
The best thing about becoming a freelancer is that you get control of your schedule and, ultimately, of how you balance work and life. You can travel the world while working or choose a comfortable work environment, whether at home or at a cool coworking space.
By following these steps, you have a solid foundation to start building your freelance business. It’s all about taking action!
Freelancers’ income varies widely based on factors such as their skill set, expertise, niche demand, and market conditions. According to ZipRecruiter, the average hourly pay for a Freelancer in the United States is $63.53 an hour.
To be a freelancer, you need a combination of specialized skills in a particular field, the ability to manage time and tasks independently and effectively, and the motivation to deliver high-quality work consistently.
Good starting points for freelancing include identifying your strengths and skills, building a portfolio showcasing your work, and creating a professional online presence through a personal website or social media profiles.
There are various types of freelancing, each catering to different skill sets and industries. Some common types include content creation (writing, editing, copywriting), design (graphic design, web design), programming and development, digital marketing, virtual assistance, consulting, and more.