How To Become a Freelancer

How To Become a Freelancer in 2023: The Complete Guide

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. In fact, 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 2022.

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 2022:

  • Software developer
  • Writer
  • Digital marketer
  • Web/mobile developer
  • Graphic designer

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 2022. 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 a 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 come up with 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.”
—Sean Cope.

Upwork is a work marketplace that helps freelancers and clients connect and engage in meaningful work projects. On Upwork, clients are actively posting available projects across multiple categories and paying 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:

  • Experience
  • Industry
  • Project duration
  • Deliverables
  • Project complexity
  • Client’s geographic location
  • Urgency

Fortunately, Upwork has some useful 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 for, 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 key, 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 important 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 stronger 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 2022? 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 2022. 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.

How To Become a Successful Freelancer in 10 Steps

What is a freelancer?

Freelancers work by the job, hour or day rather than working for one employer. They can take on contracts with companies or provide their services to individuals through online platforms. Regardless of the type of clients they work with, freelancers don’t typically have a long-term commitment to any one particular employer.

Benefits of being a freelancer

Being a freelancer can present the following advantages:

  • A greater sense of independence: Freelancing often gives you greater control over your workload, as opposed to a full-time employee. You can decide which projects to accept, the clients you want to work with and how much you want to be paid.
  • A more flexible schedule: You can decide where and when you work on your projects. You often have the opportunity to work from your home office and set your hours. As long as you meet your deadlines, you can organize your schedule according to your preferences.
  • A potential for increased income: Since you can negotiate your pay rate per contract, it’s possible to attain a salary increase more quickly than if you were a full-time employee and generally only able to secure annual raises. It’s also possible to take on freelance work while you still have a full-time job so you can earn extra income.
  • Easy to begin: You can begin freelancing with very few start-up costs, assuming you already have the necessary equipment and skills for your chosen field. Some people even quit a full-time job to work on a contract basis with the same company, just to get started.

How to work as a freelancer

Here are 10 steps you can take to become a successful freelancer:

1. Define your “why”

Every successful freelancer needs to start by defining their ultimate goal. Take some time to ask yourself why you want to become a freelancer. Whether it is to achieve a particular lifestyle or earn extra income, your “why” is what will keep you going when times are challenging.

2. Give yourself deadlines

Set a deadline for each of your milestone goals. For example, you should set a date for when you will select your niche, find your first client and quit your day job (if this is your intention). In general, since freelancers have to create and stick to their schedules without any supervision, giving yourself strict deadlines can help you keep up with your responsibilities more effectively.

3. Find a profitable niche

Many freelancers start by offering the experience they acquired in previous jobs. It is a quick way to start your business. To make it more profitable, you can look for a niche within your field. There are many websites where freelancers offer their services at a low cost. Choose an area that interests you and try to become the best in that niche.

4. Gather what you need to get started

Verify with your county or city whether you need to file any paperwork or attain any licenses or permits to work independently in your chosen field. You’ll also want to create a business plan that outlines your services, target demographic and marketing strategy. Then create a website and order business cards to advertise your services.

5. Set your income goal

Although it may take some time to reach a full-time income, it’s still important to set a financial goal. You can approach this by calculating three different amounts:

  • Necessities: This is the minimum amount of money you need to earn to pay for basics, such as food, rent and other necessities.
  • Leisure and hobbies: This is the amount you need to cover activities that you like to do outside of work, such as recreation, entertainment and hobbies.
  • Wish-list: This is the amount that would allow you to thrive, including money for vacations and wish-list purchases.

This exercise can help you figure out how much income you need to cover your living expenses and set milestones. When you reach a specific income level, you’ll know that you’re one step closer to your ultimate goal.

6. Keep your expenses lean

As a freelancer, you’ll have business expenses that you wouldn’t have as a full-time employee. For example, your laptop, smartphone, internet connection and any business services you pay for are considered expenses. Suppose you work from a dedicated home office. In that case, you can also count a portion of your utility costs and housing as business expenses.

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