Did you know that there are about 4,373 steps to become an online freelancer?
Joke! I started writing this article on April 1st! LOL
I’m not going to travel alone anytime soon. There will be family events that I couldn’t miss and I have a ton of work to do. So for now, I’d like to write about freelancing. I’m not a freelance guru so follow my tips at your own peril. LOL
Seriously though, come learn with me. I am a freelancer. This is how I make money and I’d like to share what I’ve learned through the years.
This is a general guide on how to be an online freelancer:
Step 1. Say goodbye to your employee mindset.
Reset your mindset. Freelancers are not employees. We are business-owners and we sell services. Being a business owner doesn’t mean that you’re going to act “bossy.” It simply means that you’re willing to work harder and do the things that scare you and make you uncomfortable.
- Have a strong sense of self-worth
- Be willing to do what it takes to learn the ins and outs of the freelance business
- Believe that your earning potential is unlimited
- Willingness to invest time, energy, effort and money
Step 2. Define your WHY.
Freelancing is not a walk in the park. There are obstacles and problems along the way. Knowing why you want to be in this industry will help you stay motivated. Examples of whys:
- You want to stay at home with kids while making money.
- You’re tired of getting stuck in heavy traffic every day.
- You want to work anywhere, anytime while traveling.
- You want more freedom
Step 3. Create a list of your existing skills.
You have to know your abilities but more importantly, you have to know what clients are looking for. It’s more about what your clients are having problems at. How can you solve their problems? Sometimes, it’s easier and more practical to utilize your existing skills than to enroll in a paid course. Examples of in-demand skills:
- Content writing
- Lead generation
- Data entry and general admin tasks
- Email response, live chat, and cold calling
Step 4. Choose your primary niche.
Your niche is your expertise or area of specialization. It’s a client problem that you can effectively and efficiently solve. You have to narrow down your focus. You can’t be an expert at everything. When you specialize in a specific skill, it’s easier for clients to find you and you can demand a better rate.
Step 5. Choose 3 sub-niches.
You have your primary skill and you also know how to accomplish other tasks. For example in my case, my primary niche is B2B content writing. I also work on other projects as a side hustle:
- Data entry
- Web research
- Virtual assisting
- Social media management
- Email response
- SEO and keyword research
Step 6. Define your ideal clients.
The next step is to identify who you want to work with. We all have different criteria or standards when it comes to this aspect. Personally, I want to work with clients that understand that I need to make money as well. Also, I won’t work with anyone that sells shady products. Here are some examples of my ideal clients:
- Chiropractors and practitioners of alternative medicine
- Book authors
- E-commerce business owners
Step 7. Create a mission statement.
This is important so your intention is clear and you know what you want to happen in your future. You can review this quarterly and change it as needed. It may look something like this:
“I am Eve and I provide content writing services for book authors, speakers, and small business owners. I help them position their website on top of Google search results by providing high-quality, well-researched, and well-written content. This is my ultimate purpose because it brings me joy and I am able to make money from my passion.”
Step 8. Set up your home office.
Now that you are a business owner, you will have to invest in several pieces of equipment, devices, and furniture. The budget can be an issue so it’s up to you how resourceful you are. In my case, I borrowed my cousin’s laptop during the first month. Anyway, some basic things that you’re gonna need include:
- a computer with decent specs
- a strong internet connection
- headset with microphone
- video camera
- a desk and a chair
- a quiet space
Step 9. Prepare the tools and software for your business.
It really depends on the type of freelance business that you want to pursue. In my case, I wanted to be a content writer so there’s nothing much that I need. Examples of tools that you might need:
- a time tracker (search Google for free time tracker apps)
- Google Docs
- collaboration tools such as Asana, Basecamp, Trello, etc.
Step 10. Compute your target income.
You must have an idea of how much you want to earn from the freelance business. Consider all potential expenses including internet, electricity, computer repairs, etc. The formula can look something like this:
Personal expenses + Living expenses + Business expenses + Taxes + Savings + Health insurance = Target income.
Step 11. Set up your pricing system.
The prices of your services depend on your niche, expertise, and how big of a problem you can solve. The bigger the problem, the higher rate you can charge. That’s how freelance business works. Examples of pricing methods that you can use (search Google for detailed info):
- Hourly rate
- Ala cart
- Per project basis
- Fixed price
- Profit share basis
- Subcontracting price (if you’re ready for this)
- Flat fees
- Per day basis
Step 12. Set up your payment methods.
You need to be able to accept payments. This part must be smooth and hassle-free coz you don’t want your clients to have issues with this. Do an intensive research about this and consider transfer fees and deductions. Examples of your options include:
- Local bank transfer
- Western Union
Step 13. Create your contract and proposal templates.
Don’t work without a contract. That’s dangerous. The scope of your role, duration of the project, and rates must be clearly specified in the contract. You can Google or if you have a lawyer friend, ask him to create a draft for you hopefully for free.
A template for sending proposals is also necessary. Avoid sending generic proposals to your prospects. Make it customized according to each business type and client needs. You can use this website and.co to create business contracts and proposals.
Step 14. Create a plan on how you’re going to get direct clients.
First, decide whether you’re going to use Upwork or similar websites. If you want direct clients, you will need to work extra hard to find them. You can find them on LinkedIn, Craigslist, and Facebook. If you have extra funds, create your own website and advertise via Facebook and Google Ads. Examples of places where you can find potential clients:
Step 15. Create a plan on how you’re going to conduct client consultation.
You need a script. So write an awesome script. Most business owners have zero experience working with online freelancers so you are expected to lead the conversation. Also, it’s important that you speak the “business language.” Don’t say “I’m applying for the job.” You’re not a job applicant. Use the terms “consultation,” “proposal,” and “discovery call.”
Some tips you can do:
- Before the discovery call, stalk your prospect on LinkedIn and search their business website. Learn about their business as much as you can. Create a list of questions that you need to ask and a note of what you need to discuss with your prospect. What type of business do they do? What type of customers are they serving? Where are they located? Etcetera.
- During the discovery call, ask a lot of sensible questions about their business even if you already know about it. This is your chance to demonstrate how your services can help them. Business owners operate in unique ways so it is you that need to adapt. Tell them you’re flexible and you will adapt to their processes and systems.
- Before ending the discovery call, discuss your rates and when you expect to get paid like for example every week. Money is a sensitive topic but you are now a business owner and you must do this even if it makes you uncomfortable. If you are able to explain clearly how your services can contribute to their business, this part will be easier.
Step 16. Create a Facebook business page.
If you can’t afford a self-hosted website yet, Facebook is a great place to start. Most clients are on Facebook and it’s free. Choose a name for your freelance business – something that is catchy and relevant to your niche. The easiest way to do this is to find a Virtual Assistant Facebook page and use it as a model. You don’t have to copy. Just use it as a model and see what kind of elements they used for the FB page.
Step 17. Set a timeframe.
Now that you have an overview of the freelance business set-up process, you have to set a deadline for yourself. How many weeks or months are you going to complete all the steps? This is critical because the longer it takes you to launch your business and start making money, the higher the chance that you’ll lose hope and go back to being an employee.
Step 1 is an ongoing process. You can’t do that in just a snap especially if you’ve been an employee all your life. You have to continuously train yourself to act like a business owner.
Steps 2-18 depend on how quickly you act.
Challenge yourself to finish all steps in one week and start hunting for clients. Your proposal template and script can help you seal deals. So work hard on those parts.
Step 18. Just launch your freelance business.
Pray. A lot. Close your eyes. And launch your business. Don’t wait too long. Do it now or as early as possible. There is always a learning curve and waiting to become an expert first before working with your first client is not really the best way to do it.
Work on your first project and focus on quality and client satisfaction. Don’t think too much about the money yet. As a beginner, it’s wise to build your credibility and portfolio first. Although many won’t agree with me. They’d probably say, “No! You deserve thousands of dollars right away!”
But then, I kinda know how clients think. They won’t pay you based on how much you believe you’re worth. You will be paid based on “perceived value” – if they think your services will really help grow their business. They’re going to pay you based on the size of the problem that you can solve. The bigger the problem, the higher your rate.
Here’s what you need to know:
If you don’t want to receive sh*tty rates, don’t offer sh*tty services. Quality and timeliness are two things you want to be a fanatic of.
I’m not a freelance guru. So again, follow my tips at your own peril. No joke.
This is just a general guide and my personal opinion. Some of my tips you might find useful but you might cough at my other tips. At least you get a sequence of steps to do so you can start a freelance business. I’m just giving you an idea.
Personally, I believe that freelance work is freestyle. You can skip some steps and add your own or totally recreate your own steps. It really depends on your niche and how you do business.
The key is to take action. Just do it even if you lack resources and knowledge. Google is always there for you. Remember that. You just have to search.