It’s that time of year when many of us set New Year’s Resolutions or decide our goals for the upcoming year. If you’ve been considering freelancing or starting a side hustle, 2019 might be the time to start. With a growing number of freelance jobs available and more freelancing platforms than ever, there’s an abundance of opportunities to kick-start your freelance career. Let’s see how…
#1 Know thyself
Before you start a side hustle or become a freelancer, you need some idea of what you want to do and what service you want to offer. This will be based on your skills, knowledge, experience, interests, and goals. To give yourself the best start, choose an area you’re interested in and great at. If you’re struggling to figure this out, check out my guide to finding your freelance area.
#2 Test the water
Before you commit to starting a side hustle, it’s a good idea to see whether you like freelancing. Test the water by “practicing” with a few small jobs on top of your day-to-day job. This might be writing blogs in the evening after work, offering to proofread friends’ essays, or helping family members to improve their CVs. See whether you like the freelance lifestyle of lone working and home working.
#3 Check the rules
Now it’s time to get yourself set up as a freelancer. This might involve registering as a sole trader with your government so you pay tax on your freelance earnings. If you already have an employed job, you may need to confirm with your existing workplace that you’re allowed to freelance alongside your job. There might be rules about what hours and work you can do.
#4 Get set up
Now it’s time to get yourself set up so clients can find you. While you may want to create your own website, it’s often easier to find clients via the many existing freelancing platforms. Peruse the sites, see which you like, and set up a profile. Generally, it’s easier to build up feedback working through one site, rather than several. Later, you might get work through your own personal website, but it’s easier to start where the clients are.
#5 Show yourself
When applying for jobs, you need to be able to demonstrate your skills to potential clients. Gather a portfolio of work you’ve done (and check that you’re allowed to share it, which might mean removing any identifying information). If you don’t have any or can’t share it, create something new. You might put this on a personal website or freelancing platform, or supply it when clients ask for it.
#6 Research the competition
Before applying for jobs, it’s helpful to check out your competitors to see what they’re offering and decide on your pricing. You might want to research prices for your industry, but remember that you’re like to earn less for entry-level rates until you have an established reputation. You may consider offering a freebie to lure clients in at the start, and you can find a guide to freebies here.
#7 Find work
When you’ve decided on a service and a price, start applying for jobs on the freelancing platform. You’ll need to be able to write a compelling pitch, and you can find out how in my pitching guide. Start with small jobs, which might be a few hours’ work, and look out for genuine clients. But don’t just rely on freelancing sites, as you can find work through word of mouth, networking, etc. You can find out how to compete here.
#8 Happy clients
For your first few clients, it’s vital to keep them happy to get good feedback, so ensure you deliver a great job, on time, and with excellent communication. The more feedback you get, the higher you appear in the rankings on freelancing sites. Happy clients often make return customers or refer you to others. Don’t forget to keep a record of your earnings and any outgoings for your business.
#9 Don’t despair
It can take a while to get your first client and to build up feedback. If your applications are rejected, learn from them and see where you can improve. You may need to adjust your service offerings or pitches accordingly, checking that you’re not under- or over-pricing. Building a side hustle doesn’t happen overnight—it takes time and patience. The more feedback you get, the more work you’ll get.
#10 Build on your successes
As your side hustle grows, you may want to find a niche in the market, offer additional services, or focus on building your own personal website to find clients. You may want to save up your earnings as a buffer to quit the 9-5 and go full-time freelance. You may earn enough that you need to hire an accountant. Or you might decide to grow it into a bigger business.