How to Become a Freelancer in 14 Steps

Becoming a freelancer is a hugely popular alternative to full-time work, and chances are you have a marketable skill – even if you don’t think so! If the allure of working from home is making you curious about how people actually do it, then look no further! Here are 14 steps to becoming a freelancer that you should be able to follow regardless of your skills.

  1. Take a photo of yourself. This should be a close-up photo of your face, and you should be nicely lit. Try to avoid cropping your face out of group photos.
  2. Prepare some portfolio pieces. These should be photographs/videos/screenshots/clippings of projects you have worked on with a short description of your responsibilities. If you don’t have any portfolio pieces, create some that similarly show off your skills. If your portfolio pieces were prepared in a collaboration, or on behalf of a company, don’t forget to ask for permission to feature them in your portfolio.
  3. Write a compelling personal description. Ask your friends and family to review it and make suggestions, or consider hiring an editor on a freelancer marketplace to give you a hand!
  4. Update your LinkedIn profile (if you have one) to reflect that you’re a freelancer, and ask your friends/colleagues/ex-employees to endorse your skills and give you a testimonial. These can be re-used on freelancer marketplaces. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, make one!
  5. Make sure you have systems in place for receiving payments, managing your accounts, and handling tax. You might need to set up a separate bank account. You will probably need to register yourself as self-employed (particularly in the UK). Setting up a PayPal account is a good idea too.
  6. Consider creating a new e-mail address and Skype account for business correspondence.
  7. Decide on an hourly/daily/per project rate and stick to it. You need to be confident in your pricing, especially if you’re talking over the phone.
  8. Contact local companies who do similar work and tell them that you like what they do, and you’d love to help them on any upcoming projects that they might have. Don’t make the correspondence about selling yourself – make it about helping them. Try to make everything mutually beneficial.
  9. Create an account on the freelancer marketplace that appeals to you the most. It might not be the one you eventually devote the majority of your time to, but you don’t want to get overwhelmed at the beginning. PeoplePerHour is my recommendation. Use your prepared photograph, portfolio pieces, personal description, and endorsements/testimonials to complete your profile. Make it as friendly and eye-catching as possible!
  10. Browse jobs on the freelancer marketplace that you have signed up for, and begin applying for the ones that interest you. Make sure that you only apply for jobs that are relevant to your skills and meet your financial requirements. Don’t get yourself into a situation where you can’t deliver a project because you don’t have the skills required, or you can’t afford to continue working.
  11. When applying for jobs, try to tailor your proposal for a job to the brief the client has provided. Copying & pasting the same proposal will result in fewer follow-ups. Include portfolio pieces and previous experience that is similar to the project you are submitting a proposal for.
  12. When a client accepts your proposal, contact them straight away! Introduce yourself further, thank them for accepting your proposal, and reassure them of the project timeframes and everything you need to get started. If you’re taking a percentage of the overall fee upfront, make sure the client pays that before you start work. Also establish with them what your working hours are, so that they don’t have unreasonable expectations of when they can contact you. Everybody needs down-time.
  13. Communicate regularly with your new client. Let them know how everything is going, and if something is not going to be achievable, or is going to be delivered late, make sure you let them know. If you disappear and deliver a project late, you’ll receive a bad review and that’ll make it much harder to get new clients.
  14. Deliver your project on-time, ask your client for the final payment, tell them it was a pleasure to work with them, and ask if they’d be happy to leave you a testimonial. Make sure they have all the necessary information to take whatever the next step is with their project, and also assure them you’re available if they need any further assistance.

Congratulations! If you make it through to step 14 then you’re on your way to becoming a successful freelancer. Whether you’re using these methods to gain some additional income, or you’re looking to become a full-time freelancer, make sure you keep at it!

Many of the freelancer marketplaces have scoring systems in place whereby the more work you do – and receive positive feedback for – the easier you’ll find it to get new work. This is why it is often better to stick to one freelancer marketplace than sign up for lots of them. You can always move on if the one you signed up for isn’t working out for you.

Which freelancer marketplace is your favourite? Do you have any great tips for becoming a freelancer in 2015?

Photo by Kyle Hale

One thought on “How to Become a Freelancer in 14 Steps”

Leave a Reply