The Ultimate Guide to How to Become a Freelancer with No Experience
Have you dreamed of working from home, so you have more control over your life? You’re not alone. According to a LinkedIn survey, 82% of professionals want to work from home at least one day a week or more. And 57% want to work from home for three days or more.
Wouldn’t it be great to create your own schedule, have the flexibility to go on vacation whenever you want to, and choose the projects you work on? If you answered yes, then read on because I’m going to tell you how to start a freelance business that lets you have a better work-life balance.
Why You Should Start a Freelance Business
There’s never been a better time to freelance from home with the current status of the world today. The COVID-19 pandemic forced many companies to close or find ways for their employers to work remotely.
Those of us that freelance from home were still able to find ways to make money while other people lost their jobs.
The internet makes it possible to work wherever you want to, and every day, more businesses create remote positions and hire more freelancers. But starting your own business is even better because you control your time and money.
You can still work with large companies all around the world because hiring freelancers is becoming more and more popular. I run a freelance writing business, as well as my blog. I’m excited to get up and work every day because my commute is significantly shorter than it used to be,from the bed to the coffee pot, and there’s much less stress.
Now is the best time to start a freelance business and work to achieve your own goals instead of being stuck in a cubicle working to further someone else’s.
1. Identify the Type of Freelance Business You Want to Start
You’re only limited by your imagination as far as what type of freelance business you want to start. I started working online for a few companies to escape my dreary 9-5 and then soon realized that working for myself is the way to go.
Like me, Chris, with Golden Bloggerz, found success working from home as a beginner freelance writer. But there are tons of other freelance business ideas including:
- Creating and selling homemade products like food or crafts
- Virtual Assistant
- Social Media Manager
- Graphic Designer
- Web Design
- Coaching or Consulting
- Bookkeeping and Accounting
- Interior Design
And many more.
To decide what kind of freelance business you want to start, you want to consider hobbies that you love doing, skills, or the current work you do. Do you like working on websites or as an I.T. professional? Is creating crafts using your Cricut machine a passion?
What is your educational background? Do you have an English or Accounting degree? Do you have a copywriting certification?
You can figure out your dream work from home job by asking yourself some of these questions.
2. Choose a Profitable Niche
Once you decide the type of freelance business you want to start, you need to choose a profitable niche. So, what is a niche? A niche is essentially a specialized market or a part of a larger market that has its own identity, preference, and unique needs.
To niche down, you can choose a specific industry, type of projects that you work on, or both. I chose both as I specialize in writing blog articles for businesses in the security industry.
So, you could create websites for women travel bloggers or be a virtual assistant specializing in social media management. The possibilities are endless.
You’re probably wondering why you need a niche. Can’t you get more customers as a generalist? Well, actually no. Consider this: a woman that owns a gym wants to hire a writer and comes across two writers with blogs. One has content like:
How Fitness Centers Can Turn Customers on Trial Memberships into Customers for Life
The other blog has content like:
How Businesses with Memberships Can Earn More Money by Offering Trials
Of course, I just totally made these up, but which one would you choose as a gym owner? The first one, right?
Niching down allows you to establish yourself as an expert in your specific market. Becoming an expert in your niche enables you to command higher prices and become an authority everyone looks to.
But what if you start a niche and don’t like it or want to change down the road. A niche isn’t forever. If you want to focus your efforts on another target audience, it’s your business. You can do what you want to.
I’ve been in my niche for several years now, and I want to pivot and start writing blog articles for bloggers. I’m tired of writing about security products for large corporations. Sometimes you need to change.
3. Set Goals and Create a Business Plan
Once you’ve decided on the type of freelance business, you want to start and a niche, you need to set S.M.A.R.T. goals so you can measure your progress. S.M.A.R.T. goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Without clearly defined goals, you’ll have a hard time getting results.
Is your business going to be a side hustle or something you want to do full-time? Is it a stepping stone to another goal further down the road?
Once you figure out your main goal, you can break it down into actionable steps, so you have a clear path to help you achieve it. Your goals guide each decision you make in your business. An example of a clear, obtainable goal would be that you want to make $50,000 within a year of starting your business.
This goal is much more realistic than $100,000 but still enough of a stretch that you have to work hard to achieve it. Setting goals is a balance between pushing yourself enough to work harder, but not so crazy that you become overwhelmed and give up.
You also want to create a business plan. I know that sounds a little too professional, but you need to treat your freelance business like any other business. When I first started, I was so excited about working from home that I wanted to take it easy because that’s the whole point, right?
You’re still running a business, and most freelancers find more success once they create a business plan and clear goals because they are finally taking their freelance business seriously. It’s one of the most important steps of learning how to start a freelance business.
This is also the step where you want to set up all the legal and administrative parts of your business, like deciding if you’re going to be an L.L.C. and figuring out business taxes and contracts.
4. Figure Out Your Ideal Client/Avatar
Picking a niche was the hardest part of starting a freelance business for me and identify my ideal client or avatar was the second hardest. You’ll see the terms client, customer, and avatar used interchangeably, but they all refer to the person you want to sell your services or products to.
First, you want to do market research about who you think your ideal customer is. If you’re in Facebook groups with your ideal customers or you currently have a few freelancing customers, you can gain valuable insight from surveys and interviews.
But most people learning how to start a freelance business, don’t have any clients yet. In the beginning, you can make some assumptions on who your target audience is and then target that person. Over time you’ll drill down on exactly who your ideal avatar is by working with people. You’ll be able to refine that over time.
You’ll want to know your ideal avatar, intimately. Your avatar literally is a person with problems that you solve with your service or products. They have a personality, career, family, etc. Give your avatar a name and write down basic demographics. What is their occupation, are they married, do they have a college degree, do they have kids? Write down their hobbies and interests and even the magazines they read.
The better you know your audience, the easier it is to sell to them.
5. Determine How to Price Your Products and Services
Determining how to price your products can be tricky. So, many beginner freelancers get stuck on pricing. The biggest problem with new freelancers is they undervalue their services. If you sell the solution to a genuine problem, people will buy it!
There are many ways to price your services, and that can be a whole article itself. Two of the main ways to price your products or services is by the hour or a fixed rate. If you’re a freelance writer, many set a specific price per word. Fixed prices are usually best because you don’t get penalized for being quick and getting more work done for less money.
This article discusses a good pricing strategy defining how much you want to make per year and work backward. You will probably refine your pricing strategy over time as you see what works and what doesn’t. Also, Bonsai has a cool freelance rates explorer you can try.
You may be thinking, “why does a freelancer need a blog?” Oh, there are so many reasons, way too many for this blog post. But for starters, your website is your own. If you rely on a platform like Upwork (which I don’t recommend) or even social media, if something happens to that platform, your whole client base is gone. Or you can get suspended for some crazy reason. It’s happened to many bloggers.
You can house your portfolio of work on your website, and a blog is a great way to provide helpful content to potential clients and market your services. Having a website allows you to grow your brand and further establishes you as an expert in your niche. You can also make passive income through affiliate marketing from your blog while attracting your ideal client even if you’re a complete newbie.
Speaking of a portfolio, that’s the next step.
7. Create a Portfolio
Depending on what type of freelance business you decide to start, a portfolio is critical to showcase your work. Don’t worry; it’s easier than it sounds. Some people actually create a portfolio website that’s primary function is to highlight projects they’ve completed for other clients.
On my freelance writing website, I used a portfolio plugin, which made it easy to set up and add my writing projects to it. Some themes, like Divi by Elegant Themes, have a portfolio module that showcases the projects you add under the projects tab in your WordPress dashboard.
Whichever portfolio you choose, make sure it shows off your work and clearly illustrates your niche and expertise. Displaying testimonials provides social proof and helps clients decide that you’re the right freelancer for them. Make sure you update it regularly too. Creating a portfolio is a critical part of learning how to start a freelance business.
8. Learn How to Market Your Services
Great marketing strategies involve many factors, but one of the most important is that you need to learn how to pitch your products and services. Excellent communication is vital. LinkedIn is a great place to find clients if you’re looking to target businesses and other professionals. You can search through jobs or grow a network of potential clients.
It’s fairly easy to search the companies you would like to work for and find their H.R. person or whoever else might oversee hiring freelancers. Many people on LinkedIn also have their email address on their profile, so it’s easy to send them an email.
The best way to get the attention of the people you pitch to is to make sure you personalize it. You can easily use a template, but make sure you really look at their website so you can create a pitch that stands out from the rest. Be prepared for questions, and make sure to highlight how you can help them. It’s not about you; it’s about what you can do for them.
You’ll also need to develop a content marketing strategy to target your potential customers, whether you’re making videos, podcasting, or writing.
9.Networking is Critical
Networking is another great way to find jobs, and Facebook is an excellent platform for that. Join freelancing Facebook groups or groups where your target client hangs out. If you join groups where your target client hangs out, you can gain a lot of insight into their problems. Then you can create products that solve them.
Facebook is also a great place to network with other entrepreneurs to collaborate on projects and spread the word about your services. I’ve even been tagged in groups when someone asks about freelance writing. Networking is critical to gaining visibility and being seen as an expert in your niche.
You may work with local businesses in your area and even attend local industry meetings. Staying active in online forums dedicated to your niche is another way to network.
Creating business pages on social media also helps with networking and marketing.
How to Start a Freelance Business and Stay Productive at Home
Working from home is amazing, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but it does have its challenges. You may have children that will be with you most of the time when you’re working. And this is especially true since many schools are still doing at least partial remote learning this fall.
Change Your Schedule
You may need to work a different schedule than the traditional 9-5, so you can work when someone else is there to watch the kids. Many parents with freelance businesses need to work the kids go to bed or early in the mornings. I just happen to be a night owl, so I stay up late. I try to stop work no later than 7 PM, so late evening is my relaxation time. Working later allows me to sleep in every morning.
Procrastination Can Be Your Enemy
Even people who love their work find it harder to start some days. When you have household and family responsibility and run a freelance business, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
Planning is your greatest friend as a business owner. Every afternoon or evening before you end your workday, plan your schedule for the next day. Allow yourself plenty of time to finish projects.
Some procrastination comes from burnout, so make sure to take breaks during the day and take whole days off from work as well. You can follow the structure of traditional employment to avoid burnout.
Avoid Social Media When You’re Not Using it for work
Social media can be a major time-suck to your workday. You may stop to look at a friend’s Facebook post quickly, and next thing you know, you’ve wasted 30 minutes scrolling through social media.
Treat your freelance business like any other company. Your boss at your day job didn’t let you play on social media all day. Turn off the notifications on your phone, so you’re not tempted to look at it every time you hear that ding.
You can also use apps like Stay Focused that restrict certain websites once you reach the time limit you set. Productivity apps like this can help you stay focused and get more work done.
Limit How Much You Check Your Email
I can’t tell you how hard it was for me to limit the number of times I checked my email every day when I started. When you have multiple email accounts, you can take up a lot of time just checking your email. I still fight it.
Set a specific time to check your email like at the beginning and end of your workday, and you’ll be a lot more productive.
Learning how to start a freelance business certainly has its challenges; there’s no denying it. But being in control of your own schedule and future allows you to create the life you’ve always dreamed of, and it makes all the hard work worth it.
So, don’t be afraid to start your own business because the opportunities are limitless when you control your own destiny.
Heather Ritchie is enjoying her second career as a freelance writer and blogger. She enjoys helping other women live the freelance lifestyle. . Download her free eBook on How to Make Money as a Freelance Writer.