Regardless of whether you want to bring in some extra money or begin your freelancing career, you’re faced with one crucial question: how on earth do you get started?
We’re covering how to start freelancing by developing your skills, building a portfolio, and honing your search for freelance clients. Work your way through putting these steps in motion, and you’ll be in the right place to start your freelance career.
Identify your skills ✨
You may not have any experience freelancing, but you do have valuable work experience and skills. Make a list of the kinds of skills you can use to serve clients. Think outside of the box! 📦
For example, you can use your work as a graphic designer to design marketing materials for clients. Your experience as a social media manager may make you perfect to run the social media platforms of a local small business.
Think about what you want to do 🧐
There are so many ways to be a freelancer. You could design websites for small businesses, or edit audio for social media marketers. Your experience organizing meetings and planning events may make you a wonderful virtual assistant.
Now that you’ve identified your skills, it’s time to think about what type of freelance services you want to offer.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What do you enjoy doing? What type of work brings you joy? Alternatively, what do you want to avoid?
- Who do you want to work with? Define your ideal client. Do you want to work with small businesses, female entrepreneurs, or animal hospitals? What industry does your ideal client work in? It’s okay if you’re not sure, but narrowing down the types of clients you want to work with will give you a direction to start in. 🧭
- What demand exists for this service? Research the market to see what demand exists for the service you want to provide. Do companies hire freelancers for this service? If there isn’t a lot of demand for your service, you will want to consider what other services to offer.
When you are clear about the type of service you provide and who you serve, it makes landing freelance jobs much easier. You may not land your ideal client right away, but understanding which types of clients to work with will help you weed out which types of jobs to take on.
Take a class or earn a certification 📚
Successful freelancers are skilled specialists in their area of expertise. After all, you can’t provide a service without knowing what you’re doing! Taking classes and earning certifications are a great way to improve your abilities and demonstrate your credibility to potential clients.
There’s lots of free certifications you can earn from Google Digital Garage and Hubspot Academy. SuperHi, Udemy, edX, and Coursera all offer some online courses for free. Take a look at your local library, many offer free access to online learning tools like LinkedIn Learning. You may even be able to earn certification from a local college.
If you’re freelancing on the side of a full-time job, you need to look at your employee benefits. If your employer offers some kind of professional development as a job perk, take it! Some employers will even let you carve time into your work schedule for professional development if it’ll benefit them.
Create work samples for fake clients 🦾
One of the best ways to show potential clients your skills is through your projects. But this sounds like a catch-22 to beginning freelancers — how do you make projects without clients to make them for?
You don’t need paying clients to create mock work projects. All you need is to create high-quality work samples derived from a brief that you can add to your portfolio. Try out a design brief generator like FakeClients, GoodBrief, or Briefup to build your portfolio. Plus, creating sample work is the easiest way to flex your creativity! After you’ve created sample work that will impress new clients, you just need to add it into your portfolio. 🎉
Create your portfolio with your projects, skills, and services 👩🏽💻
Your next step is to pull your prior experience and skills into a portfolio. Before hiring you, potential clients will want to learn more about your experience and services. Your professional portfolio is a non-negotiable part of marketing your freelance career.
A professional portfolio will:
- Show potential clients that you’re an expert. Your clients want to know that you can provide the services they’re looking for. The projects included in your portfolio reinforce your identity as an expert. 🤓
- Demonstrate your services. With a portfolio, potential clients can easily see what services they can hire you for.
- Provide an online presence that lands clients. When a potential client wants to learn more about your work, what do you want them to see? Do you want to send them several separate clips, PDFs, and long emails? Or would you rather send them a link to your portfolio where your best work shines?
Portfolios by Contra make elevating your brand easy. With a Portfolio by Contra, your landing page will show off your best projects, your services, and a little information about yourself. We suggest connecting a custom domain to your portfolio, as you’ll own your website address and look professional. 🚀
Find your first client through networking and job boards 💻
Finding your first freelance clients may feel a little daunting at first! Thankfully, there are lots of resources that make your search for freelance work a little easier.
- Reach out to friends and family. There's a chance that someone in your existing network may need your services! Tell your friends and family about your freelance services, and ask them to keep you in mind for future work.
- Join Contra’s Slack group. Once you’ve created your Contra profile, you’ll get an invite to join Contra’s Slack group. The group is full of freelancers who swap tips and advice, and includes leads on freelance opportunities.
- Network in your local community. You may meet your next client at a local event, volunteer project, or within a professional or religious organization. Joining local organizations and attending events is a great way to meet new people in your community, and may lead to professional work down the road.
- Apply to opportunities through Contra’s job board. Clients post exclusive opportunities on Contra that include their budget, project deliverables, and company details. You’ll never have to pay a fee to apply, and you’ll take home your payment commission-free. It all starts with a Contra profile! 🙌🏿
- Network online. Networking sounds intimidating, but it’s really just engaging with people authentically. Join Facebook groups and Twitter communities. Attend online webinars and virtual conferences. You never know where your networking will lead!
- Build your online presence and use social media platforms. You don’t have to be active on social media to land clients, but it is an asset you shouldn’t ignore. Optimize your LinkedIn profile to show that you’re open to new opportunities. Connect with other freelancers on Twitter. If you leverage your social media profiles professionally, you can meet prospective clients and work together.
- Be wary of cheap freelance gigs. Freelance marketplaces like Upwork are known for being a race to the bottom. Make sure to always vet potential clients before entering into a professional partnership with them.
Finding your first client may take time. Don’t give up!
Change your mindset ⏰
As you begin your freelance journey, you may find imposter syndrome creeping in. Developing a mindset of abundance is a crucial step to recognizing your potential for success as a freelancer. Here’s a few ways to shift your mindset:
- Remember that there’s a lot of freelance work available. You don’t have to say yes to every client who comes your way. A scarcity mindset will tell you that you need to take on anything, while a mindset of abundance will remind you that your standards are important. If you say yes to everything, you’ll be so busy running around that you’ll burnout.
- Celebrate your wins. The time you have put into developing your skills and looking for client work means something. Every step you take toward building your freelance business is a win.
- Let go of perfectionism. You’ll make mistakes as you start freelancing. You’re human. With every failure, you’ll learn an important lesson. Try to avoid comparing yourself to other freelancers, and reframe how you see failure.
- Don’t give up. Resilience is a huge part of freelancing, and rejection is normal. Getting started freelancing can be challenging, but you’re starting on a long-term adventure. Just keep going.
Remember that your experience is worth money 💵
Know your worth as an Independent! You’re providing a valuable service and you deserve to be compensated for it.
You don’t have to have your pricing totally figured out, but it’s a good idea to get familiar with different types of pricing and how freelancers price their projects. There’s no magic pricing structure. How you price your freelance work will depend on:
- Your level of experience
- Your living expenses
- Your client’s budget
- The scope of work and the timeline involved
Contra’s platform supports hourly rates, project-based rates, and projects with milestones. You can work with Clients through Contra — and even bring clients to Contra — and never have to pay a commission fee.
Get started freelancing today👇
Starting your freelance career involves leveling up your skills, building a portfolio, and looking for client work. Contra makes starting your freelance journey and growing your freelance business much easier.
Contra empowers you to work the way you want with profiles that boost your discoverability, built-in project management tools, and classy portfolios customized for Independents.
The best part? Creating a Contra profile and searching for opportunities is completely free. And when you land your first paying client, you can manage your whole project and get paid right on Contra’s platform — commission-free, forever. f you're interested in learning more, read some success stories from freelancers who have grown their freelance business with Contra.