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Starting Out as a Freelancer

One of the most enticing aspects of knowing how to get started as a freelancer is discovering the freedom and creativity that can come with your new lifestyle. However, if you’re trying to learn to freelance, there are five important factors you need to start with. From building your niche through to spotting scams and snagging clients, grasping the basics will help you propel your freelancing career. 

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Understand what your niche is

Before figuring out how to get started as a freelancer, you need to determine your niche. Take freelance writing, for example. There are lots of topics out there, but if you carve out a niche you can:

  • Work on the projects that excite you the most
  • Build a reputation in your field
  • Reach expert level and command higher earnings

When determining your niche, sit down and consider what interests you, whether you have any relevant qualifications in the area, and how plentiful the work within the area is.

The benefits of understanding your niche as a freelancer

During the process of trying to learn to freelance, you’ll soon realize that you won’t always work within your chosen field. However, if you choose to focus on a specific area you’ll have an easier time networking with others in your field. As time goes on, becoming part of a larger freelancing network makes it easier for you to find work.

Additionally, when you choose to build a freelancing website to market your services, having a niche makes it easier for you to drive traffic to it. At the same time, if you choose to bid on Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising, the keywords you use to promote your niche will make it more cost-effective. When you’re trying to swim in a smaller pool, getting others to notice you is simple.

During the process of figuring out which area of freelancing you want to work in, consider what you love. Don’t just opt for the most lucrative areas. Unless they naturally interest you, you won’t produce excellent work.

Build a website and learn how to market it

If you want to learn to freelance, you also need to know how to market yourself. Even if you don’t have a big budget, starting out with your first freelancing website is essential. With 3.5 billion people online worldwide and 81 percent of shoppers using the net to perform research before making a purchasing decision, not having a website is a surefire way to make your business plummet. 

When you’re figuring out how to get started as a freelancer, building a website might seem like an expensive and daunting prospect. However, providing you take the following steps, you’re heading in the right direction:

  • Always purchase your own domain name, it looks more professional.
  • Consider using an eye-catching WordPress template or using a drag and drop website builder.
  • Perform keyword research based on your chosen niche and incorporate the ones you choose into the content throughout your site.

As for website promotion, freelancers who regularly write a blog attract organic traffic. Other means of marketing include social media such as Twitter, paying for ads via Facebook or Google, and creating a Facebook page. Once you know which marketing method you want, track your progress to make sure it works.

Figure out your earning targets and how you’ll meet them

Are you entering the world of freelancing with the hopes of making a fortune? While said fortune won’t come immediately, you do need to determine what your living expenses are, how often you can work, and the hourly rate you need to make ends meet.

One of the hardest aspects of trying to learn to freelance is determining what your time is worth. A simple way to approach this task is to:

  • Determine your desired annual salary
  • Look at expenses and overheads that apply to your business
  • Add the two figures above together
  • Create a realistic schedule of hours you can work per year
  • Divide your salary and overheads by your hours; now you have your hourly rate!

Another difficult aspect of determining how to get started as a freelancer is incorporating the flexibility you crave into your business. Like a normal employee, you might want to factor in special events, the possibility of sick days, festive periods, and vacation weeks. Once you know how many days you want to take off per year, you’ll know how many hours you can work. 

Initially, you may find that commanding your hourly rate is difficult, especially if you’re new to the industry. However, by building your expertise in your niche and marketing your site, you’ll get closer to your goal.

Watch out for scams

When you’re new to the freelancing world, it’s worth knowing that you can’t trust every job opportunity you find. Knowing which scams are common will prevent you wasting your time while you’re trying to learn to freelance.

Never provide unique samples

If a client notices you’re new to the game, they may try their luck and request a unique sample. While it’s not always the case that said samples will lead you down the road to nowhere, you may find yourself handing over work for free. To avoid such instances occurring, make sure you create a pre-contract that states the rights of the work belong to you until you receive payment.

Dodge high membership fees

While it’s not unusual for freelancing sites to request membership fees, you should avoid those that are unusually high. Such fees usually come with a justification stating that you’ll gain access to higher paying clients than elsewhere and will have a vague return clause. It’s always possible to find work through sites for free, so move on elsewhere.

Avoid low rates with a promise of a raise

It’s not unusual for some companies or clients to offer low pay with the promise of a raise. Unfortunately, said raises rarely materialise. Remember the hourly fee you want and always work towards it.

Steer away from “Get Rich Quick” schemes

Finally, while it may seem like common sense, it’s important to understand that “Get Rich Quick” schemes rarely result in overnight millions. While some may appear obvious, marketers of such schemes are excellent at disguising their intentions. If an offer seems too good to be true, especially when you have to hand over money to access it, it probably is. 

Look for jobs in the right places

If you want to know how to get started as a freelancer, know how to look for jobs in the right places. The Internet is home to lots of freelancing sites, many of which feature a litany of clients seeking plenty of high-quality work for low pay. 

Although it isn’t impossible to find well-paying jobs on such sites, usually it’ll require more effort on your part. Instead, head for freelancing sites that have a reputation for providing well-paying work. Or, begin cold calling or cold pitching. Reaching out to prospective clients might seem scary at first, but when you do find one who’s willing to pay what you need, it’s worth the effort.

Another source of well-paying freelancing jobs is trade magazines in your industry, or, in your niche. Finally, don’t write off reaching out to clients from your old workplaces, or figuring out whether friends and family have a network you can work within.

Always remember, the magic at the heart of your new freelancing business is you. If you market your site without external help, make sure you use your own voice. As it gains recognition within your industry, it’ll become a brand in itself. Additionally, once you get your feet off the ground, make sure you learn how to understand your audience, build a brand, and maintain the commitments you say you’ll keep.

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