4 Step Guide: How to Become a Freelancer and Earn Income Online
This is a guest post by Yongelee at yongelee.com. He is a freelance web developer and designer. If you are looking for a beautiful, fast, modern and interesting website, check out his website!
You’ve seen the vlogs. People traveling around the world all the time. You’ve see the footage of digital nomads in coffee shops or coworking spaces sped up so that their entire work day lasts 30 seconds. It’s just a dream for you, but what if it wasn’t? What if you could travel the world and make money online? You can, and the answer to your dream is freelancing.
Chiang Mai, Budapest, Bangkok, Singapore, Tokyo, Seoul, Buenos Aires, Canggu. The cities and locations are endless. You are probably like me and would like to visit everywhere.
Do you need more inspiration? Go watch some more digital nomad vlogs. If you’re tired of watching other people live their lives and want to start YOUR life and YOUR adventure then read this guide.
What do you want? Do you want the prototypical digital nomad life? Do you want to have the freedom to wake up when you want, to work when you want, to move cities when you want, and to do whatever you want? Then you will need a few things.
The main thing you need in order to achieve a location independent lifestyle is: income. There are many different ways of getting income. You could own a business, you could work a job, you could have investments, you could come from a rich family, the list is almost endless.
The method of income generation I will be talking about in this guide is freelancing remotely.
Why freelancing remotely? Well I believe it’s the easiest and quickest way of earning income online. If your goal is to make a living online, then freelancing is a great introduction and will only get better for the rest of your life if you dedicate yourself to the craft. On the journey to becoming a professional freelancer, you’ll learn and gain skills that will help you with any other business venture you want to start.
You could get emails like this!
Overview of this guide and what you will learn and achieve
This guide is meant to provide those with a dream of living a digital nomad style life, with the knowledge and framework for achieving that goal.
At the end of this guide you will hopefully have figured a few things out: a skill to dedicate yourself to, a website, a portfolio of work, a paying or non-paying client, and an understanding of how businesses work that will put you in a league above the competition.
It doesn’t matter if you have no skills or experience, I have started a freelance writing career and a freelance web development career with no outstanding skills or experience (I had very little experience as a coder and even less as a writer but I still got paying clients). How did I do that? It took many lessons in marketing and sales, and many different interactions with clients, but I broke down freelancing to its atomic level.
The atomic level of freelancing consists of these components:
- Have a skill that businesses need.
- Find those businesses.
- Make that business interested in specifically you solving their business problem.
- Do the work, and deliver what they need.
That’s it. If you can fulfill those 4 components then you will always be able to find freelancing work because the competition is garbage and businesses are always looking for professionals.
In this guide I will go in depth into each component of the freelancing life cycle and provide steps to become great at every step.
Before we go into the life cycle of freelancing, we must discuss the foundation of what it means to be a freelancer. Do not skip this part because it’s the most important lesson in this guide.
The foundation of being a freelance business owner
First we need to lay the foundation that we will build on. The foundation is this: if you are a freelancer, you are a business. If you are a freelancer, the business you are in is b2b (business to business) selling. You are a business, and you are selling services to other businesses to help them meet their business needs.
This is the most important fact you must embed into your skull if you want a successful freelancing career.
Whenever you are faced with indecision, or wondering what to do, or wondering what’s next for your freelancing business, remember the foundation: “My business is in helping other businesses meet their needs with my skills.” When you constantly think about how you can help other businesses, your options for what to do next becomes clearer.
The average freelancer is thinking about themselves the entire sales process. They are promoting their skills, their experience, their needs, and their time.
The great freelancer is always thinking about their client’s business and how they can help them achieve their business goals.
Always always always always always, be thinking of your client’s business needs, and how you and your skillset can help them.
Do not make this about you. About what you can learn, about what you want to do, about your thoughts on their software choices, about your preferences. They are the ones paying you, so they are the ones who must be taken care of.
The foundation is this:
Always be thinking about how you can help a business succeed.
Step 1: Have a skill (show not tell)
“But you said you don’t need any skills to be a freelancer!”
I said this guide is for people with no skills, not a guide for people who will never have any skills. Of course you need skills to be a freelancer, what kind of work can be done remotely without any skills?
Some examples of skills that can lead to a freelancing career are: writing, coding, video editing, photo editing, ui ux design, graphic design, sales, digital marketing, email copywriting, fitness instruction, business development, and many more.
It’s not enough to think you have a skill. Your skills must be put to the test. If you say you’re a coder, you should be able to create a responsive website that is live on a domain and works in the way the owner of the website wants it to work.
If you say you’re a video editor, you should be able to create a 10 minute video with subtitles, editing, fancy transitions, and is presentable to an audience.
Don’t tell clients you have skills, show them the products of your skills. If you’re a web developer, show them websites you’ve made. If you’re a writer, show them some articles or books you’ve written. If you’re a graphic designer, show them graphics you’ve made. If you’re a digital marketer, show them social media accounts you’ve grown or traffic you’ve created.
If you don’t have products to show potential clients, then you are telling them about your skills rather than showing them the proof of your skills. It also means you aren’t as skilled as you might think you are. If you are a web developer, but you have no websites to show off, then you are a student, not a professional.
Key takeaway: freelancers are people who are on a journey of developing their craft, whatever it may be. If you aren’t on a journey of developing your craft, you are behind and have to catch up.
It’s not enough to only have a skill
The bad news is: this isn’t the hardest part. This is ¼ of the problem. Finding clients, selling to the clients, and doing the work is equally as important and difficult as developing your skill. Freelancing is a long journey if you’re starting from scratch.
Entire industries are built around each component of freelancing.
Part 1 involves skills. Universities and colleges are massive industries and they are focused on the part about building a student’s skillset so they can be of some value to a business or other entity like the government.
Part 2 is finding businesses that need your skill. This is also known as marketing or lead generation. Another massive industry where many businesses focus on delivering this one specific task of finding clients or leads.
Part 3 is the sales process, from finding the client or business and having them pay you for your product. This is sales and once again, a massive vertical industry that is a part of almost every business.
Part 4 is doing the work and delivering the product. Also known as project management or account management. Another huge industry where people spend years of their life doing this specific task of delivering work to clients and keeping them happy.
Are you starting to understand that being a freelancer is the same as being a business owner?
To even be a beginner freelancer, you must be at least decent in every part of this process. The best freelancers are great at every part, and every part matters. If you are the greatest writer or coder or graphic designer in your city but you can’t find any clients to give you work, or sell yourself to a client, or deliver any work, then you aren’t in a better position than an average writer, coder, or graphic designer that can find work and get paid for it.
Key takeaway: having a skill and being good at it, is just one part of the freelancing life cycle. It is the bare minimum and you have 3 other parts to learn and be decent at.
Choosing a skill to become an expert at
Now you have a solid understanding of why you need a skill and why they are important and how skills fit within the freelancing life cycle. Let’s take a look at what you should look for in a craft that you will be dedicating yourself to.
Don’t follow the money
Do not pick a skill because you like the average salary or potential earnings. I repeat, do not pick a skill because you like the average salary or potential earnings. Once again: do not pick a skill because you want the money involved with that skill.
Why? Because there are developers making $5 an hour and there are developers making $500 an hour. There are writers making $5 an hour and there are writers making $500 an hour. There are graphic designers making $5 an hour and there are graphic designers making $500 an hour. There are people whose skills involve teaching people to grow cactuses that make over 6 figures a year.
It’s not the skill that makes the dollars, it’s the person with the skills. If you aren’t skilled at marketing your skills, then it doesn’t matter what skill you have, you won’t make the money you thought you would have made.
So don’t chase the money. You might end up spending years of your life training yourself to be good at a skill that you hate, while also not making good money.
This is an important lesson that I know a lot of you will ignore: don’t follow a skill or industry because of the money. The point of freelancing is to obtain freedom. If you hate your freelancing job then you aren’t free, you’re more trapped than ever. Find a skill you will enjoy doing because you will be doing it a lot.
My recommendation for picking a skill is this: close your eyes, lie down or sit down, and breathe in and out for 10 seconds. Once your mind is clear and your eyes are closed allow your thoughts to wander. Then ask yourself: what skill do I want to develop? An answer might float up if you’ve been thinking about this before.
Another method is understanding what you’re good at. Only you or a person close to you can truly answer this. What are you good at? What is your natural talent? Are you an analytical type of person? Creative type? Are you good with numbers? Words? Try and understand your natural talents and choose a skill that relates to your unique gift.
Key takeaway: you probably have an idea of what you want to be good at and have a natural talent for. It’s hard to pick a skill but you can’t practice your craft if you don’t have one. Pick a skill that you want to learn because there is a lot of work out there for experts and an expert is what you must become if you want the money.
Becoming good at the skill
Choosing a niche is important but if you are just starting out or thinking of picking a new skill to learn, the niche isn’t something you have to worry about just yet.
Yes nicheing down is very important but when you start out it’s not the niche that should be the focus.
A niche web developer might make 5 page websites for plumbing companies but if you don’t know how to create an html form then you aren’t even a web developer.
A niche graphic designer might make logos for startups, but if you don’t know how to use photoshop or illustrator then finding startup clients isn’t a problem for you yet.
A niche digital marketer might work on Instagram engagement for bikini selling companies, but if you don’t know what your goals are or have done that before then you shouldn’t worry about the niche part.
The overarching basic skill set is what’s important when starting out. Learn the fundamentals of your craft and eventually you will be forced to pick a narrow path aka a niche, as a part of the natural journey of improving.
Put in the time and effort – the way to become an expert in any subject
Your aim when becoming a freelancer with a skill should be to be an expert in the field. A beginner doesn’t get work and if they do it’s as an intern or unpaid or work that isn’t great. An intermediate level professional gets decent work. The expert is where the big bucks are at.
I know it’s difficult to imagine being an expert when you haven’t even started yet but being the expert is the destination. Don’t focus on being the expert, just keep the goal in mind.
Your focus should be the journey, not the destination. The journey to becoming great at your craft is based on building a little bit of foundation every day until you’re standing on a mountain. This will take years.
You do this by putting in effort and hours every day. The more hours, effort, and days you have put into your craft, the better your results will be.
Imagine a week from today, how many hours will you have put into your craft? Remember your goal is to be an expert in a few years. Will you have put in 5 hours towards your goal? 10 hours? 20 hours? 40 hours?
Imagine 2 months from today, are you good at your craft? 2 months should be enough time to have a very solid understanding of your craft and what it will take to become great at it.
The bottom line is this: put in as many effortful hours as you can, as many days as you can, and in time you will be great at your craft.
What should you spend your time on?
Courses, tutorials, guides, books, articles, mentors, practice.
I am an autodidact who is someone who learns without help from masters or institutions. Over the years I have obtained a shallow understanding of many different subjects. I have also obtained a solid mastery of a few subjects.
I have learned a few tricks along the way and will attempt to share my wisdom of how to learn.
There are tiers of impact from learning methods.
Tier A: the best way to learn is from practice and experience.
Tier B: video courses where a great teacher guides you through a project.
Tier C: supplemental and smaller impact: reading, articles, books, podcasts, videos.
This is my subjective experience and might not apply to everyone.
Tier A is the best way to learn and in my experience, nothing beats practice or real experience when it comes to learning.
When I was learning React and Redux as a web developer I was doing course after course, tutorial after tutorial, and not really “getting it.”
It was only when I thought of a web app idea and implemented it from 0 lines of code to the entire app, that my head started to wrap around the idea of React and Redux. I would break down my project into first steps. Ok step 1 what do I need to do? I need to set up the project so I can print ‘hello world’ on the page. Ok step 2 I need to start creating the layout. Ok step 3 I need data. By taking it step by step I eventually ended up with a complete app.
I started creating more projects from scratch and after each project I felt more confident about my skills and my abilities as a developer.
You don’t need to wait for a person to give you a job to practice and gain real experience, you can start yourself.
If you are looking to be a web developer, pretend you’re a client and hire yourself to create a website. Then switch back to web developer mode and create it! The process of starting from scratch and figuring out what’s needed to build the website is what will help you learn.
If you want to be a freelance blog writer, don’t wait for someone to give you a blog idea to write about, just pick one yourself and get to writing!
If you want to be a digital marketer, don’t wait for someone to hand you an Instagram account, create a new one and grow it!
Practice is the key to becoming great at your craft. Practice over and over again and you will be a master in time.
My number one recommendation to becoming great at any craft is by doing and practicing. Pick a project that is relevant to your skills and simply do it. Web developers create websites, blog writers write blog posts, logo designers design logos etc…
Supplement your practice with things like books, articles, tutorials, courses. Immerse yourself in the many learning resources available to you. The more learning resources you consume the better you become.
It’s almost a numbers game. Increase the number of books or articles you’ve read about a subject and watch your skill level increase. Increase the number of courses you’ve done and watch your skill level increase.
Key takeaway: Put in the hours and effort to become good at your craft, there is no other way.
How do I know if I’m good enough?
You may be wondering when you will be good enough. There is no right answer to this question but I’ll share a story that happened to me that almost gave me an answer to this question.
I was in talks with a client who wanted me to create a script of some sort. It was a friendly conversation where each party was being respectful and wanting to figure out how to work together. Eventually the client asked a question that you should pay attention to if you are a beginner.
He asked me if I could provide a discount or give a deal of some sort. I explained that no I could not give a deal or discount, my rate is my rate. To me, the idea of giving a discount of any kind for my rate was an absurd notion. He accepted this and even though we didn’t work together, he understood that if he was going to hire me, he would be paying full price.
I got to a point where I knew my value and my worth. This is how I knew I was good enough. The thought that my work and time could be discounted was an absurd notion that I would not allow to continue.
I compare this to one of my first clients I’ve ever talked to 2 years ago. He was one of the first freelancing clients I’ve ever talked to and I was nowhere near the developer I am today. The client asked me if I could give a deal for my rate (which was listed at $25 an hour) and he wanted to pay me $20 an hour.
Can you guess what I did? I accepted his desire to discount my rate and pay me cheaper than what I wanted to be paid. This is because I wasn’t confident in my skills and because I was afraid of losing him as a client if I said no. I didn’t value my worth because I didn’t have confidence in my skills.
How will you know if you’re good enough? If a client wants you to discount your rate and you want to laugh in their face, then you will know you’re good enough.
This might be the longest part of the process, developing your skills to become great at your craft.
This could take years but if you pick the right skill for you, it might be the best decision and journey of your life.
If there’s one thing you learn from this section I hope it’s this: it’s not enough to think you have skills, you must be able to deliver a product with those skills. A web developer who can’t create a web app isn’t going to survive. A writer who can’t write won’t survive. A graphic designer who can’t create graphic designs won’t get paid.
You must practice and then SHOW your skills with a portfolio of projects. Don’t TELL clients you have skills, you must SHOW them.
Step 2: find those businesses
Now you have found a skill you want to become great at and you understand how to become great at it. Now it’s time to start monetizing that skill.
How do you monetize your skill as a freelancer? Simple: get a person to hire you to use that skill you have. The person can be a business owner, or a member of a business, or an individual with money to invest in their venture.
How do you get a person to hire you to use your skill? First you have to find them. How do you find them? Well isn’t that the million dollar question?
Finding targeted businesses that are relevant to your business is not a new problem. This is also known as marketing or lead generation and they are massive topics themselves. Like I stated earlier, there are entire industries and businesses solving this one problem of finding leads for businesses.
So how is it done for freelancers? There are a few different methods and I will describe each of them. These are not all the possible methods for finding clients.
Job boards like reddit.com/r/forhire or UpWork or craigslist are decent places to find work. I know there is a lot of negativity and hate around UpWork and rightfully so, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any work there. In 2017 UpWork generated billions of dollars in transactions between clients and freelancers. So business is happening on UpWork, it’s just not happening with you.
All I have to say about UpWork is: don’t believe the negative hype surrounding it. If you play by their rules then there’s a 99.9% chance you won’t get your account suspended. Try to recruit clients off their platform? Then don’t get mad that they close your account.
UpWork is a grind. If you spend a week applying for jobs the right way, you might end up with 1 or 2 clients. That’s better than 0 and having 1 – 2 clients will jump start your career and that was made possible by grinding on UpWork.
You might also be upset at their 20% fee. If you’re upset, then you probably don’t appreciate the value that UpWork does bring. UpWork is a source for lead generation. You do a couple of little jobs for clients on UpWork, then when you’re exchanging emails, both parties will be interested in continuing working off of the platform. If you enter UpWork thinking they’re going to scam you and you’ll never get work then you won’t succeed. The 20% cut is worth the long term potential of finding many clients that will have work for you for years to come.
It’s possible to get jobs from UpWork and it’s possible to find good work there. Many people are making a living off UpWork you just rarely hear from them.
Why are job boards so great to find work?
The reason job boards are great places to find work is because clients are directly posting their needs there. I’m looking at r/forhire right now and here are some titles of job posts:
“[Hiring] (Remote) Senior PHP & WordPress Developer”
“[HIRING] WordPress developer and customized”
“[Hiring] (Online) Shopify store building & management & improvement”
“[HIRING](Online) Copywriter, someone to add substance to data points. Ongoing work and fair pay!”
These are directly copy and pasted from r/forhire.
Imagine you’re a php and WordPress developer and you’re looking for a job. You found a couple of leads just from going to reddit.com/r/forhire. If you have a website portfolio ready to show off and write a nice proposal that communicates your value to the client you could get a reply back and boom you have a client.
Job boards are a very simple and straightforward way to find relevant clients for your freelance service. I personally have found many great clients from r/forhire and UpWork.
Aren’t job boards flooded with applicants?
Yes but your competition is garbage. I would get over 50% response rate from proposals I sent on r/forhire. I also got >10% response rate when I was sending proposals on UpWork as well.
How did I do it? Here are the rules:
- I only sent proposals to jobs that were highly relevant to my skill set.
- I had a website portfolio and examples of work ready to show.
- I had a proposal template that I reused for every proposal, just modified to fit each job.
- My English was great and I communicated professionally and put effort into the message.
- I added a call to action at the end which was something like “let’s talk” or I would ask a question.
When you have all these pieces ready to go, it only takes a certain number of proposals to land a client.
Job boards: straight forward place to find clients that need help because they are directly asking for help. Personally, I’ve only found clients from job boards and I will continue to use them.
Researching and cold contacting businesses
This method of lead generation involves doing research and attempting to find businesses that aren’t advertising any needs.
When people talk about sending cold emails to businesses, they are talking about the freelancer searching for businesses in their niche and then sending a cold email. The key is having a target audience and tailoring your email to fit their interests.
There is no method to this method. There is no central location where clients will gather and tell you their needs like a job board. There are no rules or guidelines for how you should attempt to find businesses that need your help.
For a freelancer to excel at this means of lead generation, they should be at least somewhat experienced and established with their business. If you are totally new then you are probably still figuring out your offer and your ideal client. If you don’t know who your client is, then you don’t have a target. If you don’t have a target you are doing generic searches like “web design” or “photography” or “internet marketing.” If your searches are high level like those, then this isn’t a great method for you.
An end to end process of cold emailing might look like this:
If you’re a front end React developer, you might Google: “Front end web agency” or “React developer agency” or something like that. Then you might find a few companies that are on the search results for those terms and boom, there are your leads.
A massive benefit cold emailing provides freelancers is control. If you’ve figured out that it takes 100 emails to get 2 jobs, then to get 2 jobs you just need to crank out 100 emails. One of the biggest difficulties in freelancing is finding consistent work. Cold emailing brings the control back into your hands because it’s up to you how many cold emails you send, which could mean how many jobs you get is up to you.
I personally don’t have too much experience with cold contacting businesses but I know many freelancers who are doing better than me that love cold emailing.
Inbound marketing is a method of lead generation that requires a lot of upfront work that leads to a trickling of leads from that upfront work. Inbound marketing means that you aren’t contacting businesses or sending proposals, they are contacting you, which is what inbound means.
Inbound marketers are concerned with creating content that their target audience would be interested in and then getting that content in front of their audience.
A freelance photographer might create a video that is about the benefits of hiring a professional photographer for a wedding.
A freelance digital marketer might create a blog post about how adding AB testing to your ecommerce store can increase revenue and conversions.
A freelance web developer might create a blog post about ways to improve performance for your website and the benefits of that.
The key is creating content that is highly relevant for whoever your ideal client is. A wedding photographer would be interested in creating content for people doing wedding planning. A web developer would be interested in creating content for business website owners. An ecommerce digital marketer would be interested in creating content for ecommerce store owners.
This is a slow process. You could spend 2 weeks creating a single blog post or a video and you might not see any clients from that for a year.
This method is slow to build, requires unpaid work upfront, and doesn’t provide direct results. Despite all these negative points, I think inbound marketing is the best strategy for generating the best clients and providing you with the best position.
Once your inbound marketing strategy is set up, you won’t have to do too much work to maintain the work because the content is already created. That means once it’s done, you can almost forget about it.
Then once your content is out in the world, then maybe some people will consume the content. From the people who consumed your content, maybe some will want to hire you to do some work.
You don’t have to create content for inbound marketing to work either.
A method of inbound marketing I indirectly learned about is this: just post your portfolio website or resume or whatever on places that people are looking to hire aka job boards.
On reddit.com/r/forhire you can post a Hiring thread or a For Hire thread. For hire indicates that you are available for work and many clients go through those posts. Maybe a few people are looking for a freelancer with your skills and are looking through the for hire posts. Maybe your website portfolio is great and the client would be interested in hiring you.
This is the exact process I used to get many emails from potential clients without sending any proposals. I got to a point where I stopped posting for hire threads because I was talking with too many potential clients.
For this to work, you need a website portfolio that is great. An average portfolio won’t get any interest. If your portfolio is great then that is when you’ll start getting emails.
Inbound marketing: the process of putting content in the world and getting clients to email you rather than you email them. This requires the most upfront work but has the potential to take your business to the next level.
Step 3: make those businesses specifically want you to solve their problem.
So you’ve got a skill, and you’ve got a list of clients you could work with. What’s next? Next is getting the job! This is it, this is what you’ve been waiting for. One great client is all it takes to become a location independent entrepreneur.
This step is the sales process of freelancing. Sales is a massive topic that is a skill in it of itself. There are many books, courses, tutorials, guides, references, masters, workshops, and more that teach sales. Everyone has their own method of what works and what doesn’t work. Everyone has their own process and methodology. Sales is a diverse topic that has been around since the first humans were bartering.
The theme of life is to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
The theme of sales is you don’t matter, your customer matters. That means your experience, your history, your background, your expertise, your portfolio doesn’t matter because your customer or client only cares about themselves and their business. The client is thinking of their business and how you can help them, not if you went to Harvard or Stanford.
If a high school dropout can convince a client that they can help increase their revenue or deliver a product they need, and you are a college graduate but you only babble about your course work and never talk about the client’s needs, then the drop out will get the work over you.
Sales is about convincing the client that you are the one who can deliver what the client needs. If the client needs a website, you must convince them that you are the one that can do it. If the client needs a graphic poster, you must convince them that you are the one that can do it. If the client needs a sales letter, you must convince them that you are the one who can do it.
How do you convince a client to hire you?
I’ve been freelancing for over 2 years. I’ve been sending proposals and looking for freelancing work in writing and coding for over 2 years. In that time I’ve tried many different attempts at convincing clients to hire me. There has been 1 method that is simply the best and is a reliable way for me to get responses from many proposals that I send.
The method is this: have a great website portfolio and send a great proposal based off a template.
The first part: having a great website portfolio is the hardest part but once it’s done, it’s all you will need to find work. It took me 3 months from start to finish to complete my most recent portfolio website. I put a lot of effort into my website and I can confidently say it’s a better web developer portfolio than 90% of portfolios out there. I believe that because I also researched and looked at many different web developer portfolios before making mine. I had a specific goal of creating a portfolio that was better than the competition and it paid off big time.
In my 2+ years as a freelancer I’ve had 3 different website portfolios. I’ve also had periods of time where I didn’t have a website to show off. The difference is tremendous. Having a website to show off is the easiest way to convince a client you are a capable professional. Without it, you will have to talk to a lot of different clients before one will give you a job. With a website, you will have many more opportunities to speak with clients and getting the job is more of a formality at that point.
When I started freelancing as a complete beginner I installed a great looking HTML template I bought for $20 on Themeforest.net on a domain I bought. At that point in time I thought I was hot shit and that anyone would be beyond lucky to have me as a worker. This wasn’t the truth, I was awful and had no skills in business or coding. I still got a job though.
How? The HTML template I installed on a server got my foot in the door with a client. I found him from craigslist and he thought that I coded the website myself and he was looking for a front end developer. I told him the truth that it was a template and that I’m more of a backend PHP developer which was another position he was interested in hiring for. He then hired me for a job as a PHP developer which I bombed because I had no skills. Still got the job though.
That was the first portfolio website I created.
The second portfolio website I created was another HTML template from themeforest. This time I was applying for jobs as a PHP and Android developer. Because of this website I got another job relatively quickly.
This job was from reddit.com/r/forhire and it was for a revenue generating Android app for NSFW content.
How I got this job was like this: someone posted a [hiring] thread about looking for an Android and PHP developer and I applied and linked my portfolio website. We had a skype call and in the call he mentioned my portfolio website which means he looked at it and that was the reason he hired me.
In between those portfolio websites and those jobs I had a period of time where I didn’t have a website to link. Finding jobs without a website was much harder.
I recently completed another portfolio website this time using a free HTML template from html5up.net. This was my biggest and best portfolio website to date and I spent a lot of time working on the content and copy of this website. This was 5 pages and each page was filled with content.
Using this, I was able to land a few coding jobs quite easily. I posted a [For Hire] thread a few times, sent a few proposals, and started getting replies and emails left and right.
I noticed something different with this new portfolio. Before I completed this portfolio, I found very little success with my proposals and job applications. After I started linking my portfolio to my proposals or [for hire] posts, I started getting messages from clients that were already sold just from my website.
With this proposal, I started getting clients that wanted to hire me. Not if I was a good fit, the website proved to them that I could do the work and talking with them was more of a formality before being offered work.
There are definitely other methods of finding work and selling to clients, but for someone new and starting out, I think a website portfolio with projects on it is the best way to get a job. Other methods include referrals or inbound marketing but for a beginner that’s not something that will help you.
The second part is about having a proposal template to reuse.
The template should be something you can easily reuse for each proposal that you send.
The template should include the following parts:
- A greeting like “Hi there”
- Mention that you read their job posting and understand what they’re looking for “I just read your job posting, it looks like you’re looking for a PHP developer?”
- Mention your expertise and how your skills and experience is related to the job “I have been coding in PHP for 3 years and have built these websites with PHP, here is my portfolio website”
- Add a call to action of some sort “I would love to talk more about your project and how I can help you out, my Skype is abc and my email is [email protected]”
That’s it. You are communicating that you care about their job by mentioning their needs and that you read the job proposal. You link your portfolio site so the client has something to learn more about you and you add a call to action so the client knows how to contact you.
Compare this proposal to something like “Hey I’m a web developer with 5 years of experience. I can make your website for you. I am very good at my job.” With no links to their portfolio or any proof of their skills or mention of the actual job posting.
The 2 parts are: a website portfolio that will showcase your abilities and sell the client, and your proposal which communicates your professionalism and care about the client. By having just these 2 things you will be in a better position than 80% of freelancers out there, that don’t have a website and are unable to communicate professionally.
Part 4: Doing the work and keeping the client happy
You’ve trained yourself at your craft, you’ve found a client, and you managed to get a job to do. Now it’s the moment you’ve been waiting for your whole life, doing the work and getting paid.
Part 4 is another industry that is massive. Project management, account management, delivery of the work, and other related fields are entire careers themselves.
This part is simple, just grind it out. This is the part that matters the most because if you do a great job selling yourself but you can’t do the work, then you won’t get paid. If you don’t get paid you can’t live a location independent lifestyle while making money online.
This is the step that I personally struggle with. I always am looking for what’s next and lose focus on my current job.
What I’ve learned over the years is: work is work, and you aren’t supposed to be having fun while making money. Even professional athletes have to wake up at 6 in the morning to train for hours, eat a great diet, and develop their skills. Entrepreneurs and freelancers are no different. We have to take our careers seriously and just do the work.
Doing the work means doing the work! No excuses, just do it.
If the job is hard, just communicate with your client. Tell them that you aren’t giving up, but the project is more difficult than expected and might take you longer to complete it. Your client isn’t going to fire you, they’ve already invested so much in you just getting to that point. They’ll be happy you’re communicating and not giving up.
I’ve hired freelancers in the past and the best ones deliver work quick. The worst ones take a long time to deliver work and don’t communicate. It’s easy to tell when a freelancer is going to be bad: they take long to deliver work, and they don’t communicate. It’s easy to tell when a freelancer is going to be good: they deliver work fast, and they communicate well.
If you want to be a good freelancer that is going to get work from clients often, then you will be someone who delivers work fast and communicates well.
Wrapping it up
Let’s wrap it up with an overview of what we learned.
- Have a skill and develop it (timeline 0 months – 6 months until you’re good enough)
- Find clients (job boards, inbound marketing, cold emailing)
- Sell to those clients (have a website portfolio and send a templated message)
- Do the work (just do it!)
Hope you learned a lot and have a great idea of how you can start your freelancing career from scratch. All you need is dedication, focus, determination, discipline, and keep your eye on the goal of making money online. Refresh your mind every morning with your goal of making money online while traveling the world so your motivation is refreshed every day.
- Be professional, that means communicating respectfully and respecting their time, hopefully the client will be professional with you.
- Don’t lie, be honest. This is another part of communicating professionally. There is money involved here so don’t piss people off! Getting involved in any legal processes is a real situation that many entrepreneurs and freelancers have to deal with.
- Keep your project scope in check! If you give a client an inch, they’ll take a mile.
- Practice your craft! As your skills increase so does your potential payload and confidence to charge high rates.
- Make a damn website! Having a website I can show clients is by far the best method I’ve experienced in getting work!
This is a guest post by Yongelee at yongelee.com. He is a freelance web developer and designer. If you are looking for a beautiful, fast, modern and interesting website, check out his website!