How Do I Get Started with Freelancing?

Self-employed man working at home

Freelancing is becoming mainstream. Estimates vary, but many experts put the number of freelancers in the U.S. at one out of three workers. See this article from Elizabeth Tse on HuffPost, Five Reasons The Government Needs to Start Acknowledging Freelancers, for one discussion on the importance of freelancers.

While there are many active freelancers, there are also many would-be freelancers. Would-be freelancers are those people who are thinking about freelancing, but haven’t started yet.

There are many things that hold people back from freelancing–fear, lack of confidence, time commitments. But another common obstacle is lack of knowledge. Many would-be freelancers simply don’t know how to get started.

In this post, I provide a simple and easy-to-follow overview on how to start freelancing. We’ve covered this topic before in this post that mostly lists the tools you need to freelance, How To Start a Freelance Business Today (Tools for Beginners). However, if you need a step-by-step guide to help you get started freelancing, this post is for you.

Step 1: Examine Your Skills

In order to be a freelancer, you must first have a marketable skill. Many freelancers have a skill in one of the creative fields:

  • Writing
  • Web Design
  • Graphic Art
  • Photography

That doesn’t mean that you have to be creative to freelance, though. Other freelancers rely on their excellent project management or administrative skills.

The main criteria for being a freelancer is that you have a marketable skill. So, take a look at what you’re good at and ask yourself whether there’s a market for your skill.

Step 2: Look at Your Best Work

Once you’ve determined your skill, you’ll need to be able to show others that you can do the work. For creative professionals, the best way to demonstrate your expertise is through a portfolio.

So, take a good look at past work you’ve done to see if any of it can be used in your portfolio. Once you’ve found your best work, you’re ready to create your portfolio. Here are 9+ Handy Tools to Help You Create a Winning Freelancing Portfolio.

If you’re not a creative professional, you’ll want to gather other evidence of your ability. Ask past employers and colleagues if they would be willing to endorse you.

Step 3: Do Your Research

You need to understand the freelance marketplace for your chosen field. You need to know:

  • Where to find opportunities
  • What skills are most marketable
  • What tools you need
  • How much to charge for your services

To learn as much as you can, spend some time reading publications about your field and on the blogs of other freelancers.

You’ll also want to research your options for getting paid. Many freelancers use PayPal, but there are other options out there.

Step 4: Update Your Credentials

Freelancers do need to have updated resumes. Not every potential client will ask to see your resume, but many will.

I also recommend that new freelancers complete a profile on LinkedIn, if they haven’t already got one. LinkedIn is one of the largest professional networks out there, and most corporate decision makers are members.

Step 5: Tell Everyone

Many successful freelancers found their first work through former employers, friends, or family members. You can do the same.

Tell everyone that you know that you are available for freelance assignments. It’s also a good idea to contact local businesses to let them know that you are available for freelance work. Many local businesses prefer to work with a freelancer who they can meet with in person.

Step 6: Look Online Too

While local freelance work is a good place to start, don’t overlook online opportunities.

You can start looking through the search engines by typing in phrases like “web designer wanted” or “write for us.

Specialized job websites are also a good place to start looking for freelance work online. Here is a list of Job Boards for designers from, 7 Awesome Design Job Boards. There are job listing websites for other specialties as well.

Step 7: Get Social

Your freelancing business will benefit greatly from your social media participation. Social media is a great, inexpensive way to get your business name in front of potential clients.

I always recommend that new freelancers try to establish an online presence on one or more of the following social media sites:

  • Facebook
  • Google+
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter

You should also consider starting a freelancing blog. Remember, your freelance competition is already on social media. If you’re not there, your competition will make all the connections and get all the offers.

Step 8: Repeat

You’ve read (and hopefully worked) through all seven steps. You might think that you’re done, but in reality you’ve just begun.

Building a freelance business is an ongoing process. To really succeed, you need to repeat the steps as often as necessary.

Your Turn

Have you recently started a freelance business? Tell us how you got started.