How to start freelancing: the 'should-do's and 'could-do's

It can feel like taking a huge risk when you start freelancing, but I’m here to tell you that it really doesn’t have to be! Becoming freelance, whether that’s becoming a freelance writer or freelance journalist, is a journey that varies for everyone – there truly is no right way of getting there! However, if you’re looking to start freelancing with no experience under your belt, this should help you work out what you need to do to become a freelancer.


I’ve split this article into two sections; things you SHOULD do (in my opinion!) and COULD do to start freelancing successfully because there really are so many ways to go about this!


 

Things you SHOULD do to start freelancing successfully


Build your portfolio

If you’re trying to start freelancing with no experience in terms of paying clients under your belt, then you’re going to need to build a portfolio. A portfolio is basically a list or collection of examples of your work. The way in which you present your portfolio is entirely up to you! It could be on a website, through an Instagram profile if your work is particularly visual, or just attached as pdf case studies in an email to a potential client.



There are a few ways to build your portfolio:


1. Do some free work for non-profits, local sports clubs, charities

What local causes do you resonate with that could use some of your time?


2. Reach out to people you already know; tell them you’re starting freelancing and ask if there’s anything you can help them with to help build your experience.

Who could you reach out to this week to tell them about your new venture?


3. Make up some client briefs and complete them! This is a great way to showcase what you can do.

What would an ideal client ask you to do or create?


You’d be surprised at how many opportunities are in close range but can only be accessed by telling people what you’re up to – trust me, people aren’t psychic.


Get your social media platforms lined up

If you’re using your social media platforms to showcase your work, your journey and your personality behind you as a freelancer, they need to be aligned. When a client or future employer googles you, there are increasingly likely to stumble across your social platform, so it’s more important than ever to make sure that you appear cohesive across your channels.


You could use all, or just a few, of the social platforms to help you start freelancing; Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest and LinkedIn. My advice would be this – pick one or two and focus your efforts on them, rather than spreading yourself thin across them all.


Note: appearing cohesive and consistent across your social platforms doesn’t mean appearing the same across them. For instance, I wouldn’t repurpose some of my Tweets onto LinkedIn because the audience is not the same. I’m not trying to hide my Twitter personality from my LinkedIn followers, but they don’t serve the same purpose as platforms.


There are some really simple things you can do to align your social media profiles:

  • Sync up your Instagram to your Facebook so that you can share consistently across these channels

  • Set your Instagram profile to professional or creator

  • Put your specialism / job name in your Instagram bio

  • If you have a website, link it in all your bios

  • If you want to be contacted via email, link it in your bios or contact info

  • Use the same or ‘similar vibe’ profile pictures across your professional social media platforms



Network on Twitter

On the subject of social media, Twitter is (IMHO!) the best platform for freelancers, especially freelance writers, journalists and marketers. Perhaps a more visual platform, such as Instagram, is better for graphic designers, but Twitter’s #FreelanceCommunity is next to none.


There are not many places you’ll find the support, industry insights, and freelance leads that Twitter contains. For me, Twitter has also generated more clients than the likes of LinkedIn, Instagram or any Freelance Facebook group.


How to network on Twitter:

  • Follow other freelancers

  • Contribute in discussions

  • Ask questions

  • Start polls

  • Take part in the #FreelanceChat every Thursday

  • Share inspirational posts

  • Comment and congratulate other’s wins



Set your rates

This step can seem like the most daunting, and also the hardest to do. I’ll be honest. It’s a process of trial and error. You can read the guides and the blogs on the internet to do with setting your rates, but you won’t really know until you start working with clients; until you price yourself way too low until you have a few people tell you they don’t have the budget to work with you right now.



Here’s my best advice when it comes to setting your rates:

Tip 1: Keep an hourly rate in mind

If you’ve got £20 an hour or £80 an hour in your mind, and you learn how long a certain task takes you, you’ll be able to judge project prices a lot better.


Tip 2: In public, price by project rather than by the hour or word

This gives you the opportunity to adjust your offering and your pricing to the client depending on what they are looking for. You can make your offering personalised, and your pricing based on the size / revenue / budget of a company. For example, you might price a website copywriting project that will take you 10 hours, at £200 if your client is a small, sole trader business just starting up. However, if your next client is a huge retailer with a much larger budget, you’d be silly not to ask for a little more; because they can afford it, and because they’ll have more income and importance riding on your copywriting.



Get your first client under your belt

The final step is just to get your first client under your belt! I’m not the biggest fan of working for free but completing work for people (especially family and friends that won’t take advantage of you!) will help you build your portfolio.


I promise you, you’ll make a load of mistakes with your first client – and that’s okay! You’ll probably pitch a price way under their budget and miss out on more pennies, or forget to do an onboarding call, or give them way too long to pay their invoice, or not sign a contract at all (yep, I hold my hand up for that one!!).


But you’ll get there… just sign that first one.

 

Things you COULD do to start freelancing more successfully

If you’ve got a little bit more time until you plan to go freelance, here are two things you could do to really set yourself up.


Suggestion 1: Build a bank of templates and processes

Making yourself a bank of templates can help make your work with clients much faster. Of course, if you don’t know what you want to work with exactly, then it can be a bit tricky to create a template for it. The fear of making things less personal is also real with this suggestion, therefore perhaps stick to making your templates more for your pitching emails, your finances trackers and social media analytics spreadsheets. These examples will all help create seamless processes for both you and your clients.

Suggestion 2: Build a website

This isn’t a necessity but it’s nice to be able to send people to a professional ‘place’ to learn more about you and what you can offer. It’s also a great place to trial and error bits of copy, website design and landing page creations if that’s the area of freelancing you will be offering! My own website is a continuous work-in-progress; I’ll often see something I like on somebody else’s website (such as a slideshow of headshots) and integrate it into my website. After watching the homepage analytics for a few weeks, I’ll realise that while it looks great, it’s not enticing people to click further pages, and delete it.

 

Taking the jump? Let me know how it goes on! My DMs are always open for questions or just for you to let me know when you’re smashing it out of the park!




Need a business strategy? Check out my recent blog ‘how to build your 2022 Business Strategy




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