This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our affiliate disclaimer for more information.
Nick and I have a history of big career changes. And Nick’s freelancing work was the catalyst that made all those changes possible. In this video, Nick shares 7 actionable steps to start freelancing. You’ll also find an outline of the video below.
7 Simple Steps to Start Freelancing Now
If you’re looking to increase your income, it’s easy to get lost down a rabbit hole of passive income, survey taking websites, blogging, real estate investing, and the list goes on and on. But if you need efficient side-income (or eventually full-time income) FAST, freelancing may be exactly what you’ve been searching for.
Step 1 – Identify who you want to work with.
It’s important to think about who/ what companies you’d like to work with, as well as what type of impact you want to make.
What problem in the world do you feel most passionate about solving? What type of work interests you because of the impact it will make on real people’s lives?
Make sure the freelance work you pursue is something that excites you. Because if you’re already working 40+ hours at a mediocre job, it’ll be difficult to find the additional time and energy to pour into freelance work you’re not passionate about.
So start by making a massive list of people or companies (ideally 50+) in your industry of interest that you’d be thrilled to work with.
Step 2 – Clarify the structure of your ideal day/ week.
Next, you need to think about the type of freelance gigs you’re willing and able to tackle. Here are some points to consider:
- Do you want to be part-time or full-time?
- Do you want to work on a project basis for lots of clients? Or do you want to work long-term for the same 1-2 clients?
- How many clients do you want at a time?
- How much money/ month do you need?
- How flexible does your schedule need to be?
- How often do you want to travel for work?
- How important is a flexible location?
Step 3 – Identify the skills people are paying for.
Now spend some time researching on Google, looking at job boards, and signing up for the email lists of people/ companies you’d like to work for. You’d be surprised how many companies blast their email list saying, “Hey, we’re hiring for x, y, and z.” So this is a great place to start.
It’s also a good idea to check a company’s website. If you scroll down to the bottom of the home screen, you’ll likely find a “Careers” section.
Bottom line: you’ve got to do the research. Look for specific job titles or job descriptions your target companies are hiring for or have hired for in the past. Add what you find in a column beside your list of target people/ companies.
Step 4 – Identify your greatest strengths.
So far, you should have a page with 2 columns on it. The first column contains your list of target people/ companies, and the second column contains what they’re hiring for. Now you’re going to add a third column to write down all your strengths.
But you need to dive a little deeper than just writing down what you’re good at. Think about the underlying skills that make you good at that particular thing. For example, maybe you’re really good at Excel. Your underlying strengths are probably things like analytical thinking and being able to work through and explain complex processes from step A to step B and so on. And those strengths transfer to a ton of different things that stretch far beyond Excel.
If you only write down your surface level strengths, they may not seem to fit with the skills your target companies are hiring. But if you break it down just a little bit further, you’ll likely find you have skills that can be fine-tuned to match your target companies’ needs.
And remember, you can always learn and develop new skills. With the internet and a little bit of hard work, you can take an underlying strength and apply it toward a specific skill set to get good enough for someone to pay you to do that work.
If you’re at a loss trying to think of your strengths, Strengthsfinder 2.0 is a super helpful resource. This book will help you figure out what your strengths are and map those to the skills people are paying for.
Step 5 – Create your portfolio.
You need to create a portfolio or resume to prove your competence. For most people, this means creating a website to showcase your work or projects you’ve completed.
If you don’t know how to build a website, don’t worry. You can get simple drag-and-drop builders, like Squarespace.
If you’re doing something that’s hard to showcase, like customer support, you’ll probably want to use your LinkedIn profile as your “portfolio.” Make sure you fill out the description area and tagline under your name and explain why you’re a great asset.
Step 6 – Land your first gig.
You’re finally ready to start pitching yourself to get paid for the work you’ve been preparing to do! This is where the real grind starts. But if you’ve gone through all the steps leading up to this point, then it’s just a numbers game from here on out. If you pitch enough people in the right way, eventually somebody will hire you.
4 main ways to find gigs:
- Pitching – This is where you literally put in the legwork to reach out and ask people to hire you. BUT you have to make sure you bring the other person value. You canNOT just spam them with messages asking to get hired. Think through the context of what’s going on in their business and how you can provide a massive amount of value to them. And invest time formulating individualized emails that highlight your value to that specific company.
- Through a pre-made platform for freelancers – This includes sites like Upwork and Fiverr. Nick’s never used these, so we can’t vouch for either of them. But a lot of freelancers use these platforms to get started.
- Word of Mouth – This is the best and hardest way to find freelance work. No matter how you begin finding gigs, your ultimate goal should be to reach the point where you have plenty of work just through word of mouth.
- Work for FREE – The best clients and the best work will always come through word of mouth. If you do EXCELLENT free work for somebody in your target industry, they’ll always be willing to give you a great recommendation/ testimonial. And guess what… that leads to more gigs that actually pay. We’re not saying work for free forever. We’re saying strategically identify a few people you can provide value to, and ask if you can do a project for them for free. And assuming your work knocks their socks off, ask if they’d be willing to write you a testimonial in return.
Step 7 – Optimize and repeat.
As you get more and more gigs, you can really hone the specific skills you’re most passionate about. And best of all, you can increase your rates as you continue to niche down.
So keep working on your strengths, honing your skill set, building your portfolio, and meeting new people who can refer you to others down the road. And before you know it, you’re likely to have more freelance work than you can handle.
Thanks for your interest in our content! Nick first outlined this strategy on our friend Jillian’s website, Montana Money Adventures. You can check out that guest post here. And as always, we’d love to hear from you! So let us know how your freelance journey is going, or if there’s anything else we can do to help you.