Freelancing 101: A quick guide to getting started

Use these quick tips to set up your new business in the right way.
Freelancing 101: A quick guide to getting started

Hero image by Neosha Gardner

Many people who are stuck in a traditional 9-to-5 setting daydream about working for themselves. A common mistake people make, though, is assuming that you need to run a large-scale business in order to become an entrepreneur.  

If you're thinking about becoming a freelancer and turning your passion into a profession, you're making the right choice. Not only do over 30% of freelancers make over $75,000 per year, but 77% of full-time freelancers cite having a better work/life balance due to career flexibility.

The truth is that you can become a freelancer as long as you have a strong set of skills. Not quite sure how to get started? Don't worry — we’ve got all the info that you should keep in mind.  

Let's explore everything you need to know in order to ensure you set yourself up for success.

How to Get Started

To begin as a freelancer, you need to plan for the work you want to do and the business you desire to build. These step-by-step tips will help you determine the right direction for your career and give you the tools you need to succeed.

Determine what type of work you'd like to do  

One of the most important factors to consider before becoming a full-time freelancer is the type of freelance work that you'd like to do. The term 'freelance' simply refers to a professional who works on their own accord and uses their skills to satisfy the needs of their clients.

So, virtually any occupation could become a freelance career. Common paths include:

  • Application development
  • Writing
  • Graphic design
  • Consulting
  • Photography

Once you've chosen what type of freelance work you'd like to use as the foundation of your career, you can then begin to figure out the other details associated with this role. For example, a freelance photographer would likely need a handful of equipment depending on what type of photography they specialize in.

Take branding seriously

It should come as no surprise that standing out from your competitors will be one of the most difficult tasks you encounter as a freelancer. Fortunately, developing strong branding for yourself as a professional can go a long way when it comes to getting your audience's attention.

Create a website to give potential clients a simple way to access your services and see what you are all about. People are more likely to invest in your business if they feel connected to you and your brand. Upload work samples, testimonials, reviews, and videos to show clients why they should work with you.

Additionally, include a powerful lead magnet at the bottom of your webpage to encourage interested parties to enter information. This will give you the information necessary to discover who is looking at your website. You can then tailor your marketing efforts to your biggest audience and reach out to those who have entered their contact information later.

image by Neosha Gardner

Develop a killer portfolio

If you want to show your audience what you're capable of, you'll need to offer examples of your best work.

This means creating a portfolio of the highest quality projects that showcase the skills you have in your chosen discipline(s). But, there's another factor that you'll need to consider.

The diversity in your portfolio is also important when it comes to getting the most work possible. If your portfolio is filled with 20 projects that are nearly identical, all you're showing your potential clients is that you're really good at doing one thing.

Instead, incorporate work that conveys other skill sets. Photographers, for example, could show that they are proficient in shooting for both corporate clients and weddings, as well as creative portraits.

You should also publish your portfolio on your own website, as this will give you the most control over how your work is presented.

Find high-quality clients

To find business, the first thing that you should do is think logically about who your target audience might include. If you are an SEO blogger, for example, you likely will want to cater to both small and large businesses that know the importance of their digital footprint. Look into the industries that you are most interested in and equipped to serve through your skills and experience.

If you have nothing else to go off of, try targeting the people that you think are in your demographic. You can always track whether or not you're marketing to the right people as time goes on. If you have a bit more experience in your chosen field, market to those who are similar to clients you have worked with in the past.

You also will want to target your website to those most likely to hire you. You can use Google Analytics and related software to track who clicks on your website, which areas/pages they spend the most time on, and who heads over to your linked Moxie profile after checking the site out.

Create relevant project proposals

Project proposals are at the core of every freelancer's career since they create the first impression for potential clients. These proposals detail what will happen during the freelance project, how it will take place, what the goals are, how you will communicate throughout the process, and more.

One of the core features of Moxie is that you can create drag-and-drop project proposals. This saves you the hassle of worrying about formatting and instead allows you to focus on your proposal's actual content. You can also share proposals from Moxie with potential clients and instantly turn them into contracts before signing.

Set your rates

Setting your rates is often one of the most challenging parts of getting started as a freelancer. You may not know how much to charge or end up charging too little to meet your needs. If you don't establish your rates before finding work, however, every interaction with a client becomes a negotiation.

Not only could this result in you being underpaid, but the amount of time that you spend going back-and-forth with potential clients will add up. Instead, take time to research what other freelancers in your industry are charging and consider the level of experience that they have.

It's obviously not feasible to charge the same rate as someone who has been in the industry for over 10 years. But, if you find someone of a similar skill level who has only been a freelancer for a year or two, you could base your rates on theirs.

Educate yourself about the nuances of running a business

Freelancing isn't all about creating and showing clients the work you've done for them. You also need to worry about paying taxes, invoicing clients, what to do if someone refuses to pay or steals your work, etc.

Moxie offers the tools and information you need to stay on top of these needs and more. Best of all, you can manage your freelance career from a single location so that you stay organized and on top of all of your tasks.

Our platform can provide you with insights on where your business is headed. As a result, you can set goals and figure out whether or not it is realistic to fulfill them. If you judge that they are unrealistic or need to be tweaked for any reason, Moxie makes editing your operations as easy as possible.

You also will be given a list of suggested actions that you need to take ASAP. The software will notify you about proposal follow-ups, outstanding invoices, new messages from potential clients, the success of your marketing campaigns, and more. It also will help you celebrate the goals that you reach so you know how well you are doing in achieving them.

In addition, Moxie can help you to manage communication with your clients. You can begin conversations with clients right on the platform and have them fill out forms asking them how they learned about you, what their budget is, and more. This gives you the flexibility that you need to work with multiple different customers and makes collaborating a rewarding experience for both parties.

Prioritize client satisfaction

<tweet-link>The name that you build for yourself as a freelancer is an important attribute throughout your entire career.<tweet-link>

But, it's especially important to focus on your clients' satisfaction when you first start out. This means that you should go above and beyond when it comes to delivering high-quality content and establish yourself as a highly-communicative professional.

Put simply, you'll have a much easier time getting work in the future if you prove that you're pleasant to work with.

As part of this process, it's also imperative that you follow up with your clients after a project has been completed in order to gain insight into how the experience was. You could even set up a section of your website that allows clients to leave reviews based on your interaction with them.

When you begin to accrue more and more feedback, it will become easier for potential clients in the future to figure out that you are liable professional.

Hone your skills in your free time

One of the best ways to optimize your chances of getting new clients in the future involves developing your skills as thoroughly as possible in your free time. This will allow you to provide the highest quality results that you can.

It's also worth considering expanding your knowledge in areas that you would consider a professional weakness. A graphic designer, for example, could learn more about photo editing and digital artwork as opposed to logo creation, brochure formatting, etc.

This is especially important during the early stages of a freelance career, as it's highly likely that you haven't mastered the fundamental skills in your niche.

As long as you always strive to improve your abilities and increase your overall knowledge, you'll discover that it becomes easier and easier to find work in the future.

Don’t Make These Mistakes

As a beginning freelancer, you can avoid making common mistakes if you are aware of them before you start. For example, make it a policy to not do the following:

  • Promise more work than what you can handle. Remember that most of the work will take longer than you anticipate. For instance, if you are working on a coding assignment and you think it will take about a week, don’t commit to one week. Tell the client you will finish the work in two weeks. This will avoid any disappointment on your part or from the client.  
  • Work for free for a client. You may discount your rates if you are building your client list, but don’t do the work free of charge.
  • Neglect to set aside money for quarterly estimated taxes. Consult an accountant if you are not sure how to proceed.

You can make it in the freelancing field. By getting started, you’ve already accomplished a major milestone in your career. Moxie is committed to helping you continue your growth so you can build a powerful freelance business and career.

Sign up for free access to our tools and more today. We can help you manage the day-to-day operations of your freelance business and daily hustle so that you can be as successful as possible. We look forward to helping you succeed soon!

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Our team of career freelancers writes about best invoice practices, what makes a great client, and repeats the mantra, "never work without a contract." We're opinionated about the future of work and will always be on the side of freelancers.
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