Learning how to freelance is the first step toward an unlimited earning potential.
It’s a wonder why more people don’t do it — especially when there are so many good reasons to:
- Flexibility. Choose when and where you want to work, and who you want to work with.
- Scalability. Earn as much or as little as you want. Eventually, you can even leave your 9-to-5 to freelance full time.
- Creativity. Flex your creative muscles by diving into a freelance hustle that uses your passions. That means you can make money and *gasp* have fun while doing it.
Getting started isn’t as difficult as you’d think either. All it takes is the right systems.
How to freelance in 5 steps
Luckily, I have that system. It’s the same one that I’ve used to start I Will Teach You to Be Rich and it’s the same one that I’ve used to help hundreds of thousands of people to earn as much as six figures in their freelancing career.
And now, I want to show it to you too.
Step 1: Find a profitable idea
It’s amazing how many people get tripped up at this stage. In fact, it’s the most common reason I hear for why people don’t start their own side business.
“I don’t know how to find a good freelancing idea.”When I hear this, I just want to grab the person by the shoulders and shake them while screaming, “But you already have a lot of good ideas!!!”
In fact, you can find your perfect freelancing idea by answering four simple questions about yourself:
- What do you already pay for? We already pay people to do a lot of different things. Can you turn one of those things into your own online business?
Examples: Clean your home, walk your pet, cook you meals, etc.
- What skills do you have? Now, what do you know — and know well? These are the skills you have that you’re great at — and people want to pay you to teach them.
Examples: Fluency in a foreign language, programming knowledge, cooking skills, etc.
- What do your friends say you’re great at? I love this question. Not only can it be a nice little ego boost — but it can also be incredibly revealing.
Examples: Workout routines, relationship advice, great fashion sense, etc.
- What do you do on a Saturday morning? What do you do on a Saturday morning before everyone else is awake? This can be incredibly revealing to what you’re passionate about and what you like to spend your time on.
Examples: Browsing fashion websites, working on your car, reading fitness subreddits, etc.
Find an answer to those questions and you’ll find a business idea.
Step 2: Find your first client
Finding clients can be a mystery of fantastic proportions for beginner freelancers. After all, where do these generous, money-giving gatekeepers of work live? How can we find them?
Luckily, there are a variety of different places you can look if you’re a beginner. Here are three great places that I’ve used and my students have used to find great clients.
- Craigslist (yes, that Craigslist)
- Networking events
- Where your clients live
Contrary to popular belief, Craigslist isn’t just for sketchy encounters and weird sales listings. It can also be a great place to find quality clients.
Why? When a business posts a job listing for freelancers on Craigslist, they’re not getting top quality responses. In fact, the people who respond to them are typically so bad that you just need to be a little bit better than them to stand out.
This doesn’t just apply to Craigslist either. You can do this with any job board.
Here are a few suggestions of great sites freelancers can use to find business:
- Writers: MediaBistro.com, Upwork.com, FreelanceWritingGigs.com
- Illustrators/Designers: 99designs.com, Designs.net
- Programmers: Toptal.com, Gun.io
The second place you should look: Networking events.
I know, I know. Some of us would rather spend our time listening to a lecture about the importance of brushing your teeth than be at a networking event.
However, a good networking event will be flush with opportunities to find connectors. Notice I said connectors and not clients. A connector is someone who can introduce you to potential clients.
That’s right. You’re not going to actually be looking for leads at these events.
Here’s a good script you can use to connect with a connector:
“Hey, if you know of anyone who’s looking for a video editor, let me know. Here’s my card. You can pass it along to them.”
Of course, you should mold the script to fit your individual situation.
If you live in a big city, networking events are a dime a dozen. If you don’t, that’s okay. There might be a few in your area happening occasionally.
Be sure to check out event boards like the following for great opportunities for networking events.
The last place I suggest beginners look: Where potential clients live.
No this isn’t your potential clients’ physical houses, you weirdo. I’m referring to the places online and in real life where your potential clients might frequent.
I started spending all my free time hanging out where my potential clients were online (free Facebook groups) and directly engaging with them by sharing valuable content and answering any questions I could about advertising.
That’s how I got my first client. A woman I’d been helping for free — answering her questions about how to set up a basic advertising campaign — asked me how she could work with me, and when I told her the price — $5,000 for six months — she said, without missing a beat, “I’m in.”
You can use the exact same framework for your potential clients.
- Are you a graphic designer? Find a Facebook or subreddit group for small business owners who need your services.
- Are you a writer for a niche industry? Start answering questions on Quora regarding your niche.
- Maybe you’re a video editor. Find online groups for bloggers looking to expand their content media.
No matter what you choose, you need to make sure you stay engaging and provide high-quality answers to your potential client. By doing this, you build your brand and make connections you would never have otherwise.
Once you have a client lead, it’s time to use a script to vet them.
Step 3: Pitch your talents
Now we get to the fun stuff: Pitching. You’re now going to craft an email pitch that’ll sell your services to a qualified lead.
Yes, marketing and selling your skills can be intimidating — but it’s much simpler as long as you remember to sell benefits.
Remember the old marketing saying, “Buyers don’t want a new bed. Buyers want a good night’s sleep.”
Some great examples of this:
Here are the five things you need to sell the benefits of your services in an email:
- The introduction. You’re going to want to build rapport by introducing yourself and how you know about the client.
- The offer. Talk about them. What do you want to do for them? Why are you good for that role? You’re going to want to do some research on the organization to see what they need help with.
- The benefit. Walk them through how your work will benefit their company. Are you going to free up more time for them? Are you going to maximize profits by X amount?
- The foot-in-the-door. This is a classic technique that utilizes an old psychology trick to get the client to agree to a small agreement so you can ask for a larger agreement later.
- The call to action. Be clear with this and ask them if they would like to proceed. The call to action is a critical part of this script.
When it’s all put together, it’ll look something like this:
[Introduction] I read your article about X and noticed that you’ve recently started using videos on your website.
[The offer] I’ve been doing video editing for three years and I’d like to offer to help you edit your videos and get them optimized for the web.
[The benefit] That would make them look more professional and load faster, which is important for your readers. And you’d free up time that you could use to create new content.
[The foot-in-the-door] We can discuss the details, of course, but first I wanted to see if this is something you might be interested in.
[The call to action] If so, would it be okay if I sent you a few ideas on how to help?
Step 4: Charge a good rate
There are no hard and set rules when it comes to charging a rate, which makes it a perfect breeding ground for anxiety and nervousness for freelancers.
My suggestion: Don’t worry too much about this part — at least at first. It’s more important that you get started at all than making sure your rates are perfectly tuned.
With that said, there are three methods I suggest for finding a good starting rate:
- Drop Three Zeros Method Take your ideal salary, divide it by two, and then drop three zeros from it. Boom. You have an hourly rate.
For example, say you’d really like to earn at least $80,000. Just take out the three zeros from the end, divide by two, and you now have your rate: $40/hour.
- Double your “resentment number” I love this one because it’s both really interesting and effective. Ask yourself: What’s the lowest rate you’ll work for that’ll leave you resentful of your work?
Say you’ll work for $15/hour at the VERY LEAST. Just double that number so now you’ll earn $30/hour.
- Do what the next guy does This method is incredibly simple: Go to Google and search for the average hourly rate for whatever service you’re providing. You’ll get a good sense of where to start when you’re charging your clients.
Once you start earning, it becomes much easier to take on more or less work to get to an earning amount you’re comfortable with.