A lot more people are ditching their traditional jobs and putting up their own freelance business, while those who keep their traditional jobs are hustling on the side and earning extra income. Wonder why? Obviously, there is an advantage to gain, and there is no better time to start freelancing than now. Here’s a basic guide on how to start freelancing to help you out!
With the growing freelancer economy in the Philippines, freelancers and their services are in demand more than ever before. Based on a survey conducted by PayPal among 500 Filipino freelancers last October 2017, 23% claim their business is steadily growing, while 46% claim their business is stable. That’s a whopping 79% of Filipino freelancers being optimistic about the growth of their business! This totally makes sense because many companies are resorting to outsourcing talents to cut down on expenses; no office space, no taxes, no health insurance required.
You may be familiar with PayPal already, since it’s one of the most recognizable money transfer services in the world. I have actually been using PayPal for a very long time; from the beginning of my freelancer career I used their service to help me get paid on time by my clients. I trust them completely as an advocate for freelancers everywhere. Because of their great service and my satisfaction with using their service over the years, I am now a PayPal Ambassador, ready to answer all your questions about the freelance life.
I personally feel optimistic about the freelancer market in the Philippines. Why? First, most Filipinos are bilingual, which puts them at an advantage. They can easily secure freelance jobs for both local and global clients because of their capacity to speak and write in English. Second, most of them are digital natives, too. They are connected 24/7 which means that online jobs are easily accessible and doable for them. Third, the increasingly unbearable traffic just makes freelancing a more appealing option. When you have to spend your daily income just for transportation going to and from the office, working from home just makes more sense.
Before anything else, let’s define what needs to be defined.
What is a freelancer?
Freelancers are hustlers. As their own boss, these self-employed individuals actively seek out contractual projects from different clients and work on different assignments all at the same time. Majority #workwherever — they are not bound to a single desk. But with their freedom from the 9-to-5 grind comes greater responsibility. They are constantly hunting for their next client or gig upon finishing their current one.
So, you want to start your own freelancing business? Now’s the perfect time. You may be feeling a little lost in the beginning, but with some guidance, you’ll soon be a master of the craft. To help you get started as a freelancer, here’s a summary of steps you should follow:
- Know your end goal.
- Identify the services you will offer.
- Find the right kind of clients.
- Identify the fair rate for your services.
- Promote yourself by using the right channels.
1. Know your end goal.
Goal-setting is an important part of setting up your freelance business because it will help you develop your business plan. Are you doing this to earn extra income? Or looking to do this full-time?
I want to earn extra income.
A full-time job and a freelancing gig on the side require organization skills and time management. You need to consider the amount of workload you can take on alongside your actual work in your day job. Set your priorities straight and work out your deadlines. There’s nothing worse than delivering subpar quality or late output in either job. Don’t bite off more than you can chew!
Another thing to watch out for is your choice of clients. Some companies have policies that don’t allow working with competing brands or taking on side jobs with existing clients. Make sure you declare these to your company HR, so you’re not breaking any rules.
I want to be a full-time freelancer.
As a full-time freelancer, you gain full control. You control your time, your clients, your workload. This is an attractive proposition, especially for someone who absolutely hates their 9-to-5 desk job. But before you take a risk and quit that sucky day job, consider the following:
- What is the threshold percentage of your current salary that you should earn to pay the bills?
- How many clients will you need and how much will you charge to reach that income?
- How much have you saved up, and up to when can you live off it?
Take a reality check. There are bills to pay. You don’t want to quit prematurely and have to helplessly wonder where your next paycheck will come from. Make sure you are prepared financially before you venture into full-time freelancing. I’ve also written an article about the realities of freelancing while working full time.
2. Identify the services you will offer.
As a freelancer, your talent is your capital. Identify which of your skills can be profitable and build on that niche. After all, freelancing is the business of selling yourself and your expertise. It’s important to know which area you’re good at to be able to identify your industry focus, establish yourself with clients, and build your portfolio in the long run.
Popular freelancer jobs
The most common freelancer jobs range from writer, graphic designer, programmer, web developer, social media manager to virtual assistant. If you’re looking for work, these websites offer some of the best freelance jobs online! There is also a greater demand now for specialized skills, such as bitcoin trading, robotics, forex trading, and augmented reality.
Based on a study conducted by Upwork in the US freelance market, these skills grew by 300% in Q4 2017 compared to the same period in the previous year. By adapting to these new trends, freelancers can hitch on the bandwagon of profit by improving and learning new skills to strengthen their expertise.
3. Find the right kind of clients.
When you’re just starting out, finding the right clients may be a hit-and-miss situation. You’ll probably have your share of shit clients before eventually finding your sweet spot. It takes time and experience in the field to determine the target profile and industry of your ideal clients. If you have target companies in mind, try working with them first and see if you’d want to pursue similar ones.
I’m just a newbie. Why am I choosing who to work with?
Freelancers proactively seek projects or assignments they deem fit to their expertise. Which means you have full control over who to approach and pitch to. So only pitch to clients who fit your brand. Ask yourself, is that the kind of work you’d be proud to include in your portfolio? Will it help build your reputation as a go-to resource for your specialty?
This is the reason why identifying a profitable niche skill as a service is important. Clients want to feel special. They want to work with freelancers with a distinct expertise whose work is seemingly tailor-fit just for them — it will set you apart from other freelancers who offer something more generic. Keep this in mind when you pitch to a prospective client!
Network, network, network.
Networking is important so you can grow your client base. Join online groups on Facebook for freelancers in your community (there are a lot!) and keep in touch with contacts who work in that industry. Send a lot of cold emails to your target clients. It won’t hurt to connect with them on LinkedIn and promote yourself. Maintain good relationships with previous clients, so you are top of mind for the next assignment. I personally believe in these things, and I find that these have worked for me!
4. Identify the fair rate for your services.
This is one of the most common questions asked by freelancers who are just starting out. Some tend to underestimate themselves, especially beginners who desperately want to bag their first client. While pricing competitively is a must, there are lots of other factors that come into play when setting the price. It’s worth considering the following, especially if you have (or have resigned from) a full-time job:
- Salary of comparable work
- Your experience level
- Desk job benefits or perks monetized
- Man hours required
Since you’re just a newbie in the game, don’t expect a USD100 per hour rate from the get-go. As you gain more reputation and increase your skills, your rate (and client base!) will increase as well.
Steer clear of the mills!
There are lots of freelancer websites that are mills for certain types of services. They charge really low and mostly produce template, low-quality work. Steer clear of those! This is why proactive pitching is important to your freelancing success. Choose clients that can afford and understand that you are charging for a premium — high-quality work by a skilled expert.
There’s no ‘one size fits all’ policy for coming up with an hourly or project rate. As you get more experience, you’ll eventually have an established rate card and charge your services like a pro.
5. Promote yourself by using the right channels.
A huge component of freelancing is marketing yourself. Use digital channels to get the word out and find freelancing jobs. Whether it’s on social media or your own website, actively promoting your work helps boost your reputation. Remember, your clients are online too. Building on your online presence helps them find you easily. Make sure you are there when they Google you.
Create your portfolio/website.
Building a portfolio online allows you to showcase your work and establish your credibility. Ideally, your website should include a curation of your work that clearly communicates your expertise. Include other relevant details from your resume such as education, other skills, and previous experiences. It may also include testimonials and a list of brands/clients you’ve worked with. Don’t forget to include your contact information so they can get in touch with you.
In fact, one of the reasons I’ve made Mr. Digital Nomad is to establish my online presence as a credible source in the industry. And sure enough, people may contact me here, too!
There are plenty of free portfolio sites you can use such as Behance, Portfoliobox, Crevado, and WordPress. But if you eventually choose to purchase a domain and build your own for more customizability, I’d recommend using WordPress. It’s easy to install with just one click. I’ll be sharing how I built my website using WordPress in a separate post (so stay tuned!).
Hope these five steps helped you understand how to start freelancing. Get ready to take actionable steps towards implementing your freelancing career!
Need help figuring things out? I’m here to help. Reach out, let’s get you started on becoming a freelancer!
BONUS: Make your processes clear.
Now that you’ve taken all these steps and have booked your first clients, make sure you have in place tools and procedures that will make both your lives easier.
Freelancers use a number of tools to stay on track with tasks and ensure good communication with their clients. They can use apps like Trello and Slack for project management, and Google Apps for collaboration and presentation.
Another important thing to note is the use of a handy payment gateway to ensure you’re paid on time. I’ve been using PayPal since the beginning of my freelancing career. It’s the best option for me and my clients since it’s a secure platform. My clients don’t need to issue checks or line up at the bank to deposit my fees. They can just use PayPal to make a direct transfer.
I would recommend most new freelancers to have a PayPal account. Doing so even opens them up to a lot more project opportunities from seasoned clients overseas who only want to transact with freelancers with PayPal accounts. Yup, it’s a thing – Sign up now: Click here