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How to Start Freelancing (And Get Your FIRST Client!) [Updated May 2022]

The SPI community has been asking about the world of freelancing a lot lately, so I thought I’d share some recent thoughts on freelancing to guide you in how to get started freelancing (and get your first client).

In that post, I explain that freelancing is one of the two quickest ways to generate online income (the other is affiliate marketing). Freelancing allows you to quickly get paid for a task that can actually help solve problems for people.

And when you’re first starting out, freelancing is the number one way to get started online. It’s not passive income, which is an important thing to understand. Freelancing is definitely not passive; it’s super active. If you don’t do the work, you’re not going to get paid. But if you are dedicated and put in the effort, freelancing is a great way to get your foot in the door of an industry or niche you’re interested in. It’s, quite simply, a great way to get started in business.

After all, think about this: You just need one client. One client to make a little money. One client to get the ball rolling. One client to make a difference. And then, as you’ll hear me talk more about later in this post, you can take what you learn working with clients, and turn it into something more passive—with tools, or even a team! But first, let’s figure out how to get that first client.

Choose which skills you’ll start freelancing with

Start freelancing with skills from previous jobs

If those roles required creativity or use of a specific software, it’s even more likely that someone would be willing to pay YOU rather than take the time to learn that skill themselves.

Start freelancing with skills outside your job description

Start freelancing using your hobbies and self-taught skills

Narrow down your list of skills

When it comes to freelancing, having competition is a GOOD thing. If there aren’t other freelancers already getting paid for the work you’ve decided you want to do, chances are there isn’t much money to be made there.

If no one is earning a quality income using your preferred skill, check out the second, or the third, and so on until you’ve found a skill that people are being paid real money for and that you’re excited to start a freelance business around.

Package your skills into a service offering

Turn your service into a solution

Positioning your solution to your target client

It may not pay off immediately, and if it doesn’t then you should help them understand how long it will take for them to see that return on their investment — either by increasing revenue or decreasing costs.

Example Solution

So a solution our freelancer could provide is social media management. If they offered to grow my social media presence by posting content for me each month, that’s a compelling solution leveraging their skills.

How will you price your services when you start freelancing?

Value-based pricing fee: Similar to a fixed project fee, but based on the value of the work to the client, not the amount of work done by the service provider. This has the highest potential upside, but is the hardest to sell to the client.

Let’s return to our previous example of a marketer providing social media management for content creators. That service is probably an ongoing project and so either hourly or a monthly retainer is appropriate.

Competing on price is a race to the bottom and will burn you out if you make a name as being the “cheapest” option. Instead, find a number on the middle or high end of market rates for similar services that makes you excited to do the project.

Pricing Pro Tips

Pull it all together with your client formula

There’s a bonus to this: by creating this formula, you also create the perfect Elevator Speech for your freelance business with the phrase “I help [person x] solve [problem y].”

Example

10 Steps to Start a Freelance Business While Working Full-Time in 2022

Before you start your freelance business, you need to get very clear on why you want to start freelancing in the first place. Once you have your bigger picture goals in mind, how you utilize your limited amount of time will greatly determine your level of success with freelancing.

How to Start Freelancing Business - Goals

Let’s say your bigger picture goal is to become a fully self-employed freelancer. You’ll set your own hours, decide who you want to work with, and call all the shots in your business. Now, how do you get there?

You know that you’ll need to get your freelance income up to a sustainable, healthy level that allows you to eventually quit your day job without stress about where your next paycheck is going to come from. Because I’ve quit my day job too early in the past with the phone case business I started (and ended up moving in with my parents for a few months), my personal rule is that I now must reach a side income of at least 75% of what my salaried job pays me, before even considering quitting to pursue my side business – full-time.

Starting with your freelance income target, based on your living expenses, risk tolerance, and realistic expectations on how long your savings can sustain you, now you can back into a rough idea of how many clients you’ll need (and what you’ll have to charge them), before making it to the point where you’ll be able to leave your day job to freelance full-time.

For me personally, a major goal of freelancing was to unlock more time for myself to just be. To live life. To pursue things like hiking with more of my free time—and as a result of doing that, I now have a hiking blog called Hike with Ryan. I’ve been writing about topics like my favorite Yosemite trails, the most thoughtful gifts for hikers, reviews of the best hiking boots, the right time of year to visit Yosemite and more.

Get the Complete Road Map

While this guide covered many of the crucial steps to launching your freelance career, there are obviously many more aspects to running a successful business. And that’s where our library of free business courses comes in. You’ll find financial advice, copywriting tips, negotiating strategies, and many other resources that will help you reach your goals faster.

Grant Olsen is a writer specializing in small business loans, leadership skills, and growth strategies. He is a contributing writer for KSL 5 TV, where his articles have generated more than 6 million page views, and has been featured on FitSmallBusiness.com and ModernHealthcare.com. Grant is also the author of the book "Rhino Trouble." He has a B.A. in English from Brigham Young University.

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Resources:

https://www.smartpassiveincome.com/blog/how-to-start-freelancing/
https://freelancing.school/how-to-start-freelancing/
https://www.ryrob.com/why-freelance-while-working-full-time-and-how-to-do-it/
https://foundr.com/articles/building-a-business/how-to-start-freelancing