Becoming a Freelancer with No Experience: How to Get Started

How do you become a freelancer today?

A freelance career seems tempting but you don’t have any experience? No problem!

You can establish a successful freelance business by following a few strategic tips.

The key to becoming a good freelancer is working on the skills that clients need and that few others have to offer.

Once you identify the perfect niche, you can continue building your career & portfolio from there.

Finding Your Niche

How to Become a freelancer

What has your professional occupation been up to that point?

What are some of your most prominent skills and competences?

Sit down and work on a resume or a list of your professional strengths. Based on those, you can identify a niche worth getting into.

Alternatively, think about the skills you’d like to acquire.

This is especially important for the people who are seeking a complete career change and would like to begin a brand new professional journey.

In order to determine what your biggest strengths are and if you can “sell” those, do a bit of market research.

Websites like Upwork are ideal for the purpose. This freelance platform (and others) list a huge number of projects.

Taking a look at these and determining what clients need can help you figure out the particular niche you should be focusing your efforts on.

Let’s do a quick example to illustrate the concept.

You’re a video editor and would like to continue working in that professional field. Great!

Finding a sub-niche within the realm of video editing is even better. By doing so, you’ll be creating one area of specialization and you’ll also be narrowing down the competition.

Going through Upwork, you’ll find out there are jobs for commercials editors, animation editors, video production and post-production specialists, YouTube video editors, special effects creators and many others.

Each one of these is a very narrow area in the realm of video editing.

If you decide to market yourself as a niche specialist, you’ll find it easier to stay ahead of the competition and land new projects (even if you don’t have any experience as a freelancer yet).

Work on Your Presentation

Now that you know what your niche is, take some time to craft the perfect presentation.

Just like in many other aspects of life, first impressions are everything in the world of freelance proposals.

Your presentation has a number of different elements that together build your reputation.

Most often, your presentation will consist of your business website, your social media presence and your profiles on freelancing websites.

Start with your business website – it’s often the foundation that everything else is built upon.

Make sure you have an attractive portfolio that highlights some of your best work.

Starting a blog as a part of your website is another great way to showcase your competence and knowledge.

Your social media profiles (especially on business websites like LinkedIn) should build upon what’s available in your website.

These profiles also give you opportunities to network, join professional communities and even seek gigs. So, don’t mix personal and professional.

People are going to look for you on websites like Facebook and Instagram. Keep those party pictures private and make sure your profiles have a professional focus.

The profiles you build on freelance platforms can make use of the information available in your website and on your social media profiles.

These unique websites, however, provide opportunities for some additional reputation establishment.

If you have a chance to add a video that presents you as a professional, do it!

Also, take on a few simpler projects in order to get some customer feedback.

This is very, very important when trying to score new projects. Many potential clients aren’t going to hire someone who lacks feedback on completed projects.

Reviews and testimonials are considered as credible as personal recommendations, which is why you have to work on those as a part of your profile.

Whenever a freelance platform gives you an opportunity to upload information about your skills, licensing, certification and courses you’ve taken, you should definitely make use of such opportunities to give your profile a complete look.

Be Selective about the Projects That You Bid on

Bidding as a freelancer

The fact that you have no experience doesn’t mean you should just go out there and bid blindly on every single project that’s a distant match.

Instead of applying to everything, take some time to be selective and to really craft the perfect bid for the jobs that are worth taking on.

Applying to jobs that you’re not qualified for speaks of desperation and clients don’t want that.

Instead, you want your applications to feel confident and polished.

In order to project such qualities across, you have to take some time to think about the projects and personalize each bid.

The worst thing you can do is copy and paste the same cover letter 50 times.

The effectiveness of this approach is close to zero. Such an application is going to be too generic and bland.

As a result, clients will probably hit the “delete” button in a matter of seconds (if they see your application at all).

When you bid on the projects that you’re confident you can win, the chances of success increase exponentially.

Don’t be afraid of dreaming big, even if you have no experience.

The fact that you’re just getting started as a freelancer doesn’t mean you lack the professional skills or the knowledge needed to be successful.

Learn from Your Failures

Learn from failure as a freelancer

Sometimes, you will get feedback on the reasons why you haven’t been hired.

Use this information as a learning opportunity.

Even if you don’t hear back from a client, you can still send them a note and ask for some feedback.

Many will ignore you but some will probably give you a bit of insight.

Are you missing opportunities because you’re lacking a certain skill?

Or maybe there’s an error or an ambiguity in your cover letter?

Is your pricing policy adequate for the field you’re attempting to enter?

Are you making clients feel comfortable about your ability to complete the project successfully?

Most often, there will be a specific reason as to why you’re not being hired.

If you manage to identify a pattern, you’ll easily come up with a fix for the thing that’s standing in the way of success.

Also, take a look at the general stats for the project you’re bidding on.

How many people applied to the job?

How many freelancers did the client interview?

What was the price that the project winner suggested?

Some freelance platforms give you access to such statistics about the job.

You can improve your performance by checking on these numbers and getting a more realistic understanding of what the competition has to offer.

Look for Additional Job Opportunities

Freelance platforms give you an excellent starting point but they are just that – the beginning.

If you want to be a successful freelancer, you should never put all of your eggs in the same basket.

There are other places you could be going to in order to find jobs.

Freelance job boards, forums, Reddit communities and even your personal social network could give you access to opportunities.

In some instances, even cold emailing can work (if your presentation is convincing enough and you’re reaching out to the right person).

Consider going to workshops, seminars and other professional events. Old-school networking can still do miracles for your career.

Finally, partnering up with other business and service providers is worth looking into.

Some B2B marketing is always a good idea if you want to establish mutually-beneficial relationships. 

The end goal would be to get referrals from your former clients. Personal recommendations are the best form of promotion.

Once you tap into the word of mouth well, you will definitely secure the longevity of your freelance business.

Don’t Give Up

Don't give up as a freelancer

One final thing you need to understand is that starting a freelance career isn’t easy.

The competition is there and newcomers will usually have a hard time establishing themselves.

What matters is not giving up. 

You’ll probably get turned down a number of times. Often, you’ll have no idea what went wrong or what could be done to strengthen your proposal.

Keep on working on your online presence. Keep on networking. Apply to the projects that are well-matched to your skills.

Investing in your reputation and making sure your applications are outstanding will both yield good results sooner or later.

Keep yourself open to communication with potential clients. The more time you spend establishing yourself as an expert in a certain field, the higher the reward is going to be in the future.

Research, explore, fine-tune your applications and be creative/inspired in your approach.

Lather, rinse, repeat. Unless you’re doing something very, very wrong, this commitment to the establishment of your freelance career will soon help you land your first project.

Once this happens, you’ll find it much easier to continue expanding the scope of possibilities. 

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