Everything YOU need to know about freelancing for beginners!
“I need to find ways to make money so I can travel longer!”
How many times has this thought run through your head?
If you’re anything like me, A LOT.
And what do we need to travel more?
Mo money mo problems… Why is this a saying? If I have more money, I just travel more, and you can too if you have a skill that’s mobile. I hope this post about freelancing for beginners can help you take those skills so you can use them to make money on the road.
Let me warn you this is a long post, but if you want to see if there are opportunities for you to become a freelancer, then read on.
What Is Freelancing?
So what exactly is freelancing? Let’s get that out of the way. Freelancing is where you provide services to complete projects or short-term work for a client. This is not always a long-term position but could be and can often be done at your own home (or anywhere) and with your computer.
To put it simply, freelancing is an excellent way you can earn money without even putting your pants on. Sweet!
Freelancing for Beginners: How to Start Freelancing, Step-by-Step!
I started out freelancing in 2012, and it changed my life forever. All of a sudden, I was able to earn money while living and traveling abroad! Because of this, I never moved back home and have been traveling ever since. I hope this guide on how to start freelancing helps you find work online so you can travel more too!
Basically, the way freelancing works is by applying for projects that are posted on an online platform. You complete a project, you get paid. Easy, right? Well, there’s a bit more that goes into it, so I’ll take you through it step by step.
1. Find a Marketable Skill
There are endless online jobs for beginners. But you definitely won’t be able to do them all, so it’s best to pick a skill you already have (or one that you are at least interested in having). Think writing, photography, graphic design, etc.
Writing is what helped me learn how to become a freelancer. I provided articles to clients about anything and everything travel. There are blog posts and articles needed for a variety of websites about topics ranging from technology and electronics to gardening and first-time mothers. Some clients even need a whole ebook.
The list of subjects and opportunities for writing are endless for freelance beginners. And while it’s good to start in one niche area, eventually, you can branch out and offer other skills.
Since I’ve “graduated” from a beginner freelancer, I’ve done… Writing for tons of websites, content for an English learning app, data entry, transcription, virtual assistant, and editing. Ultimately this led to running and owning several blogs.
Hopefully, you can see that starting out freelancing isn’t that hard, and just like many things in life, you work your way up. Luckily, freelancing isn’t too hard of a ladder to climb.
Finding the Right Jobs For a Beginner Freelancer
Struggling to decide which direction to head? The list of jobs that can be completed with just a computer and WiFi connection is growing every day.
Let’s take a look at some typical jobs out there and see if any of these seem like the right fit to help you become a freelancer.
Teaching and Coaching Freelance Jobs
Online English Teacher: One of the easiest jobs I’ve had. I had no experience but a Bachelor’s degree (unrelated field), I got a TEFL certification (discount code Nina50). You can teach English abroad, and or you can also be an online English teacher.
*Not a native English speaker? That’s OK! You can teach ANY language at these online schools.
*Don’t have qualifications or a degree? That’s OK too. Here are online schools that hire without a degree.
Online Tutor: Are you good at any other subject? Tutor students around the world in subjects like math, science, or grammar to help them improve at school.
Personal Trainer: Yup, fitness junkies can also use their skills to start freelancing. If you and your client have the proper equipment and space, you can train your clients from the comfort of your home (wherever it may be).
Yoga Instructor: Sticking to the exercise theme, certified yoga instructors can teach individual or group classes from home if they and their clients have the needed equipment (which isn’t much).
Computer & IT Freelance Jobs
Graphic Designer: If you have a background in design or you’re a master of Adobe Photoshop, graphic design has your name on it. There are tons of businesses that require charts, graphs, and all sorts of designs.
Web Designer: You’d be surprised how many established businesses and start-ups don’t have someone in-house who knows how to develop and maintain a quality website. That’s where you come in, to design and create a fully functional website for them.
SEO Expert: It’s one thing to build and maintain a website, but what about making sure it ranks well and attracts a following? If you’re a master at climbing to the top of Google’s search engine results, then your skills will be valued by many companies.
Data Entry: If you don’t get bored easily and can type quickly, this job will be a breeze for you. It merely requires transferring A TON of information into specific documents.
Computer Programmer: More and more computer experts are needed in today’s technological world, and all you need is a computer and internet connection to code programs.
App Developer: Why not create the next hot app that gets downloads from users all over the world? If you have experience developing apps for platforms like Apple iOS or MS Windows, your skills will be in high demand.
Other Jobs for Beginner Freelancers
Copy Editor: This job is similar to writing, but it is more for you grammar experts. You’ll get to proofread and edit written works ranging from ebooks and magazine articles to website content.
Social Media Manager: Get paid to spend all your time playing on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and other social media outlets to help a business gain and interact with followers. No joke. But you need to know what you’re doing to be an excellent social media manager.
Virtual Assistant: If you have a knack for administrative work, then you can build your home office and manage your tasks from home. You can provide services like scheduling appointments, managing calendars, digital marketing, and organizing emails to businesses or entrepreneurs.
PR Consultant: You can also help businesses maintain a quality public image and exceed their customer expectations. Create content, gauge public reaction to campaigns, and manage crises for the company.
Translator: Speaking multiple languages is a highly-valued skill that is required to translate books, legal documents, magazines, and more. Here’s more info on how to be a translator.
Transcriber: This job requires quality listening skills and the ability to type at lightning speed, but you’ll find employment in a variety of fields like medical, corporate, and legal.
Accountant: You’ll need all the traditional requirements of a regular accountant job in an office, but why not complete all your daily financial and tax-related tasks from home?
Lawyer: Another traditional job that is now more flexible for freelance beginners. Many companies require legal advice, review legal documents, or conduct legal research.
Sales & Marketing: If you love generating leads for a product or service and marketing to potential clients, you can work your magic from your couch.
This is just scratching the surface of jobs you can do online. There are tons of ways to start freelancing, these are just a few ideas of the most common freelancing jobs for beginners.
RELATED: Digital Nomad Jobs
2. Build a Profile on a Freelancing Site
Now that you have an idea of what services you can offer to the world, it’s time to make your online presence shine so you can start applying for jobs and make some money!
This is basically like writing a good resume. The only difference here is that this will be shown in your profile on a freelance website. Potential clients can review your qualifications and experience to see if you’d be the right applicant.
Having a well-polished profile makes freelancing for beginners easier and will help reel in clients quicker. Potential clients like to see what kind of work you’ve done in the past.
If you’re just getting into freelancing and don’t have work to show, this may be tricky, but there’s a nice little workaround that doubles as experience. If you’ve never had a paying project that you can showcase – assign one to yourself and complete it!
Upload writing samples, a few logo designs you’ve done… Upload ANYTHING to prove you’re a good *insert job you’re applying for* and show clients that you (at least sort of) know what you’re doing.
Popular Freelance Sites to Start Freelancing
While there are dozens and dozens of platforms to check out, there are a few that stand out in the crowd and attract millions of freelancers seeking online work. These are the most popular platforms in the freelance world where many folks in similar shoes learn how to start freelancing.
Upwork: Likely the biggest platform out there and a fantastic site to learn how to start freelancing, Upwork was created when oDesk and Elance joined forces. There are jobs ranging from REALLY low to high, and the site is one of the best for beginning freelancers of all types.
Fiverr: Another massive freelance marketplace that allows you to promote all sorts of skills, including writers, graphic designers, programmers, and much more. This isn’t the space for only $5 gigs anymore; you can charge more! This is a perfect space to start freelancing for beginners, but you can also easily grow into a freelancing extraordinaire.
Indeed: The self-proclaimed #1 job site in the world, attracting 250 million monthly visitors. You’ll find tons of traditional job ads here, but it’s easy to filter remote jobs to work from anywhere. Companies of all sizes use the platform to ensure they find the right talent for their jobs.
FlexJobs: The site carefully curates freelance jobs, remote work, flexible gigs, full-time jobs, and part-time jobs. They charge a fee for full access ($14.95 per month, $29.95 for three months or $49.95 for one year), but every job is screened to ensure you come across no scams. People say it caters to American freelancers a bit more.
Freelancer: This diverse platform has jobs in over 1,000 categories, making it great for freelancers with all sorts of skills. Millions of businesses use the site looking for the right fit for their project, and it’s easy for freelance beginners to market their services to potential clients.
Craigslist: Don’t be mistaken by thinking this platform is only suitable for selling old, unused items. There is actually a decent job posting section, which includes lots of remote work. However, tread with more caution and use common sense to avoid scams since the site doesn’t have the security and client accountability as other platforms.
More Sites for Freelancing for Beginners
The above sites are the most well-known, but as a beginner freelancer, you’re going to want to cast your net wider to give yourself the best chance.
PeoplePerHour: Professionals from all over the world can find projects that are best suited for their skills. Nearly 1 million businesses use the platform and freelancers are vetted to ensure they are an expert in their field of work.
Guru: Freelancers with a wide variety of skills can connect and communicate with companies from all over the world. It’s easy for freelance beginners to market their services and attract employers, and the site has a modest commission of roughly 9%.
Contra – No fees for this platform! They are newer but are making their mark in the freelance world. Sign up, offer your services, and explore job opportunities!
Toptal: This platform is great if you’re already a seasoned veteran and have mastered the tools to become a freelancer. Businesses searching for talent browse through the platform’s network of freelancers who are promoted as being the top 3% worldwide.
SolidGigs: This site takes a different approach by searching through dozens of job boards to send you the best 1% of daily jobs. In addition to saving time on searching, you’ll have access to courses and tools to help you learn how to become a freelancer. You can try a 30-day trial for $2, and membership is $19/month afterward.
Niche Freelance Sites
The buck doesn’t stop there for finding freelance work. If you have a specific skill (like writing or design), you don’t have to spend hours combing through jobs unrelated to the services you provide. Here are some sites that are tailored to particular skills that can potentially make it easier for you to become a freelancer.
For Virtual Assistants:
For Video Editors:
3. Decide How Much You’re Going to Charge for Your Services
Now, the most important thing. How do you get paid once you start freelancing, and how much?
The freelancing website acts as the middleman. You apply for a job, you get accepted, you complete the job, and then you get paid! That’s the short version.
The long version is that money for the project goes into escrow through the freelancer site, and the funds are released when you complete the work. It’s really quite easy, and I can honestly say I have never had a problem with payment.
Regarding pay, every job differs. Don’t get discouraged by job posts for $3/ hour. There are some meager-paying jobs on these sites. There are countries in the world where $3/hour is actually pretty decent.
With that said, there are really high-paying jobs too and everything in between. When I was a beginner freelancer, I worked for less just to attract an employer and get some good feedback. After 1-2 lower-paying projects, my price went up and up.
Freelancing for beginners is not the most lucrative, but once you have a few low-paying jobs and some good reviews under your belt, you can start to raise your prices slowly.
How to Price Yourself as a Freelance Beginner
This can be confusing for freelancing beginners who are unsure what’s a fair rate for their work. A lot of things circle through your head when trying to determine the “right” price to charge prospective clients.
If I charge too high, will any clients hire me? If I charge too low, am I just screwing myself from making more money. Believe me; it’s a tough question.
Ultimately, there are two methods you can take when pricing yourself as a freelancer. Hourly or project-based pricing.
But which one should you choose? There are pros and cons of each method, but let’s dive a little deeper into each to see which one is right for you.
Most freelancers start out charging clients hourly for their work. Hey, it’s simple to calculate, and if the work takes longer than expected, you’ll still get paid for those extra hours.
Some freelance sites, like Upwork, have tracking software that monitors your computer and logs the time for you. Also, it’s relatively easy to estimate the amount of income you’ll make since you base it off the number of hours you think each project will take.
As you gain experience, you can charge a higher hourly rate, and you’ll be paid more for your work. It seems perfect, right?
While hourly pricing is great for freelance beginners, it will ultimately limit the amount of money you make. Here’s why:
- You’ll earn less money when you improve at your craft and complete assignments at a faster pace.
- Your hourly rate will eventually become too high, and many clients will be turned away without giving you a chance.
- You risk being underpaid for a high-quality project that you know is worth more value than you were paid.
It’s a lot tougher for freelancer beginners to charge per project for the first clients to assign them work. You’ve never done a project like this, you don’t know how long it will take, and you have no prior feedback.
It’s almost like taking a shot in the dark since a high rate could potentially leave a client unsatisfied, and a low rate could make you work relentlessly with little to show for it.
Now, if you do have experience in your field, then, by all means, charge the rate you think is fair for the project. But freelancing for beginners should be more flexible.
Once you gain that valuable experience and you increase your clientele, it will be much easier to determine a fair pay rate for each project. Here’s why:
- You won’t lose money just because you’re a fast and efficient worker.
- Your income won’t be limited to the amount of time you can work in a day.
- The client knows exactly how much the project will cost beforehand, making it easier for them.
When to Choose Each Pricing Method?
Scenarios where hourly pricing works best:
- You don’t know how long the project will take.
- The client is unsure precisely what they want.
- If the client asks for additional work to complete the project.
Scenarios where project-based pricing works best:
- You know the project won’t take long to complete.
- You know the project’s value is worth more than the money you’d make working hourly.
- The client has a fixed budget for the project.
Factors to Consider When Setting a Price
Now that you know the methods of pricing, what about knowing when to adjust your price? There are several factors you need to consider when you start freelancing, and it’s essential to understand each client will have different budgets, expectations, and deadlines.
Some things to keep in mind when determining your pay rate:
- How long will the project take? The first thing to consider.
- Will you be able to complete other projects, or will this one take up all your time? Do other jobs have to get pushed to the side to finish this one?
- What is the project deadline? Consider charging more for rush jobs or when requested to work during a holiday.
- What is the client’s budget? A Fortune 500 will have a bigger budget than a local business.
- Is the client easy to work for? If you find a client is demanding or extremely hard to work with, make sure the pay rate is worth it.
4. Start Applying for Jobs
Now that you’ve made the commitment, decided on a career, and created a profile on a freelancer site, you’re ready to start freelancing. Woo!
On most freelancer sites, you get a certain amount of ‘credits’ or applications that you can submit per month. This prevents people from abusing the platform and applying for every single job on the board.
For example, let’s say that ABC freelancing site gives you ten applications to start. This means you can only apply for ten jobs until the next month, and the site ‘refreshes’ your applications. With that said, you can usually buy more if you want to.
In your application to the employer, you are going to make a custom proposal. You will briefly write about why you’re great for the job, provide some of your experience, and then place your bid. Your bid is the amount of money you expect to be paid to complete their project.
You get to name the price, and if they agree, they hire you. Sometimes they have a price limit they are willing to pay, which is displayed before you even apply.
A common mistake many freelance beginners make is not thoroughly reading job descriptions. Employers know how to sniff out “template senders,” and if you don’t answer all their questions in your proposal, you’ll be looked over.
Some freelancer sites also give you the option to create projects. This allows you to decide the parameters of your work, and if there’s a client interested in what you’re offering, they can reach out to you and purchase your project.
Alright, so now you applied to jobs, and you got hired. Congrats! Sweet! Now get to work. It’s as simple as that. The employer provides the information needed to complete your project, and there is a messaging system on the freelancing website to stay in touch, ask questions, send files…etc.
5. Don’t Quit Your Day Job, Yet
Even if you’re on the ambitious side, clients won’t appear like magic overnight. It may take one week or three months to land your first client; I can’t tell you for sure.
But the bills still have to be paid, right? Keep that steady day job while you’re building your side hustle. Finding jobs is tough when you first start freelancing but be patient and persistent.
If you’re trying to get away from that desk job ASAP, you may want to develop your skills while you’re waiting for your freelancing career to take off.
If you’re unsure of what skills you possess or can’t seem to find your life’s calling, there’s a beautiful place where you can tap into your creative side. The site is called Skillshare, and this online learning community provides courses that focus on interaction and help you learn how to complete projects.
You’ll find classes on popular topics like photography, design, writing and much more. Even better, you can complete the courses at your own pace, work on projects from the material you learned and talk to other users around the world.
The classes are taught by real innovators who were likely in your shoes not long ago, and the community is focused on making a connection to help everyone grow.
Skillshare can help you explore new skills to put you in a better position to apply for freelance jobs when you’re ready!
👉 Click here and start learning on Skillshare (fo’ free!)
Figuring out how to start freelancing won’t be the easiest road, but you can make the long road shorter by simply taking some classes and teaching yourself some skills so you can become more “freelance worthy.”
The main goal is to not be a beginner freelancer for too long!
How to Start Freelancing FAQ
Are These Freelance Sites Just a Scam?
Well, from my experience, I have never been scammed. Like I said above, the money goes to a middleman, the freelance website, and you get paid upon completion. Many websites work this way; it’s pretty cut and dry. You do the work; you get paid.
You might find some job postings that are scams or ethically wrong. They might ask you to visit a site and pay money to make money….one of those things. You just simply not apply for that job. You need to be smart when learning how to become a freelancer. Don’t accept jobs that appear sketchy.
The best advice: Use your common sense.
How Long Will It Take to Make Money Online?
Well, I can’t give you a straight answer on this one. However, I’ll tell you what it took to get me started. On one site, it took me nearly three months to get my first job. Not very motivational! But I didn’t give up. Once I got my first job, then the ball started rolling.
On these websites, your profile lists a history of successfully completed jobs. If you have no work history on the website, it makes getting a job a bit more complicated. Just wait for your break-through; it will come.
With another site, it only took me a month to get my first job, but I had a better profile at this point. I had a few jobs on the other freelancing site, and I was able to post samples of my work to show my prospective employers.
If you’re less lazy than me, I would recommend completing a few samples to put in your profile. Yes, you are essentially working for free right now, but it’s worth it for freelance beginners. Hindsight is always 20/20. If I had done this earlier, I doubt it would have taken three months to get my first gig.
I Was Lazy – Don’t Be Like Me!
Your chances of getting a job also depend on how much you’re applying. You’ll never learn how to become a freelancer if you’re never applying for any jobs.
Once you get the ball rolling and have some jobs that you have completed, you will actually start getting INVITED to jobs, which makes your earnings as a beginner freelancer come a bit quicker.
It only gets simpler as time goes on… I promise.
Tools for Freelancing for Beginners
Although freelancing comes with added freedom and flexibility, it presents a world of new challenges for you to tackle. Pitching yourself to clients, doing your own taxes, and organizing projects for numerous companies are just a handful of things now on your plate.
Thankfully, there’s a multitude of resources out there to make life easier when figuring out how to become a freelancer.
Tools for Managing Money
PayPal: Companies use numerous platforms to pay clients, and it’s critical you use a trustworthy name to deliver your online payments on time. PayPal is easy to use for freelancers and one of the most trusted names in the business.
Wise: If you’re earning money from different clients in different countries, Wise is the easiest way to transfer between accounts in multiple currencies.
Even: A platform that helps you track your monthly income and expenses to ensure you always pay your bills on time.
YourRate: If you’re clueless about what hourly rate you should charge, you can easily calculate your ideal rate based on three simple factors.
Time Management and Productivity
Asana: This work management platform makes it easy to organize projects and tasks for groups up to 15 people regardless of where they’re located.
Toggl: If you’re ever forced to track your own time for hourly pay, you can accurately track your time for all projects.
Other Tools for Freelancers
Freelancers Union: A community that helps freelancers find benefits programs, legal advice, financial tools, and events.
SignEasy: As a freelancer, you’ll likely have to sign paperwork for many projects you take on. You can manage all your documents in one place and sign them from any device.
DropBox: Sync all your files into one place so you’ll never have to worry about manually backing up the work for your clients.
Shoeboxed: Being a freelancer can make things complicated come tax time, and it’s important to save all your receipts in case you can receive a tax deduction. This lets you scan your receipts to make organizing expense reports much easier.
My Top Tips on How to Start Freelancing
Profile and Application
-Make a nice and truthful profile. Post samples (yes, that means doing some samples without pay to show you can actually do what you say!), keep it updated, and make sure it’s concise and attractive. If you copy and paste some BS on there, you won’t get a bite.
-Apply often. Jobs are posted every hour and even every minute. Just remember to apply wisely since you don’t get an unlimited number of applications.
– Use the information provided to write a good bid. If you see they are paying a range like: “$200-$250 for this project,” obviously, don’t bid $500. If they say, “You must have _____ qualifications,” don’t waste an application, your time, and their time when you don’t have the required qualifications. It’s just common sense.
– Write a custom application. Most employers, especially the ones paying in the price range you’d be interested in, are going to know if you used a copy-and-paste application. While I do copy and paste PART of my application, like my experience related to the position offered, I always customize it. I add personal touches they will notice and see. They will know I didn’t blindly apply, I took the time to read everything, and I’m a serious candidate.
Things to Avoid
– Never initiate a job where an employer is asking you to do things off the freelance website. Like, communication off the platform and project completion off the website. This can result in a mess. You might not get paid; you might be scammed… Who knows? If you keep everything on the platform, you are safer. The website acts as the middleman for a reason. You might be able to move off the platform after some time and building trust, but don’t start off this way.
– Don’t apply for jobs that you’re clearly not qualified for. You’re wasting the precious applications that you don’t have many of. Also, if you do get hired and do a crappy job, they will give you a low rating, and your chances of being hired again plummet as those reviews are public.
Freelancing for Beginners in Short:
- Up your skills, learn something new, hone in on skills you have – What work do you want to do?
- Sign up for freelance sites and spruce up that resume. Maybe make a few samples of your diverse skills to show off. Make templates for your job applications (but don’t forget to personalize them).
- Start applying!
- Make money!
- Continue traveling!
Ready to Start Freelancing?
The working online world is blowing up now with more eager travelers learning how to become a freelancer. In an age where we can do everything from a computer, why does the whole ‘get up early in the morning and go to the office’ thing still need to happen? Virtually everything can be done… well, virtually!
If it’s the nomadic life you are seeking, the opportunity is really at your fingertips… Unless you type like my dad, then, in that case, your fingertip.
While it may or may not provide you with all the riches in the world, pay your mortgage, or anything super extravagant, it’s money. It’s money that you can make at midnight before you go to sleep, while you are bored on a rainy day, or even before you set off to a beautiful beach for the rest of the day…
Or, who knows, maybe it leads to a more solid gig? Or you create your own business? Trust me, when I first started freelancing, I had no idea it would help me get to where I am right now!
➡️ Digital Nomad Tips
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3. Make sure you’re COVERED abroad!
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We hope this helped with all your questions about freelancing for beginners!
Nina Ragusa is an adventurer, messy bun master, breakfast fan, and full-time travel blogger. She’s been abroad since 2011 and blogging on Where in the World is Nina? for nearly as long. Nina helps people like you move around the world while making money. She loves talking about how to work abroad and online to travel longer!