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.
How to Become a Freelancer—Freelancing for Beginners
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 travel abroad! Because of this, I never moved back home and have been traveling ever since. I hope this helps you find work online so you can travel more too!
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 a long-term position and can often be done based at your own home and with your computer.
To put it simply, freelancing is an excellent way you can earn money without even putting pants on. Sweet!
The way freelancing works is by applying for projects that are posted on an online platform. There are a few sites I would recommend, but there are many others that freelancing beginners can check out.
How to Start Freelancing—Popular Freelance Sites
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. I’ve listed 11 of 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. Now, the site’s clients produce roughly 3 million jobs per year. 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. Jobs start at $5, but you can charge more as you gain more experience and become a freelancer extraordinaire.
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.
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.
Guru: Freelancers with a wide variety of skills, can easily connect and communicate with companies from all over the world. It’s easy for freelance beginners to market their services and attract potential employers, and the site has a modest commission of roughly 9%.
Toptal: This platform is great if you’re already a seasoned veteran and have mastered the tools to become a freelancer. Businesses searching for top talent browse through the platform’s network of freelancers who are promoted as being the top 3% worldwide.
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.
SolidGigs: This site takes a different approach by searching through dozens of job boards to send you the best 1% of available daily jobs. In addition to saving time on job searching, you’ll have access to their courses and resource 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.
CloudPeeps: Another worthy platform to check out if you already have lots of experience in your field of work. It’s a bit harder to get accepted as they’re more exclusive, but you’ll have access to quality clients for one-time projects and ongoing work if you do.
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.
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:
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How Did I Make Money on These Freelance Sites?
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.
Yes, the list of subjects and opportunities for writing are endless for freelance beginners.
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You might say, well, Nina, you suck at writing. How do you write for actual money? You don’t even have experience with this, what are you doing?! Well, you’re not wrong. I didn’t have any experience writing before I started freelancing. However, I have been writing for years now and have continuous writing projects. Plus, you’re still reading, right?
Like anything else in life, if you try hard, do well, keep at it, and gain experience – Anything is possible.
Since I’ve “graduated’ from a beginner freelancer I’ve done… Writing for tons o websites, content for an English learning app, data entry, transcription, and editing.
Hopefully, you can see that starting out freelancing isn’t that hard and just like many things in life, you work way up. Luckily, freelancing isn’t too hard of a ladder to climb.
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How to Become a Freelancer—Finding the Right Jobs
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.
Copy Editor: This job is similar to writing, but it is more for your grammar experts. You’ll get to proofread and edit written works ranging from ebooks and magazine articles to website content.
Online English Teacher: You’ve heard me talking about getting a TEFL certification (discount code Nina35), so you can teach English abroad, now you can also be an online English teacher. Some online learning sites even need teachers for other popular languages. Just another way on how to work online!
*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.
Social Media Manager: Get paid to spend all your time playing on Facebook, Instagram, 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.
Graphic Designer: If you have a background in design or you’re a master of Adobe Photoshop, this 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 that 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 the 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.
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.
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.
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 home.
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).
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, someone to 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.
These are 19 jobs for you that are totally freelanceable in today’s digital world. But that only scratches the surface!
There are so many “freelanceable” jobs out there. I just made that word up, and I really like it. Screw the office and learn how to become a freelancer so you can start making money on the side or make it full time!
These types of positions make the nomadic life that more obtainable. While many freelancing jobs are not 100% permanent, many of them are just on a per-project basis; it’s money. And money is what you need to extend your travels. If you diligently apply for jobs, complete them quickly, and get some new ones, you’ll learn how to start freelancing in no time and earn extra cash fast.
With that said, I have seen some long-term jobs as well. I’ve blogged for a few sites for over a year, and I was an English teacher online for around three years.
Skills Needed to Become a Freelancer
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 in 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!)
Being a beginner freelancer 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.”
OK, I’m so Down! So How Do I Start Freelancing?
To put it simply, employers are looking for freelancers, so they post their job on the freelancing website to see who applies. The freelancers who are looking for work can apply to their job if they think they have the required skills to complete the project.
The employer reviews the applications submitted for their job, and they select the freelancer they want to hire. They click hire, and you do the work, then get paid.
Freelancing for Beginners—the First Steps:
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.
Have a clear goal: If you’ve read this far, I hope your goal is working hard enough to make this your full-time job/serious side gig so you can work from anywhere. But whatever you’re striving for, you need to have a specific purpose to measure your progress. Learning how to become a freelancer is similar to more traditional career paths, you need to have a clear vision of what you wish to accomplish.
Choose your career: Before you start looking for clients, this is when you’ll need to decide which job to pursue. Whether it’s graphic design, personal training, translating, or something not mentioned, this will help you determine which clients to pursue.
Build your online resume: Yes, you’ll have to type up your own resume (if you don’t already have one). The only difference here is that this will be shown in your profile on the freelance website. Potential clients can review your qualifications and experience to see if you’d be the right applicant. Having a well-polished resume makes freelancing for beginners easier and will help reel in clients quicker. This is also where having a clear goal will help. If you have 374 different experiences and jobs, that’s confusing and the employer may glance over you.
Set your prices: Determine what price you will charge clients for your services. Will you charge hourly or by the project? Don’t worry, a little more advice on this subject later.
Find your ideal clients: It will be overwhelming how many freelance jobs are listed on each website. Try filtering out jobs that aren’t related to the career you’ve chosen to save time when looking for potential clients. When you find job ads that fit your skills, keep them to return later once you’re ready to apply.
Start applying for jobs: Now that you’ve made the commitment, decided on a career, and uploaded your resume, you’re ready to start freelancing.
Applying for Freelance Jobs:
- You get a certain amount of ‘credits’ or applications that you can submit per month. This prevents people from abusing the freelancing sites 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.
- 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.
- 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 and send files…etc.
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How Much Money Can I Make as a Freelancer?
You are probably wondering about the money now. Of course, the most important thing. How do you get paid once you start freelancing, and how much?
The freelancing website acts as the middle man. There is a way to look at the profile of your employer to see if they have been verified and have the money in an escrow account on the website. When your work is completed, this will be released. You have an account on the website where the money is held until you transfer it to your PayPal or bank. 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 first started freelancing, I did work for less just so I could attract an employer and get some good feedback. After 1-2 lower-paying projects, my price went up and up.
Just to give you an idea of how mobile and decently lucrative freelancing can be—I traveled through Laos and Cambodia for six weeks, and I ended up SAVING money. I saw everything I wanted to see plus some, but I worked a few days out of the week on my freelance projects and made enough to pay for my travels by putting some extra cash away.
Pretty sweet if I may say so myself!
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 middle man, the freelance website, and you get paid upon completion. Many of the websites work this way; it’s pretty cut and dry. You do the work; you get paid.
What you might find are 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 don’t apply to 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. For Elance, 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 Odesk, 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 Elance, and I was able to post some of my past work on my Odesk portfolio. So, I now had some samples 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!
Upload writing samples, a few logo designs you’ve done… Upload ANYTHING to prove you’re a good *insert job you’re applying for.*
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 earning money online easier.
This prevents you from having to waste time searching for more jobs. The employer already saw your impressive profile, liked you, and decided you might be a good fit for their job. All you need to do is read the job description and apply if you’re interested.
It only gets simpler as time goes on… I promise.
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 I 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 where it 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 which 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 rate too high could potentially leave a client unsatisfied, and a rate too low 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 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.
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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.
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.
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.
Freelancers Union: A community that helps freelancers find benefits programs, legal advice, financial tools, and events.
Even: A platform that helps you track your monthly income and expenses to ensure you always pay your bills on time.
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.
YourRate: If you’re clueless about what hourly rate you should charge, you can easily calculate your ideal rate based on three simple factors.
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.
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My Top Tips on How to Start Freelancing
-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.
– Never initiate a job where an employer is asking you to do things off the 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 middle man 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 of you have diverse skills to show off. Make templates for your job applications (but don’t forget to still personalize it).
- 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!
This trend will only keep increasing, definitely start freelancing while you can. Making money on the side or as your main income benefits stay at home moms, someone who works part-time, or those who have a shopping habit that needs to be funded.
However, 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 might not provide you with all the riches in the world, pay your mortgage, or anything super extravagant, it’s money. 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 day like I’m about to right now.
DIGITAL NOMAD TIP:
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Do you know how to work online already? Or are you beginner freelancer? Let me know in the comments below if this helped!
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Nina Ragusa is an adventurer, messy bun master, breakfast fan, and full-time travel blogger. She’s been abroad and epically failing at the American Dream since 2011. Her sassy yet informative blog, Where in the World is Nina? is all about how to work abroad to live a more adventurous life. If you want to travel longer you have to work to wander.