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How to Start Freelancing for Beginners—Work Online & Travel!

How to Start Freelancing for Beginners—Work Online & Travel!

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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?

MONEY!

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!

Once of the perks of freelancing for beginners is being able to work from pretty places like this.
This was my office on the Ganges in Rishikesh, India while I was doing freelance work.

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.

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. 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.

FiverrAnother 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.

Fiverr is a popular tool to find work for freelancing for beginners.
Fiverr is a popular tool to find work for freelancing for beginners.

IndeedThe 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.

FlexJobsThe 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.

FreelancerThis 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.

If you want to learn how to start freelancing, Freelancer is a helpful website to check out.
If you want to learn how to start freelancing, Freelancer is a helpful website to check out.

CraigslistDon’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.

PeoplePerHourProfessionals 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.

GuruFreelancers 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!

Screenshot of Contra website freelancing for beginners
Contra’s commission-free model makes it a great site for beginner freelancers

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.

SolidGigsThis 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.

CloudPeepsAnother 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.

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 Writers:

For Designers:

99designs is a great website that will help you with how to become a freelancer.
99designs

For Developers:

For Virtual Assistants:

For Video Editors:

RELATED: 56 Work From Home Websites—Earn Money Outside The Office

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.

RELATED: How to Be a Freelance Content Writer and Turn Your Words Into Money

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.

I've mastered how to become a freelancer so I can work from anywhere now.
My work station in my campervan in New Zealand.

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.

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.

RELATED: 11 Travel Jobs That Helped Me Stay On The Road

Freelancing for Beginners—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.

Teaching and Coaching Freelance Jobs

Online English Teacher: You’ve heard me talking about getting a TEFL certification (discount code Nina50), 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.

If you're wondering about how to become a freelancer, you can become an English teacher online.
I’ve taught English online and in Thailand.

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 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).

Computer & IT Freelance Jobs

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.

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.

A good job for freelancing for beginners is being a computer programmer..
After a few coding courses, a good job for freelancing for beginners is a computer programmer.

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 your 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, 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.

Once you learn how to be a great social media manager, you open the door to so many opportunities.
Want to try freelancing for beginners? Consider being a 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.

Transcription as an entry level online job
Transcription is a great choice for freelancing for beginners

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.

Just Scratching The Surface

That was 19 jobs 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 nomadic life more obtainable. While some 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 for a Beginner 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 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.

Screenshot of Skillshare website freelancing for beginners
Skillshare helps beginner freelancers get job-ready

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:

Preparation

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.

A tip for freelancing for beginners is to figure out what services you want to offer and perfect those skills.
A tip for freelancing for beginners is to figure out what services you want to offer and perfect those skills.

Applying for jobs

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

RELATED: Simple Travel Home Office Accessories You Need to Work Comfortably

How Much Money Can I Make as a Beginner 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.

Once you master how to become a freelancer, you can work in pretty places like New Zealand.
I worked online and was able to travel around New Zealand for a while.

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.

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 ended up SAVING money. I saw everything I wanted 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 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 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. 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 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.

Once you master how to become a freelancer, you can work from anywhere.
Once you master how to become a freelancer, you can work from anywhere.

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 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.

Hourly Pricing

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.

Project-Based Pricing

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.
If you're wondering how to become a freelancer, follow this guide.
A day in the life of a freelancer.

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.

RELATED: 21+ Digital Nomad Jobs: Take Your Desk Around the World

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

PayPalCompanies 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.

Screenshot of Wise freelancing for beginners
Freelances can save money on transfers with Wise

Even: A platform that helps you track your monthly income and expenses to ensure you always pay your bills on time.

YourRateIf 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

AsanaThis work management platform makes it easy to organize projects and tasks for groups up to 15 people regardless of where they’re located.

Asana is one of my favorite tools for freelancing for beginners.
Asana is one of my favorite tools for freelancing for beginners.

TogglIf 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 UnionA 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.

Dropbox is another great tool for freelancing for beginners.
Dropbox is another great tool for freelancing for beginners.

ShoeboxedBeing 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.

RELATED: 17 Free Online Tools to Make Your Work Life 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.

Learning how to start freelancing can seem daunting, but it's totally worth it.
Learning how to start freelancing can seem daunting, but it’s totally worth it.

Things to Avoid

– 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:

  1. Up your skills, learn something new, hone in on skills you have – What work do you want to do?
  2. 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).
  3. Start applying!
  4. Make money!
  5. 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.

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We hope this helped with all your questions about freelancing for beginners!


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  1. Nina says:

    Fabulous Silvia, glad I could help. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Dana says:

    Nina! Although we’ve already had this freelancing convo in person, I still read your entire post and loved it! One question that came to mind with the season right around the corner, is what about taxes?? Since the employer is paying you through paypal, I assume you don’t pay taxes on it?? Does it matter or is it just like getting paid under the table?

  3. Nina says:

    Yay thanks Dana!

    So the employer isn’t paying you through Paypal. The way it works is the money is transferred to your “account” on the website. The money sits there until you transfer it yourself to Paypal. Only the website knows your Paypal information.

    Regarding the taxes, it’s a bit tricky. Each site kind of has their own thing. With Odesk, there is a 1099 form that gets sent to you with your earnings so you can properly file your taxes. With Elance, it appears that only IF you work for an employer who is located in the US, will you need documentation for your taxes.

    I never worked for a US employer via Elance and never had to do anything with taxes. With Odesk, I will be finding out more of the details this tax season since I haven’t worked on that site as long yet. I have the info filled out and will be awaiting the documentation in the mail (Oh yay…)

    It also depends on how much you earn. If you only earn a few hundred bucks, I’m pretty sure you don’t need to do anything. This is what I have gathered through my research and experience… More detailed information can be found regarding the taxes on each website. Again, they all have different requirements.

    Hope this helps.

    (MISS YOU!)

  4. Silvia says:

    This is such an incredibly useful post! Way more details than people usually give – I’ll definitely be passing this on to some friends!

  5. Chris says:

    Hi Nina,

    I like reading your blog posts and also like your writing style. Lots of useful information on this post for freelance job. Keep doing good job on your writing. Hope to have chance to meet you in Thailand.

    Best,
    Chris

  6. Nina says:

    Thank you Chris!

  7. Nina says:

    Thanks for reading Ruann! I can’t even imagine life without writing now…or without traveling for that matter.
    Glad you already know what’s up and I wish you the best on your writing and travels. 🙂

  8. Ruann (Solo Travel Uncut) says:

    Some guy once said “There’s nothing to writing, you just sit at your typewriter and bleed”, I always thought it had some deep poetic meaning, I guess it does, but after starting freelancing, and blogging, and and and, it took on a whole different meaning I still love the hell out of it though. Thanks for these great guidelines, it helps make the road a little straighter. Oh, and “that guy” is Hemingway. All the best.

  9. Nina says:

    Glad I could help. Thanks for reading MIchelle!

  10. Michelle Reimann | Lights Camera Travel says:

    Oh wow this is a super informative post! Thank you for sharing your personal experiences with freelancing as well, so inspiring!

  11. Nina says:

    Hi Renuka- Yes I agree. Working off the website can be a bit easier and I HAVE done it before. BUT… Only after I established trust over a few months. Glad you are enjoying freelancing and thanks for reading.

  12. Renuka says:

    I have quit my full time job and opted for freelancing. I am enjoying it a lot. I do agree that it’s not safe to freelance off the website, it should always be through the website. However, the working is far more flexible without the website. I am mean dealing with the client directly is more transparent and easy.

  13. Ali says:

    this is basically what I am doing now. i quit my day job last month and many applications online to work as a freelancer. i got two jobs now over at odesk and am travelling 🙂 currently at Vilankulos!!!

  14. Nina says:

    Wow! Awesome Ali! Enjoy Moz… I only got to see Biline when I was there. Can’t wait to see more…. Your pics look amazing. Have fun!

  15. Jam says:

    Thanks a lot Nina .
    This a wonderfull post.
    I tried oDesk long time back but gave up after 1 month. But your post is very encouraging .. Key is patience

  16. Nina says:

    Exactly Jam. It’s not the most fun to sit there, apply for days and get nothing. But once you do, you’re good to go! Get that profile and portfolio looking good and maybe work for a bit cheaper in the beginning. It will pay off! 🙂

  17. Florida Woman Uses Online Freelance Business to Travel the World | In-House HR says:

    […] even started her own blog, Where in the World is Nina. There she documents her trips and offers tips for others who may want to follow in her […]

  18. Lea Strampp says:

    Im thrilled about this article. My husband and I are teaching English in Korea and reading your article just opens up so many options for us staying abroad. THANK YOU for posting. I’m going to start my profiles tonight!

  19. Nina says:

    Very cool Lea! Stay warm up there!:-)

  20. […] at what jobs you can do that only involve a computer. I already have given some great tips on freelancing jobs you can check out to get you […]

  21. Nina says:

    Thanks David. The internet out here for me is OK. I actually do some teaching online so I need to speak via the internet as well. It works just fine. You need to find it, but it is here. Not sure about being a personal trainer but anything is possible. I would look at fancy resorts and such. They might want to hire a personal trainer. I’m not the type to workout on holiday, but some people are! 🙂

  22. david richard says:

    Hi Nina
    I like your post
    I set up myself with business where I sell over the internet and over the phone.
    My phone system are over ip, so with head set to my lap top and a good internet connection I am operational. How good are the internet connection in general? Sending email it’s one thing, conversation over the internet odds something else.

    Also have you see family traveling? My daughter is 11, what about schools?
    My wife is a personal trainer, might be easy for here to find job everywhere

    What are your thought?

    Thank you

    david

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  24. Michelle says:

    Wow, thanks for all the info! I make money through my travel blog through advertisements, but I’d love to pick up some freelance writing gigs on the side. This has helped a lot! 🙂

  25. Nina says:

    Ah, looks like we are on opposite sides Michelle. I make more from freelancing :-p Glad I could help!

  26. Preeti Singh says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts nina!!! loved reading everybit of it…. For a person like me who wants to be a wanderlust but at the same time i am stuck at my cubicle and the same 10 – 7 job, you are a true inspiration… Keep writing & keep traveling… Who knows, we may bump into each other some day!!! xo

  27. Nina says:

    Thanks so much!

  28. […] I have posted in the last few months, you would know that I work online. I work mostly as a freelancer now, but I am an online teacher as […]

  29. Janet C says:

    Hi Nina

    thanks for explaining about paying taxes in home country- that’s 1 side of the equation. But I thought you have to pay also in the country you’re staying in at time of working eg. asia. How do you work that side of things? Would be really complicated I reckon to full in all those forms. Or do you just travel as a tourist and let that side of things be?

  30. Nina says:

    Hi Janet,

    I’m not making ANY money in the country I’m visiting. Zero dollars. No need to pay taxes if they aren’t supplying me with a job. One of my clients is Singaporean. I complete work for him online. I happen to live in Thailand. Why would I pay taxes in Thailand? Doesn’t make sense 🙂

    Now when I was a teacher in Thailand, that’s a different story. If you are employed for over a year at a school, you need to start paying taxes. The job is physically in the country of Thailand. So it makes sense. Hope that helps!

  31. How to Get Lucky says:

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  32. Amy (Two Drifters) says:

    Hey Nina! Great post! I too, work as a freelancer, and got started on oDesk! It’s a great way to make money while travelling, and believe it or not, my first gig on oDesk turned into a continuing gig, so I now work as a copywriter for a marketing company. Keep adventuring!!

    x Amy

  33. Nina says:

    Yeah it’s great scoring those long term ones and the same to you! Thanks!

  34. Nina says:

    Awesome, thanks! 🙂

  35. Marysia says:

    Next time when anybody will ask me to explain what freelancing is and what freelancers actually do I’m sending them this link! Great post!

  36. Katrina says:

    I’m really glad I found this blog post! Freelance is something I’ve been considering for several years but it seemed really difficult to get started. Maybe I’ll finally take the plunge, it doesn’t seem so hard!

  37. Ken says:

    Hi Nina! Loved your article! I’m currently starting my own travel blog hoping it will take off and open some doors for me. I have a rough deadline set for myself for when I sell my car, quit my current 8-5 job, and leave my apartment for the nomadic life. I’m finding some alternate options for income, one would be teaching english, I’m currently deciding which TEFL site to sign up with. I want to get a TEFL certificate regardless just as a backup plan, so I’ll be doing this before the end of this year.

    I do have 2 questions if you don’t mind answering. 1st would be, can you (and would you recommend) write off a blog as a business and therefore write off any purchases as a business expense when tax time comes? 2nd question is, I’m currently in my 2nd month of blogging and I’m staying active on social networking sites to advertise updates and blog posts. Would it be wise for me to gain more traffic before purchasing a domain, or should I purchase a domain immediately? I’m currently using a free wordpress account.

    Thanks,
    Ken

  38. Nina says:

    Hi Ken! Thanks so much. I’m really not the best person to ask for you first question, sorry. I’m not sure. Your second question, I would recommend getting the site name. It could get taken from you depending on how generic it is, and it’s not that expensive, so you mine as well get started on it if your goal is to do it anyway. Good luck!

  39. distance monk says:

    Just getting into the world of flexible work and freelancing and I can’t agree with you more on the profile and the fact that you need work to get work. Kind of like the whole “you need experience to get experience” out in the real world. It’s truly a brave new world we are all living in regards to being able to work from anywhere, and I hope I can follow in your footsteps boldly, especially on Perhentian Kecil!

  40. Nina says:

    Awesome! Good luck!

  41. Anni says:

    We travel with our kids 5 and 11 and left home 5 years ago in September. There are some great schools about and homeschooling can be fun or painful depending on the day.The budget and complexity is probably different to Nina’s experience. I just hope my kids will love me for it. Great website Nina!

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  43. Nina says:

    Those are the only two I happen to use, but I know others have had luck on the other sites. Check out my teaching online blog post too, you might qualify for that job and if you do, it’s far easier to start there than with freelancing.

  44. Elisa K says:

    This information is exactly what I have been looking for!! The only freelance sites I had heard of were Elance and odesk so I am so happy that you gave other options.

  45. 10 Tips for Long-Term Traveler Wannabes says:

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  46. […] would die without my laptop, literally…because I would have no money for food and shelter. I work online people! Some travelers want to get away from using electronics on their holidays and I totally […]

  47. Nina says:

    Awesome, Melanie! I wish you the best of luck. Odesk (UpWork now) Just merged with Elance! I think it’s the best platform out there now. I heard freelancer is a bit harder now only bc it’s more time spent filing through scammy type jobs, so just be careful.

  48. Melanie says:

    Great post Nina! I signed up for freelancer.com, haven’t landed a job yet. But, as you said it takes time and probably once you got the first one, it’s easier to have more. I will sign up for odesk as well, see what it’s like there. Freelancing is for sure a great opportunity. As I’m 6 months traveling around the world already, I look for something to build up my career. I don’t want to go back to the office and work for someone else 😉

  49. South East Asia Backpacker » Can You Make a Lifetime of Long Term Travel Work? Tips for Working Abroad, From Your Laptop & Other Ideas… says:

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  50. Nina Ragusa says:

    Thanks a lot Jarelle! And thanks for sharing even more helpful info ?

  51. Jarelle says:

    A really really interesting post Nina! I loved the way you went through each point about freelancing as this will definitely give the readers a good insight about freelancing.

  52. Lia says:

    Nina, I was wondering if you do any mentoring? I love this article I found your webpage from reading your huffington post. I’m inspired

  53. Nina Ragusa says:

    Hi Lia! Thanks so much! I don’t necessarily do mentoring, but you’re of course welcomed to shoot me a message and I’ll help if I can ?

  54. Nina Ragusa says:

    Awesome!! Go for it Amy! ?

  55. Amy says:

    What a great article with such helpful information. After traveling for over 5 months now, I’m going to sign up with the 2 freelance websites you’ve recommended. Thanks so much for sharing your advice and tips.

  56. Nina Ragusa says:

    Yes it is a great way to make extra cash, but the application process if very time consuming and redundant. You can score some great connections though and the money can be very worth it! Good luck getting back in it.

  57. Ariana Nicole says:

    Hey Nina, great article! I’m totally jealous of all your cool “work places” lol I tried Elance for a while doing graphic design work and picked up a job or two but eventually the application process wore me out. I still freelance now on my own, but after reading your post I’m considering trying it out again. Online freelancing really is a great way to make extra cash!

  58. Chanel says:

    Hi Nina,

    I’m an undergraduate now and aspire to be a freelance writer in the future but is quite lost about how to get started. When talk about submitting ‘samples’ what samples are they talking about? Are there fixed formats of writing which we have to learn. And can freelance writing be a full time job?

  59. Nina Ragusa says:

    Hi Chanel! So samples are almost anything you’ve written. Show them what style you write in. My subject is travel and well, I have a travel blog! Which is essentially a huge sample of my writing. So write like you normally do and about what you love to write about and that’s your sample 🙂
    Freelance writing can definitely be a full time job, but I’d say it wouldn’t be the easiest to do. You’d need really contacts and stable contracts for it to be legit full time and reliable. It’s definitely doable but hard work is needed. I hope this helps!

  60. Nina Ragusa says:

    Nice, Anna! Thanks for sharing.

  61. anna says:

    Awesome article. One of way to build reputation of freelancing platforms is do provide discount to clients. They end up writing 5 stars for you.

  62. anna says:

    some typos in my comment:

    One of the ways to build reputation on freelancing platforms is do provide discount to clients. They end up writing 5 stars reviews for you.

  63. Cassidy @ Jetplane Jean Blog says:

    I briefly dabbled in these freelancer websites and quickly got overwhelmed with the amount of jobs, but I’m making it my goal for December to really stick with it and get a little closer to being able to work remotely!

  64. Nina Ragusa says:

    It can be! But stick with it and I’m sure you’ll get in a groove 🙂

  65. Lizzie says:

    Really great article there!! I did some travelling for a few months last year, came back to the UK and straight back to square one to a job in an unfulfilling industry. Your article has really inspired me to get back out there and get writing about what I love!!! Thanks Nina!!

  66. Nina Ragusa says:

    Thanks Lizzie! So good to hear it 🙂 go for it!

  67. virtualedge says:

    thanks for explaining about“how to make money
    while traveling.” I’ve never even heard of these The blog or and best that is extremely useful to keep I can share the ideas of the future as
    this is really what I was looking for, I am very comfortable and pleased to come here. Thank you very much.

  68. virtualedge says:

    These are the most interesting suggestions I’ve ever heard for freelancing online.
    I’m sure many newbies will find this post helpful. I know I would have benefited from learning this when I first started

  69. Laura says:

    Hi Nina, Very interesting article. I’m from the UK. Does this freelance website just apply to Americans? Thanks, Laura

  70. Nina Ragusa says:

    Nope! Anybody can sign up 🙂

  71. Nina Ragusa says:

    I’ve heard that this is a problem. I’d keep trying and try to put an application on other freelance websites. There are also Facebook groups where you can advertise services. Take a look down other avenues.

  72. Ana rita says:

    Hi Nina, I’m having so Many problems creating an account in Upwork. They never accept my application, because my skills are all similar to other people skills (has they say). I’m trying since one year and so far nothing new. I already changed my skills for others and they still don’t accept. Do you have any sugestion that can help me starting? Thank you so much

  73. Matrix Sniper says:

    nice post.

  74. Gaetano says:

    I found your website by chance and it provided me with some very good information. However, when I got to the end of the article “How to Work Online – Ways to Make Money to Travel Longer” There a section titled ‘Keep Reading’ I am not sure why but none of the links to the other articles work.

  75. Nina Ragusa says:

    Glad it was helpful! And thanks for telling me. I’ve just fixed it 🙂

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