How do I learn to freelance and make money with it?

Quick Answer:

  • Learn a skill that you can deliver digitally.
  • Become an expert at it.
  • Join freelance websites.
  • Start applying for work to get clients.
  • Earn money. 

You can’t really “learn Freelancing.” What you can do is learn how to get clients, regardless of whether that’s in person at conventions or digitally on platforms such as Upwork. You’re essentially learning how to sell yourself by communicating the benefits and results you can bring to a business. 

Let’s look at each step in the process, starting with learning a skill you can deliver digitally. 

Learn a digitally deliverable skill

The first step you should take when looking to become a freelancer and make money is to learn a skill that can be delivered digitally. Now, obvious skills, such as writing and programming, pop into my mind immediately. But many different skills can be delivered digitally to earn money in the freelance economy. However, considering you are thinking about going freelance, there’s a good chance you already have some semblance of skills you can complete digitally. 

Let’s take a look at a handful of these skills:

  • Programming – you can learn to program one of any programming languages, all of which can be delivered digitally to clients. 
  • Project management – Many projects can be managed easily over the internet, especially if those projects are using work management tools such as Trello or Monday.
  • Writing – Writing is almost the ultimate digital nomad freelancing job type, as writing can be done on a cheap, low-powered laptop. 
  • Graphic design – All types of graphics can be stored and delivered digitally, making graphic design a great skill to learn to make money from freelancing.
  • Creating videos. – There’s a massive demand for video editing and creation these days. If you can use video editing software, you can freelance as a video editor. Note that videos are often huge files, and video editing is very processor intensive. You’ll need a good internet connection and a powerful laptop. 
  • Consulting – You can consult with businesses worldwide using your phone’s camera. 
  • Voice work – Voice acting has become a big business with computer games. You can, with decent recording equipment.
  • UX/UI design – You can design the graphical elements of websites, web apps, and mobile apps. 
  • Game development and design – you can lend game companies a hand to help make their game. 

As you can see, there are many skills you could master to become a freelancer. And this list is just the tip of an enormous iceberg. There are thousands of niche skills and broad skills that are in demand in the freelance economy. 

Next up, you’ll have to learn how to become an expert at your chosen skill. 

How to become an expert at your chosen skill. 

Simply put, before you can freelance successfully, you’ll need to become an expert at your chosen skill. Remember that when I say expert, I do not mean mastery. Mastery can take decades doing the same skill. Becoming an expert, however, is relative. You can become an expert at performing a simple task in Photoshop in under an hour. Whereas mastering Photoshop could take an entire lifetime. 

But how do you become an expert? Well, it’s like any other skill; you need to absorb theory and gain experience through practice. 

Let’s take a look at both of these ideas: 

  • Theory – First, before you can do most things well, you’ll need a little theory to help you. The theory is the basic information you need before using a tool or putting a small skill section to practice. For example, when you first learned to ride a bike, the person who taught you explained some basic ideas, such as how to peddle, hold the handlebars, and other general information. This is the theory. It gives your mind a basic grasp of the workflow needed to achieve a positive outcome with a skill. 
  • Experience – Next, and most importantly, you need to build experience with a workflow. Experience is what truly helps you become an expert at doing something. I can read many books on how to ride a bike. But only when I get on the bike and start peddling will I gain the experience needed to become proficient on the bike. Generally speaking, practice is where you put your workflow into action. And you have to complete that workflow over and over again until you reach expertise. You can’t become proficient at any skill without repetitive practice. You’ll never become an expert by watching videos or reading about something. You’ve got to actually do it. 

Once you’ve mastered a skill, it’s time to join a freelance website to start getting clients. 

I never expected to make the videos a full-time job. I thought I would continue to work as a freelance Web designer and just do the videos for fun. But the audience built so quickly that it became full-time.

iJustine – American Youtuber

Join freelance websites. 

Once you feel comfortable and confident with your expertise, it’s time to join freelance websites to find work. 

Freelance websites include:

  • Upwork
  • Freelancer
  • Fiverr 
  • Toptal

Each of these sites has its pros and cons. But out of all of them, I’ve had the most success on Upwork. However, freelance websites aren’t the only place where you can get freelance work. You can find freelance work on:

  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • In-person
  • Job websites

That’s the beauty of freelancing. You can find work anywhere. 

Next up, we’ll look at selling your skills and getting clients.

Getting clients

Getting clients is the hardest part of freelancing. There’s a lot of competition for clients from low-quality freelancers who get work by offering low prices. Sadly, these poor freelancers give quality freelancers a bad name. 

Below are a few ways I’ve learned that seem to always get clients: 

  • Make it about them – When applying for jobs and finding clients, you need to make the job application about them, not yourself. When applying, every point you make should be made with the client’s needs in mind, not your ego. 
  • Talk results – This ties into the above. When talking to clients, all they are really interested in is how you can help them get results for their business. Therefore, when trying to get clients, demonstrate your work’s results. Have you written an article that pulls in 1000 views per month? Tell your clients about that. 
  • Benefits – Again, tying in with the above, when you talk about your results, you want to point out the benefits for the clients. For example, suppose your article got 1000 views per month and had a 10% conversion rate for a product. In that case, you can say to a client that an article that pulls in 1000 views should make them X amount of money per month at that conversion rate for their business. 
  • Tie your results into quantitative financial outcomes – again, if you can demonstrate how your work can financially benefit a client, they’ll be interested. 
  • Have a good portfolio – You need a portfolio to demonstrate your best work. You should have at least a website and PDF version of your portfolio. However, you need to make this as accessible as possible.
  • Only apply for jobs you are confident of completing to a high standard. If you take on jobs outside your expertise, you will eventually get found out, and you’ll probably end up with a poor review. 
  • Take the time to network – People hire people they know. So become known on freelance forums, social media, and other platforms. 
  • Give value first – Is a client looking for a new logo? Then quickly scribble down a few sketches, nothing fancy, and send them over. This will immediately show the client that you want the job and are already thinking about how to complete it successfully. 
  • Record video applications – The written word is powerful. But the spoken word is even more powerful. Take the time to record a video explaining your experience, results, and benefits. It’ll grab your client’s attention more effectively than a written proposal. 

Making Money

Finally, of course, you’ll want to make money. And you can do that by completing jobs and completing them to a high standard. 

I recommend you do the following:

  • Don’t rush – I have a saying that goes something like this: Slow equals pro. Pros try not to rush their work, ever. They work methodically and slowly, so they can focus on the details that bring work alive. Rushed work often means cut corners and low quality. 
  • Ask for feedback often – Before you attempt to finalize a piece of work, you should get as much feedback on your drafts as possible. For example, when making logos, you should do quick sketches and get feedback on them. Clients are often unsure of what they want. They need you to guide them through the decision-making process. The best, and quickest way to do this, is to make quick sketches, get feedback often, and iterate on your designs. 
  • You will inevitably get a client who is unhappy with your work. That’s ok. Not everybody is going to like the work you do. That’s life. It’s not the end of your freelance career if you get a 1-star review. Just don’t get into an argument or anything. Stay calm and cool.

Nick Sinclair

Nick Sinclair, a gaming aficionado since the Commodore 64 era, studied Creative Computer Games Design in university before founding his own gaming company. Discovering a passion for content creation, Nick now helps gamers squeeze every drop of fun out of their favorite gaming hardware

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