The term freelancer comes from Sir Walter Scott in 1819 in Ivanhoe. It was used to describe a medieval mercenary that would fight for the highest bidder. This is not too far off from the way we use the term now.
Freelancers are individuals that strike out on their own to earn more money than what they’re currently making. Freelancers might moonlight – that is, keep their day job and freelance on nights and weekends – or work full-time. How to become a freelancer online is relatively simple. But I want to show you not only how to become a freelancer online but how to make money!
According to the Freelancers Union, more than 1 in 3 Americans does some freelance work. However, the average wage in 2019 was just $31/hour. And that was before taxes.
So, let’s dive in to make some real money using your skills to freelance online.
Call the people you already know. I’m putting this first on the list because it’s the easiest way to start making money and building a referral base. Begin by making a list of all the people you’ve worked with in the past that liked your work and that you got along with well. Don’t leave anyone off this list because you never know who they know or what they’re doing now. Once you have your list you will divide into three: those you have a professional relationship with that you can ask for work, those you know well, and those you know.
- Using your professional relationships list, call these people and invite them for a cup of coffee. During your meeting you will let them know you’re freelancing, and you will ask them for work. Of course, you’re not going to say, “do you have work for me?” But you will say, “I’ve always appreciated what I’ve learned from you and I hope that I’ve done a good job for you. I am getting started in my business and would love the opportunity to do some work for you. Do you have any projects in the pipeline?” If they say no, ask for a referral and if they wouldn’t mind if you followed up at a later time.
- With your list of those you know well, you likely have their contact information, stayed in touch, and shared coffee. With this list, you’ll make personal phone calls to invite them for coffee or to go for a walk. You’ll use this time to reconnect and let them know that you’re freelancing. With this list, ask if they would be interested in writing a recommendation for you that you can use in your marketing or if they could endorse your work on LinkedIn. In your follow-up email, make it really easy for them to make this recommendation by providing links and language, if they ask.
- Use LinkedIn to reconnect with the last group on the list. Find out what they’re doing now. Congratulate them on any milestones in their careers. Begin to re-establish the relationship. If it makes sense, endorse their skills on LinkedIn or write them a LinkedIn recommendation. Let this group also know that you’re now freelancing and give them information such as visit my LinkedIn profile or website.
Work these three lists. Remember to always follow up but don’t be pushy. This is the fastest way to get your first freelancing job.
Build your network. I’ve said it before – your network is your lifeline. [recommend a link to a networking blog by Ashley – I didn’t write one specifically for networking tips, at least not yet anyway. Maybe there is one?] Building your network takes time but is not impossible. Before you begin, clean up all of your social media platforms. Update your LinkedIn profile.
Use these three strategies to build your network.
- Join groups online. Facebook and LinkedIn have professional groups. Once you’ve joined the group, engage with others but don’t sell! Build your reputation within these groups. Post or repost things that are relevant and helpful to the group.
- Join the conversation. This includes in groups and out of groups. Scroll through your newsfeed. If you get advertisements (these show up on Facebook as “sponsored”) check them out and join the conversation.
- Research companies that might hire you for your services. Follow them on LinkedIn or Facebook or other social platforms. Engage in the conversation, offer helpful tips, share articles. If the company announces it will be making a change and you have the skill set required, reach out to their recruitment team.
- Connect with other freelancers doing what you do. So, if you’re a programmer, reach out on LinkedIn with other freelance programmers. If you’re an animator, reach out to other animators. Use this script: Hi [name], I’m reaching out to connect with other freelancers in my field in the hopes that we can collaborate on a project or help each other in some way. Thank you [your name].
Join the online community. The online freelance community is huge and continually growing. One example is Dribble. Dribble is for designers. This platform lets you post your designs, learn from other professional designers, and search for jobs. For a nominal fee ($5/month at the time of this writing) designers can showcase their portfolio and direct prospective clients to their work. This platform allows companies to connect with designers through a paid service, meaning the company is serious about finding a top-notch designer.
Another example includes Medium for writers. While it’s slightly different, freelance writers can build a nice portfolio of written work to show off to future clients. Medium also pays their writers for “claps”. This is great news because as you build your portfolio, you can also earn a bit of change.
Ditch freelance job boards. These sites post a ton of jobs and freelancers bid on those jobs. Many of the jobs are offered at a fixed price where you end up making cents per hour. For example, a company might post a fixed price of $100 for five blogs per month on a specific topic that requires research, writing, editing, and posting. How much do you think you will earn hourly? On top of low pay, many of these sites have very high fees.
Everything you do is about trading your time – doing one thing instead of another. You’re much better off trading your time for networking over trading your time submitting bids or proposals on freelance job boards. Follow these strategies to become a freelancer online and make real money.
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