Looking for a primary or secondary source of income? Deciding to set up my online freelance business was one of the best personal and professional decisions I’ve ever made.
At Year Disrupted, we would not be able to live and work abroad without the help of the internet. Many digital nomads begin life abroad through freelance. Here are some key tips for starting your freelance career.
5 Tips for Starting Your Freelance Career
Back in May, I made a huge decision to quit my job and grow my freelance career. Click here to read more about that decision. I had spent the previous three months networking my butt off and applying to jobs before and after my 9-5. However, despite my best efforts, the job search had not brought any promising results. I realized that the longer I applied to jobs, the less certain I became about what I wanted to do.
A couple of months before I actually quit, I decided to give freelance a try. I had always heard the term “freelance” thrown around, but had no idea what it actually meant, nor did I know anybody who worked as a “freelancer.” At that time, I had experience writing both professionally and personally, but even though writing was my greatest passion, I still didn’t feel “qualified” to be a freelance writer, whatever that meant.
Regardless, I was ready to see what was out there and signed up for two of the most popular freelance websites, Fiverr and Upwork. Unfortunately, or perhaps, fortunately, I never had much luck with Upwork. Moreover, the way they set up the platform makes it difficult to get into.
Fast forward six months later, diving into the world of freelancing was one of the single best decisions I ever made. Here are just a few benefits I have discovered after six months of successful freelancing:
- It allowed me to quit my job without another “job” lined up
- Freelancing inspired a full life pivot and begin planning to live next year disrupted
- It has also allowed me to create a steady income stream and make more money (yes, even after taxes) than I was previously making
- It has given me the opportunity to lead others and hire people to work for me
- Finally, it gave me the time, space, and experience to narrow down what, exactly I love to do.
All of these wonderful benefits have cumulated in my decision to create my own business, a brand development service, where we help businesses develop their unique voice and tell their stories.
I’d encourage anybody interested in freelance to give it a shot. The following are five tips I’ve learned after six, very successful months on Fiverr.com.
1. Find something you’re good at that adds real value
The first tip for starting your freelance career is to think of a unique way you can add value. As I previously mentioned, I knew I was good at writing and editing. Four years studying creative writing made editing like second nature. So, I thought my first gig could be editing others’ creative writing. However, I had a sneaking suspicion that Fiverr wasn’t the type of place that was filled with poets looking for professional feedback on their portfolios. Instead, I realized Fiverr was mostly a service marketplace for businesses.
Ok, what could I add for business? Well, at that time I worked in a marketing department for a tech startup. But what, exactly does it mean to “do” marketing? I asked myself what I loved most about the current position. I realized that my favorite thing about marketing was the creative strategy that went into branding. Before you have marketing, you need a brand. I had assisted my company through rebranding so I had first-hand experience developing the brand story (mission, vision, etc.). So, I created a brand development package. I realized many people were passionate about their idea, startup, or service, but didn’t know how to convey their idea on a succinct, emotional level. That’s where I wanted to come in.
2. Make sure you make your service unique to you
Fiverr.com has been around for years are. Chances are, somebody else does the exact thing you’re thinking of doing. So how can you stand out? For one, I recommend using your own photo or video, rather than a stock photo. Show people who you are and explain why you are passionate/qualified at what you do. As someone who acts as a buyer on Fiverr for my own business, these are also things I look for. Add your unique touch, flair, or thinking process to your service or interactions with buyers. This will make it more likely that people come back for repeat business.
3. Accept that you won’t make any money at first
I’ve increased my prices half a dozen times and should probably increase them again. I now charge over $70 for a basic package, something that takes me about 30 minutes. However, when I first started, I charged $15 and the first time I did it, it took me three and a half hours. However, when I earned that first $15 ($12 after Fiverr’s commission), I cried. It was proof that somebody wanted to pay me for my professional opinion on their brand’s direction. Not only that but the 5-star review that resulted affirmed that I could do it. Raise your prices once you’ve perfected your service. But until them, fall in love with the process and be thankful for the experience. Every experience will help.
4. When it comes to negotiating prices, shoot high
I was, admittedly, a horrible negotiator. It does not come naturally to me. In fact, every time I need to negotiate, I typically reference my copy of Never Split the Difference, one of the best books I’ve ever read. When I first began to negotiate prices and custom orders, I noticed something. I wasn’t negotiating. In fact, a potential client would ask for a service, I offered a price, and they accepted. Every, damn, time. This told me that I was severely lowballing my services.
Now, I’m in a fortunate position where I am so busy with my own business that I often have to turn down projects. This leaves me in a strategic negotiating position. Before, I used to calculate the minimum number of hours a project would take and multiply it by the low end of my acceptable hourly range. Now, I add a couple of “budget” hours for client communication, research, etc and apply that to the maximum end of the hourly range. I even go higher if I’m extra busy. Remember, you can always go lower but you can’t go higher once you’ve lowballed yourself.
5. Get creative with upsells
Fiverr has this awesome feature where they let you off gig add-ons. This means that when a buyer purchases your service, they have the opportunity to “upgrade.” The more credentials you have as a Fiverr seller, the more add-ons you can offer. Think of some extra services you can provide that are in line with your gig but don’t require a ton of extra effort on your part. For example, I offer a 5-10 minute marketing strategy video with my branding package. I already have to think strategically to help a buyer develop his/her brand, why not organize my thoughts into actionable steps via video? Adding compelling gig extras can easily turn a $200 order into a $500 order. Remember not to undersell yourself here, they are extras after all.
In conclusion: If you want it to be a business, take it seriously
Whether you have a job, are looking for a job, or just want to try something new, I highly recommend trying freelancing. Yes, it has the potential to open up a primary or secondary stream of income, but overall, you learn a lot about yourself and your clients. However, with great power comes great responsibility. Yes, it’s awesome to set your own schedule, to go to the gym in the middle of the day, and take a day off whenever you want. But remember, you get out what you put in, so get serious about what, exactly you want out of it. Do you want some extra cash or are you looking to radically change your lifestyle and career path?
If you have any questions or want more tips for starting your freelance career, don’t hesitate to reach out!
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