The Ultimate Guide to Finding Freelance Work Online
The recent years have opened many eyes to the beauty of working as a freelancer online. Running a freelance business from anywhere with Wi-Fi and a laptop is attractive for a multitude of reasons.
While some may know that it is possible to get a side hustle in addition to their nine-to-five, or go full-blown solopreneur, very few know how to get work as a freelancer online.
Lucky for you, we have the inside information you need to get started and create an online stream of income for yourself.
In this post, we’ll cover what being a freelancer really entails, how much money you can expect to make, how to get started and where to get the freelance work you want.
What Does It Mean to Be a Freelancer?
A freelancer is a worker that is self-employed but offers services to other individuals or businesses. This varies from the traditional nine-to-five experience where the worker’s time is totally tied down to one job at one establishment.
There is a legal differentiation between freelancers and employees in terms of taxes. Freelancers are typically responsible for all of their taxes, while employers pay a cut of their employees’ taxes.
One of the most attractive features of freelance work is that jobs come with greater time and location freedom. You can work where you want and when you want to. As long as you complete the work you’ve promised to your clients, you are free to arrange your schedule anyway you want.
The workday looks different for different freelancers. Some want to work more hands-on on projects with their client or client’s team, and others offer done-for-you services where they are completely self-managed.
Freelancers are often nicknamed solopreneurs since they are operating a single-person small business. Freelancing in any field comes with duties ranging from marketing, sales, project management, bookkeeping and other administrative tasks on top of actually rendering the services.
You can start a freelance business while working a traditional day job, or you can freelance as your day job. The point of freelancing is to accept projects and build a job with an income that works for you. Work three hours a week or 50 hours a week. It’s all about what fits your lifestyle and helps you reach your goals.
The Pros and Cons of Freelancing
Freelance work comes with several pros and cons. There is a multitude of benefits that come from building a new freelance career, but there are some sacrifices you need to make in order to get to that point.
These are some of the benefits and drawbacks of freelance.
Wondering why freelance work is so appealing? Here are a few of the pros of freelance:
- Flexibility: Work on your own time
- Financial gain: No limits on how much you can make
- Control: You’re the boss of your business
- No drama: No workplace drama or office politics
- Location independence: Work from anywhere with an internet connection
- Relationships: Work with clients whose values align with yours
- Time: Cut out the commute and time spent getting ready for work
As we mentioned, being a freelancer also requires sacrifices. These are not all inherently bad, but they are important to be mindful of before you start freelancing.
Here are a few cons of freelance:
- No benefits: Freelancers don’t get health insurance, paid time off (PTO), paid sick days, etc.
- Taxes: You are responsible for more taxes
- Sporadic income: You may have difficulties filling your schedule with projects for paying clients while you’re still getting started
- Added responsibilities: There is more to keep track of when you’re a one-person freelance business than when you’re simply an employee
- Loneliness: As a freelancer, you miss out on the workplace comradery that comes with being on the job
- Irregular hours: Some days may be nine-to-five and others may be eight-to-seven
Types of Freelance Jobs
If you’re trying to become a freelancer, you’re going to want to offer a service that relates to past experiences or even new, self-taught skills. This means that past work experience or education is great, but it’s totally possible to teach yourself something new if you’re planning to pivot into freelancing.
There are a few popular freelance jobs that you could pick up as a side hustle or build into a career. These include freelance writing, web design and more. Let’s explore some of the job options so you can choose the right one for you.
Freelance writing is an ever-growing field that spans across just about every industry. There are copywriters, grant writers, content writers, ghostwriters and more.
As a freelance writer, you could offer ad copy, blog posts, eBooks, case studies, long-form copy, or even short stories.
Previous writing experience is valuable when building freelance clientele, but it is not essential. As long as you’ve got a great grasp on the language you’re writing in and you’re willing to dedicate some time to learn the stylistic elements of different types of writing, you should be good to go.
We recommend studying the work of other great writers and practicing on your own. You can build your portfolio with some of your best posts that you’ve written for practice rather than pay.
With numerous businesses setting out to expand their digital presence, the demand for skilled web designers has truly grown.
Businesses are looking for help creating new websites or updating their outdated sites. Web design is easily self-taught, but those who have a good eye for aesthetics and are willing to learn a bit about coding are a step above the rest.
If the coding part intimates you, do not fret. Some web designers use platforms like Wix, Squarespace or WordPress to build their clients’ sites, so the need for coding for these types of projects is typically minimal.
Social Media Marketing
Many small businesses need help growing their online presence and implementing new social media marketing strategies. This is not tricky stuff, but many entrepreneurs lack the time or the knowhow they need to tackle it.
Offering social media marketing services is an option for those who have experience in or are willing to learn algorithms, social network growth tactics, branding and marketing strategies.
This type of work could include everything from content planning, content creation and influencer management. You could specialize in a specific platform to start, or you could do it all.
Like many other areas of life, education is slowly moving online. Virtual tutoring has followed suit.
This is a great side hustle for teachers who are looking for a supplemental income to their day job. It is easy to start freelancing and build a clientele, especially if you’re well-known in your school community.
Administration work can be a pain for entrepreneurs who have a mile-long to-do list. Many are opting to hire a virtual assistant (VA) to take care of the jobs they need help tackling.
Virtual assistants do everything from scheduling Twitter posts to sending invoices. Even when entrepreneurs have tools and software to help streamline these tasks, they hire a freelance VA to handle it all just so that they have one less thing to worry about.
To be a freelance VA, you need to be organized and have great communication skills. You also need to be good at following directions.
Note that there are many other types of freelancing jobs. Essentially, any work you do remotely and is done on a contract basis could evolve into a freelancing position. If you have skills, are able to work from anywhere and are your own boss, you can consider yourself a freelancer.
How Much Money Do Freelancers Make?
According to The Business Daily, the average income for freelancers in the U.S. was $58,000 in 2019. This is based on a study that found that freelancers worked an average of 36 hours a week for $31/hour.
This number is simply an average and is not set in stone. There are freelance virtual assistants who are working for as low as $15/hour and freelance writers who are working for as much as $200/hour.
There is no minimum or maximum amount of money you can make as a freelancer. The exact amount you make will depend on what industry you’re in and how much time you are going to put into freelance jobs.
It is worth mentioning that 70% of freelancers make more per hour than their traditionally employed counterparts.
Some freelancers bill hourly and some bill per project. Others bill per industry-specific unit (e.g., some writers bill per word or per blog post). Bill in a way that makes sense for the nature of your projects.
How much you charge for projects will often relate to your level of experience and the value of the work you do. If a service you’re offering can be proven to deliver a large return on investment, you have room to ask the client to pay a higher rate.
How Do I Start Working as a Freelancer?
Before we dive into the suggested path to building a career or side hustle as a freelancer, we want to point out that there is no right or wrong way to get freelance jobs.
Every freelancer follows a different path, but these are some general steps to keep in mind when starting your freelance career.
1. Choose a Service
The first step to starting your career as a freelancer is determining which service you will offer. Pick one that your skill set permits or one that you are comfortable learning before you start accepting new jobs.
The most important criteria for choosing a service is that you enjoy it. You want to choose something that makes you feel good each and every day in order to do your best work.
2. Define Your Target Audience
Defining your target audience will make kickstarting or growing your new freelance business so much easier.
Build an ideal client profile that outlines what your ideal client would want from you and why they would need your help. Make sure to determine what type of businesses you want to serve in terms of size, company culture and the like before you start.
This will help with marketing and mastering your message before you get freelance clients.
3. Create a Portfolio Site
Having a site to refer prospects back to makes your business much more legitimate in the eyes of potential new clients.
Create a portfolio site that showcases the best projects you’ve done and what you have to offer in terms of freelance jobs.
This site can be simple as long as you make sure it showcases your freelance projects in the best light, and comes across as clean and professional.
4. Determine Your Pricing
Setting freelance pricing can be hard. Before you try to put a price tag on your freelance work, make sure you identify how much the work is worth to your client. What value will the work provide to your client? What sort of return on investment can they expect?
From there, determine how much you’d like to get an hour. Realistically, what does that number look like based on the value of the projects?
Talk to others in your industry and see what the going rate is for freelance jobs similar to your.
5. Market Your Freelance Business
There are many ways to market your new freelance business. The key thing to remember is to market directly to the target audience you’ve set out to serve.
We will get more into where and how to market your freelance services shortly.
6. Perfect Your Pitch
Sales can be tough, especially if you’re not a salesperson. But with a few basic guidelines in mind, you can create an effective pitch for freelance jobs.
There are a few ways to start pitching clients for prospective freelance jobs. LinkedIn is a great place to start to get in touch with new clients.
Find a person whose profile matches your ideal client. Send them a connection request with a message introducing yourself and asking them a question about their business. Start by keeping it friendly and make a genuine connection.
They may ask you what you do, which opens the window for you to make your pitch. If that opportunity does not arise, tailor your pitch to address what they’ve shared with you. Address pain points, offer a solution and provide them with an actionable next step.
7. Level Up Your Skills
Part of being a good freelancer—or a good anything—is constantly leveling up your skills. Practice your craft regularly, but keep tabs on how others in your industry are doing it in order to put your best foot forward.
Books, YouTube videos, podcasts and courses are great at identifying new skills. But we recommend filling your timeline with others who are the best at what you do. This will help you pick up valuable tips and tricks while engaging in thought-provoking conversations.
8. Show up and Do a Great Job
You may roll your eyes at this step. However, the reason that many freelancers fail is that they neither show up as promised nor do the best job.
This is not saying you have to be absolutely perfect, but you need to put in the full effort to provide the best value possible for your clients.
Recommended Skills for Aspiring Freelancers
Freelancers come from all walks of life with different ranges of experiences and skills. However, there are a few particular skills and personality traits that make a good freelancer due to the nature of the work.
To be a freelancer, there is one trait that is absolutely necessary: self-discipline. When you are your own boss, you have to create rules and procedures for yourself and abide by them.
There is nobody to tell you what to do or not to do. If you slip up, you don’t get reprimanded. You risk making a very bad impression or even losing your client.
This segues into time management. Freelancing often requires wearing numerous hats and juggling several clients. Plan your schedule accordingly and make the most of your time.
As we mentioned, working as a freelancer involves more than simply rendering your services. You must close deals with leads, onboard clients, manage your projects/jobs, communicate with clients, send freelancing invoices and more.
There are multiple documents, jobs and tasks that have to be kept in check. You must create systems that help you get and stay organized.
Maintaining relationships requires clear communication, especially those that involve the exchange of money.
Communication skills are essential to being a good freelancer. Producing the results your client wants is highly dependent on how good you are at staying on the same page.
In order to keep your clients coming back and referring you to their friends, you have to be reliable. Always produce the work you’ve promised in both quality and quantity.
Also, set deadlines and meet them. Oftentimes, your work is part of a process for your client. The next person in the “assembly line” likely needs your work to do their job, so abiding by those strict deadlines is important.
Honesty and Transparency
The motto of “fake it till you make it” only goes so far in the world of freelancing. Of course, there are some things that you can learn on the fly, but you shouldn’t sell services that you aren’t fully skilled in or that won’t provide the best value for your client.
Honesty really is the best policy, so be honest about what you can and cannot do. Be honest with yourself, prospects and clients. It will take you further than you can imagine.
Have you ever been to a restaurant and the server was not very kind or personable? That may leave a bad taste in your mouth and cause you to feel poorly about the establishment.
You may leave a bad review on Yelp or simply refuse to return to the establishment. As an aspiring freelancer, you cannot afford bad reviews.
The ability to prioritize customer service by being kind and personable is absolutely essential.
25 Places to Find Work as a Freelancer
Where you get work as a freelancer will likely evolve as your career progresses. Through trial and error, you’ll find what works best for your specific service and your ideal clientele to get new jobs.
However, we’ve put together a list of 25 places to start finding work as a freelancer.
Social network marketing is huge for freelancers who wish to work exclusively online.
Some make the mistake of marketing to their Facebook friends list full of family and friends. This is something to avoid.
However, if you’ve specifically tailored your friends list to be all potential clients, this is definitely an option. Consistently create content that is both valuable and engaging in order to build a community. You may find clients in this community, or you may find contacts to refer you to others who could use your services.
Instagram is another great place to connect with clients. Cold pitching on Instagram is one route, but we recommend building relationships with potential clients before offering your help and securing jobs.
Take your ideal client profile and find Instagram accounts that fit that profile. Follow them and engage with their content regularly. Message them and introduce yourself.
Once you’ve gotten to know more about the potential client, offer your services.
You should also use Instagram to create content that is valuable to your target audience, as it gives them an incentive to follow you back.
Networking and finding clients on Twitter works very similarly to Instagram. However, Twitter comes with added perks.
Twitter is essentially like a massive forum. You can jump into any conversation. This allows your engagement with potential clients to be easily accessible or shared. Having your content in front of more eyes extends your reach and gives you the potential to grow your influence and gain jobs at an expedited rate.
Additionally, we recommend using the same relationship-building via direct messages technique for Twitter.
LinkedIn is built to be a professional social networking platform. It’s a lot like Facebook, except most members join to make professional connections.
You can use the same connect, engage and chat structure of Instagram and Twitter on LinkedIn.
5. Website Marketing
One of the steps to becoming a freelancer that we mentioned above is creating a professional portfolio site. Beyond the portfolio, you can build out your website and add dimension with landing pages that cover your services, the process of working with you, testimonials and more.
You can refer prospects back to this site in ads that you run and any social site pages you have,
If you haven’t caught the drift, building trust and genuine connections with your audience is the foundation of turning followers into customers and leads into jobs.
Blogging is a great way to provide more free value to your audience. Create content that is relevant to what you do and valuable to the audience you aim to serve.
This could look like how-tos, listicles and other informative posts. Talk about what you know and fill in the gaps with valuable research.
7. Guest Posting
Research other authoritative brands in your industry and offer to guest post on their blogs. This will expose readers to your brand and showcase your expertise.
It will also give you an opportunity to link back to your own website and show potential new clients where to find you.
Building a professional network is very important if you want to find jobs and start a freelance business online. Meet people online and in-person who can help you elevate your business.
Supporting others will often result in reciprocated support, so you can lift each other up and help each other get work.
9. Cold Pitching
While it is typically valuable to build a connection before pitching a potential client, cold pitching has also proven effective when done right.
If you decide to go this route, we encourage you to look into the dos and don’ts of cold pitching.
10. Job Boards
Job boards like Fiverr and Upwork are great places to find clients when you’re starting out. These sites are dedicated to pairing freelancers with clients.
The only drawback is that these sites are inundated with other people looking for work and wages are often set lower than what you may want to charge per job.
11. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is a phenomenal digital marketing tool that shows your content to people who are searching for it on the internet.
Most people automatically think about creating content that ranks on Google or Yahoo when they think about SEO. However, you can optimize your content on Pinterest and other social media platforms so that your content comes up when people search terms relevant to your services.
12. Email Marketing
Email marketing is huge for a lot of businesses. If you have a website, use some sort of lead magnet to collect emails. This could be a free ebook or some sort of discount code.
Take these emails and curate sequences that are both valuable and actionable. We recommend looking a bit more into email marketing before haphazardly sending emails to your list. Email addresses are valuable, so don’t spam your subscribers’ inboxes without a strategy.
13. Paid Advertising
Depending on your services, paid ads could be a huge hit. Paid ads are most valuable for freelancers who offer business-to-consumer (B2C) services, rather than serving other businesses or entrepreneurs.
Google ads, Facebook ads and Instagram ads are all very popular, but again, where you advertise depends on the audience that you’re trying to reach.
14. Local Events
If you are aiming to serve businesses or individuals in your area, local events are a great place to start.
Your local Chamber of Commerce or other professional groups may put on meetings and events that are free to attend. Numerous clubs and homeowners associations may even put on events.
For B2C freelancers, events that are not business-related may be valuable to you, as well.
15. Conferences and Meet-ups
Conferences and meet-ups are great for several reasons. They are typically designed to provide valuable information to those in attendance, but they are also perfect breeding grounds for professional relationships.
Explore conferences in your industry. If possible, consider traveling to an out-of-town conference. This is a great way to meet people from elsewhere.
16. Newspaper Ads
B2C freelancers who are looking to reach an older audience should consider running newspaper ads.
Some who didn’t grow up with the internet still prefer a good old newspaper. If this is the audience you’re trying to reach, newspaper ads are a great idea.
17. Local Businesses
Again, depending on the nature of your services, digital marketing methods may not work for you. Consider posting flyers or leaving business cards at local businesses your ideal client may frequent.
18. LinkedIn Jobs
Did you know that LinkedIn has specific features for jobs and recruitment? In addition to the professional social media platform, LinkedIn offers a job search platform.
You can search for and apply for jobs directly on the site. LinkedIn even suggests jobs that you are eligible for.
Reddit is a social media platform that is composed of thousands and thousands of forums called subreddits. You can jump into conversations about anything and everything on Reddit.
Reddit has specific job boards for different industries, but luckily, many of these are relatively untapped, so the opportunities are abundant. Another perk is that some of these job boards have minimum wages, meaning that you can’t post jobs that fail to pay freelancers a reasonable rate.
Please beware that Reddit has a lot of rules and a unique merit system, so you have to be careful about what you post on some subreddits.
20. Facebook Groups
Facebook is a freelancer’s paradise. With numerous groups and job boards (both industry-specific and general), you’re bound to make connections with people who are in need of your services.
When somebody posts a job you’re interested in, be sure to follow the application instructions. Some will specify to comment, private message, email or fill out a form. Following the requested steps will exemplify your ability to follow directions.
21. Referral Network
Once you’ve worked with one or two happy clients, getting more should be much easier. Offer incentives for testimonials or referrals.
Testimonials make you seem more legitimate when prospective clients find themselves on your website or social media pages. Referrals are also great because they almost always guarantee warm leads.
22. Friends and Family
We mentioned before that you don’t want to hound your friends and family on social media about your services, but your personal relationships may hold the key to professional relationships.
Talk about your services with your family and friends and equip them with the information they need to know in case they have a connection that may want to hire you.
Make sure your friends or family members are clear on what you do and who you do it for so that they know when to bring up your work.
23. Pitch to Publications
Industry-specific publications—both print and digital—are a great place to start. Pitch to publications for features, either written by you or about you.
This is great for exposure.
24. Agency Partnerships
A popular route for freelancers is to partner with established agencies that have strong ties in their industry.
For example, if you are a freelance writer, forming partnerships with just one digital marketing agency could bring you a steady flow of clients. This marketing agency likely offers web design, branding and related services. Propose that they add writing services to their bundles or packages and offer to be their go-to writer.
If you maintain the relationship as a contractor rather than an employee, you’re free to grow with them or in a separate direction as you see fit. Either way, you’ll get tons of experience and build strong connections while the agency facilitates.
25. Online Directories
Different industries have online directories that list preferred freelancers or businesses in different fields. Getting your name on exclusive online directory lists will expose your name to people who are looking to hire somebody with your skill set for a job.
Grow Your Freelance Business Online
Now that you’re equipped with the information you need to get work as a freelancer, it is time to take action.
We are confident that you will have success in your freelance journey if you follow the steps we’ve outlined. There is no right or wrong way to approach freelancing, but we do know that some hard work and creativity will take you far.
Are you ready to grow your online freelance business?