For those looking for a path to self employment, entrepreneurship, and financial freedom, freelancing sites are very appealing. There are a wide array of opportunities on these platforms, so there is something for just about anyone. Seriously! You can often find gigs that are appropriate for all levels of skill and experience. Plus, there are plenty of people ready to hire those who have never freelanced before. It’s the easiest way to find gigs and launch your freelancing career. Sounds great, right?
Yes, it does, but there are those who absolutely rail against these sites.
Even though I’m a pretty big Upwork fan, and many others are too, there are plenty who are just as enthusiastic, or more so, in their dislike for the site. Check out https://collegetimes.co/upwork-sucks/ for proof. And a quick Google search will unveil similar rantings and a few horror stories for every freelancing platform out there. Heck, I’ve had quite a few less-than-ideal experiences on Upwork myself. I’ve met spammers, scammers, cheapskates, and a straight-up misogynistic racist. And that doesn’t even go into the folks who “forget” to pay.
But I still have a profile on Upwork, and more and more folks are signing up for the site daily. So it can’t be all bad. But can it really be profitable?
Well, it was for me! It is how I was able to launch my freelancing career and become my own boss before I started Team Impressa. I made a whole video about it:
Freelancing sites aren’t magic
While there are some success stories like mine, we are the exception, not the rule. Most other users I’ve met muddle about on these platforms making some spare scratch here or there for the entirety of their careers on these sites. If this is what you want to do, that is just fine–being a freelancer makes for an excellent, enviable part time job! But if that’s not what you want, listen up:
It takes time.
You aren’t going to set up shop on these sites, put up your killer profile with an attractive photo of you and see the offers roll in. You have to work it. Build and publish a brilliant portfolio. Rack up great feedback and five-star ratings. And start with gigs that don’t pay enough to do it.
To get the good gigs on these platforms–the ones that pay you the kind of money that will allow you to quit your job, become your only boss, and achieve financial freedom–you have to be established on the site of your choice. It doesn’t matter how much experience you have, including with previous employers in traditional jobs and on other freelancing sites. You are an untested wild card with entry-level status until you have feedback on that freelancing site.
This process takes time, but it can take less time if you swallow your pride and start applying to one-time gigs that are far below your skill level. And more importantly, these gigs should be far below your ideal rate. This is because if you indeed have a high level of skill and experience in what you do, you will be the clear choice above others competing at that price point who may be mediocre at what they do, at best.
Have clear intention
As you apply to low priced gigs, tell prospective employers what you are doing. Let them know that you are looking to get established on freelance job sites so you are applying to gigs where you can really shine and offer amazing value in return for equally shiny and amazing feedback. Otherwise, you will seem too good to be true, and shrewd employers will be wary of taking you on.
Of course, you need to have clear intentions with yourself too. Keep your eye on the prize… and the prices you need to charge to achieve that whole financial freedom thing.
With that in mind, be sure to stick to projects that are one-time things you can clear off of your docket in a day or two. Otherwise, you will be bogged down in low price work at an hourly rate that may not even cover the cost of a six-pack of decent beer.
As you start to complete these jobs and that glowing feedback rolls in, begin to increase your rate. For every 10 hours logged and/or two fixed price projects you get a review for, add a dollar or two to your rate until you are charging something comparable to others on freelancing sites with your level of skill, expertise, and experience in the same country as yours.
You should also start bumping it up as your work load expands. If you only have three hours per day to invest in becoming a full-fledged freelancer, and you don’t have a single spare second, raise your rate. If you are that busy and in demand, a $5 or $10 hike may be completely appropriate.
Rate hikes should come as you learn more skills and gain expertise. And yes, you should be continually learning. Attending conferences, gaining certifications, developing new skills, and other education and opportunities that levels you up should lead you to bump your rate up a bit.
Then, after all this, if you still find yourself up to your eyeballs in work, you may want to consider raising your rate again or taking the plunge.
Financial freedom as a freelancer
The plunge is when financial freedom is attained. Your are your own and only boss now (if you don’t count your clients).
In my opinion, the time to do this has two parts: workload and rate.
First, there needs to be enough work out there. You don’t want to ditch that day job if there isn’t a steady stream of work out there. If you are at capacity part time, are regularly invited to gigs (at your current rate or a comparable fee), and find plenty of attractive jobs listed that you must ignore because you just don’t have the time, that’s a good sign.
Second, if the amount of available work is in order, the rate you are at should be enough to cover your expenses–well before you’d clock a full 40-hour week. Yes, there will be dry spells, so if you are risk adverse, you should be at a rate that could keep your head above water at 20 hours of work per week before you go all-in. For those who are adventurous (or have successfully been able to charge a higher rate), or who have been unable to command a higher rate, your rate should sustain you at 30 hours.
And please keep in mind: the higher your rates, the few opportunities these freelancing sites will have for you.
Of course, those figures are just my opinion. You should do the math yourself, weigh the pros and cons, and think long and hard about whether it’s the right time for you or not. This is your freelancing career, not mine, so you call the shots.
True financial freedom
Yes, being your own boss is pretty rad, but many would consider true financial freedom to be a life free of debt and other financial woes that could hold you back. And freelancing can help with that too.
Going back to the whole rate-raising conversation a few sections back, you may want to consider making yourself into a top tier freelancer. If you are one of those folks who don’t dig risk, this may be something you want to do pre-plunge. But for me, I did it after.
Through continuing education, constant learning, and latching onto mentorship opportunities, I’ve been fortunate enough to raise my rate to something that’s pretty substantial. If I would have 20-30 hours of billable work at that rate each week, I’d be able to smash my debt–I could even show my student loans who’s boss. But instead, I spend most of my time running my business, developing my team, and nurturing leads, which is still taking me down that path to financial freedom.
I guess my point here is that you totally can achieve full financial freedom by using freelancing sites. Or you can at least use them to get you well on your way, like I did. You just have to be smart about it and do whatever it is that’s right for you.