Six years ago, I was perched on my tiny Italian balcony, smoking a cigarette (when in Rome!), trying to figure out how to start freelancing.
It was early August when it finally fully sunk in that I was incapable of being legally employed in Italy, and I started explore other options. This is when the idea of portable careers came onto my radar, and one of the most popular options for what would become known as being a digital nomad was being a freelancer. I totally didn’t pull it off then for a variety of reasons, but the biggest? I was having trouble finding (and then landing) freelancing opportunities that paid well.
This brings us to…
My top tip on how to start freelancing
Don’t try to make decent money when you are just getting started.
Seriously. Accept that you will get paid far less than you want if you are just launching a freelancing career. You will build up your reputation, portfolio, and skills as you go, and then you can boost those rates. Heck, eventually you can launch them into the stratosphere. But when you are just a newbie, don’t expect much, and start settling.
But it hurts…
Yes, it hurts. And it will hurt even more if it’s your main (or only) source of income, but you have to put yourself into your potential clients’ shoes.
You are untested talent, for the most part. Even if you have ample experience–doing whatever it is you do–from traditional employment, you don’t have freelancing experience. This means you may not have what it takes to be a successful freelancer. Many people who are workplace rockstars don’t cut it when they are their own boss, which means clients get shoddy or incomplete work with assignments turned in late (or not turned in at all). They don’t want to get locked into paying you when they have nothing to indicate how well you may or may not work out.
This is even truer when you are using a freelancing platform like Upwork to get your start. These portals are great places to get gigs, and I heartily endorse them. But there are tons of folks from all over the world competing for work there. If someone is new to the platform and lacks reviews, it’s hard to get assignments. The only way to edge out the competition and get some positive reviews under your belt is to be cheaper than the competition. And unfortunately, depending on what kind of freelancing you’re doing, this could easily take you below minimum wage.
But it gets better
Again, this is only the case when you are just getting started.
If you are committed to continuing to build your client roster and portfolio and will further develop your skills, you can keep on raising your rates.
And no, I’m not all talk.
When I debuted on oDesk (the precursor to Upwork) a little over five years ago, the assignments I initially took on netted me about $5.00 per hour. However, that was up to $10.00 within a month. Today, it’s up to $125, and that goes up and up the busier I get.
And you can do it too. Just lower your standards to get started.