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How to Get Started as a Freelancer RIGHT NOW!

For a different perspective on how to make money online, the following is a guest post by Ben Wroe about how get started as a freelancer. I hope you find it as interesting as I did – I wish we had this information when Josh started freelancing.

Online freelance work is a great way to get started as a digital nomad and give yourself the freedom to work remotely. At no9to5.co we love freelance work so I am going to explain how to begin online freelancing and share some strategies on how to make money.

There are a lot of freelance websites to choose from but I think these are the best to get started with:

SiteDescription
Upwork (formerly Odesk)One of the largest freelance sites in the world and covers just about every topic. Upwork is the site on which I made my first freelance dollar so it holds a special place in my heart. I should mention Elance here too but they recently merged with Upwork so they’re pretty much the same.
FreelancerAnother general site similar to Upwork. Personally I don’t like their website or their time tracking app but there are a lot of jobs advertised here.
PeopleperhourFocused on web projects. They have a great site and are a good starting point for designers, developers and writers.
ToptalAll about software developers and designers. You have to pass a test to be accepted but once you do the rates of pay are very good.
GuruGuru is another generalist site that covers a wide range of topics and has a very user friendly site.
CraigslistYou might not think so but there are a lot of freelance jobs advertised on Craigslist. It’s certainly worth taking a look, you never know what you might find.

Whichever site you choose, you will need to create a profile and make some proposals. I have hired a lot of freelancers while working as a project manager and I can tell you that there are a ton of very dull, very similar profiles out there. Let’s talk about how to create a profile that will stand out and land your first remote job.

You will learn...

  1. How to write an eye catching introduction
  2. How to make your work history tell a story
  3. How to create a great video
  4. How to make your first proposals

1. How to write an eye catching introduction

I recommend injecting some personality into your profile introduction. Not only will this differentiate you from the hordes of similar people out there but it could help you land an interesting client as opposed to a boring one!

I love this article about people who were hired by Basecamp. These applications are overflowing with personality and originality. Take this example:

“I’m a graphic designer who loves the web, design, beauty and things that are enjoyable to use. I am as excited by smart mark-up and clever css as I am by the single pixel that makes that button perfect.” – Jason Zimdars

 

My own profile starts like this:

“My name is Ben and I help people fix things. In one sentence my philosophy is that the way we do things now is the worst they will ever be. I love working with people to understand their issues, helping them to improve things, and I do it well.”

 

Start your introduction with a paragraph similar to this. Talk about how passionate you are, what it is about your industry that you love and why you in particular do it well. After that you can talk about your commitment to excellence and how you love delighting the customer but start with something that will catch the attention of clients.

2. How to make your work history tell a story

Work histories are often dry task lists. They might say something like:

Managed online sales portal

 

Clients will know from looking at your job title what kind of duties you performed. What will interest them more is knowing what you achieved.

How can you change your work history to be a record of achievements rather than a list of duties? To start with, make a list of the things you did that make you stand out. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Did I exceed goals or quotas?
  • Was I recognised at any time (e.g. Employee of the Month)?
  • What problems did I solve?
  • Did I save the company money?

The next step is to think numbers. Numbers tell a story that everyone can understand. Did you improve sales… or did you improve sales by 10%? Which sounds better?

Managed online sales portal. Increased sales by 10% in 3 months.

 

If you improved sales by 10% then what was the benefit to the company? What was a 10% increase in sales worth? If you can describe this in monetary terms all the better.

We started with this:

Managed online sales portal.

 

We finish with this:

Managed online sales portal. Increased sales by 10% in 3 months, improving revenue by $50,000.

 

Anybody seeing this will know you’re going to be an asset to their business.

3. How to create a great video

I hate listening to my voice or seeing myself on video. I wouldn’t be surprised if you do too. When I started online I avoided recording a video despite the freelance sites recommending it. You know what? So does everyone else.

I didn’t bite the bullet until 4 months into my freelance career. Shortly afterwards I picked up a new client who doubled my rate. He told me that the video was a big factor in deciding to hire me; it humanised me. There are thousands of freelancers online and each person is reduced to a few paragraphs of text. A video stands out and helps make an emotional connection.

My first video – it’s not great but it did the job!

I highly recommend recording an introduction video. It doesn’t need to be long, only a minute or so. Upwork has a great overview of videos here. In the video you should:

  • Introduce yourself
  • Give a bit of employment background (focus on the best bits – you can add some extra spice to your work history)
  • Explain why you are great – could be your experience, your skills or something else

One final thing to note – you don’t need to have professional production and the charisma of George Clooney. The video above took about 7 takes and the final result still wasn’t great. It doesn’t matter. Clients aren’t looking for a movie star; they’re looking for freelance writers, freelance designers etc. Just make the video; I guarantee it’ll be worth it.

4. How to make your first proposals

Online freelance work has a lot in common with eBay. Clients and freelancers give each other feedback at the end of contracts. This is useful when looking for people to hire but can be a hurdle to getting started. If you follow points 1-3 in this article you will have a better profile than most. However, there can be a vicious circle: people won’t hire you without feedback… but you can’t get feedback without being hired. What to do?

Take your time and choose jobs to apply for carefully. There are thousands of contracts advertised online so take some time to investigate what clients are asking for. When you find a job that you really want, write a proposal personalised for that client. There are thousands of people who copy and paste the same cover letter for every job. Writing a proposal that shows care will capture your potential client’s attention. Be honest too, people appreciate it. Here is an excerpt from my first successful proposal:

“I have just joined oDesk so I have no feedback as yet but I would love to do a great job for you to start building my reputation.”

Finally, you may need to apply for a contract at a low hourly rate in order to get your first job. I didn’t want to do this but it was worth it to get the feedback. If you do a great job for your client they will give you a glowing review. Once you have this you can look for jobs at a higher rate and build from there. My hourly rate trebled in my first 6 months…

My earnings over my first year as a freelancer

My earnings over my first year as a freelancer

Final thoughts

This article has covered the basics of how to get started in online freelancing. Don’t expect instant gratification from this but if you take the time to build a solid foundation then the rewards will come. If you follow my tips then the lead time should be reduced. I wish you the best of luck landing your first remote job!

Read more fabulous tips from Ben and learn about his coaching services in online freelancing at no9to5.co.

Have you created a freelancer profile? What are your tips? I’d love to hear your feedback.

About the Author

Ben is a passionate fan of online freelancing. He lives in Bangkok with his girlfriend Agi. Together they run no9to5.co and offer coaching services to help people take advantage of online freelancing to get away from the usual office lifestyle.

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