Freelancing 3.0: Getting Started

Gaining New Skills

If you already have a specific skillset, you’re ready to get started making money as an online freelancer. If you’re unsure of your skillset or need help deciding what skillsets are most important for profiting online, you might want to check out the following resources first:

15+ Ways to Profit Online As A Freelancer: Part 1

15+ Ways to Profit As An Online Freelancer: Part 2

Once you understand where your skills lie and what you’ll be working on, it’s time to get started in your business. And, although millions of other freelancers have come before you and paved a clear path to making a substantial income, you need a solid plan or you risk getting lost in the sea of tools and resources you’ll find all over the Web.

Building Your Portfolio

As with any career, you need to have a background that tells potential clients you’re capable of completing their job. If you’ve never done anything professionally before, it’s difficult to make a name for yourself. And even if you have worked professionally, most clients pay little regard to published work or school papers. Not only are those pieces usually done under greater timeframes and less stress, they tend to breed an expectation of higher pay than most of this content will award.

While there is certainly a market out there for writers and designers who want to make $100 an hour, you have to start somewhere. Until you build up your portfolio and online reputation, you will need to start out with low and even no pay jobs. Fortunately, most of what you’re writing will be written on a much smaller scale and at higher speeds. If you work out an efficient work flow, you’ll be able to complete as many as four+ articles an hour to make up for the lower pay you get per article.

The key to being able to increase your writing rates is to get expertise writing projects that your clients are most likely to ask for and building a portfolio containing those types of projects.

Here’s how to start getting that experience:

  • Practice on Low-stress Sites – For writers, there are numerous sites that offer low-stress, on-spec work. A great site if you’re just getting started is, not only do they post new jobs daily but they offer lots of advice on becoming a freelance writer.
  • Roll your own – If you’re a designer, consider working with a friend or developing sites as a hobby. Programmers can often find open-source jobs to work on or plugins to develop in their spare time. Apps for the iPhone or iPad are also simple, high-profile ways to build a portfolio.
  • Separate Your Samples – Avoid posting links to your content unless it’s on a standalone website and you have permission to post it. Instead, separate the content into its own sample file or folder and upload it to your profile or website.
  • Give Away Samples – Sites like Upwork often frown on giving away free samples of your work, but if you’re working off these sites, with Craigslist or your own website, consider handing out samples to anyone who might be interested. This will help develop your reputation.
  • Accept Very Low Pay – When using the freelancing sites, to help build your reputation, you can work for peanuts on a handful of jobs. Beginning writers often work for $4–5 an article to get a couple good reviews and then work their way up from there. I recommend not going any lower than that if you can help it. Some people are not willing to pay for what they get, and often, extremely low-paying clients have high expectations.
  • Practice on Your Own – Finally, you can just create content for yourself and hold it over. If you know you like to write about dog training or develop content for WordPress installations, do a handful of them on your own time and have them ready to hand out as samples. Knowing what you’ll most likely bid on will help you develop the content samples you need to get those jobs.

Your goal should be to develop a portfolio consisting of 2–3 samples from every potential niche you would ever work in. This will allow you to attach relevant samples to every bid you place. Writers I know have between 200 and 400 sample articles in folders, separated by topic and ready to distribute when bidding. Start building that now and you’ll have a massive pool of content to draw on when you start bidding on high-paying jobs.


Freelancing: Your Most Valuable Tools