Use these tips to kickstart your freelance career
I never thought I’d be a freelancer or start my own business.
Just 5 years ago, I sold almost all my belongings to travel the world by bicycle. I had less than $3000 saved and decided to teach English to make money while abroad.
In 2016, I made a crazy move to quit my teaching job to become a freelance teacher in Japan. I struggled a lot at first and chewed through my savings. I lived on peanut butter rice balls but focused every day on improving my curriculum and marketing my lessons.
I worked hard to earn my first $500 in 30 days. Then, less than 6 months later, I grew my service to 65+ students, earned $5000 per month, and taught less than 14 hours each week.
During this time, I was able to pay off my student loans ($15,000+), save enough money to continue my travels around Asia, and shift to a new career as copywriter.
So, if you’re trying to be a freelance teacher, writer, graphic designer, or web developer—use these 37 tips to avoid the mistakes I made getting started and accelerate your growth toward a profitable freelance career.
- Be brave and be fearless — it’s never easy in the beginning, especially when you don’t know what to do. You just have to take that first step and find opportunities that prove you can do it.
- Define your services and create packages that are easy to understand and easy to get started.
- Study your competitors—know their prices, analyze their strategies, and emulate their success.
- Know your value and price your time, talent, and deliverables accordingly.
- Dedicate a minimum of 1-hour marketing your service each day — without marketing, you’ll never find anyone who will pay for your service.
- Write articles, create landing pages, share posts, and comment everywhere on social media. Focus on the places where your potential clients ‘hang out’ and make as much noise as possible to grab their attention.
- Use a strong CTA at the end of all promotional content pieces.
- Send (at least) 20 proposals, applications, or cold pitches to potential clients every day. Do this on top of your 1-hour of marketing — you’ll never know who’ll be your first client if you never reach out and ask.
- Don’t be ashamed if you miss a day. You’re only human, after all. If you miss a day — don’t stress —take that time to rest and recover and get back at it tomorrow.
- Create a journal and document your progress. It’s important to learn from any failures and keep track of what’s working and what’s not.
- Read daily. The more you know, the more you grow, and the more you can improve your service.
- Pick a platform and master it. It’s better to have a strong presence on one platform than a small presence on ten.
- Silence the noise and turn off your phone. Procrastination is your enemy, and distractions aren’t your friend.
- Tell potential clients to put their money where their mouth is — if they say, “We have more work in the future” or “”
- Don’t be afraid to say no. It’s O.K. to walk away from clients that don’t respect your value, aren’t willing to pay, or give you a gut feeling that they’re going to be a pain in your ass.
- Every morning, ask yourself: “How can I increase my service today?” — and — “If there are better and more efficient ways to do what I’m presently doing… what are they?”
- Define your milestones and your targets. From finding your first client to making your first $500 per month — have something that motivates you to wake up and achieve.
- Always deliver on every promise. And, if possible, go the extra mile.
- Build a strong network of support. It can be a long and lonely journey. Having the right people beside you can help you stay focused and motivated.
- Smile at your mistakes. It happens sometimes. If you screw up, say the wrong thing, or embarrass yourself — just brush it off and keep moving forward.
- Save your receipts. Remember, you’re running a business now, and you can write off your office space and business expenses when you do your taxes.
- Follow up with inquiries and proposals. People are busy and sometimes forget. Send a polite follow up within a few days to see if they’re still interested.
- Practice your elevator pitch. Stand in front of a mirror. Look yourself in the eye. Build confidence in your pitch, and keep it as clear and concise as possible.
- Put aside a little money for taxes.
- Offer no more 1 or 2 pieces or an hour for free to get some initial exposure. After that, don’t be afraid to ask for your fee to continue working together.
- Create a portfolio of your best samples.
- Translate the features of your service in a way that emphasizes the benefits.
- Use your real name or business and create a website. Create a web presence that’s dedicated to your services while explaining exactly what you can do and how people can get started.
- Find an invoicing platform that’s convenient for you. Paypal, Stripe, and WaveApps are great. While Freshbooks and Quickbooks can help organize your numbers come tax time.
- Learn SEO and write content to get featured at the top of search engines. Be sure to focus on keywords related to your service so that potential clients using Google will find you.
- This is a numbers game. The odds of finding your first client increases the more you send out proposals, pitch to potential clients, and put yourself out there.
- Take rejection with a grain of salt. You’re going to hear a lot of people “no” before you hear the first “yes.” Just shrug it off. Be humble and grateful for their time. Then move on to find the people who need you.
- Create contracts to protect yourself. Use this to set the terms of your work agreement, define what happens if clients don’t pay on time, and establish yourself as a professional in your field.
- Attend local and online events. The more you can network in communities related to your niche, the better your chances of landing new clients for your service.
- Double-check grammar in your content, promotional materials, and writing with Grammarly.
- Price higher than your standard rates. This gives you room to negotiate and settle on a price that’s fair for the work you do.
- Don’t give up — once you find your first client; the second will soon follow. There are many people out there who need your services and more than willing to pay you for what you do.
Nothing great happens overnight. Greatness takes time.— Timothy Pina
I know it’s not easy in the beginning, but I hope these freelance tips help you find your path toward a profitable freelance career.
If I can find someone to pay $12 for my first copywriting job, you can definitely find someone to pay for the things you do.
You will find a rhythm and learn all the skills and tricks of the trade that’ll work for you.
Soon, you’ll be making money on your own terms, working from home, traveling the world, and living the life of your dreams.
You can do this — now, go out there and things done!