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Everybody wants to become a freelancer these days, and why shouldnt they? It pays well, you get to be your own boss, and you can work while traveling! For many, it is the dream life! And so, every time I talk about it, the most frequent DM I get is, "Mujhe bhi freelancing krni hai lekin samajh nai ati k shuru kese krun" (I want to do freelancing but cannot figure out how to start!)
Now that I have a blog, I am going to take this opportunity and explain every step with utmost detail (itni detail k sb ko ratt jaye lol!)
Without beating about the bush, let us get to the point:
Now, this sounds very simple, but I know that you have a thousand questions about every one of these steps. Dont worry; we will talk about everything today; we have unlimited space, lol!
The first step of starting a freelance career is deciding what exactly it is that you want to do! As simple as it may sound, this is where most people are stuck right now. They have no idea what they want to do, and so, we are going to talk about the different major, most popular fields one can choose for freelancing.
But First! What Even Is Freelancing?
Many people think that freelancing itself is a niche, a field, or a domain, like being a scientist, a graphic designer, or a software engineer. This mostly comes from the norm of watching freelancers sitting on the computers all day long. Since most of these jobs are remote, people watching from afar usually think that there is some sort of a website where you can go, make an account, and start "freelancing." Many of you are probably thinking, "This is obvious. Why is she explaining this?" But, a surprising number of people do not know this, so it is very important for me to clarify this concept for a lot of readers.
Freelancing itself is not a job, a niche, or a field; it is a lifestyle. People going to an office for a 9 to 5 job, getting their salaries on a fixed date, and working for one employer at a time is a working lifestyle. On the other hand, freelancers are "self employed."
But the most important difference is that they are hired on a project basis or for a particular time frame. Once the time frame is over, and the project is done, they are free to move on. Then, they can be re-hired for another project, or they can revise the contract for a particular number of months or years. Your lifestyle is very versatile since you are self-employed and can work on your own terms and conditions (mostly!) THIS is freelancing!
So, according to this theory, you can be a freelancer in any field. For example:
Similarly, you can be a freelance content writer, make-up artist, software expert, web developer-anything at all-as long as you work remotely.
What has more scope? What pays high, and what kind of freelance jobs are more frequently available? I know those are going to be your next questions! So, here is a list of some of the highest-paying and in-demand jobs in the freelance world:
Dont get me wrong; these are not the only high-paying freelance jobs in the world; there are plenty of others too that help you make 5 and 6-figure salaries. However, these are just the top-rated and most common ones that people usually opt for. Plus, these jobs are frequently available on most marketplaces.
Another essential thing to consider here is that the world is slowly shifting towards remote work, and more and more people are moving towards the freelance lifestyle. That being said, this concept is still in the growth phase, especially in countries like Pakistan. So, a large percentage of people only want to opt for freelancing as a side hustle or a part-time thing. Nobody wants to give up their 9-5 job to become a freelancer or even think about making it their primary source of income.
Hence, for a side-hustle, many people opt for a secondary skill different from their primary field. Additionally, they do not want to spend a lot of time and money learning this secondary skill; the jobs mentioned above are mostly the ones that satisfy this criterion. Most of them do not involve degrees, extensive qualifications, and education. They are easier to learn and dont require a lot of investment, which is why they are ideal choices for most freelancers who are in a hurry!
Moving on to the next important question:
This is the trickiest part for a lot of people.
"Mujhe freelancing krni hai lekin smjh nai ata k kis field mein kru? Writing, data entry, photography, I am confused."
("I want to start freelancing but I dont know which field I should choose: writing, data entry, photography, I am confused")
What do you feel like doing, where do your interests lie, and what would you genuinely enjoy taking up as a side career? Because I firmly believe that if you are not interested in your work, it becomes a burden over time, and the human mind and body cannot handle a burden for too long.
After a while, you start getting bored, exhausted, and eventually you burn out. So, this choice is crucial; do something you genuinely enjoy doing. Phir kaam kaam nahi lgega! (Work wont seem like work!)
To this, some people respond by saying:
"I genuinely enjoy writing, photography, and editing, so I dont know which of them I should choose now."
For you guys, here is my answer:
If there are multiple things you enjoy but want to do only one as a freelancer, this small criterion can help you decide which one to choose. Think about the following things:
The one profession that satisfies all three aspects is the choice you should make!
But the question, "What should I do as a freelancer?" does not end here. Once you decide what you want to do, you need to make further macro and micro decisions. For example, if you have chosen to become a photographer, you will have to niche it down: wedding photography, portrait photography, kids photography, product photography, couple photography, etc. You can choose one or multiple; no one is judging!
Similarly, if you decide to become a content writer, you will eventually have to make more decisions. What type of content do you want to write? Think about whether you want to write for social media or websites. Do you want to go for academic writing, technical articles, or marketing content? There are so many options! Again, in all of these circumstances, you can use the criterion given above to decide what you want to pursue.
I hope that clears the first step and answers your relevant questions! If not, comment below, and I will answer it! Until then, let us move on to step 2!
Many people have this misconception that they can only start developing a portfolio once they get a project. They think that their first sample will be client work. That is actually not true. In fact, it is not practical to think this way, and many people who have this mindset are stuck for a very long time.
Let me explain this with logic:
Let us assume that you have an event at home and you want a photographer to click your photos. Now, you will visit a bunch of different professionals in the field. Then, you will look at their work to decide which one of them you like best and whose aesthetics match yours. For example, some photographers do very colorful photography, while others have a darker theme going on. So, you need to make sure that the professional you are hiring offers the same kind of work that you have in mind, right?
Now, imagine that a photographer says they want the job, but they do not have a sample to show you. Will you risk your time and money by giving him a chance without knowing anything about their style, capabilities, and whether they can even take a good photograph? No, right? That is precisely what clients and employees think when they offer a job to freelancers and the applicant does not have a portfolio.
If you do not have a sample or a portfolio to show them what your style is and what kind of work you provide, how will they know whether you satisfy their requirements and whether your work style aligns with theirs? You need to give them something to prove that you can write well; show them your writing style. Write a bunch of samples on different topics before you apply to jobs because it will increase your chances of getting a response and eventually getting hired! For more help, I have written a whole blog on what type of samples you should write and what your portfolio should look like, so go check that out!
Now that you know what you are going to do and you have collected a bunch of samples to show to your clients, you are ready to step into the market! Step 3 is to market your skills to reach more prospects, send your portfolios to clients, and apply to vacancies.
By marketing, I mean that you can set up social media accounts, tell people around you that you are starting a new career, and spend money on paid adverts. For example, content writers can have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, because these platforms allow text content in the form of statuses and whatnot. Plus, they can put the link to their online portfolio in their bios. Likewise, designers, artists, photographers, and videographers can choose Facebook and Instagram for marketing their visual content.
Set up your profiles, showcase your samples there, and, most importantly, engage with relevant people. These people include:
This is called "Networking," where you essentially build a circle of relevant people that will lead to either opportunities or learning.
Apart from using your social media accounts for marketing and networking, you can also use them to locate a job. You can send your resumes and CVs to prospects who might be interested in your work. You can look out for vacancies posted by employers, recruiters, and companies. But, there is also another way you can actively hunt for a job online: freelance marketplaces. I am talking about the infamous Upwork, Fiverr, People Per Hour, and many more! These places are mediums that connect employers and professionals- people offer jobs, and appropriate people apply for them. There is no networking or engagement involved; it is a straightforward process.
If this is the approach you want to go for, you must decide which marketplace you want to choose and how you want to start looking for clients. The following is my personal recommendation for beginners, intermediates, and professionals:
If you are an absolute beginner who has some samples but no previous experience working with a client, I recommend that you go on to Facebook and LinkedIn. These platforms have more scope for beginner writers who have just started. The employers who go on to these platforms are usually also looking for beginners who will take low-budget projects in the hunt for learning and gaining experience. Whether that is ethical or not is an entirely different debate. Still, if you are ready to compromise on your pay rate, in the beginning, to develop a portfolio, learn how to deal with clients, and gain more experience, then Facebook and Instagram are excellent places for you to start.
Join Facebook groups by searching for relevant keywords. For example, if you are a content writer looking for local clients, search for "Freelance content writers (your country)" and see what groups show up. Then, revise this keyword a bunch of times to find the best groups with an appropriate number of followers and frequent activity. This is the most crucial part: you need to ensure that the groups you join are active and the posted jobs are relevant to your field. Otherwise, you will not find anything there for you, leading to disappointment.
I usually recommend checking out the first five search results because those are usually the most active and relevant to your keyword. On Instagram, you want to do the same thing, but for hashtags. Search up your desired keywords, and if there are hashtags around that keyword, follow them. For example, for writers, I would recommend keywords like #writerswanted #contentwritingservices #contentwritingjobs #freelanceopportunities #freelancejobs #jobsforstudents, etc. These are the hashtags that you want to follow so that if someone posts something under them, you will get to know about it,
LinkedIn is, in my opinion, great for intermediates who have a few months of experience but are still not knowledgeable or confident enough to go for highly saturated and professional places like Upwork. Fiverr is also like Upwork- it is pretty saturated with professionals- but we can consider it a bit toned down. So, you can join one of those platforms depending on what you are more comfortable with. On LinkedIn, again, you follow hashtags and also engage with people who are relevant to your field. For example, if you are a content writer, you want to follow magazines and businesses that might have vacancies for a job in your field. Product photographers would want to follow companies and businesses with a matching vibe, so they have a higher chance of getting some attention from those businesses.
Lastly, if you are a professional and have gained enough experience, developed a strong portfolio, and are confident enough to engage with international clients, you can now move on to Upwork. Create a profile and set it up very nicely. Make sure you have all your details filled in, and then start applying to jobs. I am not going to dive too deep into it because Upwork is a whole separate topic that deserves an article of its own.
Upwork is saturated with professionals from different cultures, educational backgrounds, and age ranges. So, as great as it is in terms of finding good-paying clients, it gets hard for beginners out there. Clients on Upwork are usually looking for professional, experienced freelancers. Since beginners lack both experience and a strong profile, they dont get an immediate response immediately and it disappoints them. Ultimately, it lowers their hopes and de-motivates them before even getting started. Therefore, I think that joining marketplaces like Upwork is a mistake for beginner freelancers; I do not recommend it, UNLESS you are properly prepared for it. In that case, go right ahead!
Those are your three significant steps to start freelancing. I have tried my best to explain everything in as much detail as possible, and I hope that I have answered the questions you had in mind. If you have any questions that have still not been answered, you are more than welcome to leave a comment so that I can answer them. Plus, other people might also find it helpful. If you liked reading this blog post, I would love to know your thoughts about it in the comment section. What part was your favorite? Which of these steps have you been struggling with? I would love to know!