A Freelancer’s Guide to Making Money

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freelancing money guideI would say that one of the best ways to make money is to start freelancing.  I have been a freelancer for a number of years.  I learned how to write code when I ran my online e-commerce business and then grew from there.  Many people always ask me about freelancing and most of them feel that it is unreachable for them.  They feel that they have no marketable skills or have no idea what they would sell.  I am going to say here and now that anyone can freelance. Yes, anyone!  In the spirit of making money, I wanted to share my version of a freelancer’s guide to making money.  There are many ideas on how you can make money, and I am not going to cover that.  Right now, I am going to cover what you need to do in order to start freelancing and how to be successful.

Identify Your Skill Set

The most important part of freelancing is understanding what you can sell.  Most freelancers sell their services.  Whether those be writing content, providing businesses with ideas, product design, online marketing, blog management, website design, website testing, coding, and many more.  There is a wide range of service that people can do.  Though most of what I have done has been online, there is a wide range of opportunities offline.  They might be harder to find, but they are still there.

Everyone typically has some type of marketable skill. Whether it be enough for full-time employment or not is another story.  People tend to be good at least one thing.  It could be a variety of things, but they still are good at one thing.  Many people don’t think about selling that skill to others.  This is usually because some people just don’t think outside of the box.  If you want to succeed being a freelancer, then you need to understand your skill set and see if it is marketable.

What’s Your Value Proposition

Wait?  My value what?  Before I start digging into the VP as I like to call it, I am going to throw down a little definition for you.  This is how Investopedia defines a value proposition.

A business or marketing statement that summarizes why a consumer should buy a product or use a service. This statement should convince a potential consumer that one particular product or service will add more value or better solve a problem than other similar offerings.

In the freelancing world, you are most likely not going to be alone in the services you offer.  I can almost guarantee that one.  If you do have a unique service, then you might want to consider creating a full time business off of it.  That is only if you have a great value proposition.  This statement is to define why your service should be picked above all others.  Why would your service be any better?  What makes your service special?  These are  a few things that you need to answer when you come up with your value proposition.  Do you charge less, yet deliver more?  Do you just kick ass in general and you should be paid for it?  Before you become a freelancer, you need to understand your value proposition.

How Will You Market Your Services?

Alright, you have now figured out your skill set and what sets you apart from the pack. Congratulations!  Here comes the hardest part in a freelancer’s job.  Now you have to market yourself in order to get clients.  Anyone that has freelanced before knows that marketing can be a hard thing to do.  You have to appeal to people looking for your skills in a sea of freelancers.  This is especially true online.  When you jump online hoping to make money, you better know how to market yourself.  There are a few ways that can set you apart from others.

  • Start a blog – Running a blog can be a great way to meet people in the niche you are targeting. Obviously, you will want to cover topics that relate to your skills.  If you start a blog and network with other bloggers, then you can find jobs that way. This is how I get a lot of my freelance jobs.  There is some power in adding a little “hire me” link to your site.  If you want to know how to start a blog, then check out my little guide.
  • Be Active on Social Media – Connect and network with other people on social media.  When you are active on social media and converse with those in your niche, then you can make friends.  Networking is powerful and social media just enables that networking to be much easier.
  • Join a Freelance Jobs Board – There are too many jobs boards out there to name, but when it comes to freelancing, Odesk and Elance are great options.  You can easily setup an account there and start selling your services.  Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get a job right away. There are many other freelancers on these boards to compete with, but just stick with your value proposition.
  • Contact Companies Directly – This method might not always be successful, but you can and will get jobs from it if you are good.  If you know of a company that could use your services, then reach out to them.  Contact them and see if they need help. You never know where it will lead.  I have been flat out rejected, not responded to, and asked not to contact them again.  There have been other times when I have received steady work.  You never know.

Pricing and Delivery

Welcome to the next step in freelancing.  If you are going to sell services, then you better know what you want to charge. This is a very hard thing to do for most freelancers.  The reason is that the knowledge to set correct rates and delivery times comes from experience. You don’t get experience until you have a few completed jobs under your belt.  This is where you need to be flexible.  Your first few jobs might pay you less, but they will get you experience.  If you jump into conversations about pricing with a high price, then it will be an immediate turn off.  This is especially true if you  have no credentials to back up your pricing or any testimonials.  Pricing is truly an art when you freelance, so don’t be afraid to change it up.

Once you start working and selling your skills, then you will need to deliver.  This step also comes from experience.  If you are writing, then you need to know how long it will take.  If the people that hired you ask if you can finish said task in a certain time, then you better know if you can finish it.  There are too many other freelancers out there that will take your job in a heartbeat.  Don’t miss your deadlines.  If you think you are going to miss your deadline, then reach out to your contact and tell them why.  Be honest and transparent.  That will keep you on the job.

 

So there you go.  These are my keys to making money as a freelancer.  You need to know your skill set, understand your value proposition, market said value proposition, then price it right and deliver.  This guide might make it sound easy, but there are not too many freelancers that make a ton of money.  Just don’t get discouraged. This is not a get rich quick kind of thing.  You will not become a millionaire overnight.  You may never become one.  The point of freelancing is to earn extra money on the side and do something that you enjoy.  It might even turn into a full time job like our friends at Club Thrifty and Making Sense of Cents.

Are you a freelancer?  What tips do you have for someone just getting started?

 

Image courtesy of JohnONolan

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47 COMMENTS

    • Great point Holly. Doing some things for free can get yourself in the door and get visibility. I do some free things for bigger sites and that has really worked well.

  1. Hey Grayson and thanks for an informative AND inspiring post 🙂

    I have freelanced as both a web-designer and guitar teacher and I am now looking to add “freelance writer” to that list. I like your “hire me” page idea and will institute that on my blog today 🙂

    Thanks again and take care. All the best.

    Lyle
    lyle @ the Joy of Simple recently posted…You’re Not The Boss Of Me!!My Profile

  2. Great tips. I’m no fulltime freelancer, or even part time, but maybe one day. I still have no idea what to say when I get emails about advertising on my site, as I don’t know much about what I should charge or what I should offer. I’ll have to bookmark this so I can come back to it!
    Ryan @ Impersonal Finance recently posted…emergency fund in actionMy Profile

  3. These are great points! I definitely agree that having a blog is a great way to grow your freelancing business. I think of it as the ultimate resume or business card because people can see exactly what you are capable of and frequently find you before you find them. I have been shocked at who has contacted me just because of my blog.
    Shannon @ Financially Blonde recently posted…Top Ten Money FoolsMy Profile

  4. Grayson,

    Great article on the foundations of freelancing. This article is just a reminder that there are tons of skills I have that I could be getting paid for if I would take the time to create a proper VP and begin to market myself a bit.

    Thanks!!!

    • Thanks Derek! Most people have skills that they can sell. Either they don’t realize it or don’t take the time to look into freelancing more. Yes, it can be tricky when it comes to time management and taxes, but it is not bad!

  5. Excellent tips because i certainly learned a lot from it. Those other sites that you mentioned as your friends are awesome personal finance blogs as well. No wonder you write so well, your friends are also very good writers. I guess people with skill does group up. Which is a better platform to work? oDesk or Elance
    Jeff @Project Ikonz recently posted…March net worth updateMy Profile

  6. There are LOTS of ways to make money in America, and the internet made it even easier. I just started a blog, and am building content. Who know, I have thought about a book for a while, maybe I will publish an eBook.

    Anyone can publish an eBook today, it used to be a major event and $1,000s.

    Drive, determination and ambition will win over laziness, every time.
    No Nonsense Landlord recently posted…My Tenth Investment Property and Fourth Four-PlexMy Profile

  7. Thanks for this great post, Grayson!
    I’ve never even entertained freelancing before, but now, I think I might just dabble in it. The hubs and I agreed that any income from our blog will be invested – so I’m excited for the possibilities 🙂
    This gives me a wonderful headstart to my research. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction!
    Anneli @thefrugalweds recently posted…The Blurry Line Between Frugal and CheapMy Profile

    • Well, I don’t use their services much anymore, but they are still a good way to get started. There is a lot of undercutting, but that is what happens when there are so many people offering similar services. If you can get one or two clients off of there, then I would consider that a win.

  8. I’ve done a little freelancing for non-PF sites and they can be really brutal. I’d say grow a thick skin and know that you are generally a cog in the wheel if you do something for a big entity. When you understand that and don’t take it personally, it helps a ton if they cut you for no apparent reason.

  9. Oh man, freelancing can be hard! It is definitely rewarding, because you are being self sufficient and working on your own terms, but it can be difficult to get started in the freelancing field. I would agree with Kim, that it’s important to have a really thick skin. I also agree with you – that starting a blog can be one of the best ways to land some freelancing gigs!

    • Freelancing is not easy, but it can be very rewarding if you get good at it. It takes time to build up a client base. You can choose to work as little or as much as you want.

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