Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could work when you want, have spare time to do things you like, chose clients and customers of your own and get paid solely base on the effort you prefer to put in per day? Surely it would have been amazing if you had such a chance, wouldn’t it? especially when it comes to earning your living and putting food on the table. Thanks to the increasing adaptation of online technologies this is now a possibility. Freelancing is one such way to make a living online from home. In this article we aim to give you an overview about it.
Today, right now if you are reading this article, chances are, you might probably be looking for some other way to earn more money, or you are looking to give a break to your boring 9 to 5 job and find a new, more flexible and a more challenging way to earn your money. To put it out simply, earn your living under your own terms and conditions and become the Boss of your own!
Can this “dream job” ever be found? Is it really out there? And the answer is, Yes. You can do it and some people are living that dream even right now.
Freelancing is all about turning your passion into a business.
The purpose of our article series “Start online business from home” is going to show you and support you to achieve that dream! our topic today is How to become a successful Online Freelancer. The younger generation prefer self-employment over traditional office based jobs. All you need is a marketable skill, that is in demand, that you can offer to others as a service. In this first chapter we are going to give a brief intro to the online Freelance/Gig economy and things you should know before starting.
Is Freelancing a Legit Career?
When you talk a lot of people about this “Freelancing”, first question they ask is “is that even real? Can you even support your basic needs through that?” when many people hear the word “Freelancer” and “Freelancing”, that draws them a picture of high risk, highly unstable and uncertain profession. In fact, they don’t even consider it as a “Legitimate Profession”.
Before moving on, you should know that this perception of a “Freelancer’ and “Freelancing” changes depending on where you live. In western nations, particularly in Europe, there are plenty of Professional Freelancers but in places like Asia and Africa, this concept of “Freelancer” is not well established or received positively by society. Mainly because of conservative views about jobs in these regions.
Now a days people do not like to spend time on improving their weak areas. They would rather focus on strengths/areas they are good at at. As for weaknesses they just hire someone to take care that job. Hence, there’s increasing demand for freelance workers. These freelancers play an important role in most small to medium scale businesses.
What is Online Freelancing?
Online Freelancing is about providing digital, web-based services to any other party for a fee using any form of an online platform. Freelancing, unlike a “job”, is a form of self-employment. Freelancing is a type of job you can either do full-time or passively as a side hustle. Increasing number of professionals now engage in some kind of freelance activity as a passive income source.
There is no legal employer that “employs” you as their “employee”. Rather, you become the boss and the worker of your own. In other words, there is no agency relationship as in typical employment where employees represent the employer. Rather, the Freelancer represents himself/herself.
The contracts and projects you undertake are between you and the client of your choosing and the responsibility of that contract/project, the quality of its content, and responsibility of after services lie solely in the hand of the Individual Freelancer.
If and when done correctly, this is a “dream job”. Now let’s concentrate on several important keywords in that definition. These keywords are,
- Digital and Web-Based
- Online Platform
- No Agency Relationship
- Clients and Customers
- Contracts and Projects
- Sole Responsibility
Let’s call them “the Seven Characteristics of Your Dream Job.” Let’s now look at all of these briefly.
Digital and Web-Based
An online freelancer is a person who provides some kind of service in a web-based form. For example, a Freelance Graphic Designer who sells his services. Or a Web site Content Creator or a Copy Writer who sells their writing expertise. What you are selling here is your knowledge and expertise.
Now let us take a look at this scenario. What about a freelance Electrician? Or a plumber? Or a lawyer? And what about an accountant? Who provides their services on their own without working under an employer or a company? Of course, these jobs have similar characteristics to freelancing, but not the ones we are talking about here. Our focus here is Online, Web-Based Freelancing.
Also, such specialized freelancing work (Electricians, Lawyers, Accountants etc.) require prerequisites like institutionalized and standardized training and experience along with various forms of licenses in order to offer their expertise as freelancers.
It is important to keep in mind that once you are a freelancer, you are both the boss and the worker. There is no distinction between you and your “Superior”. You are the main focus of your work and even under various legal frameworks, you fall under the category “Self-Employed”.
For an example, if you have to fill out a form about your personal information to obtain a credit card, under your employment information, you will have to fill it as you are “self-employed”.
This is another important aspect of online freelancing, they usually work and deliver their projects in Online Platforms. Now you must be wondering “What is an Online Freelance Platform”? It is an Online Platform or any web space, a website, or any other online means that connect Freelancers with Potential Clients. In other words, any online space that connects Buyers with Sellers of online, web-based services.
There are various Online Freelancing Platforms out there. We will discuss about each of these platforms under “Where to Start Looking for Clients” heading.
The best thing about these specialized Online Platform websites for freelancers is that they allow for quick exchange of work and have in-built payment processing facilities. This way, if you are a freelancer working on these platforms, it is super easy to deliver the work to your client and get paid. These platforms take a cut from your earnings so you will have to take that into account when you quote prices for your services.
One thing to remember is that although these platforms are the most efficient, safe, and useful way to reach and deal with clients, it is not the only way or rather most profitable way. Experienced freelancers use direct ways to acquire clients rather than going through these intermediary job marketplaces. They usually seek out forums that are related to their niche and try to build an authority in the community as a helpful person. Once you are recognized as a authority figure people are happy to pay your rates to get your freelance service.
The best practice is to use job marketplaces to acquire initial client base. Once you build good reputation with your clients you can work with them directly by offering better rates. Since you don’t have to pay intermediary fees you can extend part of the benefit to client. Once you have acquired solid number of monthly clients you can try other lead generation methods to expand business operations like the forum strategy we mentioned above.
No Agency Relationship
You might not be familiar with this one, the “Agency Relationship”. This is an important concept to understand as a freelancer. Also, even in law and legal matters, this is a critical concept. In broader terms, Agency Relationship means the Representative relationship between a Principal and an Agent. Now there is a lot of complicated words there. So, let’s simplify that. An “Agency Relationship” simply means a relationship where one person represents another person.
So, for an example, if we take a look at an employee and an employer (a company), the employee “represents” the employer during professional matters. However, once you are a freelancer, you no longer “Represent” anyone. You represent yourself. Your work will only represent your standards, your values, your qualities, your client relationship standards, and your work ethics.
Clients and Customers
In any kind of businesses you should treat your customer as king. You should be thankful for them selecting you to do business with. Likewise, your clients/customers are the most important thing in any kind of freelance engagement.
Now, if you work somewhere as a sales manager, let’s say, at a telecommunications company, the people you serve and consider as “your customers” are not really “your” customers. Think again. Why do you think they are there? It is because of the company you work for. They are there for that “Brand” and you are merely an employee who serves on behalf of the company.
However, when you are a freelancer, things change. The clients who come for you and your services are “your” clients. They are coming because of you. Because of your reputation for quality and great service. They are there because of “your own brand” and “image”.
Contracts and Projects
As a freelancer, you will often work on projects with prior agreed contracts. Now when you start working as a freelancer, the work you perform is called “projects and contracts”. How does this work differ from the “regular 9 to 5” work? In a regular job, the work you do is fixed. Your responsibilities, the nature of your work, your pay, and the industry you work in remain the same. Regular jobs aren’t very challenging either because its mostly consist of routine work, hardly any new challenges.
For example, imagine yourself working as an insurance sales agent, a highly sought after and a top paying job if you know the art of selling. Each year you will have different challenges, in areas like achieving more customer satisfaction, generating more sales, lowering the costs of your department and many more like that. but at the end of the day, they are all related to the same field. numbers and targets change, the core work remains the same.
However, once you are a Freelancer, the nature of your work changes dramatically even if you are only providing a particular selected Service/Gig. In other words, the “diversity” of your work encompasses a wide range and an array of work. For an example if you are someone who like to do freelance work as a provider of creative web content/article writing service then one of your project may be delivering an article about Marketing technology, while the other project may be on creating engaging social media contents for a Facebook business page. The nature of your work changes from one client project to another giving you more challenge and at the same time an opportunity to expand your skillset.
Sole Responsibility is a vital factor that is directly attached to a freelancer’s reputation and long-lasting client relationships. Once you are a freelancer, you have to go out there and find clients for your services. Also remember, that once you found your clients, it is also you who will have the sole responsibility of keeping those clients with you.
In freelancing, the quality of work and speed of delivery are important aspects, and that will lead you to retain your exciting clients while attracting new ones. Simply, the success of your freelancing career will solely depend on your commitment, hard work, smart choices, and innovative approach in client deliverables. And if and when things go bad you will have to take the sole responsibility of failure. Its important that you treat each client work as your life depend on it! With this mindset you can be seen as someone with great integrity, responsible and dependable to carry out client jobs.
Now that we have understood the Seven Characteristics of Your Dream Job, let’s move on to take a look at some useful things to know before starting a career in freelancing.
Knowing your Strengths, Passion, and Weaknesses
If you like jobs that are location independent then Freelancing is kind of a dream job to some. Digital nomads call it the Laptop Life Style. If you like to be one, then you have to first identify an area where you are good at and passionate about. You can always hire someone to cover your weak areas. For example you have the ability to write creative content but your English isn’t the best. In this case off load the proofreading part to someone who you know well. When you quote price to the project make sure to pass the proofreading cost to the client. Obviously the client doesn’t need to know about it. In fact clients only care about having quality delivery at a reasonable price.
In order to be successful in freelancing you need to have some kind of a marketable skill. This may be in Creative writing, Graphic design, Video editing, Handling social media, Coding, Being an virtual assistant etc. You can acquire these skills easily because, unlike in the past, knowledge is now readily available. You can read online publications to learn high income skills. YouTube is one such place where you can learn new skills for free. You can also take a paid Udemy course or go to Skillshare if you want instructor assistance. There are so many ways to acquire new knowledge. Once you think you have expertise in the field then you can go on to offer this as a service to others who doesn’t want to bother to do this kind of tasks themselves.
Knowing Your Limit
You are good at something But You can not do everything on your own. Once you become a freelancer, you must have an understanding about what are the areas you are good at, your working capacity, and when you feel getting overloaded and overworked. The main goal of freelancing is to do something you love, earn a decent living and enjoy the life exploring. If you feel you are burned-out with the work load then you should figure out how to balance out work and life. May be limit yourself to accept only specific number of projects per month. Stop working with over demanding clients. Have a well defined contract with the client about the job you will perform, anything outside of the job scope you can dismiss or perform for extra fee. Use an project management tool to improve your productivity. In Freelancing quality of your work trumps the quantity of jobs you have done in a month. Quality delivery is the only way to win heart of a client.
An idiot with a plan can beat a genius without a plan
This quote was famously said by the billionaire investor Warren buffet and is very relevant to freelance economy as well. Freelancing is not a sustainable income source, if your sole focus is just to earn day wage. You must have a clear plan on how to improve your skillset and expand freelance operations over time. Its important diversify your income sources, instead of having all eggs in one basket. You must always have a clear vision about longer-term growth strategy. Without a proper plan and a strategy, one cannot thrive and succeed as a freelancer. There are so many freelancers in the market and you need to offer more value in order to be highlighted.
Managing your Personal Finances as a Freelancer
You have worked hard to earn your income. Now it’s time to wisely invest in a way that could maximize ROI. You should have a clear understanding about how to manage your finances. This is a subject we covered in our Online Business 101 series. Making loads of money might be your strongest motivation. If you do not know the art of saving and investing then you will soon face with financial difficulties.
Where to Start Looking for Freelance Clients
In this section, we shall examine what are the most efficient, reliable, and easiest online platforms where you can start working as a freelancer. Before moving on, let us give you a brief description of what we will cover in this section.
First, we will get to know these online platforms, we will go through their history and how they operate. Then we will look at the facilities and options they provide. Later on, we will move to compare and contrast them briefly. By the end of the section, you will have a thorough understanding of these popular online freelancing platforms. You can then decide which one is the most attractive to you.
Although Upwork is now an individual corporation, it was created as a merger between two companies. Elance, was founded in 1998, and it emerged straight out from the heart of the famed Silicon Valley. it was one of the earliest online job marketplaces at the time.
ODesk was a company that was founded in 2003 by two friends. Originally it functioned as an internet-based staffing firm, and it was later developed into an internet-based marketplace that allowed users to recruit, hire and work with remote workers.
It was in 2013 that Odesk and Elance were merged and became Elance-Odesk. And featured a much-improved online platform and became one of the earliest and the most successful online platforms for registered freelancers. In 2015, Elance-Odesk would undergo a major rebranding process and the company later came to be known as Upwork.
Upwork is one of the major online freelancing platforms listed in a stock exchange. Upwork is listed in New York Nasdaq stock exchange as UPWK and is in the Russel 2000 Stock Index, a small-cap stock index.
Now that we know Upwork is a well-established, legal corporation, let us take a quick look at how it works.
Unlike other platforms, you cannot just go there and become a freelancer, first, you have to register with them. And only depending on the skills and the service you are willing to provide and depending on the Upwork market conditions you might get selected to work there or not. Interesting thing is no human is involved in this selection process, its all algorithms!
The positive side of this barrier to entry is that not anyone can randomly go there and start working, and this selection procedure adds value to you as you become a freelancer on a platform where only a limited number of people can join.
After you joined there, from your profile, you can look for projects. Clients regularly post their requirements, projects, and the budget, and all you have to do is to select a project that you are capable of fulfilling and that you are interested in, and then submit a proposal. Depending on your proposal, profile, and suitability, a client will decide to select you.
As for your payment protection, it is very much secured on this platform. You are guaranteed payment for your work and if there is ever any disagreement between you and the client, Upwork will intervene and solve it as well. keep in mind that Upwork keeps a 20% commission on your earnings. As you earn more and more, this commission percentage respectively decreases to 10% and eventually to 5%, letting you keep more of what you earn. You can withdraw your earnings to your local bank, as a wire transfer, or to your digital wallet.
As of 2021, Upwork is the largest freelancer market space in the world with 18 million registered freelancers and 5 million registered clients.
The next most popular and widely used online freelancing platform is Fiverr. Although it is fairly younger than Upwork, features such as the market-like mechanism, secureness and reliability of payments, and creative, easy-to-use interface have propelled Fiverr to become the fastest growing freelance marketplace on the internet.
Founded in 2010, today Fiverr is enlisted on New York Stock Exchange as FVRR and as of 2020, recorded a fiscal revenue above 100 million dollars! Fiverr revolutionized the concept of the online marketplace by introducing a unique way of client-freelancer contact. You may now wonder what special about this.
Registration with Fiverr has no barriers or selection procedures, you can sign-up and register as a freelance worker with them immediately. Fiverr allows freelancers to create “Gigs”. These gigs function as packages. A “Gig” is a package of services a freelancer provides. Under that, there are various ways a freelancer can customize this gig. It is very easy to understand and operate. One freelancer can create up to 7 “gigs”. For example, you can offer a gig for graphics designing, another for copy writing, and another for blog article writing.
The buyers, or “clients” can then choose from these gigs. There is a search option available for them and once they type in the keywords of the services they are looking for, related gigs show up. This makes it easier for the clients, but very competitive for the freelancers as they have to rank up higher in the search results to get a client, much like in google.
However, don’t let this cut-throat competition scare you away. Competition is everywhere. there are various ways to create a “Selling gig” on Fiverr. However, in this article, we will not cover that. We might publish a separate article for that as it’s a topic of its own.
Now that we know about the the company and how it works, let us look into the next most important element. Earnings management and money withdrawals.
The payment for your work is guaranteed on Fiverr, and withdrawal is much easier. You can withdraw cash to your digital wallet. However, keep in mind that Fiverr only allows withdrawals to PayPal Accounts and Payoneer Accounts. So, after setting up a Fiverr account, you need to set up either PayPal or a Payoneer account as well. This is very easy and takes only a few minutes.
Freelancer.com is another renowned online freelancing platform that has its own unique way of facilitating client-freelancer relationships. Founded in 2009 in Sydney, Australia, Freelancer.com is enlisted in the Australian Securities Exchange (Stock Market) as FLN.
There is no special registration procedure to join freelancer.com. anyone can simply go and create an account there. Freelancer too, has a simplified and an easy-to-use user interface. In addition, the earnings/money withdrawal is easier and faster too. In freelancer.com, you can withdraw your money directly to your bank account, as a wire transfer, or to your digital wallet. In digital form, however, Freelancer only allows withdrawals to PayPal and Skrill accounts.
Let us now look into how the website operates and what functions are available for online job seekers. Freelancer is much different from Upwork or Fiverr. This is because Freelancer.com follows a “competitive tender process”. This process works as follows. The client posts a job in the website, and then the Freelancers will place bids on that work. What is interesting is that Freelancers on this site receive a limited number of “bids”, which are equal to points that deplete once they place a bid on a project and they periodically replenish.
Also, Freelancer.com features another feature called “Contests”. Think of them as “competitions” where clients put out their requirements for a specific project and then freelancers complete this project and submit their work to the Client. The client chooses one finished project and pays that freelancer for the work. This too is a part of the competitive tender process used by Freelancer.com.
On the positive side, it is very easy to join Freelancer.com and enter into contests, and place bids on projects. However, that’s also the downside as it is easy for anyone to access to the site and ithis has made the platform severely competitive.
People Per Hour
Founded in 2007, People per hour has its offices in London and Athens. Although it is not listed in any stock exchange like other companies we mentioned here, the company is known for its reliable services and payment clearings.
People per hour works just like Upwork, where Clients post their projects and jobs while freelancers submit proposals to projects of their choice. Eventually, the client will choose one freelancer of their choice. However, people per hour, as the name suggests, mainly allows freelancers to earn based on the hours they work. Not on fixed-price contracts (which is an option available in Upwork).
As this platform was designed to outsource work, rather than an actual “freelancing platform”, many of the work posted in this site are time-oriented, meaning that you are paid by the hours you work. Because of this, from another perspective, we can also consider People per Hour as a platform for “Remote workers” rather than for “Freelancers”.
Aquent has its beginnings in 1985, and over the course of its history has turned into a reliable “staffing company specializing in placing temporary employees in marketing and creative industries”.
Aquent and People per hour are more like online platforms for “remote workers” rather than for “freelancers”. However, as work can be carried out online and earnings can be withdrawn using digital means, they are qualified to be called online freelancing platforms.
Joining Aquent is somewhat more difficult than joining other platforms, and there is a selection process where you will be evaluated by one of their agents. The earnings withdrawal is relatively easy. You can withdraw money to your PayPal, Payoneer, or bank account.
And that is all we cover from this article on Introduction to Freelancing and Things To Know Before Starting. These learnings will serve you as pillars to get started in this journey. In summary, to become a successful freelancer, you must be willing to invest your time and energy on mastering a sellable skill. After that you need to market your skills and try get your first 10 clients. It’s all about building good relationships there on.
Follow our Solo Hustle series to see more relevant articles and hopefully our effort will help you to achieve your dreams and ultimately, your financial freedom.