How to Become a Freelancer

How to Start Freelancing and Become a Freelancer: A Complete Guide


Deepak Joshi
By Deepak Joshi | Last Updated on February 13th, 2024 1:51 pm

There's no doubt that the freelance economy has taken the global job market by storm. As traditional job roles evolve and shift, the allure of freelancing—characterized by flexibility, autonomy, and diverse opportunities—has captivated many. Approximately 1.57 billion people in the global workforce now identify as freelancers, carving out a significant portion of the world's working demographic.

And it's not just about individual freelancers making their mark. When we dive into the economic contribution, it becomes even clearer that freelancing is more than just a trend; it's a formidable force. The total freelance platform market now boasts an estimated value of $3.39 billion, showcasing the immense weight of this sector.

If you're someone who's been intrigued by this burgeoning domain, wondering how to start or whether it's even the right fit for you, then you've come to the right place. This guide aims to unpack the world of freelancing, offering insights, tips, and hard facts that will help you make an informed decision.

How to Become a Freelancer [12 Steps to Start Freelancing]

  1. Self-assessment of skills and passions
  2. Research the market and demand
  3. Acquire relevant training or certifications
  4. Build an impressive portfolio
  5. Set clear pricing and payment terms
  6. Choose a reliable freelancing platform
  7. Develop a personal brand and online presence
  8. Network with other professionals and clients
  9. Always seek client feedback
  10. Stay updated with industry trends and best practices
  11. Manage finances effectively
  12. Prioritize continuous learning and skill enhancement

Who is a freelancer?

A freelancer is an independent professional who offers specialized services to various clients or businesses without being bound by a singular, long-term employment contract. Unlike traditional employees, freelancers have the autonomy to choose their projects, determine their working hours, and often set their own rates.

This new-age form of work is rapidly gaining traction worldwide. One significant reason behind this shift is the desire of many in the conventional workforce to explore additional income avenues. Astonishingly, up to 80% of the traditional workforce in the US has shown a keen interest in undertaking freelance projects alongside their primary roles. This is not just a trend among seasoned professionals but spans across various educational backgrounds.

A noteworthy observation is that over half of freelancers possess a postgraduate education, marking a 6% growth from 2020 to 2021. On the flip side, the percentage of freelancers with just a high school diploma or less has decreased from 37% to 31%. Such changes hint at the evolving nature of freelancing, where there's a growing demand for specialized skills and qualifications.

In essence, a freelancer is more than just a self-employed individual. They are adaptable, versatile professionals adept at managing multiple clients, diverse projects, and the nuances of self-promotion in the ever-changing global marketplace.

How to start freelancing?

Starting as a freelancer is both exhilarating and challenging. If you're considering taking the leap into this dynamic world of work, here's a step-by-step guide to help you navigate your way:

  1. Self-Assessment: Begin by evaluating your skills, strengths, and expertise areas. Recognizing what you bring to the table and how it aligns with market demands is pivotal. For instance, web design and development has become a highly sought-after freelance service. If you possess or can hone skills in this area, it could open promising avenues for you.

  2. Market Research: Familiarize yourself with the freelancing landscape. On a global scale, freelancers earn an average of $19 per hour. However, this can vary based on the specific job and geographical location. Platforms like Upwork show that while freelance content writers can earn between $10 and $80 USD per hour, graphic designers might receive an average hourly rate of $45. Such insights can guide you in setting competitive rates.

  3. Build a Portfolio: Create a website or portfolio to showcase your work, skills, and any client testimonials. This becomes your professional representation when seeking clients or bidding on freelance platforms.

  4. Set Clear Goals: Before diving in, determine what you want from your freelancing career. Whether it's achieving a specific income, working with certain clients, or attaining flexibility, having clear goals will guide your decisions and strategies.

  5. Choose the Right Platform: The rise in freelancing has seen an emergence of various platforms that link freelancers with potential clients. Data indicates that almost 10% of Americans have used digital platforms for freelance opportunities. Select a platform that resonates with your skills and aspirations.

  6. Networking: Establishing connections is paramount in freelancing. Attend related workshops, webinars, and events. Engage with potential clients and fellow freelancers on professional networks and social media platforms. Each interaction could lead to a potential opportunity.

  7. Legal and Financial Planning: Formalize your freelancing endeavors by understanding the legal and tax implications in your region. Set up a dedicated business account, and consider utilizing invoicing software to streamline financial tasks.

  8. Continuous Learning: The freelance environment is ever-evolving. Stay competitive and relevant by regularly updating your skills and staying informed about trends in your domain.

How to pick the right freelancing jobs?

Selecting the appropriate freelancing gigs is more than just about income; it's about ensuring career longevity, personal satisfaction, and professional growth. In the vast sea of freelancing opportunities, here's how to pinpoint the roles that suit you best:

  1. Know Your Strengths: Begin by introspecting about your strengths, passions, and areas of expertise. Understand what you do best and look for jobs that capitalize on those strengths.

  2. Research and Trends: Continuously keep an ear to the ground. Which industries or sectors are booming? For instance, if a specific region, like the Northeastern states (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey), is where freelancers are reporting higher annual incomes, it may be worthwhile to explore opportunities or clients based in those areas.

  3. Work-Life Balance: Freelancers often have the flexibility to choose their workload. Evaluate if you prefer short, intense projects or longer, more extended engagements. This choice directly impacts your work-life balance and overall well-being.

  4. Client Reputation: Before agreeing to any job, research your potential client. Platforms often allow for client reviews. A reputable client can mean timely payments, clear communication, and potential repeat business.

  5. Diversification vs. Specialization: Some freelancers thrive by diversifying their skill set and taking on varied jobs, while others prefer to specialize in a niche. Consider what appeals to you more: being a jack-of-all-trades or a master of one.

  6. Financial Viability: While not all jobs will pay top dollar, ensure that the compensation aligns with the effort required. Remember, almost 65% of freelancers report making more money than in traditional employment, indicating the financial viability of the right freelance roles.

The world of freelancing has evolved dramatically over the years, with a plethora of opportunities emerging in sync with technological advancements and changing market dynamics. As we delve into 2023, a few freelancing jobs stand out, not just for their demand but also for the potential they offer for professional growth and lucrative compensation. Let's explore these roles:

  1. Public Relations Manager: In an era where brand image and online reputation are paramount, Public Relations (PR) Managers have become invaluable. These professionals work diligently to shape public perceptions of companies, manage crises, and craft compelling narratives. Their expertise in media relations, strategic communication, and content creation makes them indispensable, especially for brands looking to establish a robust digital presence and navigate the choppy waters of public opinion.

  2. Artificial Intelligence (AI) Professional: The exponential growth of AI technologies has led to a surge in demand for experts in this domain. AI professionals specialize in developing and implementing machine learning models, neural networks, and other advanced algorithms. Their role is crucial in industries ranging from healthcare and finance to entertainment and logistics, as businesses seek to harness AI's power for predictive analytics, automation, and personalized user experiences.

  3. Mobile App Developer: With smartphones becoming ubiquitous, the demand for mobile apps has soared. Mobile app developers, skilled in languages like Swift, Kotlin, and Java, are in high demand. They create apps for iOS, Android, and other platforms, catering to diverse needs - from entertainment and social networking to e-commerce and health.

  4. Data Analyst: Data has often been called the 'new oil,' emphasizing its value in today's digital age. Data analysts are the professionals who refine this oil. They sift through vast amounts of data to extract meaningful insights. Using statistical tools and software, they help businesses make informed decisions, forecast trends, and identify potential opportunities or challenges. Their analytical prowess is sought after in sectors like retail, finance, healthcare, and beyond.

  5. Videographer: The rise of visual content, especially on platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok, has underscored the importance of videography. Videographers capture, edit, and produce videos that tell stories, promote brands, or cover events. Their skills are essential not just for entertainment but also for sectors like education, marketing, and journalism, as videos continue to dominate the content landscape.

How much does an average freelancer earn in different countries in the world?

In the diverse landscape of freelancing, earnings can vary considerably based on expertise, experience, and notably, geographical location. While globalization has blurred borders and made remote work more accessible, regional economic conditions, living standards, and market demands still play a significant role in shaping freelancer incomes. Let's take a journey around the world to understand how much an average freelancer might earn in various countries:

  1. United States: The U.S. has a vibrant freelancing ecosystem. Last year, the annual earnings by US freelancers grew by $100 million, now totaling a staggering $1.3 trillion. This surge reflects both the increasing number of freelancers and the premium rates charged by professionals, especially in states like Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Jersey, where freelancers report higher annual incomes.

  2. Western Europe: Western European countries like the UK, Germany, and France also boast strong freelancing markets. The average earnings can often be competitive with the U.S., especially in tech and creative industries, owing to the advanced economies and high living standards.

  3. Asia: In Asian countries, freelancing rates can vary widely. Nations like Japan and South Korea have freelancers who command high rates, particularly in technology and design sectors. In contrast, countries like India and the Philippines, with their vast talent pools, might offer more competitive rates but are also hubs for IT, customer service, and content creation.

  4. Latin America: Countries like Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina have burgeoning freelance markets. The rates here might be lower than in the U.S. or Western Europe, but the region is gaining traction, especially in areas like graphic design, content creation, and web development.

  5. Africa: The African continent, with its diverse range of economies, offers a mixed bag. While countries like South Africa and Nigeria have a growing freelancer community with rates competitive on the global stage, many other nations are still nurturing their freelance ecosystems.

  6. Oceania: Australia and New Zealand are prominent players in the Oceania region. With advanced economies and a tech-savvy population, freelancers in these countries often earn rates comparable to their counterparts in the U.S. and Western Europe, especially in sectors like IT, marketing, and consultancy.

  7. Eastern Europe: Countries like Ukraine, Poland, and Romania are emerging as significant freelancing hubs. The combination of a skilled workforce and lower living costs means that freelancers can offer quality services at competitive rates, making the region attractive for global clients.

Conclusion

The freelancing landscape of 2023 is both dynamic and inclusive. From the bustling tech hubs of Silicon Valley to the emerging digital communities in Eastern Europe and Africa, the spirit of freelancing is universal, yet the experiences are diverse.

Freelancers, irrespective of their location, are at the forefront of this transformation, harnessing global opportunities while contributing to local economies. As technology further bridges the geographical divide and as businesses continue to recognize the value of a diverse, global talent pool, the future of freelancing looks both promising and prosperous.

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Deepak Joshi

Content Marketing Specialist at Appy Pie