Steps to Become a Freelancer In Today’s Economy

Ryan Shannon

Are you thinking of making the leap?

There’s never been a better time to become a freelancer than right now!

Disclosure: This story contains affiliate links, from which I may earn a small commission.

If you haven’t realized it yet: the world is digital. This became especially apparent after the start of the global Coronavirus Pandemic when millions were obligated to work from home online. Now, you can have any and every service you can dream possible delivered to you at the click of a button. Businesses are booming, especially in the online world.

It’s better late than never to jump on the freelancing wagon!

How to Develop Freelancing Skills — For Free

While being an online freelancer does require you to be a little technically savvy, there’s nothing that can’t be learned thanks to site like YouTube, Skillshare, and Udemy.

Working online as a freelancer is a great option for many young people living abroad — especially in locations where the cost of living is low. You just need to do a little work to pay for your future beachfront bungalow and food. The rest of the time can be spent playing the ukulele, catching that big barreling waves, and other forms of leisure.

This may seem intimidating at first, but it’s quite simple once you’ve found something you can be paid for, have an interest in, and are good at. Fortunately, there is a huge demand for freelancers online.

That means there’s plenty of room for you, even in today’s economy.

Use Google and YouTube to learn skills for free. You can try a free trial of Skillshare, and Udemy often has free or cheap courses.

Free to Join Freelancing Platforms

Touching on my own personal experiences with freelancing platforms, I used to primarily use Fiverr. Fiverr — I thought — was a great place to start as someone new to freelancing online (I still think it can be used by newbies testing new skills, but Fiverr isn’t worth the hassle, the demanding clients, and ticking deadlines).

After months of working on Fiverr for slave wages (I started writing 600-word articles for $5 — big mistake!), I eventually graduated to Upwork, which I highly recommend. The clients are generally higher-paying, more understanding, and set clearer guidelines for projects. Also, there’s no big, annoying ticking-clock that displays your deadline. To figure out the best freelancing platform fit for you, grab my book “Laptop Entrepreneur”.

Freelancing platforms to explore include:

  • Fiverr — the marketplace for new freelancers looking for experience.
  • Upwork — apply to projects that can be one-time or ongoing.
  • Freelancer — clients post project descriptions, then you submit a proposal.
  • Contra — the new, commission-free platform by freelancers, for freelancers.
  • LinkedIn — you now have the option to showcase your freelancing offerins and get hired.

Fiverr…Is It Worth It?

Fiverr is incredibly user-friendly and completely free to use (minus the seller’s fee). It is a great beginner’s tool and once you build up some reviews and climb the ranks of the seller levels, you will be well on your way to a modest but easily attainable income.

$5 (well, technically $4 since Fiverr takes a huge chunk: 20% of your income), may not seem like a lot, but imagine if you do just 4 gigs per hour at 15 minutes each, that is $20. Multiply that by 15 hours, then by 4 weeks in a month and you have $1,200 per month, which is enough to live on in most places, and can be enough to live like a king in developing countries.

The main drawbacks of working online are the seller’s fees, which is 20% on Fiverr consistently (even when clients leave you tips!). This is also true on UpWork where they take 20% of all of your income until you charge a single client over $500, in which case you take a slightly higher percentage of the money you have earned.

Additionally, one drawback to mention is the inconsistency. Some months you make more or less than others. It’s all what you put into it.

Another thing to note: many Fiverr clients just aren’t nice. Sorry, but it’s true. Many will threaten you with Fiverr’s review system. That means clients may ask you to do work beyond what was agreed upon, or they may expect something out-of-this-world for only $5. Also, you’re unable to reject clients who purchase your services.

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Reframing Your Mind for Freelancing Success

It took me several months to build up the courage to begin freelancing several years ago. When I started, freelancing online was still kind of “new” (plus I was a teenager).

The main impediments to signing up for freelance platforms were:

  1. I didn’t think I had any skills to offer as a teenager at the time of starting (wrong! As I covered, everything can be learned online)
  2. It seemed so complex and overwhelming. I’m here to tell you, it’s not! There are a variety of tasks you can do online to make some side money. While on Fiverr, I make anywhere from $500–800 per month (I eventually earned more on Upwork), which is not a lot, but it paid rent in Italy where I studied.

There are a variety of fields available online that you can work in. Being a native English speaker helps, as they are in huge demand for creating articles and blog posts, proofreading, teaching English, and so on.

You can even leverage your creativity to come up with cool names for companies, create logos and books covers, and so on. Or, if you’re picking up the language of the land where you are staying or grew up bilingual, there is a bustling market for you as well to translate and transcribe documents to or from a language.

The options are truly limitless!

If you’re the type that can sit down in a coffee shop and bust out a few days of work without a boss breathing down your neck, and have projects delivered on time, then freelancing is for you.

How Much Can Freelancers Expect to Earn?

To reiterate, using freelancing platforms is a great place to start, and money is sure to come in. Just be sure to have clear expectations. Recognize that in order to make a decent living (over $70,000), you’ll need to have a skill that’s:

  1. In-demand. Is this a highly-saturated skill, or one that’s more unique? Finding the balance between saturation and uniqueness is key.
  2. High-quality. How can you differentiate yourself from the competition? Focusing on quality helps you attract higher-paying clients, eliminating high churn rates from lower-paying gigs.

If you focus on the above two factors, you can earn a substantial income freelancing. Obviously, skills like web development, software engineering, and data analysis will garner more income due to their technical nature. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t make money copywriting, content marketing, or managing social media — you can, and lots of it, if done well.

You can even get a little crafty and use your social media platform to promote people or their products, use your charming good looks to be a human billboard and model people’s products or post selfies with their logos, or (depending on where you are) distributing their fliers physically in location.

The beauty of using freelancing platforms is your earnings are entirely in your hands.

The Benefits of Freelancing

  1. Flexibility. The main benefit is flexibility. You can be anywhere in the world when freelancing. Imagine living in Bali like a king for just simply writing up some articles or typing out the words that people say in audio or video files.
  2. Independence. While being your own boss comes with hgiher responsibility, it can also come with higher satisfaction and pay. When you’re an indepeent freelancer, you set your clock and your own standards.
  3. Less Self-Promotion. Compared to building up your own website and reaching out to customers (which might involve cold calls and cold emails), freelancing platforms are turn-key.

Key Points

  • Skills Needed: Digital skills (e.g. graphic design, data entry, video testimonial acting, writing, social media expertise, etc.) — all of these can be learned easily on Skillshare or Udemy. Don’t worry, and don’t be intimidated! You almost must be able to work from home (or your favorite cafe) independently and be able to stick to a schedule.
  • Requirements and Restrictions: Depends on the freelance site you use (if you do at all). In most cases, you must be 18+ and have the required documents in order to file taxes.
  • Hours Per Week: Varies. Can range from just a few to a full-time 40+ hour workweek.
  • Location: Anywhere.

Takeaways

Freelancing on a platform is a great way to get started in the industry, even if the economy isn’t exactly ideal. It’s important to acquire key skills in an area you want to pursue using free platforms (or paid ones, such as Coursera and Udemy) and weigh your options when it comes to selecting the right freelancing platform for you.

Conversely, you can create your own website and work entirely independently. Learn how to here.

Thanks for reading! Follow me for more stories & updates.

Grab my socials, website & books here.

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Digital nomad, I/O psychology student, entrepreneur. Visited nearly 30 countries. Author of 5 books on freelancing, travel, mental health.

Bellingham, WA
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