Not commuting to the office… instead working from home, or a local coffee shop in comfort?
Being your own boss, totally in control of your output, work hours and paycheck?
Living in exotic locations, surrounded by beautiful girls like Thailand or Colombia?
The 4-hour work week?
Whatever freedom means for you, I think most of us would agree that how we earn our dollars is a huge part of achieving it.
Being in control of your revenue stream is by far the biggest 80/20 leverage point for gaining your freedom.
Nothing else will give you as much control over your life as being your own maker.
Working when you want, where you want, on what you want.
What A Beautiful Time to Be Alive
Thanks to the power of the internet, being your own boss and working from anywhere in the world is infinitely easier than it has ever been before.
My father has had the same job since he was 16 years old – he’s now approaching 60. My mother has had 2 jobs in the same timeframe.
They’ve lived in the same house since they got married in their early twenties, in the town they both grew up in.
I loosely live in Thailand and log into my laptop for an hour or two per day, press some buttons, and money appears in my bank account every month.
I cannot overstate how incredible it is to be a young guy in the 21st century.
And if you want a piece of the action, you want to achieve your freedom – whatever you define that as…
The quickest, easiest, and most direct way to achieve it is by starting a business.
Not just any old business, but a remote business you can run through the internet, which requires essentially no set up, no prior time investment, no start-up cost, and no special qualifications.
Better yet, one in which you probably already have the necessary skills, which will be 100% profitable. A business that can start depositing money into your bank account as soon as today.
I’m talking about starting an online freelance business. In this post I’ll tell you exactly how to get started. Choose what to do, get set up, land your first job, and make your first $100.
Step 1: Choosing What To Do
The first step, and probably most daunting, is deciding what kind of freelance business you want to go into.
You might be wondering what skills you have, which industry is easy to find work in, what you will enjoy, what pays well…
These are all great questions and I cannot answer them specifically because I don’t know what skills you have, or what you enjoy.
What I can do instead is give you the framework for how to think about this, so you can make the decisions you need to make to move forwards.
I recommend you leverage the skills you already have. Think about all the things you’ve done before, the things you do in your business or job now, hobbies you have, natural talents.
If someone has paid you to do a job before, clearly that has value to a company – no corporation is paying you out of the goodness of their heart – they pay you because you deliver more value than you cost.
It follows that if what you do has value for one business, it will have value for other businesses.
Maybe you have hobbies – photography, blogging, graphic design, etc. – these all have value for businesses.
Perhaps something comes so naturally you don’t even think about it. Speak two languages fluently? Love social media? These can be monetized quite easily.
Create a list of every job you’ve done in the past and then list all the tasks within that role. Add to it any skills you have developed from hobbies, have naturally, or have learnt elsewhere.
Now cross reference it with my list on the download below of all the different freelance businesses you could do. You’ll get some extra tips for thinking about this problem on there.
After listing all your skills, put a star next to the 4-5 that you think would be easy, enjoyable, profitable. Then assess them all against what is most important for you and narrow it down to the 1 that stands out.
I urge you to go through this process, spend an hour or so thinking about it, and then come to a decision.
Procrastinating on starting is not going to help anyone. What you choose to do now is not for ever. Your business will inevitably evolve over time anyway.
Starting and gaining momentum, money coming into your bank account, and increasing your confidence, is key.
Don’t get hung up on what to do. If you really can’t decide, just do something you enjoy and feel most confident with.
You are going to learn as you get going. Unless you’re already an expert at something, you will need to develop your skillset over time to succeed anyway.
I firmly believe everyone has skills they can leverage to make money, but even if you don’t – a worst case scenario is that you choose something you’re interested in and learn as you go.
The solution to a lack of skills is self-evident – learn skills.
Step 2: Create Your Profile
I don’t think the freelance sites are the best place to generate business in the long term, but they’re definitely the best place to start. Unless you’re a rare case and already have a lot of connections in an industry that you can leverage.
The freelance sites are full of clients actively looking to hire you to work for them. It’s much easier than cold pitching businesses who probably aren’t even looking for what you do.
Make your life easy and go to where the opportunities exist.
As well as easy access to clients, you also borrow the credibility of the site. There’s no worry about you not delivering work, or not being paid by the client, for that matter. Both parties are protected by the middle man.
This means its easier to gain trust and get your first couple of clients, when you don’t yet have a back catalogue of happy clients and great work.
The best freelance site in my experience is Upwork. It’s a bit more up-market than Fiverr – which is traditionally used by people hunting for cheap work. It has much more traffic than any of the smaller sites.
In pretty much any freelance area, there is enough new jobs being created every single day to keep you occupied applying for them all.
But before we get to applications, we need to build your profile out.
The mistake most people make on their profile is not doing a good job of selling themselves. You must recognise that you’re in cut-throat competition with every other freelancer on the planet.
That probably sounds like a tough gig, but the fact is, most people cannot sell for shit. They have no idea what to put on their profile and applications to get themselves hired.
This means that with just a little bit of direction, you will be head and shoulders above most of your competition.
The most important parts of the profile are what you see on the image below. This is what is visible on the preview, and if clients are not enticed by this part, they won’t click through to read the rest of your profile anyway.
The headline is where you say what you will do for them, the price gives an indication of your skill level, and the first paragraph of the overview is pulled through as a preview.
You want to focus on the very specific thing that you do, and the benefit the client gets from hiring you.
Most freelancers write the same thing, which means you have zero opportunity to stand out from anyone else. That’s going to keep the people with most experience and ratings getting all the jobs, and the new freelancers stuck with very little left over.
You need to stand out, and you will do that by showing that you ‘get’ what the client wants and needs.
In the mock profile nexample above, it says what I do – Facebook Ads, followed by the outcome for the client.
The fact is, nobody has an inherent need for Facebook ads in their business, they want more leads and sales. This is the outcome that the client cares about.
Marketing/sales 101 says that it is all about fulfilling the client’s desires or removing their pain. How you do it isn’t particularly important. That’s just a mechanism for them to get what they want.
You must sell them what they want.
For a much more in-depth, step-by-step explanation of how to write your Upwork profile, check out this post.
Step 3: Apply For Jobs
When you first start out as a freelancer I’m afraid to say you need to put in your numbers applying for jobs. Most of them will be ignored.
Recognise that it is a numbers game, remove your emotions from the process, and don’t get invested in any particular application.
It’s cliché but the more times you get rejected, the more successful you will be.
You should keep hammering the applications out until you get your first few gigs. This will give you ratings, reviews, push you up in the algorithm, and eventually clients will start coming to you.
That’s the goal, but in the beginning, you need to put your energy into the numbers game of applications.
What you write in the application will be dependent on the job you are applying for, but here is a general overview:
For simpler jobs you will write less, and if the client asks very specific questions, you should focus on answering them and forget about rigidly following a template.
Other than the times mentioned, this is a good template to follow. It’s structured enough that you don’t sit staring at a blank screen for an hour, unsure what to write. Yet it’s flexible enough for you to make it your own and adapt each application specifically to the job.
I suggest creating a system for applications where you have a minimum number of applications to send per day.
Don’t just spam out copy and paste applications, but put the effort into sending the best application you possibly can.
Use the template as a framework, make sure you read their job description and answer anything they ask.
Beyond this, put yourself in their shoes. Think about why they are hiring you, what role this job fulfils in their business and communicate on that level.
The more you ‘get’ what the client is going through, the more likely they are to hire you – even above people with more experience or ratings.
For a full explanation and step-by-step guide to sending out proposals that get you hired, check out this post.
Wrapping It Up
There is more to running a successful freelance business than this, but none of it is relevant until you have your first few clients.
When you have no clients, you don’t need to worry about anything apart from getting clients.
The first step is to choose what you want to do. The second step is completing your profile, and the third is applying for as many jobs as necessary until you have a few clients.
Forget about everything else for now.
I’ve put all the templates, extra video guides, and step-by-step instructions to help you make your first $100+ online into a simple download you can access below.
Travel junkie turned blogger. Location independent. From the Midwest, but often based in Latin America. Big on beaches, rumba, and rum. Addicted to the gym. Committed to showing a different style of travel – one that involves actually interacting with locals and exploring different cultures.