For some, becoming a creative freelancer is the dream. You can be hugely successful and earn a lot doing something you love, on your own terms. Sounds perfect, right? But reaching that point can seem very far away if you’re just starting out.
The world of freelance can be a pretty daunting place if you don’t know where on earth to start. How much do you charge clients? What is the best platform to list yourself on? What even goes into a portfolio? And most importantly — how do you get started in the first place?
If you want to go freelance, you’ve probably got a million questions.
That’s why we’ve created this beginner’s guide to finding creative freelance jobs. We’ll be giving you tips along the way about the best freelance sites to check out, how to market yourself, and how to create that portfolio you need to score yourself more work.
Read on to find out how to get started as a creative freelancer below.
Find your freelancing talent
Firstly, you need to decide on the area you want to work in, both in terms of your future job roles and your industry.
This may be easy if you’re a talented photographer, have an eye for design, or you love writing and want to put that English degree to use. Ask yourself: what are you good at? If you are a competent writer with a good knowledge of grammar and punctuation, becoming a freelance copywriter is a logical step.
If you’re struggling to pin down an area of expertise; don’t worry. Your decision isn’t set in stone, and you can experiment and sidestep into other creative roles as time goes by.
For now, think about the things you enjoy and feel passionate about. If you love taking photos and don’t like leaving the house without your camera, then monetise your hobby! Companies will pay good money for professional photographs for their website or marketing efforts.
Choose your creative niche
Next, you need to figure out your niche. There are various markets to break into, so it’s time to hone in on the one you’re the most interested in. Perhaps you have previous experience in an industry such as finance? Put that knowledge to good use and start freelancing in an area where you’re already competent. Leveraging your prior experience is a handy way to start earning better money faster.
Don’t panic if you want to break away from your previous industry, or don’t feel you have any translatable skills or knowledge. It is perfectly doable to have a fresh start and go broader.
As a copywriter or editor (among other jobs), you don’t necessarily need lots of detailed knowledge in a micro-niche. A good eye for editing, some decent writing skills and an enthusiasm for learning is all you need. The rest you can pick up as you go along; there are so many free resource materials online that can help you to learn more.
As time goes by and you start to pick up more freelance jobs in your industry, you’ll build your experience, knowledge and relationships in your niche.
Word of mouth is a powerful thing too — clients will start recommending you to others if you’re good, and soon you’ll have people coming to you, rather than having to chase work all the time.
As your portfolio gets bigger and your personal brand grows, you can start to be more selective with your work, as well as charging bigger prices for your work.
Pick a freelance platform to build yourself up on
Luckily for any beginners to the freelancing game, there are tons of freelance websites online that are completely free to sign up to. Freelance sites are a super easy, simplified way to start finding jobs ranging from entry-level standard to experienced.
Here are some of the best freelance websites for newbies to sign up to:
There are many more out there though, so have a browse and find the one you feel suits you best. Some freelancer sites will be more tailored towards a specific industry or job type, such as 99designs for freelance designers. If you’re an aspiring writer, then make sure you check out our list of the top 10 freelance writing sites to get the lowdown on the best sites for you.
Most of these freelancer networks are completely free to join, so it won’t cost you anything to build your own profile. The sites usually make their money by taking a small percentage of your earnings once you have completed your assigned job (usually around 5-20% but this can vary from site to site and depend on the size/complexity of the job too).
Be honest when creating your profile and writing applications
Now that you’ve decided on which freelance platform you’re going to use to find jobs, you need to create your profile.
This isn’t super complicated and we’re sure you can figure most of this out on your own, but here are a few tips:
- Fill in everything. It looks shoddy and unprofessional if you’ve only filled in half of your profile, or written the bare minimum. Be as extensive as possible with the details, including education and previous experience.
- If you’re going to include a photo (which we would recommend doing — it makes your profile more personable and allows future clients to get to know you a bit better), keep it simple and professional. This means no sunglasses-wearing holiday snaps, no weird selfies, and no photos from your last night out. Stick to a clear headshot in good lighting, relax and give the camera a friendly smile.
- Be honest about your previous work and experience. There is absolutely no point in lying on your profile about the level of experience you have — clients will cotton on to the fact that you’re not as knowledgeable on a subject as you initially made out, and this may be reflected in poor reviews or even your payment. It’s best to be open — people are always willing to give new freelancers a try.
Once you’ve written your profile up, you’re ready to start applying for those jobs!
The process will vary slightly from site to site, but you’ll usually have to pitch to a client and tell them why you’re the best person for the job.
Treat this like a cover letter: introduce yourself and explain why you’d be good for the job. It doesn’t matter that you don’t have loads of experience: focus on the positives, such as your educational background, or any relevant skills you’ve acquired in previous jobs. If in doubt, remind them that because you’re a beginner you’ll be charging very reasonable rates, will work hard, and welcome feedback on any of your work.
Decide on your freelance rates
Ah, the bit that no one ever talks about. There are countless articles and posts online claiming to answer the popular search question, “how much can I get paid as a freelancer?”. Click through to the article, however, and you’ll find a thousand words waffling on about how great it is to get paid as a freelancer, but no actual figures.
The issue is that freelancing can vary dramatically — we’re covering a pretty wide spectrum here, across a range of industries, jobs, capabilities and experience.
As a complete beginner, it can be difficult to ascertain what is a “normal” amount to charge. You don’t want to scare off potential clients by charging high rates, especially if you have yet to prove the quality and consistency of your work yet. Similarly, you don’t want to work for pennies and have clients take advantage of your inexperience with rates.
The best way to get a feel for what you should be earning is to research what others are charging within your industry. You can get a feel for prices by browsing sites like Upwork and Fiverr and taking note of the rates of freelancers who have similar experience levels as you.
If you’re an aspiring writer, check out this interesting infographic by ClearVoice. They did a recent survey asking freelancers about their rates, content types and experience levels.
Be prepared to do some work for free
Probably not what you want to hear at the start of your budding career as a freelancer, but we’re telling it like it is.
When you first start out freelancing, things are going to be a little slow for a while — especially if you’ve got no prior knowledge or experience of your industry. Doing a bit of pro bono work is a really great way to get your name out there, start making meaningful connections, and collect customer reviews and testimonials.
Not only will it build up your experience and portfolio, but it also works as advertising — meaning you’re much more likely to get more work in the future.
It might feel a bit unfair and annoying at the time, but think about it as an investment in your future career. If you do a bit of unpaid work now, you’ll be able to earn more later on. You may also find that the sites you work with for free will later take you on as a paid freelancer and give you more regular work if they enjoyed working with you.
Reach out to sites and ask if you can get involved — you could pen some guest blog posts, help them with a bit of design or take some new photos for their site. Let them know from the off that you are offering to work for free, and all you want in return is a testimonial (or a social media shout out or link back to your site). Try to pick sites that you enjoy reading yourself, and that are in the niche you want to pursue freelancing in.
Another option is to offer your services to a charity or nonprofit organisation; it gives you a chance to hone your skills, while also giving back.
Our final note: stay visible on multiple platforms
This is a little note but an important one: make sure you stay updated on LinkedIn and your own website.
Firstly, if you haven’t created your own website yet, go and do so.
With WordPress and so many drag and drop builders available, it’s super easy to make your own website without having to touch a single line of code.
You don’t have to write pages upon pages: you can start off with a simple landing page featuring a brief introduction and contact details (work email, phone and social media) to make you easy to find for employers. As time goes on, you can add more — blog posts, testimonials, links to sites you’ve worked on or articles you’ve written… whatever you want! Exercise your creativity and show off your skills.
Similarly, keep your LinkedIn profile updated. It’s such a popular social media platform for businesses and professional workers — you don’t want to miss out on opportunities because people don’t know you exist.
So there you have it: a beginner’s guide to finding creative freelance jobs. By following these steps, you can get your new career as a freelancer off to a good start. Just remember to be patient: it may take a little while for your hard work to pay off initially, but you will soon see the reward.
If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us!