The days of working a 9-5 are starting to seem a bit nostalgic.
But this is for a variety of reasons. One of which is the increase in people working from home or doing remote work. Employees are demanding more flexibility in the post-2020 era, and I’m all for it.
But another reason is side-hustle culture. And what is one major side hustle that has been getting a lot of attention lately? Freelance.
How do I start freelancing as a side hustle?
The hardest part about doing anything, in my opinion, is simply starting. Whether you want to start a new diet, a new gym routine or just about any goal in life, that hardest step is often the first one. Freelance work is no different.
If you’re looking for a side hustle, I think freelancing is one of the most profitable side hustles out there.
Personally, I have been a freelancer for about six years now, starting part-time for extra income in 2017 and eventually going full-time roughly a year later.
Honestly, I’ve never looked back, and I now make more than double the salary I once did as a “regular” employee.
So, as a seasoned freelancer, I’m here to offer my wisdom to fellow aspiring freelancers, including what I wish I knew along with some tips on getting started.
1. Be honest with yourself
While I love the freelancer life, I also acknowledge that it isn’t for everyone. I don’t say this in a weird, reverse psychology kind of way.
Some people like the simplicity of clocking in, clocking out and never having to think about work when they’re not working. Don’t get me wrong, I think that’s great and very healthy. But it’s also very difficult to do as a freelancer.
Now, it’s not impossible. But it will be difficult.
Freelance work isn’t the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but it won’t be the easiest, either. You will likely start with about two or three weeks’ worth of rejection as you apply for your first jobs.
And if you’re lucky to find a steady stream of clients, you’ll inevitably have the occasional weekend deadline or the occasional difficult client.
The trick to freelancing is resilience. Learn from the mistakes and the rejections. It may seem hard in the beginning. But you didn’t fail. You just didn’t succeed yet.
2. Find your niche
I’m not going to sit here and tell you to follow your passions. I think there’s only a lucky few who can make money from an honest hobby that they would be doing anyway.
But hopefully, you have some kind of work in mind that you want to pursue. For example, I was already a graphic designer when I became a freelance graphic designer.
Don’t have a skill that would fit a freelancer platform? Take a look at some of the fields that are in demand. If you need special training, it may not hurt to sign up for an online course or certification to hone your skills.
If you need to get started as soon as possible, you can try a role that doesn’t require much special training, such as a virtual assistant. A virtual assistant can help small business owners by performing administrative tasks.
Other in-demand admin support skills include chat support, data entry, transcription and market research. It’s best to start small and work your way up, charging more as you gain experience.
3. Announce your intentions
Tell (almost) everyone you know that you are going to start freelancing.
Have you ever done freelance work for someone in the past? Let them know you’re looking for more work. Tell your friends in case they know someone who needs a freelancer in your niche.
Connections can go a long way, especially in the beginning. Plus, announcing your intentions can give you a bit more accountability.
4. Determine your hourly rate
Even if you apply for fixed-rate jobs, have a target hourly rate in mind.
Freelancers can charge anywhere from $5 an hour to $200 an hour. When you’re just starting, even if you’re a seasoned professional, you will likely have to start low until you get a few reviews or some type of reputation. But then, you will want to work yourself up to a target rate.
The simplest rate equation is:
(Desired Net Annual Income + Annual Business Expenses + Annual Taxes) / Desired Annual Hours = Hourly Rate
Keep in mind that it should make sense for the going rate in your industry. This article does a great, in-depth look at what freelancers are charging in various industries.
5. Find a freelancer platform
After you’ve told your friends and colleagues your intentions and determined your hourly rate, you want to be proactive about finding clients.
And the truth is, it’s always best to fish where you know the fish are biting. This means finding a freelancer platform, which includes platforms like Fiverr or Upwork.
If a platform like Upwork seems intimidating, consider signing up for this proposal writing bootcamp.
In the 40-minute course, you’ll get a look at the client side of Upwork, how to get more invites and how to optimize your profile and proposals. It can be a great way to jumpstart your freelance career.
Not ready for the course? Check out this free guide below instead.
Free Upwork Starter Kit
Jumpstart your freelance career with this handy dandy guide
Subscribe to my newsletter and I will send a starter kit that features my best Upwork tips and a 28-day Upwork challenge to your inbox.
6. Think of yourself as a small business owner
Contractors and freelancers are small business owners. Be sure to treat yourself as such.
Set clear goals for yourself. Think about your target audience or client. Make sure you track your time and your expenses, even in the beginning.
If things start to take off, consider talking to a CPA about whether or not you would benefit from creating an LLC for your business.
Taxes and bookkeeping can be another downside of being your own business when you pursue freelance. Luckily, companies like Collective can make your taxes easier as you pursue this path of non-traditional employment.
7. Keep a schedule
Freelancing is amazing when it comes to flexibility. If you’re only freelancing in your spare time, you of course might be limited to nights and weekends or whatever schedule your full-time job allows.
However, if you’re pursuing freelance full-time, I do recommend coming up with some type of regular schedule that you can commit to.
I recommend this for a handful of reasons, including:
- The benefit of offering your clients a regular and predictable schedule
- Commitment to maintaining work hours and deadlines
- Keeping the mindset that this is your job and not just a hobby
That being said, you can choose your own schedule. So, if you’re a morning person, get started early and try to be off by 3 pm. Or, if you’re a night owl, don’t even start til 3 pm. Either way, aim for some type of consistency.
8. Focus on growth
If you’re feeling like you’re too busy or starting to have more work than you can handle, that’s the perfect time to raise your rates.
You may want to revisit your hourly rate and make sure you aren’t leaving any money on the table by underselling yourself. If freelance is going well, it may be time to quit your day job, if you haven’t already.
Also, find ways to diversify your income. For example, start documenting your journey via another side hustle, like a blog or a YouTube channel. I’ll touch on some more side hustles outside of freelancing below.
9. Don’t stop learning
The work of a freelancer is never really done. Once you have steady work, keep refining your skills with online courses and reading the most up-to-date information in your niche.
Staying competitive in your industry is incredibly important in the freelance world.
How can I make money from a side hustle?
If freelancing does not appeal to you, there are still several ways to make some extra money on the side that don’t involve being a freelancer.
In fact, some of the best side hustles require very little to get started when you wish to earn some extra cash.
For example, if you have a car, consider signing up for a food delivery service like Uber Eats. If you like animals, consider being a pet sitter or dog walker on an app like Rover.
Another side hustle idea is to rent out a spare room of your house on a platform like Airbnb, assuming you have the extra space.
If you need some cash in the short term, try selling some old things around your house on eBay. This way, you can make a bit of extra money and avoid having to keep inventory. If you’ve always been a good test taker, consider becoming an online tutor.
Do you have a knack for social media? An affiliate marketer on a social media account like Facebook or Instagram can reportedly earn about $5,000 per month through commissions on Amazon and other affiliate programs. Of course, this varies depending on your following and will take some time to get started.
If all you have is an internet connection, you can also consider starting a YouTube channel or a blog.
Blogs like this one can make money through advertisements or affiliate marketing, which is a great source of passive income.
And once you learn to write blog posts, you can also freelance for other blogs as a writer. It’s kind of a full-circle moment, huh?
Whatever you decide as a side gig, after some consistency, you can watch your earnings grow.
Have you found success in a side hustle? What side hustle are you pursuing? Let me know in the comments below.