Freelance: Where to start?

where to start as a freelancer
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Team Crema  August 12th 2022

What if you are a graduate who has no idea what to do with your life, but you have to find something you like to do for work? If that's your case, don't worry, most people who go from student to professional have that crisis. It's just a matter of finding your vocation, maybe as a freelancer, and start building your career path.

Here are some steps you could take to start freelancing:

Find what you are passionate about.

First, identify your passions and interests; make a list of 10 to 15 of those things that you like to do, or that you would be interested in discovering. That way, if you work in an industry you enjoy, you'll be less likely to quit when times get tough. After that, identify the most sought-after problems and topics within each industry/niche on your list. To do this, you can use a simple keyword analysis tool that tells you how many times a certain term is searched for per month. Now check industry related forums to read what problems and concerns real people in a particular industry have. Do you know how to solve their problems and answer their questions? Then you may have the means to fill a need in the market. And if not, you can find a way to solve them; it's all a matter of practice. The last (and perhaps most important) question to consider when choosing a career is the competition: has the industry problem you want to address already been covered? If so, has it been covered in a satisfactory and quality manner? If not, you may have just found your true calling.

Think about some of the best side jobs you can do without experience.

Having a passion is all well and good, but maybe what you're looking for is a side job where you can hit the ground running, with no formal experience.

If that's the case, there are plenty of options, we've listed some of them for you to choose from:

  • If you are a great typist, you can dedicate yourself to data entry in your spare time.
  • If you are curious and like to do research, you can help ease the burden of teams working on a project by doing their research on the Internet.
  • If you are fluent in one or two languages, you can apply for audio-to-text transcription.

These positions are great if you're looking to find quick part-time jobs - although, they can be harder to find, due to the high competition out there.

Don't work for networking exposure.

This is a common trap for most inexperienced entry-level freelancers: you'll be tempted to work for free to gain exposure and experience that you can later include on your CV. But you have to be very careful with free work; on the one hand, not having completed projects to showcase your talent usually means you'll be less likely to get hired: free work is easier to get (as you'd expect) and you can build a portfolio through it. However, the problem is that people may hear that you work for free and you'll find it harder to get paying jobs later on: "You've worked for free for company X, why can't you work for free for me too?". So don't take free jobs just to build your reputation. Remember that if your work is good enough to help you build a reputation, it's good enough to charge for. The big problem with free work is that the very things you're looking to gain - respect and recognition - are the things you'll probably never get.

People won't value your work or respect you as a credible professional if you work for free because people tend to walk all over those who let them; and working for free is a way of getting in over your head. Of course, if you are looking to enter a niche in which you have no experience and want to generate some portfolio, it is valid to do so. Just keep in mind when to start getting paid. Remember that if you don't value yourself, no one else will.

Work on your freelance skills.

When you don't have official experience, but you also don't have the necessary skills to create quality work, the only solution is to learn and practice as often as you can (even if sometimes you don't want to). This may not be easy if you work full time, but if you are passionate about this specific industry/niche, you probably won't have any problem trading leisure time for learning time. Just make sure you always leave room for sleep, rest and other needs. You can sign up for a class, in person or online, to learn more about what you want to create. There are many ways to learn new things by visiting various niche-oriented websites that talk about the topic. And, once you've learned the topic, you can continue to practice and expand your skills in your spare time.

Work on additional skills

Apart from your basic skills related to your chosen industry, you will need to work on some additional skills. Interpersonal skills are more related to personality: communication skills and critical thinking are probably the most important traits to look for, but you also need to be persistent, know how to handle stress, be efficient in scheduling and have time management skills. You will also need to have confidence in yourself, to convince your potential clients that you have the skills and experience they are looking for. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you will need to cultivate and become accustomed to discipline. After all, you will most likely have to juggle your full-time job with your freelance side projects, and this requires some practice in planning.