How to Start Freelancing

Getting Started With Freelancing

We’ve had a lot of questions about how my freelance work is going now that I’ve quit my full-time job. There were a few factors that influenced my decision to quit working full-time. Obviously, Sally was the number one factor since I’d still be working if she wasn’t in the picture. But that in and of itself wasn’t the only deciding factor. Johnny and I were already doing some freelance work before I quit, which was helpful in my making my decision. I was making a steady stream of revenue from that freelance work, which made me confident that I could continue making side income once I lost my job. If for some reason that failed, we also made sure Johnny’s income would be sufficient even without any freelance work from me. And lastly, we had a six-month emergency fund in place just in case all hell broke loose and we found ourselves without any income at all.

So that’s what I did leading up to freelancing, and now let me spill the beans on how freelancing works for me. My tips might need some additions from you savvy full-time freelancers out there. But here goes:

Do something every day

Getting a freelancing job doesn’t happen until it does. Super helpful, I know. Let me explain. My friend and I started a freelance editing business back in the day, and we gave ourselves tasks to complete every day. We’d post ads on Craigslist in major cities, reach out to companies we wanted to work with, etc. We’d seek out companies that were obviously lacking a copy editor and offer up our services. We had a few bites here and there, but we just weren’t getting consistent work. And then one day, an old client reached out to my friend, and we suddenly had months and months of consistent work.

Now that Johnny is my freelancing partner, we make sure to do something almost every day to further our freelancing reach. We work at least five days a week, usually giving ourselves Friday and Saturday off. There have been a few Friday nights when one or both of us is feeling ambitious, and we work then, too. It’s sacrilege. Can you tell who doesn’t usually feel ambitious on Friday nights? (ME!)

Set Goals

As I mentioned earlier this week, Johnny and I set a goal for how much side income we’d like to make in August. We usually set 1-month goals, 6-month goals, and 1-year goals. We make sure to set goals that are both attainable and challenging, and then we make a plan for how to get there. Since Sally’s been born, our side-income goals are much less ambitious, but we continue to make them because they’re key in keeping us motivated. It’s hard to see progress in the day-to-day, but when we look at the big picture, we’re able to feel more confident in our success.

Reach Out

There are three ways to pick up freelance work. The most common way is to respond to an ad on Craigslist or a freelancing site like oDesk. The second way is to put your name out there. Post your own ads, reach out to local businesses, and email sites that might be in need of your help. While this method can feel out of your comfort zone (at least it does for me), what have you got to lose? Johnny does most of the reaching out for us, and he’s landed a few gigs this way. And by gigs I mean he sends people Nigerian prince emails… he doesn’t really (actually, he does).We’ve also gotten no response from some companies, which is fine, too. No harm done. The third and most glorious way is for people to find you all by themselves via LinkedIn or your portfolio or website. Those are really good days.

Remember: All It Takes Is One

Each stage of life that I’ve done freelance work, I’ve had one company that offers consistent work. And I can usually only handle one company at a time since I’ve either been a full-time employee or a full-time mom each time I’ve freelanced. The point is that although there will be a lot of dead-end projects that don’t lead to any other work, all it takes is finding one consistent freelance source to make your freelancing legit. So keep that in mind, and don’t let the one-off projects get to you.

Those are my words of wisdom when it comes to getting started with freelancing. If this is a topic of interest to any of you, I’d love to go more in depth with some of these tips, since I’ve obviously kept this post pretty surface-level. In the meantime, what do all you freelancing pros out there have to add? 

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  • Reply Michelle August 22, 2014 at 9:35 am

    Thanks Joanna for such a great post! I have a similar process to yours and I find that for every 50 entities/people/organizations that I reach out to the 1 that responds is always the one that matters! I’ve set monthly goals with daily goals but I think you make a great point about taking some time off. I’m really happy that it’s going well for you and that you get to spend time with Sally.

    • Reply Joanna August 25, 2014 at 5:06 pm

      Awesome. Glad to hear it’s going well for you, too, Michelle!

  • Reply Retired by 40 August 22, 2014 at 11:49 am

    I read somewhere that the best way to blog or freelance is to just write every single day. Whether you feel like it or not! It sounds like that has worked for you!

    • Reply Joanna August 25, 2014 at 5:06 pm

      Sometimes when I think just how much I write, I can’t believe it. It’s true, though, that the more you do, the easier it is!

  • Reply Amanda August 22, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    My question is simple: how do you find freelance gigs that actually bring in income? I think I’ve already mentioned this to you, but It seems like my experience has led to less than lucrative work that doesn’t actually seem worth the time required.

    • Reply Joanna August 25, 2014 at 5:11 pm

      I don’t think there’s a simple answer to that question. H and I found a few gigs by posting our services on Craigslist. And reaching out to local companies or websites that are obviously in need of an editor can be effective… I’ve had friends who have made really good hourly money by editing legal documents for a local law firm, for instance. I think it’s all about trying until something clicks. I wish I had an easier solution, but if you keep looking, eventually you’ll find your niche.

  • Reply Nicole August 22, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    Freelancing intrigues me, but I’ve never known where to start- most of the successful freelancers I know we’re able to negotiate with their former employer to become a freelancer, and I don’t have that option. I would love to read a more in-depth post about it!

    • Reply Joanna August 25, 2014 at 5:13 pm

      You’re right… networking with former employers can be key to picking up freelancing. But there are other ways for sure. We’ll try to do a more in-depth post in the near future!

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