The Beginner's Guide To Freelancing
So, you've heard all about this new-fangled thing called "freelancing" and you want to learn more. Good on you! As of 2017, approximately 36% of the American workforce rely on freelance work for either part or all of their income (link). But what is freelancing, and how do you get started?
Read on for answers to the most basic questions on freelancing, or click the links below for our more in-depth guides. If you still have questions after reading through our guide, feel free to Contact Us!
Q. What Is Freelancing?
A. The Dictionary.com definition is "a self-employed person, who is not employed continuously but hired to do specific assignments," though this is only part of what a freelancer can be. A freelancer can take on regular gigs with the same employer to the point that they may as well be working full-time, or they can take gigs from a dozen different sources. The main thing that defines a freelancer is that they are their own boss and have complete control over where and when they work, what they do, and which gigs they're willing to take on.
Q. What Is A Gig?
A. Quite simply, it's an industry term that refers to any kind of temporary assignment or job.
Q. What Do I Need To Become A Freelancer?
A. The tools required to become a freelancer are quite flexible, and depend entirely on your personal needs and what you're going to be doing. As a general rule, you need:
- A computer or laptop of adequate specs to perform the task you're offering. For example, if you're doing graphic design, you'll need a more robust computer than if you're proof-reading. You may be able to use a tablet if your tasks permit it, but that really depends on your workflow.
- An email address.
- A PayPal account.
- A reasonable understanding of how to operate your computer in an efficient manner.
- A space where you can work uninterrupted, such as a spare bedroom or home office. This is especially important if you're a parent with young children, since kids have no concept of "Mummy/Daddy is working right now!"
- A skill. Any skill, really. If you don't have a skill yet, you can always learn one. Many freelancers are self-taught as well as self-employed, and many offer multiple skill-sets.
Q. How Do I Protect Myself From Scams?
A. The easiest way to determine if a prospective client or website is a scam is to go to Google and type in "is <company> legit?" or "is <company> a scam?" If other people have had issues with them, it'll pop right up.
The other simple way is if they ask YOU to pay THEM. You should never have to give anyone money to start a job, not ever. If they ask you for money, go elsewhere.
Q. How Much Should I Charge?
A. Your rates will vary depending on your skill level, industry, and experience. When you first start out, you may need to offer lower rates to offset the fact that you only have a small portfolio or a limited number of reviews, but you can always put your prices up later on.
The easiest way to work out how much you should charge is to think of how much you want to make per hour, versus how long it takes you to do your task. For example, if a client offers you you $100.00 USD to paint a mural and it's going to take you approximately 20 hours to complete the mural, then you're only getting $5.00 USD per hour for the work - less if you have to provide your own materials.
Keep track of how long it takes you to complete tasks, and use that to calculate what you consider to be a fair rate for your work.
It also helps to check what other freelancers are offering in the same industry from time to time. Remember, don't undercharge for your work! Your time has value, and if you don't charge enough then potential clients will assume that you're unskilled or desperate. But, you also want to stay aware of the going average that other freelancers are charging, because if someone else is offering the same services at the same skill level for half the rate then you're going to have trouble getting work. It's all about finding the right balance.
Lastly, don't be afraid to say "no" if someone tries to take advantage of you! You can start to feel desperate if you're fighting for jobs and not getting anywhere, but your time is valuable and you should never let anyone make you feel otherwise. Sometimes, an industry can get inundated with freelancers and it can negatively impact the availability of work and quality of jobs available. In that situation, you need to change tack and learn a new skill. You can always come back later.
Q. Where Can I Find Work?
A. There are lots and lots of different places you can find prospective employers, including your own network of friends and family.
We've also started putting together a database of different places you can find work, available here:
What Types Of Freelancers Are There?
There are as many different types of freelancers as there are different types of people wanting to hire someone to do work for them. If you have a skill or interest, then you can probably find a way to turn that into a freelance career.
Here are some examples to give you ideas, but this is in no way a complete list:
Writing & Editing
Freelance writing can cover anything from ghost-writing whole books to writing tweets for a business that doesn't have its own social media manage.
FreelanceWritingGigs.com has a fantastic detailed list of all the different types available, which is still very relevant despite having been written in 2008.
Art & Design
I read a brilliant quote the other day which pointed out just how vital art and design is in our modern world, even though people still have a tendency to disregard its importance. If you have a talent or a willingness to learn, then put them to use and become a freelance artist. They're necessary for everything from designing logos to painting murals across the world. Just don't let anyone try to tell you that your work doesn't have value, because it does!
Marketing assistants are worth their weight in gold to any business that wants to succeed, whether it's a huge corporation or a sole trader. If you have the gift of the gab, then you may be perfect for this - all you need to do is figure out how to make your client's product sell like crazy! Marketing is very competitive, but it's also very lucrative if you're good at what you do. Here's a handy article on how to get into it: Click Here.
Many businesses are now switching over to a virtual location model for their customer service centres, because it saves them a ton of money and their staff tend to be happier. For example, the following companies hire home-based workers in New Zealand on a regular basis:
There are lots of different types of virtual customer service jobs, which can range from answering emails to answering the phone. Some require you to have special equipment, but not all. Some are full-time, some are part-time, some are casual. Have a look and see what you can find!
Also known as micro-tasking, turking is the act of fulfilling small tasks that a computer can't perform, such as identifying whether a picture contains a certain object. Here's a short film on the subject that may explain it better than I can: Click Here.
Data Entry & Transcription
This one is fairly self-explanatory, and probably the one that's been around the longest. Data entry is typing up information from notes or entering information into a database from forms, while transcription is typing up transcripts of conversations from audio recordings or videos.
Some of these (particularly medical transcription) require qualifications, but not all. Here are some legitimate companies that hire freelance transcriptionists and data entry people:
Translation & Localisation
If you speak multiple languages fluently, then freelance translation is a lucrative business!
Localisation is less lucrative, but only requires you to speak a single language with native fluency. Localisers are people who go through a translated text, and make sure that it reads naturally.
Alternately, check the websites of different publishing houses, especially ones that offer multiple languages. Many of them are always on the look-out for hard-to-find languages, or talented localisation experts.
Getting Paid (Video)
Getting Started With PayPal (Multimedia)
So, now you want to set up a PayPal account? No worries, it's easy to get started and start getting paid for your hard work! There are two different options to pick right from the start: Personal PayPal and PayPal Business. You're allowed one of each, so long as you have a different email address and bank account to differentiate them both. The main difference is that business accounts can accept credit/debit card payments, while personal accounts are just for PayPal-to-PayPal transactions. Also, my beloved Invoice tool! You can view a full list of the differences here.
I personally recommend a business account, because the extra features are extremely useful to me, but it's ultimately your choice.
Be aware that they do charge fees for business-based transactions. I recommend that you familiarise yourself with the fees and factor them into the rate you charge your client. So long as you're up front about it, your clients usually won't mind - most consider the fees to be their responsibility, anyway.
Okay, let's jump into some videos! These are picked from PayPal's YouTube channel as the most relevant to you, but you can always go over and have a look for yourself. Knowledge is power!
How To Set Up An Email Account (Coming Soon)
A Beginner's Guide To Fiverr (Coming Soon)
Paying Your Dues - A Tax Guide For Freelancers (Coming Soon)