Hey, I was just about to help a friend with a few tips and tricks on his new website and I thought… Maybe I should write a general guide to help other people who might be having the same questions. So in this article, I will explain my 5 step method of how I went from having no experience to a full time-freelancer.
Also before you start with step 2 have a look at this article to see how to create an appealing freelance name.
This is my 5 step method to start with no experience in freelancing:
- Start with a skill you have already developed
- Look for clients that are willing to accept a free trial from your skill
- Use the work you have done for those clients and create a portfolio
- Ask For Referrals And Testimonials From My Clients
- Market yourself to the same niche clients to further expand your portfolio but now charge a fee
Start With Your Strongest Skill
This step was probably the most difficult part of the journey of becoming a freelancer for me. You might be lucky and have already developed a skill or 2 over the years but I certainly have not had the luxury.
So If you already know exactly what you are good in and you know what service or skill you can sell then you can move on to the next step in the process.
If you don’t yet know, don’t fear I know exactly how overwhelming this step can be. I will be writing an article about how to discover and develop your skills as a freelancer. For now, think about something that you like to do. Any hobby or habits that you really like doing.
When I started I knew absolutely nothing about websites and today I am making a living creating websites for clients all over the world. Not to brag but just to show you that even if you don’t have any skill you can learn to do something from scratch and be amazing at it.
Side Note: It is important to also love what you are doing, so really dig deep here and look for that passion that drives you. If you don’t do something you love then you might end up hating everything you are doing. So take your time with this step.
If you love drawing or you are crafty or even love working with your hands, whatever that looks like for you at this stage embrace it. That will most likely become the skill or service that you are going to use to get you started in this world of opportunity.
How Do I Look For Easy Clients
Okay, what do I mean when I say, look for easy clients? I mean look for clients who are in need of a service or skill that you can contribute to might not have the budget to pay you for. You might think that this is absurd but remember the end goal here.
You want to build your portfolio up and gain experience and these two are going hand in hand. The strategy here is that you work for FREE, you will see why and where this will pay off later. I will tell you about examples from my own experience.
So who would you think would be easy clients that you can start off with? I listed 3 types below who I found easy to target when I started. I would suggest that you start with family before you move on to friends and then business owners.
Your family would be a great place to start practicing your skills on.
When I started I asked my dad if he wanted a website and if so what type of website he would want? Neither of us knew that he actually did require a website for a side project he was working on and I ended up creating my very first website and he received a free website. (He had to pay his own hosting though lol)
I am not going to lie the first website I created was horrible! But that doesn’t matter, I received the opportunity to start on my first website and it was something I created. Looking back on that day I was so proud of that website. Anyways before I get off track…
Even if none of your family members need your service or skill you can ask them to make something up. Let them decide on a business name and all that jazz and let them also tell you what they would like. This needs to be in line with what you want to offer, (Your main skill).
After you have received your brief verbally or on paper, go ahead and handle this as an actual paying client and do the very best you can. Take it to them to review your work and let them criticize it as much as possible. (Remember your end goal) – you want to sell this skill.
Make the changes and let them review it again and again until they are 100% satisfied. Once they are satisfied you ask them to create a new business and you start the process again for about 10 – 25 times. Keep all the work and the briefs they gave you.
Once they start to love the stuff you do and have fewer reviews you can move on to friends…
Look for friends who might think of starting their own business:
Depending on the business your friend wants to start, you can almost always find a way to provide a service to them free of charge. The benefit of this is when you are doing a great job and his/her business is successful you can use him as a reference later.
Also, remember that your friend would be most likely be more direct and more specific on what their needs are for their business. So try to identify what their needs are, use what you practiced with your family and apply it to your friend’s business.
Again, let them review your work over and over until they are 100% satisfied with the outcome. This will ensure that your skills are starting to develop and the process will start to get easier as you do more and more of these exercises.
Ask your friend if they are happy if you keep the brief, reviews and outcome. They will most probably say that it is fine with them. Rince and repeat this process about 5 – 15 times with your friends as well.
Once you feel comfortable with your progress on these tasks, seek out the next level which is new business owners.
(NBO’s) or New Business Owners are almost always looking for affordable or even free freelancers to do some work:
Now that you have between 15 – 40 examples you created from your previous two stages you would be able to handle a new business owner. Do remember that these business owners are most likely going to be brutally honest with you.
It is important that you are also honest with the business owners when you start. Remember that everyone had to start somewhere and it is important that you learn from every experience and grow.
With business owners, you are going to take a different approach. My very first business was a gaming clan who needed an after effects animation intro for their youtube channel. At this stage, I was into animations rather than websites. (I found it easier to find clients)
I worked about 2 weeks on the project and had them review it about 2 times before I handed the end product over to them. They shared it everywhere and that brought in some extra money for me at that stage.
If you can find about 5 clients to do this for then you are ready to move onto the next stage which is developing your portfolio.
Should I Develop My Portfolio
What is a portfolio?
In short, it is a freelancer’s project CV of all the past projects they have done and who they have done them with. This is an authority amplifier especially if you worked with some amazing well-known brands.
Remember I asked you to keep all the briefs and outcomes of all the projects you have worked on? Yeah, you have guessed it, now that you have over 2 dozen projects and briefs you can track back and see your progress from where you started to where you are now.
Look through all of them and pick your best 12 projects, once you have your dozen selected, create a file or hard copy with the end products and in your own words define what the client wanted.
You will not mention that these clients are friends and family because that does not matter. If you treated them as clients and took the briefs seriously then you can see them as clients. As long as you stuck to the brief and the outcome was satisfying.
Now that you have compiled these projects you have successfully created a portfolio. This will be used to showcase your unique skillset and secure your first paying clients.
Should I Ask For Referrals And Testimonials From My Clients
As you start to get one client after another, ask them for referrals. The chances are that if you did an amazing job, they will happily give you a few referrals. Happy clients automatically refer you to people they are in contact with. The best advertisement is W.O.M. (Word of mouth) but it can also be devastating if you mess up.
I still get business from past clients referring people to me to do animations and or websites. I have never found the need to advertise my services because I believe in the quality of work I put out for my clients, so should you.
Another powerful element you need to add to your arsenal is testimonials. People buy from what other people are saying about you. Take this scenario, you go to Amazon to buy an item but you are not sure if you would be satisfied with the quality.
The first thing you do is you go see what people rated the item for and then you look at what they are saying about the product. It doesn’t matter who the buyer is, you trust the people who already bought the product.
This is exactly why you need to leverage the testimonial into your portfolio. It would best practice to add the testimonials at the start of the project you worked on. That way the new client will see it first and already feel rest assured.
Another amazing thing that testimonials do is they let people see results from other people. Your new client would most likely tell you that they want a similar service you provided to a certain person or business.
How Should I Market Myself
With the 5 guide process, you have completed 4 of the 5 steps, all that remains is that you get out there and market to the same clients you have been serving. It is as easy as that.
So what if I don’t know what my marketing message should be? How will I charge my clients for my services? How do I reach my clients and what do I tell them? If any of these are of concern to you then I will address it briefly here. I will create follow up articles on each of these topics as well.
Your marketing message can be as simple as this formula, I (what do you help businesses with) + (time frame) + (what pain do you remove from them). So let me create an example for you.
I help business owners with a high converting website within 45 days that turns their business from losing clients into buying clients.
Does that make sense? Would you buy from me if I could build you a website that converts actual prospects into clients proven over and over again?
So I want you to try the formula above and ask your family and friends if your message compels them to buy from you. If they answer most definitely then you use that message as your Facebook ads, your tweets, your opening and closing statements.
At the end of the day, clients are looking for one thing and one thing only… RESULTS! They want to know that the money they invested in your will bear fruit in the short, medium and long run.