Freelancing can be an attractive career option for many reasons – the freedom to choose your own clients and projects, flexibility to work when and where you want, and the potential to earn a good living. However, the biggest barrier for most aspiring freelancers is the lack of experience. How do you convince clients to trust you when you have no track record to showcase your skills?
The good news is that with some strategic planning and effort, you can successfully launch a freelance career even if you’re just starting out. Here are some tips on how to start freelancing with no experience:
Pick an In-Demand Niche and Develop In-Depth Skills
The first step is to pick a profitable freelance niche that is in high demand in the market. Some examples include copywriting, web development, graphic design, digital marketing, translation services, online tutoring, data entry and more. Avoid picking too broad of a niche that has a lot of competition – it’s better to narrow your focus down to a specific skillset.
Next, invest significant time in developing in-depth skills and knowledge in your chosen area. Take online courses, read books and blogs, watch tutorial videos, practice on mock projects etc. Build a solid portfolio with sample projects to showcase your abilities. Your portfolio will help attract clients much more than any other factor when you’re starting out.
Leverage Sites Like Upwork and Fiverr to Get Initial Experience
Reputable freelance websites like Upwork.com and Fiverr.com are great platforms for new freelancers to gain some experience. The low entry barriers and large pool of clients makes it easier to win your first few projects here. The pay may not be great initially, but focus on getting 5-star reviews and building credibility.
Make your profile stand out by highlighting your skills, showing off your portfolio and communicating effectively. Learn to write solid proposals to increase your chances of winning projects. As you accumulate great reviews, it gets much easier to raise your rates and transition to direct client work.
Offer Discounted or Free Work to Gain Testimonials
Another way to gain experience as a new freelancer is to offer discounted or free work to a select few clients. You can reach out to friends, family, local businesses, startups and small companies to see if they would be interested in your services. The benefit here is gaining valuable testimonials and referrals from real clients to help establish credibility.
However, be selective about who you approach – only offer free work if it’s going to get you a valuable testimonial. Ensure you complete the work just as professionally as a paid project. Aim to over-deliver value and build a lasting relationship that can lead to future paid work.
Showcase Your Personality and Skills on Social Media
Social platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram can be leveraged by new freelancers to build a personal brand and gain more visibility. Create professional profiles highlighting your freelance services. Post examples of your work, share useful insights and engage with others in your industry.
Follow and interact with potential clients on these networks. Build relationships by commenting on their posts and adding value. Use relevant hashtags to get discovered. A strong social media presence shows clients that you are passionate and serious about your work.
Network Online and In-Person with Potential Clients
Networking is a crucial skill for freelance success, but one that causes anxiety for many. Start by joining Facebook Groups and LinkedIn Communities related to your niche – share advice, ask questions and get your name out there. Look for relevant industry forums and blogs where you can demonstrate expertise.
Attend in-person networking events and conferences to meet potential clients and partners. Start conversations, exchange business cards and connect on social media after. Set a goal to make a certain number of new professional connections each week. Networking takes persistence, but doing it consistently leads to more opportunities.
Create a Website/Portfolio Highlighting Your Best Work
Having a professional website or online portfolio showcases your services in one place and gives you credibility. Outline your expertise, services, past work samples, client testimonials, pricing and contact information clearly. This gives potential customers the information they need to hire you.
Promote your website/portfolio profile in your email signature, resume, social media profiles and anywhere else applicable. The goal is to point all your professional interactions back to content that persuades visitors to hire you or recommend your services.
Stay Persistent and Don’t Get Discouraged
It takes time to establish yourself as a freelancer, especially when starting with no experience. Expect the process to take months of consistent effort, not days or weeks. There will be frustrations and setbacks along the way. The key is to stay persistent through the ups and downs while continuing to improve your skills and network.
Remind yourself that everyone started at zero at one point. With hard work and dedication, you can build up your experience and reputation just like established freelancers have. Stay confident in your abilities and keep taking steps forward each day. As you gain experience, getting quality freelance work will become much easier over time.
Launching a freelance career with no experience is certainly challenging, but very much possible with the right strategy. Be patient and commit to consistently improving your skills, building your network and delivering excellent work. Before you know it, you’ll have gained the experience and portfolio to succeed as a freelancer. Use the tips in this article to help position yourself for success starting out.