Over the course of two years, I’ve gone from having basically no experience in my field to making a full-time income from freelancing.
Starting From Scratch
When I first decided I wanted to start freelancing, I didn’t know where to start. I was starting from scratch. I had pretty much no work experience, no connections, and no formal schooling. I had a bit of experience from working on personal projects, but I wasn’t quite sure what working on client projects would look like. I wanted to know more about what I needed to start working as a freelance designer, so I signed up to take an online course.
I found a course from Skillcrush called the Web Designer Blueprint Class. It outlined all the skills I (thought I) needed to know to start making websites and working as a web designer. The class was really valuable and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to get started with the basics of creating websites. But, I quickly realized I knew most of the information in the class.
There was one PDF that they sent out called “Code your way to $1k” which made a huge impact in my freelance journey. This PDF was an outline that paired the individual skills taught in class with real life job postings. That’s when it clicked for me – I didn’t need any certificate or to complete an online course to start freelancing. Once I figured this out, I diverted all my time and effort into finding projects for the small things I already knew how to do.
The takeaway? Don’t worry too much about knowing everything in your field when you’re just starting out. Go with what you already know and figure things out from there.
Putting Myself Out There!
So, back in April of 2015, I got a profile on Elance and started looking for jobs. As exciting as that was, I was pretty intimidated by the whole thing. It took me a few months to land my first project because I was hung up on so many little things. I wasn’t sure what to put in my profile, I didn’t know how to sell myself, and I was scared to really put myself out there. I felt a bit like a fraud because I felt like I really wasn’t qualified to do what I wanted to do. It took me a few weeks to finishing putting something in my profile because I felt like it had to be perfect.
I eventually came to my senses and realized I had to ‘fake it til’ I made it” – which is exactly what I did. Even though I didn’t “feel” qualified, I moved forward anyway because I knew what I wanted. All I needed to be “qualified” was to get a paying customer. After getting over that initial hurdle of filling out my profile, I started sending out job proposals.
The takeaway? Don’t let perfectionism or your own insecurities stop you when you’re a newbie! Everyone has to start somewhere. 🙂
Time to Hustle
At the start, I was sending out job proposals for 2-3 hours every day. Looking back, I see now that the effort I put in at the start was SO key to my success. I don’t think much would have happened without that hard work! I put in so much time into tweaking my proposal structure, proposal copy, and tweaking my profile.
Fast forward about a month or two, and I was starting to see the fruits of my labor! I had finally landed a project. It was a somewhat low paying job, but I knew finishing one job and getting a good review would help me land future gigs. I still spent a decent amount of time applying to jobs after landing that first one, but it definitely made a huge difference to how many people were interested in working with me.
The takeaway? You have to hustle when you’re just starting out. You have put the time in to sell yourself and apply to jobs. Whether you’re on freelance job boards or trying to sell your services through your own network, you have to No one is even going to know you exist otherwise!
My Hard Work Started To Pay Off!
Slowly but surely, I started to spend most of my time working on jobs instead of applying to jobs. It probably took me about 6-7 months to get to this point. Once I reached this point, I started to realize that my rate wasn’t high enough for me to make full-time income off my freelance projects. I landed quite a few projects and was pretty busy, but I wasn’t charging enough to make it worth all the time and effort I put in. I also started noticing that I didn’t always enjoy the clients I worked with at the rate I was offering, so I decided to start “scaling” my little freelancing business.
After that realization, I started raising my rate. When I started out, I was taking on web and graphic design gigs at about $20/hour. 8 months later, I was holding steady at about $50/hour. After each completed gig I would raise my rate by $5 or $10 per hour. Now, my profile rate sits at $95/hour. I occasionally take on gigs for less, but I’m so happy to be at a place where the clients I attract see me as a professional and are a breeze to work with.
The takeaway? Being able to make consistent, full-time income takes some time when you’re just starting out. But by not being afraid to experiment with your rates, you’ll be able to grow your freelancing business much quicker.
So there you have it! At the end of the day, I think most of my success so far boils down to hard work and experimentation. I spent hours upon hours applying to jobs to get those first jobs and reviews. I learned to let go of things that weren’t working for me and was always trying new things to attract clients and land jobs.
What has your freelance journey looked like? What are some of the biggest things you’ve learned so far? Leave a comment below!
If you’re interested in freelancing but aren’t sure how to start, I highly recommend getting started on the Upwork platform. If you’d like to know about my tips and tricks for getting started and finding success on Upwork, check out my course!