Freelancing 101 – The Ultimate Guide for Freelancers

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Are you a budding freelancer?

Have you tried every trick in the book trying to land a deal, get reviews etc.,?

I’m pretty active on Quora, and a trend I’ve noticed in the Q&A, I realized it’d be helpful to put together a guide for freelancers. 

Honestly, I should have done this earlier. UGH. But hey, as they say better late than never. 

Bookmark this page and share it with others.

Prepare a winning freelancer profile and portfolio

A stunning profile and a strategically crafted portfolio is the first thing you must have for a successful career. No portfolio is complete without a website on a dedicated domain.

While creating a profile, I’d suggest you to focus on writing a stellar story about you.

If you already have a portfolio of client projects, great. In case you don’t, start doing a personal portfolio project yourself.

Personal projects are better for portfolio pieces because you have total control over the final version of the work. You are not limited by stingy business owners. And no.more worries about a hideous unclear logo on every page. You can have flawless color palette.

Personal projects is the way to go for complete control of the looks; new logo? stationery? business cards? website? vehicle wraps? uniforms? cellphone covers? posters? 3D renderings of products?

The fine people at the local karaoke bar aren’t going to want all those things, they’re gonna want a flyer with microphone & balloon clip-art.

Portfolio Pitch Script

Hi ,

Hope you are doing well. I’ve carefully gone through your job posting on _______.

I’m an expert <your niche> with more than 6 years experiences of both “<tools and skills> I have rich experience in <>.

Recently I have successfully completed a project

1. your portfolio link

2. your portfolio link

For more on my skill and successfully finished jobs, please have a look on my Profile, Portfolio, Work history and Feedback.

I am always available on <skype, zoom,> . Please have a voice or video chat if necessary. I will be available more than 60 hours per week and able to start your project as soon as possible according to you.

Thank you for your consideration

Best Regards

<your name>

How do you find freelance jobs (clients)?

The Flywheel has 4 stages

New freelancers turn to platforms like Upwork, Freelancer, Fiverr, etc,. to try and find gigs. DON’T DO THAT.

Why? These platforms are choked full of freelancers fighting for work that is low-paying and untrustworthy clients. Besides you won’t even get noticed because of your lack of experience and reviews on them. It’s next to impossible with thousands of other freelancers, take a breath. 

Ask yourself: if you are the employer, who would you rather hire:

A stranger? You only know them by a form they completed on a freelancer marketplace?

Or someone you already know (recommended by a friend)? 

In my freelance writing career, I’ve learned that the second one option always wins hands down. I’m not saying the first is impossible, but it is difficult. The odds aren’t in your favour.

Finding great freelance jobs is an ongoing cycle powered by relationships. 

Let’s calls this process “The Freelance Flywheel.”

The Flywheel has 4 stages.

Stage 1: Learning 

The learning never stops. The more work you do, the more focused your specialization and higher your pay. You are expected to hone your skills – not only in your chosen field but also as a business owner. 

While expanding your knowledge, learning introduces you to other freelances, prospective clients, and thought leaders in your industry.

Which brings me to the next (and super important) dimension of the Freelance Flywheel…

Stage 2: Growing Your Network

Your community not only understand your work, but also can be your sounding board, they can help you troubleshoot, you can complain to, and celebrate with.

The people you hang out with define you. They either take you to new heights or break and drag you down to a hole. A freelancer is no exception. As your network grows, you’ll get new opportunities, you’ll also learn what work you don’t want to do (and the clients to avoid). You are what you don’t do!

How do you grow your network as a freelancer?

First: Join

Once you join the club, listen, learn, ask questions, and leave thoughtful comments. It is important to be engaged and active in the club. The more you engage, the more ways you’ll find that others use to land jobs / clients, including industry-specific. Bonus: They can be incredible referral sources and may even hire you themselves.

Also keep a watch out for opportunities to connect outside of Opportunity Designer. Facebook and Slack groups, events, and other communities (even private or invite-only.)

Attend/speak at events with your target audience

In these times of COVID, attending in-person events is uncertain and risky. People are moving to online meetings, using Skype, Facebook Live, Zoom, etc,. 

Why? Because a live conversation leaves a lasting impression. You can make new connections. If you talk, or present in a meeting you get the undivided attention.

I’d also recommend you attend the events that your target audience attends. If you want to catch fish, you must go where the fish are. DUH! Is there a company(ies) you want to work with? or people you’re hoping to connect? Go to the conferences they’re going to.

I don’t know who my target audience is! What do I do?

Plenty of freelancers (including yours truly) start out as generalists. Don’t jump on any and all projects/client (just to have the income and to build portfolios). This will only hurt you in the long run.

Wanna make a full-time career out of freelance work (ahem: earning MONEY)? Figure out your niche and specialize. Do it Now.

Stage 3: Cultivating Your Relationship Gardens

You’ve skills and the network. Now what? 

Be invaluable for them- colleagues and clients. 

Setup reminders in your phone and check in with clients or colleagues you haven’t heard from in a while (I try to do this every 4-6 weeks).

* Follow your dream clients on social media (not the brands, but rather the person in charge of hiring).

* Help share and promote fellow freelancers, target clients you want to work for.

* Answer questions and offer encouragement in the opportunity club.

* Help fellow freelancers with other specialties connect with potential clients

Which brings us to the final and most fruitful stage of the Freelance Flywheel…

Stage 4: Seeking Out Work

Terrifying music plays in the background! This is the scariest part for creative individuals. Dont be afraid: you don’t have to turn into a sleazy, sales-pitching spambot. 

The good news: if you’ve done your homework (Stages 1 – 3), chances are you’ll be able to get work without having to spend your days sending out cold emails to sell your services. 

The bad news: you’re still going to have to pitch for some work, but I’m going to make it easier for you.

How do I get freelance work without pitching?

If you, as I said earlier, took the time to develop a strong network and are using opportunities to add value. Then all you have to do is ask. New freelance work opportunities will arrive in your DMs and inbox.  Don’t believe me? Take a look at what a panel of freelance writers said when I asked them to list their top three sources of new client work:  89% of freelancers get work through client referrals (and say it’s the best way to get qualified gigs.) Asking for referrals from previous freelance writing clients Of all the ways to get new clients, asking previous clients for referrals ranked at number one by a landslide. “Referrals need very little convincing to sign on,” says freelance writer Laura Bosco. “They have a baseline trust in your work and character. That means fewer long proposals, less back and forth, and a better starting relationship.”

Script to ask for referrals from existing/previous freelance writing clients

To decide whom to ask referral as yourself: 1 are you confident that you’ve done a great job for a client 2 did you enjoy working with them Don’t be shy: let them know you’re looking for more projects with companies like theirs. As you are finishing a project with a client email or SMS them: Hi, Is there a chance you know someone who needs this type of work, please send them my way I’m taking on new clients right now.”

Script to ask for leads and referrals from other freelancers

More than 50% freelance writers surveyed said online groups got them to work. Get on the opportunity club groups and let folks know you’re available for work. Be sure to detail what type of client you enjoy working with and your speciality.

Hi, I’m <name>, and my speciality is <your speciality> If you or someone you know are looking for <your speciality>, I’m available. Please send it my way. Thank you

Many online professional groups have “hiring” posts or posts where people are looking for recommendations for freelancers. This is not only a great opportunity to follow up via DM, but it’s a way to build relationships by recommending colleagues (they’ll remember and return the favour). Ask for introductions. Is a friend working for a dream client? Ask if they’d be willing to connect you with them? (Btw, thank them if they do! A thank you package or a gift card is a good idea.)

Pitching entrepreneurs and startups

As a freelancer, you must demonstrate your expertise. What better way than to have some large corporations (the big names out there) in your clients list.

It gives authority and credibility to your personal brand (read: they’ll help you charge higher rates). Plus: You’ll reach larger audiences (and give your relatives bragging rights.) That said, is getting featured in a major corporation ultimately worth the work required?  As with most things: It depends. It’s been helpful for me.

How do I pitch ideas to major publications?

Build relationships. Use those networking skills you developed in Stage 2 and 3 to get friendly with editors at your dream clients.  Get Tweeting: tweeting opens cool opportunities; it’s helped me get a foot in the door with new writing gigs, become a familiar face on Twitter, it’ll help you meet fellow freelancers. Who knows you might become internet (and real-life!) friends some day. Pitch frequently and fearlessly: “Let’s get rejected.” should be your mantra.

Pitching niche/industry blogs

Guest posts in your niche blogs are also one way for clients to find you. These specialty websites attract audiences that are actively in need of your services. Plus, getting featured on these blogs with links to your own website boosts your SEO authority, which help you reach top ranking on search engine queries.

Pitching reputable agencies and established freelancers

Working for a more experienced freelancer can be an apprenticeship of sorts. Win-win for both. For them with projects. For you get to see inside their processes; get guidance from a pro. If you have a rockstar freelancer you look up to reach out to them and see if they’d be willing to take you under their wings.

Pitching your dream clients on LinkedIn

LinkedIn isn’t just for corporate employees. Freelancers can use the platform to showcase expertise and get clients. 

Prod your connections. Are your clients or colleagues are connected with decision makers at your dream client companies? Yes? Bingo! Ask for an intro or just send a connection invite mentioning your mutual connection.

A great LinkedIn profile goes a long way: use title keywords that your dream clients are looking for, collect recommendations and endorsements, polish up your bio, and comment on prospects’ posts. Leave thoughtful comments to make a deeper impression.

Too many people on LinkedIn are bombarded with pitches that they have learned to out. So if you want a reply to your message approach through someone you both know.

Don’t be intrusive, ask for an intro from a connection you share. No common connections? Follow them and engage with their posts.

Set Goals, Get More Freelance Jobs

To find freelance jobs that suit you, set goals. Goals help you stay on track and bring in better, high quality freelance work.

Focus on 2-3 of the above methods to acquire new clients for 90 days

You must try switching up your games and experiment with some of the other methods 

Be consistent: schedule new client acquisition time at least 2x per month

When you’re starting out, spend 50% of your time to outreach for new clients. “When you’re a freelancer, your “main” job is booking meetings with qualified prospects, NOT writing.”

Make “theme days” dedicate the day to outreach and focus on one activity (i.e. Facebook Group Friday, Pitch-Writing Wednesday, Client Work Tuesday) for each workday. 

Make cultivating relationships your number one priority.  Create a reminder in your calendar to check in with clients or colleagues you haven’t heard from in a while every 4-8 weeks.

Progress will not happen overnight. Perseverance is key. Be dedicated. Put in the work, you’ll be living your dream.

The Dreaded Price talks

What to say when that new client asks, “How much will this cost?”

Being a service-based business, I used to mention my rate for different projects and stopped there. Did it work? Mostly no. When I I thought we had a deal, the other person often walked away.

I ended up wasting time on a phone call and initial background checks. Nothing working out, and no financial gain for me. Bad news. As time passed, I realized I needed to get smarter about my price talks, and needed to share more than just my rate. I realized I have to explain my price quote. Like why I charge how much I charge.

The Benefits Talk

I like to call this your value proposition.

“How do you explain the value you give, instead of just throwing out a number?”

I began to look for ways to prove to the potential client what I bring to the table. The tangible, measurable results:

·      Boosted client’s revenue by $10,000 in six months

·      Drove up website traffic by 58% in one month

·      Wrote email copy that generated 800+ leads

You can make use of you LinkedIn recommendations. If you don’t have recommendations, then work on it. Call up some friends to help. That is solid hard social proof. It will come in handy to convert more potentials to paid clients.

When and where you should talk about your value proposition

Have you come up with some solid proofs (results and testimonials) of the value you bring?
Now it is time to start sprinkling in these facts and testimonials on your website, on proposals, estimates, emails, and in phone conversations you have with potential new clients.

Explain the why. Remember that earleier I’d simply listen to the client’s needs and then send over what I expected to be paid for that service. I switched from that strategy and started explaining why I’m charging what I do.

Explain why you charge what you do.
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You can say, “This is my rate for A,B,C services. Here’s why I’m at this pricing level.

Please check my track record with other clients. I have produced results like X, Y, and Z.

When you decide to work with me, you’re not only tapping into a wealth of experience and knowledge specifically dedicated to high-quality results, but you’ll be working with someone who truly produces results and metrics you can measure.”

(On the very first email I tested this new strategy in, I got a response back in 10 minutes from a brand new client who said, “Yes, absolutely. Let’s move forward.”)

The psychology of why this works

Think about what the businesses, organizations, and individuals (potential clients) are working with looking for? Because they need to see positive results. Sometimes for themselves, or to report back to a supervisor.

At the end of the day, your work must have an impact on their bottom line. In the form of product sales, sign-ups, or website visits.

Show them that they can measure the impact your services have on their business (via tracking visits, monitoring referral traffic for products, etc.)

Also show past successes. Make it easier for them to say “yes.”  Get it right with all of that information right in front of them, it makes it difficult to say, “No, I think I’ll pass.”

Takeaway: Explain Your Value in Relation to Price

Remember what I told you, always base your price on the value you give. Never try to base it on the cost involved. Talking about the results you generate and the testimonials of your past clients make it simpler and easier for the client to say YES.

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