Q&A: How do I begin freelancing?

Q:

I want to start freelancing, but I’m overwhelmed. Where do I begin?

A:

With all the talk about how freelancing is becoming the new normal, it can seem like everyone and their brother has already figured out how to get clients, charge a mint, and laugh all the way to the bank. 

Newbies can be left feeling like they’ve missed the boat (or the train, actually) and are hopelessly behind. 

How to get started when everybody’s rushing forward around you? How to begin when you don’t know what you’re doing and every advice-giver says something different? First, create a website! First, work for free to build a portfolio! First, choose a niche! First, become an expert on everything before doing anything! 

It’s enough to make an aspiring freelancer throw in the towel before even getting started. 

The good news is you don’t have to do everything at once. Freelancing is one of those things you can do little by little, one step at a time. 

If you feel like you don’t know where to start, begin with the first step — the core of what freelancing is: Find a client, do the work, get paid. 

There are many ways to find that first client. Networking is at the top of the list. But you might find them through a job listing, or a marketplace site like Upwork, or via a posting in a Facebook group, or by walking around to local businesses and introducing yourself, or by connecting with people on LinkedIn, or…. the list goes on. 

The point is to find one, by hook or by crook, and do your first round of the find-client-do-work-get-paid polka. Nothing will inspire you more effectively to do it again than receiving that first payment.

Keep doing that polka over and over until you start to feel like you can branch out and do more, such as define a niche, or set up a website, or make a marketing plan, or whatever other thing you decide is right for your fledgling business. If you cultivate a CEO mindset and get proactive about building your enterprise, you won’t be stuck in that overwhelmed beginner place for long.

While having a plan is great if you are able to make one, there’s a lot to be said for this organic method of building up your freelancing. I started this way — one gig, next gig, etc. — ten years ago, and over the years it has grown and grown until it is now a full-fledged career that makes me twice the income I could get in a full-time job. 

So I always like to tell people “just start.” Waiting until you feel totally prepared is a recipe for never starting. There’s no problem in starting small and building as you go. In fact, it may be the very best way to build the business that’s right for you.

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