You’ve heard the stories.
All those six-figure copywriters writing comfortably from their yacht in the Bahamas….
For every aspiring freelancer, there is the tantalizing promise of being able to work a mere five hours a day, from the comfort of their home (or hotel), while making excellent money doing it.
But for every aspiring freelancer, there is the difficult, and often unclear transition from a still-wet-behind-the-ears newbie, to a sought-after freelancer.
How do you get clients to hire you when you have absolutely zero experience? And how does one make the jump from freelancer-hobbyist, to full-time occupation? Where can you find those high-paying clients that will actually value your work – and more importantly, pay for it?
These questions and more were mine as well, when I first strove to become a professional freelancer. Unfortunately, I had to learn the answers the hard way – but that doesn’t mean you have to too!
Here are a few of the most essential tools and skills every new freelancer needs to be successful – coupled with some of the best, high-paying job sites to help you land your first real client.
1) Value Your Work
A common mistake for new freelancers is to undervalue their work simply because of the fact that they’re inexperienced, or because a client isn’t willing to hire them. This is a big pitfall to avoid, because it often leads to writers settling for a pushy client, or little pay set far under the normal market price.
You are the writer. The client needs you and your talent – not the other way around. Your time, effort, and skill is more than worth a fair pay, and if a client isn’t willing to show the appreciation your work deserves, then find someone who will.
The real beauty of freelancing is that there is a huge demand on the market – a demand that only grows with the technological age – so there is no shortage of potential clients. There are plenty of fish in the sea, so to speak, so you can afford to be a bit choosy with which one you decide to take home for dinner.
This is all not to say, however, that you can be a stubborn pain in the you-know-what with your clients. After all, they are just that: your client. They pay you to do their work for them the way they want it done, and if you don’t live up to their standards, they can find another to do the job just as fast.
The client gets what the client wants – but that doesn’t mean you have to be gipped in the process. The secret to a successful business partnership lies in good communication and a mutual respect.
Job Site: Upwork
Keeping that in mind, Upwork.com is a popular site amongst new freelancers looking to land their first client.
Boasting a visually striking design, ease-of-access, and thousands upon thousands of potential jobs at your fingertips, Upwork can easily seem like a treasure trove to the freelance first-timer. The site is liberally made up of like-minded newbies also trying to earn their first big break, and many of the clients know this – generously willing to offer novice freelancers a chance to prove themselves.
This low-experience market, however, easily translates to a low-pay market, and as discussed above, it’s easy for a budding writer to trap themselves with miserable pay and undervalued work. Plus, Upwork reliably takes a varying percentage of income from all of your completed work (5%, 10%, or even 20%, depending on how many long-term clients you have).
I know it’s hard not to get excited when your writing brings in any income – even if it’s only a measly $5 for a project that took you just as many hours – but such a pay is insubstantial and devaluing to your writing career.
As long as you utilize Upwork to “get your foot in the door” – amassing a portfolio and gaining experience – the site can be a great start for beginning freelancers. Once you are confident in your skills and a bit more experienced in the freelance field, however, respectfully end your contracts with your Upwork clients and move on to the bigger fish.
2) Start Your Own Blog/Website
Regardless of professional experience, every freelance needs their own space. And what better addition to your resume than a link to a blog littered with samples of your writing and creativity? Plus, if a potential client sees that your posts garner traffic, shares, and comments, a tidy, active website could mean the difference between an application or a hire.
Nothing says “professionalism” than a beautiful, relevant blog or website – while in this day and age, a presence on the web is a must for any freelancer. A like here, a share there….and who knows? Maybe a needy client will stumble across your blog, like your work, and extend an offer.
Even if you have absolutely zero professional experience, many clients will consider you in their application process simply because of the fact that you are familiar with the blog format, and they like your writing style displayed there.
Just be sure to keep your website clean, relevant to today’s standards, and constantly updated!
Job Site: BloggingPro
As the name suggests, BloggingPro is the go-to site for every freelance blogger. While the job-pool might be a bit smaller than some other sites, it is reliably almost all high-paying blogging opportunities and is constantly being updated.
The format is refreshingly clean and simple, for while most freelance sites painstakingly require you to create a profile with uploaded resumes and portfolios, BloggingPro provides you with merely the job description and contact information – allowing you to send an application email at your discretion.
As the website is mostly a pool of blogging job opportunities, many clients will consider you in the application process for the simple fact that you own your own blog, and are familiar with the format, style, and effort that blogging requires.
ProBlogger is another free job site along the same concept that is definitely worth checking out – their (often high-paying) offers typically for blogging opportunities as well, though you can sometimes find a good mix.
3) Be Persistent
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your freelancing career.
Every freelancer faces a rejected proposal, or has to perform a few rewrites now and then. The difference between a professional and a novice, however, is understanding how to learn from those mistakes to sharpen your skill set. To become a successful freelancer, you really just have to keep submitting applications until your success rate exceeds that of your declinations.
I will tell you now, it is perfectly normal to submit over 20 applications and hear back from only one – often after several weeks have gone by. To be a freelancer you must have patience and persistence.
Keep submitting, keep rewriting, and keep learning. Eventually you’ll land clients, learn how to produce clean copy, and become a freelancing master.
Job Site: Contena
Though this site isn’t free – charging $30/month for access to solely it’s job site – Contena.co was one of those breakthroughs in my career that made me realize that the “Writer’s Life” we hear about in the success stories, was real.
Beautifully designed with a crisp, modern feel to it, Contena earns it’s keep by compiling only the best, scam-free, high-paying freelance opportunities out there into one site – saving you the time and effort. Every listing is direct and to the point, clearly showing the job category and payment you can expect to receive right on the heading – allowing for easy job-hunt scrolling.
Part-time to full-time, guest post submissions or long-term contracts, Contena matches job opportunities to your chosen profession and comfort level, and will even send you email alerts for specific niches you’re interested in.
And if you’re looking to further sharpen your skills, for $100 a month you can even join the Contena Academy to receive training and real-time advice with professional coaches.
Though it may cost more than many other sites out there, land just one of the jobs on Contena’s site and you can easily pay for the full year’s subscription, with more to go around.
So there you have it!
I hope you found these skills and websites as helpful as I did. Have any other sites you’d like to share with the group, or lessons you’ve learned in your freelancing journey? As always, your comments and feedback are greatly appreciated!
May your words flow, your wit be sharp, and your fingers lithe upon the keyboard!