The Freelance Life: How to begin

I get so many messages about freelancing that I'd decided to start a series sharing my advice. These posts will cover How to get clients, Contracts, Pricing, Presentations, Organization and anything else you want to learn. I began taking on small projects during college and it quickly escalated to consuming most of my waking hours. During this time I had no one to learn from so I turned to my trusted blogs. I made many (many!) mistakes, lost some money along the way, but also helped create some pretty spectacular businesses. 

So, how do you start?

First you need to put a portfolio together. Sites like Behance and Cargo are easy to set up and look professional. I've attracted many clients from having a Behance site because it's easily searchable and visual. After you have a few projects under your belt you should purchase your own domain and apply it to your cargo, wordpress, squarespace, etc... site. 

Next you should spread the word that you're looking for projects. Most likely you have a family member that runs a small business and needs a new logo or a friend looking to make their hobby profitable. Post your news on Facebook and even put it in your parent's Christmas letter. These projects aren't going to make you a lot of money because A) you have no experience and B) you need the project in your portfolio more than you need the money.

Sign up for freelance sites like Elance or oDesk which let you create a portfolio and browse through hundreds of projects. Don't forget about Craigslist either, a lot of people have no clue where to go to get design work. I was skeptical about elance at first but had a really successful project with a gal who actually runs a marketing agency. Because of our experience working together she has handed off a handful projects in the last few months.

Create projects for yourself. If you can't seem to find the right freelance project for you - whether it be a styled shoot, hand lettering, editorial illustration or boutique branding, DO IT YOURSELF. Having full control over a project might just be what your portfolio needs to attract other clients. Two projects of mine get the most press and they are the two projects that I didn't have any client feedback on

Make friends with those you admire. It could be as simple as a twitter/instagram conversation to get the ball rolling. Ask local people to coffee or happy hour. You'll find that people love sharing stories about themselves and hopefully you can learn a bit from them. Freelancing can be a lonely life so make sure to keep in contact, ask for continuous feedback and work together at coffee shops. 

Figure our why you want to freelance. Is it to make money on the side? Is it to be more creative than your current job allows? For me I love being in charge of all the working pieces - meetings, proposals, research, designing, presentations and launch parties. I feel amazing when helping a small business express who they are so juggling client work with my 9-5 is hectic at times but I wouldn't change it.

 

If you are currently freelancing, I would love for you to share any tips that helped you begin!

 

photo via Death to the Stock Photo

Check out the rest of The Freelance Life:  01 How to Begin02 Important Documents03 Finding the right Clients