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The reasons for a freelance career are compelling. From topping up your income to setting your own working hours, freelance work is increasingly moving from the fringes of the job market to the mainstream.

When you are a freelancer, you are not alone. A recent study found that more than a third of workers (36%) are currently self-employed, up from 22% since 2019.

If you're looking to get started freelancing, we've put together this detailed guide to get you started.

A freelancer is not an employee. The IRS defines an employee as someone who:

  • Is not responsible for deciding when, where and how to work.
  • Do not choose how much they will be paid or how much their raises or bonuses will be.
  • Reimbursed for work-related expenses and benefits (such as health insurance).

A freelancer, on the other hand, is almost the exact opposite of an employee. Freelancer:

  • Can choose who to work for, when to work and where to work with few exceptions.
  • Set your payment rates.
  • Don't get benefits from whoever they work.

To learn more about what freelance work is all about, read:

While the idea of ​​being your own boss sounds exciting to you, freelance work is not for everyone. It takes more than an entrepreneurial spirit to become a freelancer. Before learning how to start a freelance business, it is important to consider the pros and cons of freelance work.

The pros are:

  • Choose who you work for and who you don't work for (along with when and for how long).
  • Only work on the projects that you really want to run
  • flexibility
  • Exposure – You learn a lot about different industries

The disadvantages are:

  • You are responsible for paying all of your taxes
  • No advantages
  • Work is not always stable, which can lead to cash flow problems
  • Isolation – you almost always work alone

For this reason, if you still have a full-time job, it may be best to freelance. That way you can test the water and better understand how it works to be a freelancer.

Potential freelancers spend much of their time (at least initially) looking for work. For example, authors can query various publications with ideas for articles they want to write. A freelance web designer can reach out to companies in the area to see if they need help with their websites.

Building relationships and providing quality work makes it easy to secure future "gigs" through repeat business, word of mouth, and excellent referrals. There are also job websites that fully examine and review all of their freelance opportunities (like FlexJobs) so that you can have a safe and productive job search.

For more ideas on how to find a freelance job, see How to Find a Freelance Job: Tips, Red Flags, and More.

Below are some tips on how to become a freelancer.

Do your homework

Woman making a home inventorymarvent /

Before you set up your website, order business cards, and hang your clapboards, start with a market research to make sure there is a demand for each area you do and to understand the competition.

In this way, you can determine how and where to market your services. Check out your competition to see what types of services they offer and how much they charge. You don't want to overload potential customers, but you also don't want to under- and devalue your worth.

Build a brand

Asian woman talking on her smartphonemiya227 /

Securing work in a crowded freelance space can be a challenge. A strong personal brand can help you stand out and be memorable.

What distinctive mix of attributes and skills do you bring to the table? Thinking about what you have to offer and who could benefit from your services will be heading you in the right direction in trying to market yourself.

Plan ahead

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Many freelancers go through cycles of starvation or starvation, especially when they're just starting out. Sometimes they are so busy that they are not sure they can get it all done. And sometimes barbecues.

Part of understanding how to start a freelance business is building a nest egg to relieve the stress of a tight job. To become a successful freelancer, learn how to incorporate finding future work into your daily routine – even as you get on with the tasks ahead.

Schedule routine paperwork

Overflowing with paperworkPhovoir /

While passion for your job is certainly necessary to building a successful freelance career, so is the ability to get on with other tasks. Main responsibilities include securing health insurance, planning retirement, and paying taxes on self-employment. You also need to take care of day-to-day operations, e.g. B. Ordering office supplies, invoicing, time recording and maintaining customer relationships.

For more advice on dealing with the administrative side of your freelance business, see:

Get a mentor

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Finding a mentor is a solid way to learn the pros and cons of freelancing from someone who has either been there or has sufficient knowledge of how the freelance business works to help you out.

Connect with a community

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Even if you're a one-person business, you don't have to do it yourself. Local and professional organizations, as well as online groups, can answer questions on how to start a freelance business, generate ideas, and connect you to a world beyond your home office.

Joining a group of like-minded people (such as a writing group) is a great way to get feedback and develop your skills with people who share in your goal of being the best you can be at your job.

For more tips on connecting with other freelancers and expanding your network, see 12 Networking Tips for Freelancers.

Start small

productive remote workermarvent /

When thinking about how to start a freelance business, start small. While having a cluster of clients would be ideal, start with one or two.

Consider starting your freelance business as a sideline first. This gives you the freedom to start small without worrying about making an income or maintaining your health insurance.

If you take the pressure off a bit and give yourself permission to grow small, you will be more inclined to find a steady stream of clients organically rather than worrying about a freelance famine. In return, you can focus on producing great work that will impress your current customers and then find more new customers.

Spread the word

Man using a smartphonefizkes /

No one will know you're freelancing unless you spread the word. So speak to friends and family first to see if you can get referrals from them. Then branch out into your social media circles and don't mix your personal life with your professional one.

If you've left previous jobs on decent terms, it can't hurt to reach out to former employers and let them know that you are open to business. You know the company and probably know its niche better than most. So it could be a win-win scenario.

Ask for recommendations

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One of the smartest things you can do to get started as a freelancer is to set up solid network connections, including people who can give you great recommendations. Possible references include previous work colleagues, current colleagues, and even friends. All of these people can help you connect with customers who need your services.

Protect yourself


There are plenty of horror stories out there from freelance professionals who haven't been paid for all of their hard freelance work. Protect yourself with a professional contract.

A written contract is not a guarantee that you will get paid. However, a contract is something to fall back on when you don't get paid and need to take your client to court.

Build your referrals

handshakeMongkol Photo /

Everyone wants their hard work recognized and praised. When you work for an employer, that praise usually comes in the form of positive reviews, raises, and bonuses from employees. However, if you are a freelancer, the praise comes in the form of a customer recommendation.

When you're done, ask your customer to leave a review on your website or recommend you on LinkedIn. These positive reviews from actual customers can help raise your profile, establish you as a professional expert, and attract new customers.

Stay motivated

Employees Employees Employees to the power of fiveFrom Flamingo Images /

Every job has its good and bad days. Freelancing is no different. However, if you lose your motivation as a freelancer, you may lose your entire business!

Freelance burnout is real. This could be because you've taken on too many projects or you are having a hard time sticking to boundaries. Whatever it is, burnout can make you lose motivation.

Learn when to say no

Woman relaxing with a coffeeAntonio Guillem /

As your freelance business grows, it can be tempting to take on every new project that comes your way. However, this may not be the best idea. When you take on more than you can possibly handle, the more likely you are to turn in subpar work that doesn't meet your (or your client's) standards.

Instead, be thoughtful about the job you choose to do, making as sure as possible that regardless of your workload, you can get everything off on time.

Get freelance with FlexJobs

A happy young man smiles and shows a thumb up while doing his taxes on a laptopRostislav_Sedlacek /

Now that you know how to become a successful freelancer, it's time to start getting clients. We can help here!

We post flexible and remote-friendly jobs in 50+ career categories at companies ranging from startups to Fortune 100 brands. Many freelancers have had success on our platform, and so have you!

Take the tour today and find out how you can freelance with FlexJobs.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, sometimes we get compensation for clicking links in our stories.


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