If you follow most how to freelance guides out there, you will not survive when getting started freelancing in 2020. How do you compete with people working for $3 on freelancing sites when you live in Europe, the US, or anywhere where the cost of living is high. You just can’t. And that’s where guides on how to freelance lead.
That’s why we made this ultimate freelancing guide to show you how to freelance in 2020. This guide goes against almost everything out there when it comes to getting started freelancing, and that’s why it works.
We are going to say goodbye to any freelancer gig/job sites like Upwork, and we are going to do the work ourselves. As a result, we’ll have high-quality clients we like working with, at prices that we can survive without having to spend 19 hours working.
Here’s Exactly What We Covered in This How-To Freelance Guide for 2020:
- 1. How to freelance in 2020 starts with a portfolio.
- 2. Website.
- 2.1. Why a website plays such an important for freelancing
- 2.2. What your website needs.
- 3. The best way to find clients. (One of the hardest parts of this how-to freelance guide.)
- 4. What to look for in clients.
- 5. Organizing clients.
- 6. Finding emails.
- 7. Pitches.
- 7.1. Subject Line.
- 7.2. The pitch.
- 7.3. Customization is crucial.
- 7.4. How a pitch should look.
- 7.5. How much to pitch.
- 8. Follow-ups.
- 9. How to track emails and send better follow-ups.
- 10. Working for free?
- 11. Pricing
- 12. Proposing too high prices.
- 13. Being Desperate.
- 14. Invoicing.
Essential Not to Do When Starting out Freelancing:
Unless you have a comfort blanket, do not just decide to quit your job and become a full-time freelancer.
Build up to it.
We get where you are coming from, but that will make you desperate to get clients, and that is the worst that can happen when you are starting out freelancing.
You’ll take up offers you don’t like, at prices that are not worth your value, and you’ll quickly hate what you do, and won’t have time for yourself.
Why Freelance Gig Sites like Upwork That Everyone Recommends Do Not Work for Freelancing
Freelance gig sites = fast food.
Even if you are a great freelancer, you can’t do great work on freelancing websites.
The system just isn’t designed for that.
Yet, most content on how to freelance will mention freelancing sites.
Here’s what happens on freelancing sites:
- You apply for a project that possibly hundreds or thousands also applied for.
- As a result, you are competing with others that can do the work you can do so similarly enough.
- The result? A bidding war for who can do it cheaper.
You can’t compete with someone that will do a project that will require 10 hours of work for $10.
And let’s presume you did work for $10.
A. You are going to naturally rush the work because you need to do a lot more of other work in order to survive.
B. Due to the nature of clients, you will have to do a lot of fixes. (Yes, the low paying clients are the most demanding out there.)
Upwork takes a 20% cut, and if you are getting paid with PayPal, you also have to deal with fees from that side.
Let’s not forget tax that you will also have to cut off from this sum.
As a result, you might be left with $5.
You can’t survive with that in most countries around the world, and it’s for sure not the kind of environment you want to be in as a freelancer, especially when starting out.
And that’s where finding clients and pitching them comes in as a method to find high-quality clients that respect you, pay you what you are worth, and allow you to grow and do even better work as you keep working.
Now, let’s get into this how-to freelance guide:
1. How to Freelance in 2020 Starts with a Portfolio
People won’t invest in your potential. They will invest in what they know you can do.
You can say that’ll you x and y, but if you haven’t done it before, well, why haven’t you done it before?
You need to show people what you are capable of regardless of what kind of freelance work you want to do.
If you are a photographer and want to shoot events for a company, just go to any conference around you and take imagery. Want to shoot product imagery? Take pictures of the products you have around you.
Whatever you want to do when freelancing, you have to show it first.
You do writing? Create a blog and publish your pieces there or offer guest posts to companies around you.
On the internet, in 9/10 cases, people do not care about what degree you have or don’t have or where you went to school, what matters is what you can do, and you need a portfolio to show it.
A portfolio when it comes to pitching, and some sort of a portfolio page on your website.
2. Yes, You Do Need a Website!
Having a professional-looking freelancer website is essential for growing your freelance business if you are looking for quality clients that will allow you to survive and enjoy your work without over-working due to how little you get paid.
Having a website will require a small investment from your side, but let’s make one thing clear if you are serious about getting started freelancing in 2020:
How do you create a website?
It’s ridiculously simple.
Domain (site name) + hosting + SSL certificate = Website.
Most domain sites like GoDaddy take care of all of that in one go.
If you are starting out freelancing as a college student and low on funds right now, there are ways to make having a website more affordable if you are willing to do some DYI with getting a domain, hosting, and an SSL certificate separately. Google has all the answers. Just search.
Thinking outside of the box is crucial in the freelancing industry.
Just make sure to use a proper domain such as .com and to spend time on making the website look as professional as possible. That doesn’t mean that you should over-do it as you can always make adjustments, but it is important to make the site look professional.
YouTube and the internet overall have plenty of tutorials on the topic of website creation.
And if you don’t want to play around with WordPress, Squarespace and Wix exist too. Freepik is a great source for imagery, UI, and other types of graphics for your site.
2.1. Why a Website Plays Such an Importance When Getting Started with Freelancing:
- Bigger credibility.
- Positions you as an expert that takes their business seriously.
- A means for you to show your expertise in writing via blogs.
- Serves as a more in-depth portfolio compared to just linking to examples in a pitch.
- Allows you to a professional email with your domain name instead of @gmail.com as an example. That once again positions you as an expert. We recommend creating a G Suite email with your professional domain as it will allow you to use Gmail, and this has benefits that you will find out about as you read this guide.
2.2. What Your Website Needs:
The goal of your website? To make whoever is potentially interested in working with you to get convinced that they should work with you.
Imagine that you were looking to hire someone.
What would you want to see?
Exactly what the person specializes in and offers.
And by the way, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can only do one thing when freelancing as most freelancers as skilled in 2-3 things, but positioning yourself as an expert in one field rather than someone that can do it all is far more likely to get you hired.
When somebody is looking for a pet photographer, they are looking for someone that is great at pet photography, not someone that is overall a great photographer.
That’s why you need to position yourself as an expert in a specific field, even if you can do more than one thing great. It might seem like you are missing out on opportunities if you do this, but in reality, you are making yourself more likely to get a great client.
P.S. It's never a bad idea to go through the internet and look at sites of people that are doing what you want to do for inspiration.
…And don’t forget that there’s nothing wrong with experimenting and doing what no one else does. Nobody used to have videos on their freelancing websites not so long ago, now they do.
3. The Best Way to Find Clients (One of the Hardest Parts of This How-To Freelance Guide)
Quality clients, that will pay you what you deserve that you will enjoy working with? You don’t find them on Upwork.
You need to find them yourself, and there’s a lot of benefits to that:
- When you pitch yourself rather than submitting a proposal where someone asks you questions, you have the control over what you write, giving you a huge advantage versus having to answer a set of pre-set questions.
- You can track how people react to your emails if you send emails, giving you an opportunity to quickly learn based on data. More on that later.
The best way to find clients? It’s to browse the internet. If you are looking for a tech or clothing company to work with, look for YouTubers talking about tech, whether it’s reviews or unboxings.
Look through sites with products, software, and with investing info on companies. A site like Product Hunt is a great example of this for many freelancers, whether programmers, product photographers, or marketers.
That’s where you find some of the most interesting and promising companies.
4. What to Look for in Clients:
One of the aspects that’s recommended to look at when searching for companies is the state of their website. That often tells a lot about how a business is doing, but it’s not a completely accurate measure.
For instance, MailTag’s site previously looked great, but when our new owners acquired it, it wasn’t in the greatest state.
And there are company sites that currently look average and are doing great.
That’s why it’s important to just reach out to anyone that you can see yourself working with.
Seeing yourself work with someone is the most important at the start, and then go from there.
We will say that it’s important to look out for long-term clients, though, even if they pay less.
Long-term clients will allow you to do better work as time goes on, allows you to build a bond with your clients, and saves you time as you don’t have to do extra research per every project every single time.
5. Organizing Companies (How to Freelance in an Efficient Way)
Finding a potential client that you like and right away pitching them is not an effective strategy time-wise, and considering you are going to need to do a lot of pitching at the start, it’s important to be as efficient as possible.
Here’s what we recommend you do:
- Search for companies.
- Create a Google Doc Sheet like:
- Take down the names of companies you see yourself working with.
- Do your research on all of them.
Grouping tasks together will allow you to work faster and better.
As far as research goes, we’ll dive into this part as you keep reading, but your emails are going to need to be customized, as, without it, you won’t get clients, or will make it tremendously hard for yourself.
6. Finding Emails
You found the right companies, did your research and now are ready to send a pitch?
First, you need to find the right email address.
And that’s where the Hunter extension comes in.
With this extension, you’ll be able to find any email that’s under the domain of the site you are visiting.
That plays crucial importance as it will save you time on finding emails, and will allow you to reach the right person right away.
As far as who you should reach out to when it comes to pitching, the marketing department, and owners, if possible.
7. Pitches (The Most Important Part When Learning How to Freelance)
At last, we are finally here.
When it comes to pitching, there’s a lot of things that you shouldn’t do, and ultimately avoiding things you shouldn’t do is the most important part of pitching.
Let’s dive into this:
7.1. The Subject Line
We made quite a few posts on the topic of subject lines now.
33% of emails are opened based on subject lines, yet people rarely come to stop and think about the subject of their email.
…And they should be considering that a subject line and part of the first sentence is the first thing that your email recipient sees when you send an email.
The subject line? It doesn’t have to be complicated.
It just right away needs to clarify what you want. An email recipient should know what your email is about before they click on it, with it signifying that it’s intended for them.
That’s the most successful type of email subject line out there.
- Product Photography of your Freeze Hairspray.
- Helping x with Blogging.
- Collaboration – Reviewing your x headphones.
7.2. The Pitch:
There’s more than one way to do it.
What we mention here is only a guideline. After sending a few pitches, you might find that some things work better than others for your specific industry.
Perhaps the best way to show you how to pitch is to analyze pitches:
Here’s an example of a bad pitch:
The issues with this freelancing pitch:
- My name is not mentioned giving me a vibe that somebody didn’t research.
- The email talks about the importance of video without ever mentioning the specific benefit of video for me. Clients don’t care about what we do. They care about what we can help them with.
- There’s an example of the site looking professional mentioned, but there are no actual examples of it.
- The subject line is poor. It doesn’t mention what the email is about, and sounds like copy and paste since it doesn’t mention the name of the site. A small little tweak of mentioning a website would make all the difference. The only reason we clicked on the email is to get an example of a bad pitch.
The sender did include an email signature at the very end of the email, not to give her no credit at all.
Email signatures are important as social proof and create trust, which is important because you are pitching someone that doesn’t know you. An average American receives 126 emails per day, and whoever you are pitching doesn’t want to spend their time searching for info you should have provided right away.
Your basic info and a picture go a long way as far as trust goes.
Here’s an example of an intro to a better pitch:
This email? It doesn’t mention a name as, in this case, the name was nowhere to be found. That sometimes happens.
Here’s what the intro of this email did right:
- It mentions who the person is in the email. You don’t necessarily need to do it at the start as there’s more than one way to pitch, but it is important to introduce yourself as nobody likes to work with ghosts.
- This intro is right away personalized mentioning what the brand is with it being a sustainable shoe company.
- It complements what the company is doing. Always great.
That intro? Here’s the reply it got:
7.3. Customization is Crucial
So many emails that are sent are copy and pasted. Freelancers, that get quality clients? They customize their emails so that the recipient knows the email is being sent to them exclusively.
Here’s a pitch I once sent to MailTag that got an instant reply:
It got an instant reply because I spent my 5 minutes being creative thinking of a unique way to write an email that’s customized.
After you customize, you need to mention a problem and offer a solution, while providing some value.
Here’s an example of a pitch from a previous post. Adam mentioned what he can do, but what would have been far more effective in this instance would have been if he pointed out some errors the website has, and that he can fix them.
That way, he would have been providing value, showing a problem, and solving a problem.
Another example we previously showed in a different post is of this pitch.
We already dived into some of the issues that appear in this pitch in the previous pitch examples, so we’ll dive into some further issues with this pitch that will apply to your pitching:
- There are no examples of work attached or names of companies the individual worked with. Saying you worked with x number of companies doesn’t really mean anything.
- A link is included, which is great, but a link to similar content on the individual’s site would position the writer of this pitch as even more of an expert.
- Pricing is mentioned right away. Don’t ever do that. You need to discuss what can be done first before you talk about pricing. Otherwise, you look hungry for money.
7.4. How a Pitch Should Look:
7.5. How Much to Pitch:
Write the best pitch in the world, and somebody might still not be interested.
That’s where the quantity game comes in.
If you want to get clients, your pitches still need to be customized, but the key when starting out freelancing is to have a bit of quality and a lot of quantity.
Naturally, not everyone is looking for your services. Some won’t see your emails, and so on. That’s why we recommend you initially go for 15-20 quality emails per day if you are starting out freelancing and looking to get a client right away.
Stats wise, 25% of freelancers find work the next day if needed.
Sometimes all the emails you send will get a reply, sometimes none will.
But just because none of your emails get a reply does not mean that you should move on.
In most cases it’s not that your pitch sucked, it’s that somebody didn’t see it.
A simple follow-up can increase your reply rate by even 50%.
If your email doesn’t get a reply after a few days, send a follow-up.
Still no reply? Go to LinkedIn and find the individual and let them know that you reached out. That will right away will show your recipient that you aren’t just sending a copy and paste, but that you also care and take your time to reach out. And if your email is in their spam, they can now find it.
If by the 5th email, there’s still no reply, that’s where you can move on.
9. How to Track Your Emails and Send Better Follow-Ups
This is one of the most important pieces when pitching as a freelancer.
Traditionally, you don’t know what happens after you send an email.
That means that whether someone opened your email or not, you don’t know. You don’t know how many times it was looked at.
If you don’t know how people react to your freelancing pitches, you won’t know whether to provide a follow-up with more value around a certain linked that your recipient clicked on or whether you simply need to send a simple follow-up because somebody didn’t see your email.
And that’s where MailTag comes in. With MailTag, you know when people open your emails and how they react to them.
Based on that, you can realize what kind of emails get more interest and what kind of emails don’t do too well, giving you feedback on what you can do better.
MailTag is also great for tracking how many emails you sent daily, with a dashboard that won’t fool the reality. You’ll know if you are doing enough.
MailTag also comes with an option for automatic follow-ups if you would like to automate those follow-ups when it comes to people that never opened your email.
There’s a 2 week trial with no card required for you to check it out. Just download it in the Googe Chrome Store on Google Chrome, and you are good to go.
Do you know D Rock, Gary Vee’s cameraman? He didn’t get a response for almost 2 months. If he knew about email tracking, he wouldn’t have to wonder about why he isn’t getting a reply. He would just know that the email wasn’t opened.
10. Working for Free When Starting Out?
Some say that you are being used when you work for free. Meanwhile, others say that it’s important to do it.
The answer? It’s complicated.
As while it’s true that freelancers are often taken advantage of when they work for free, it can also be a great way to build a portfolio and an investment in the long-term.
If you are going to be doing freelancing work for companies that have a lot of potential and you see yourself working with in the future, but they currently don’t have any funds because they are just starting out, that’s a situation where it makes sense to do some work for free.
If you see the benefit of doing work for free for a company, do it.
Don’t ever offer to work for free in your pitch, though. Talk with the company first, get a feel for what the company is like, and then go from there.
This is a complicated topic since, depending on the exact type of freelance work you will do, this will differ a lot.
When starting out freelancing, this can be a very confusing topic, though.
That’s why made a simple formula:
Take these down:
- Income goal for now.
- How many hours per week you have.
- An estimate of how much an average project will take.
Let’s assume you seek $3,000 per month.
$3000/30 = $100.
Are you going to work every day?
If yes, you need to be making an average of $100 per day.
If you can do 5 photography projects per week, with a need for $700 per week to reach your goal, you need $140 per project to reach that.
Except, in reality, you need a lot more.
You need to account for tax and your expenses, such as subscriptions for software.
Clients for freelancing don’t tend to pay for things such as your further development, whether through courses, books, or conferences. That’s also something to consider in your pricing.
12. Thinking You Are Proposing Too Much?
it’s okay to have doubts overpricing and getting hired as a freelancer overall.
Every freelancer starting out had this at one point.
But if you are able to provide a company with value, it makes sense for them to hire you.
Especially since they don’t have to pay you the fees, they would need to pay if they hired someone full-time.
13. Don’t Be Desperate:
A very big mistake that almost all freelancers did when starting out is being desperate.
Clients will almost always try to get a lower price from you. That’s just business.
That’s where negotiation skills can come in very useful.
Regardless of what price you suggest, you would probably get the same response of it being too high in most cases.
That’s where you have to be bold.
Here’s an example of what you can use:
Relating to pricing, hmm… You mentioned, ” it seems a bit expensive I guess we can start it.” That doesn’t sound too certain. If you feel it’s too expensive, it’s perfectly okay if we don’t do business. There are much cheaper content creators on Upwork or other sites, but are you looking for a cheap price or results?
At the same time, be reasonable, examine when it makes more sense to take the client’s offer.
Sometimes a long-term offer at a lower price makes more sense because it’s a project you really want to do, and see long-term benefits.
Be picky. If you aren’t, you will regret it, but also think about where it makes sense to accept offers.
Not being desperate? It also means that you don’t mention money at the start and focus on how you can help the client first.
When it comes to freelancing, we prefer to charge a fix fee project rather than hours as it makes everything more smooth.
To get paid as a freelancer that reaches out to people, you need to send invoices. You can either use an invoice generator on the internet for that, followed by sending an invoice to your recipient, or you can send an invoice through PayPal.
If you are getting paid through a bank transfer, the first option is a better choice. If you aren’t, the second is. PayPal does take a fee from your payment, though, which is something to be aware of.
That’s How to Freelance and Get Started Freelancing in 2020 in Way That You Can Survive
In this ultimate freelancing guide on how to freelance in 2020, we mentioned almost everything that’s needed to get started freelancing. But this isn’t the only way for how to freelance. There’s more than one way to do it. You can pitch in person, social media, or phone calls.
And the ingredients that make everything work? Patience, commitment, and determination.
Normally, we would tell you to read some of our other blogs that mostly aren’t about how to freelance, but focus on Chrome extensions, quotes, and pitching, but in this case, save this post, share with friends, and get to work so that you can become a freelancer in 2020.
How to Freelance in 2020 Checklist:
- Create a portfolio.
- Create a website.
- Research clients.
- Repeat 3-4-5.