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How to Work as an Online Freelancer

Updated on April 7, 2014
Wish you could work from home? This article shares how to be an online freelancer.
Wish you could work from home? This article shares how to be an online freelancer. | Source

Freelancing from Home

For many people, working from home is the dream--roll out of bed, no commute, and spend the day doing something you love. But if your place of employment doesn't have a work from home program, can you start your own business and make that happen? Is it feasible, and how much work does it take?

One of the hardest parts of starting your own business where you work from home is generating business (and thus profits!). However, working as an online freelancer is not impossible, and many people succeed at it. You will need dedication, determination, talent, and a plan!

Online Freelancing Sites

  • eLance
  • Guru
  • Fiverr
  • oDesk

Online Writing Sites

  • Hubpages
  • Yahoo! Voices
  • Constant Content
  • Squidoo
  • Textbroker

Choosing a Field for Online Freelance Work

Once you've decided you would like to be an online freelancer, you will need to choose a field--more specifically, a service-based field. If you have a talent for writing, graphic design, transcription, or editing, you can probably find online work and start building a client base.

So, sit and think about your talents and how you can best apply them to a service-based field. Think outside of the box and get creative--you never know when you'll hit that perfect niche market.

From personal experience: I needed a way to make extra money while putting myself through law school, so I decided to use my English degree and internships in publishing to start an online editing, proofreading, and writing business. I reached out to publishing houses and set up a website, and within a year I had a steady income (not enough to live off of, but enough to get by).

Advice on Finding Freelance Jobs

Creating a Website and Building a Client Base

Word of mouth on the street CAN get you business, but networking in-person isn't enough anymore--you will also need an online presence if you're going to work as an online freelancer. If you're short on start-up cash, make your own website through a provider like GoDaddy.

On your website, make sure your grammar and spelling are perfect--you want to present a professional image. Also be sure to list your qualifications and your passion for the work you're doing--remember, your website is to sell your services and yourself as a professional!

Unfortunately, just having a website doesn't guarantee business--there's just too much competition in the search engines. You will have to promote your website on social media--Facebook, Twitter, blogging, etc.

Sites like Guru.com, eLance.com, and oDesk.com are also a great way to build a client base. On those sites, you bid for a project, and the person posting the project picks the best fit (or in some unfortunate cases, the cheapest fit). You probably will not get paid what you are worth on these sites--but if you do a great job, clients will come back and likely be amenable to increasing your rate of pay.

From personal experience: I started editing and proofreading on Guru.com in 2009, and I have several lasting relationships with clients from the site. Though I can't speak to the other sites, I can attest that starting off with the sites is a good way to gain exposure and generate clientele.

Freelance Book Reviews

Do you need a freelance book reviewer to write reviews for your self-published novel? Click here for my book review gig on Fiverr.

Have You Done Freelance Work Online?

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Final Considerations

Some final words of advice:

  • Don't quit your existing job cold-turkey to work as an online freelancer--it takes time to build a reputation and clientele. Start out part-time in the evenings and see how your workload increases; when you do decide to go full-time, be sure to have a nest egg saved up.
  • Don't join sites that pay you a pittance to do menial tasks--you could make more extra money working at the mall, and clicking buttons to make $3 will not lead to more clients down the road.
  • Don't do a full project without at least some sort of payment--and develop a contract (or find one online) to bind clients to payment.
  • Always ask for a testimonial--nothing will sell your services like the honest, positive opinions of another client.
  • It's tempting to work almost around the clock once you get a steady flow of clients, but don't--you will burn out!

Online freelancing can be a great world to enter--it offers freedom, flexibility, and extra income. With a little hard work, you too can join the ranks of online workers!

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    • Brilqntin profile image

      Diana 

      5 years ago

      I think the reply DYIMommy is actually to me - so I'll follow up :-) It is not true that you end up working more hours than at a 'traditional' job - well, you could end up doing it - but it has nothing to do with freelancing; it has to do with poor time management skills or taking up too much work at low rate, and so on. I work 3 times less than when I was at a traditional job and make many times more money... I strongly believe it is a matter of planning and organization - and this is the first important thing when deciding if you want to be a freelancer. The situation is similar with the division between home and work - there won't be any if you don't set it for you, your family and your friends. However, freelancing actually gives the freedom to reach work-life balance - it depends on YOU, that's the beauty ;)

    • SaffronBlossom profile imageAUTHOR

      SaffronBlossom 

      5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      @DIYMommy: I agree that not everyone is cut out to be a freelancer--it's hard work, and you end up working way more hours than at a "traditional" job. It's also harder to turn that side of yourself off, because there's no division between home and work. But, I would still do it full-time if I could! @JamiJay: Freelance forums is a great idea! I haven't used those much, but I need to check a few out. @jsbt17: I think needing an office varies for everyone...I have a home office, and a rented office would definitely cut too much into my profits! But for some people, an office outside of the home is integral to getting work done. So, just depends on how you work best.

    • profile image

      jsbst18 

      5 years ago

      If you want to freelance, I suggest that you still rent an office. The "idea" of working at home seems great, in actuality it is terrible to work at home. My job, I could do from home, but I rent a small office. The cost vs benefits are just too high to stay at home.

    • JamiJay profile image

      Jami Johnson 

      5 years ago from Somewhere amongst the trees in Vermont.

      I have begun dipping my toes in the freelance writing world. I started here on Hubpages first, and was soon accepted into the apprenticeship program and have begun gaining a sense of deadlines and how much work it takes to be a full time freelance writer.

      Searching for jobs on freelance forums is also a great way to find online freelance jobs (which I do on a regular basis, "applying" for at least one writing job a day). At first it is easy to become discouraged, but if you work at it it can become a possibility.

      Some good advice here, voted up and useful :)

    • Brilqntin profile image

      Diana 

      5 years ago

      I've been freelancing for a few years now, primarily on oDesk. I just recently started my own website - didn't need it before, and still don't - there's plenty of work on sites like oDesk, Elance, etc. But I guess it's time to diversify :-)

      I agree with all your points - just wanted to add that not everyone is cut out to be a successful freelancer. Yes, freelancing is a great and viable option but before investing oneself into building an online career, one should make sure freelancing IS what they want :-)

      Voted up - thanks to writing and sharing!

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