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Tips to Make Money Online as a Freelancer

Updated on April 6, 2016

Getting Started as an Online Freelancer

The best way to get started as an online freelancer is to sign up for a freelancing platform. There are many sites available, but the largest in terms of user volume and project variety is Upwork, which is the merger of two very popular sites: Elance and Odesk.

Regardless of the freelancing website you choose, you will be offered free and paid membership options. In Upwork the paid membership only costs $10/month, but it allows you to see the price range of competing bids when you submit a proposal for a job. In my opinion, it is a small price to pay for such an advantage. The perks may change according to the site, but most of the time the benefits of a basic paid membership far outweigh the cost.

The following are some tips for aspiring freelancers, based on personal experience.

1. Have Patience, Especially When Getting Started

When you first create a freelancer profile in your platform of choice, you will not have any job history or previous customer ratings. This means that your potential clients will know you are new on the site, and many of them may be skeptical about giving you the job. I can tell you by experience that getting the first few projects is tough, but you have to stay motivated regardless of how many declined proposals you get. Rejection is a normal part of entrepreneurial ventures such as being self-employed or owning a business, so don't take it personally!

However, there are many things you can do to increase your chances of getting projects when you don't have a work history yet:

  • Upload samples of your previous work to the site, most freelancing platforms allow it. Your potential clients will be able to see these samples, so upload the best you have, or even consider creating work samples for the sole purpose of marketing yourself as a freelancer.
  • Spelling and grammar can make a huge difference when you apply for a project, more so if you will be providing writing services!
  • Concentrate on projects where your professional background gives you a competitive advantage. I remember that one of the first gigs I landed consisted on translating a document on solar power from Spanish to English and the client needed it urgently. I'm an Electromechanical Engineer, I'm an energy consultant, my native language is Spanish and I'm fluent in English. I was on the site at the right time and the job was a perfect match for me, so the client awarded me the project within minutes of submitting my proposal.

2. Offer Excellence

Satisfied clients will give you great ratings, and great ratings will help you get more projects. Also, many freelancing websites have a tier system depending on the work history and feedback of freelancers.

The first jobs you win will be the first to show up on your record. Doing an excellent job is always important, but in the first few projects it is critical for your success.

3. Offer Specialized Skills

You will find a lot of simple tasks on freelancing websites, but the competition on those will be voracious since practically anyone with basic computer skills can do them. Also, the client budgets will tend to be low on those projects.

A better approach is to focus on specialized jobs that match your skills. For example, if you are a chemical engineer and also have decent writing skills, watch out for clients that need articles or blog posts related with your field. The basic rules of economics say that a service or product with a lower supply will have a higher market price, and this principle applies for online freelancing: as a general rule, specialized skills are paid much better.

Another advantage of specializing is that there is less competition, and clients tend to focus on who can perform the job better, not necessarily who does it for the lowest price.

4. Consider Writing and Translation Services

It is very common for clients to request writing or translation services with emphasis on a particular professional field. For example, if you are an expert in web development but are also a skilled writer, you can submit proposals for writing jobs where the content has to do with web development. The same can be said for translation services if you have a specialized skill and know more than one language.

The advantage of this approach is that you can have two types of freelancing income: one where you use your main professional skills, and another when you write content related with your profession!

What is your online income?

What portion of your income comes from the Internet?

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    • Sparrowlet profile image

      Katharine L Sparrow 

      2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Thank-you, enjoyed this hub! I have not tried freelance writing as of yet, but your article has gotten me interested. It seems having specialized skills would be an advantage, so I will keep this in mind, as you suggest.


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