How to start freelancing

One of the most challenging and simultaneously rewarding ways to earn an income is by doing something you love, for which you have a passion. Using gifts, talents, and hobbies as a revenue stream provides people a fun outlet that sometimes turns into full-time self-employment. Many people start this path by freelancing or working for different companies at different times. It is a unique niche that creates the gig economy and interesting opportunities.

Exploring the world of freelance can be intimidating and overwhelming. What about taxes? How do I get started? What if I never get my foot in the door? Do I really want to do this full-time or just on the side?

Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to enter into this world successfully. I’ve been doing freelance work for over two years now, and it is one of the most rewarding endeavors I’ve tried.

Do your homework first and understand your financial responsibilities. 

One of the most appealing aspects of freelancing is controlling your own hours, what jobs you take, and sometimes even getting to set your own prices. The biggest catch to any freelance gig, unless you pursue jobs through a temp agency, is that you are responsible for paying your own taxes. If you make more than $400 a year doing freelance work, you have to pay up!

Rather than an employer taking out your federal, state, and social security taxes from each paycheck, you have to keep track of it and pay them yourself. The IRS has an option to pay quarterly through their website, which is what most freelancers and self-employed individuals do. An online or physical calendar or planner is important to keeping track of payments to the IRS. Set yourself up for success by being informed, organized, and prepared before you start freelancing.

Tax rates change sometimes, so keeping yourself up to date is also important. Get the specifics directly from the IRS at their website here. Consider consulting with an accountant once you make regular income to determine the best payment method for you. Getting an app to track your finances or writing it down can be helpful too.

If you’re still in school or have a job, start part-time to see if freelance is the right fit.

It can be tempting to dive headfirst into freelance work, especially if it is something you’re passionate about. The temptation to quit your job and throw all you’ve got into this exciting new world can be strong. Many websites and individuals will tell you to follow your passions and invest in that self-employment opportunity.

Breaking into the freelance market, however, can be difficult, and giving up on any income or education may not pay off. If you’re unemployed and not in school, the financial flexibility to take time to pursue a high-risk effort, and have nothing but time, then go for it! If not, try doing freelance part-time to see if it is a good fit for you. 

Be prepared for a tough grind, rejection, and bad reviews.

Hard work is the key to success in any field, but when you are your own marketing team, it is essential. Often freelance jobs do not pay high, so it can be a lot of work to make a decent wage. I am a freelance writer, so I have to spend hours churning out articles and blogs for other people. I love to write so it’s a pleasure to do the work, but I would have to write five articles per day to make the equivalent that I make in my full-time job.

Another emotional blow is when people don’t like what you do, say no, or worse, criticize your work. Having tough skin and being prepared for a lot of negativity comes with the territory. Even freelancing for a company like Uber or Lyft means dealing with the public at its worst and potentially receiving negative feedback. It’s a lot of work to succeed, and the response isn’t always good, but it can be worth it.

Try freelance job boards for quick work that builds your portfolio.

If you have no significant previous experience in the field where you want to freelance, there are websites that can help you get some gigs under your belt. Taking some less than exciting jobs early on can open the door to better opportunities. Using Craigslist, Fiverr, and Freelancer lets you build your resume, meet some interesting people, and maybe even get reviews and recommendations.

Being patient with these initial gigs can feel draining, but it is worth the effort. Remember George Clooney was in Return of the Killer Tomatoes, and Mark Ruffalo was in a zit cream commercial years before he became the Hulk (Love the Marvel Universe? Check out our rundown of Everything Marvel in 2021).

Have a strong online presence.

If being a full-time freelancer is something you’re passionate about, invest the time, energy, and money to have a good website. Even if it is something, you want to do on weekends, being able to showcase your work on the internet makes you more accessible and marketable. Put up some writing samples, your best pictures, or reviews from satisfied customers and show off.

Make sure you are also present on social media professionally. Stay up to date on LinkedIn, Instagram, and other platforms that may be relevant to your field. Respond to reviews on sites like Yelp or Google Reviews if possible, both positive and negative. Controlling your online presence helps you look professional and protect your work.

If you’re serious enough to invest in a website, consider investing in professional equipment relevant to your business. 

Investing in freelance can be challenging, but whether you use it to bring in some extra cash or as a way to launch a business eventually, it can be a great path to follow.

Use your passions and interests to pursue independence and creativity, or download an app and make deliveries for some extra cash. No matter how you pursue freelancing, if it is the right fit for you, the only way to figure it out is to try.

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