How to start working as a freelancer
14 May 2017by Alessandro Valerani Leave a Comment

Start your career as a freelancer

Table of contents
Start your career as a freelancer
Begin freelance work
General advice
Try them all
Keep track of your metrics
Do the minimum necessary to start working
Ride the wave!
Sacrifice when needed …
… but rested often and with taste
Stand out from the crowd
Advice for those who are already experts in their field
Advice for those with no work experience
Find your first customer
You’re saying you don’t have reviews on the platform
Explain in detail how to solve the customer’s problem
Other tips for not making a fool
Protecting oneself ie getting paid
In Italy over 3 million people work as freelancers (source TrueNumbers ), corresponding to around 13.5% of the active population in Italy.

In the United States, on the other hand, over 35% of the population works as a freelancer (source Forbes ).

There are two reasons to start a freelance career:

You want to make a change in your professional life
You are approaching the world of work and it seems like the easiest way
If you belong to the first category: Congratulations and Welcome! Freelance work is certainly a more eventful life than the traditional one, with its pros and cons.

If, on the other hand, you are a beginner, I advise you to take the matter seriously. Keep in mind that very often a freelancer has periods in which he doesn’t find customers even to pay them, alternating with periods when the workload breaks his back.

Generally I recommend working as a freelancer to everyone, especially those who do not want to please, they prefer new challenges and are willing to learn every day.

This article discusses the main points of the freelance career. If you want to learn more, I wrote a step-by-step guide to freelance life .

Begin freelance work
General advice
This is a list of tips I can give you without hesitation. They are mainly common sense rules that I hope you will use to your advantage

Try them all
I can tell you thousands of techniques to find work (and I’ll do it), and tell you various stories about how to create a relationship with a client so that you come back.

But these are my stories, you must write yours.

So don’t take anything at face value! If you read something useful, try it!

Some approaches work for certain people, and others do not.

Some of us are keyboard warriors and harmless on the phone, others are always aggressive.

Try the techniques using your head, doing your math and measuring everything you can!

Keep track of your metrics
Always try to objectively evaluate your performance. Measure how many job proposals you send, with how many people come into “personal” contact and with how many you can establish a working relationship.

For example, use the links you trace with Bitly or Google , to try to understand what impact your pitches have on your potential customers.

Send your potential customers to sites you can track with tools such as Google Analytics and Smartlook .

Try to leave as little as possible to the case!

Do the minimum necessary to start working
Starting to work as a freelancer involves two things:

Finding customers
Complete the job satisfactorily
I personally believe that both of these tasks are very important.

The quantity and quality of the customers that you will have will determine the way in which you will face every day.

Completing jobs correctly, on time and giving more and more of what you are asked for will allow you to aspire to better working conditions and establish long-lasting relationships with your customers.

I will go into both of these topics briefly below.

Ride the wave!
It may seem strange but we all “go to periods”, there is a time when we are lucky like the one in which we are full of energy.

And then there are also more difficult times in which we struggle even to get up early.

It is important that you try to do as much as possible when you “feel it” to create room for maneuver for difficult times.

This is especially true for customer research.

Personally, I advise you never to lose hunger and to look for a new customer as often as possible. Whether it is once a day or once a month, if you stop looking for customers it means that you are satisfied with what you have and this can cause problems when you have problems with your current customers (unfortunately this also happens).

Sacrifice when needed …
As I said before: “Do in summer what you can’t do in winter”, in the same way always try to create Win-Win relationships with your customers. Sometimes this will mean having to work more hours than usual to meet customer demands.

… but rested often and with taste
On the other hand, I suggest you define a day when you don’t work. Without any excuse or exception.

A stable work ethic is often the most difficult part. But it is equally difficult to stop working when you have the heat or you have developed the habit of neglecting yourself.

I strongly advise you to do your best when it’s time to work but to stop and rest with as much commitment.

Stand out from the crowd
Nowadays there is always an alternative.

If you don’t want to use Google there’s DuckDuckGo .

Likewise, your potential customers will always have an alternative.

So it is very important that you don’t give your potential customer a good reason to look elsewhere.

To better understand what I’m about to tell you, I suggest you create a freelancer ad, on the platform you prefer, with the exact requirements you think you have.

Before posting your ad, try writing your application.

Then publish the ad and watch what happens.

I’m sure it will be a very useful experience.

In 90% of the cases you will have one more than thirty proposals, most of which will have been copied and pasted without any thought behind.

Try to find the candidate you would hire and try to understand what hit you.

I am convinced that it was not their profile.

They are not necessarily the thousands of hours of experience, but a nice honest cover letter and an interesting portofolio .

Advice for those who are already experts in their field
If you are already an expert in your field, all you have to do is pass on your experience to your potential customers.

A good portofolio, some case studies and a cover letter that opens the discussion are all you need.

Warning: Whenever you talk to a new person, remember that they have no idea who you are and what you do.

It doesn’t matter if you wrote 100 and passes letters, each person is a new world and therefore needs you to tell them your story.

So I advise you to arm yourself with patience, avoid a haughty attitude and instead ask questions to your potential client to help you understand what he needs and at the same time confirm your professionalism.

Advice for those with no work experience
Even if you are a beginner, you still have your dignity and the same 24 hours that everyone else has.

The first and most important advice I want to give you is that you must always keep an honest communication.

Whatever happens, and whatever the consequences, never lie.

Find your first customer
Taking for granted that you know how to do the job you want to do (and this does not mean that you have to be an expert, read between the lines) and that you are always honest; opening the first work contract will require considerable effort.

The technique to search for the customer is simple and effective:

Search for the job you are interested in
See if the customer has ever hired non-expert people
Send a cover letter explaining that you have no reviews on the platform and explain step by step how you would solve your problem
This approach worked very well for me, I think for these reasons:

You’re saying you don’t have reviews on the platform
So you’re admitting that trusting you requires effort from the potential client, at the same time you’re not saying you’re incapable.

You’re “leaving in the dark” the fact that you have little / zero experience. But I’m assuming that you know how to complete the required task, so you’re not really lying.

Explain in detail how to solve the customer’s problem
You are “giving” him the solution, in this way he proves:

To have read his requests
That you are a human being who understands that there is another person on the other side of the screen
To be competent, at least competent enough to propose a solution
This approach surely cannot work miracles, nor can it make you choose from people who do not open your proposal.

But I’m sure it will help you establish a good relationship with customers who decide to dedicate a few minutes.

Other tips for not making a fool
When you start, I suggest you get decent prices, avoid the downward war and at the same time avoid inflating your prices too much.

I advise you to choose jobs with a fee already agreed, initially with small amounts of money.

With a “fixed price” job you don’t have to worry if you struggle to finish the job, certainly you will not be economically efficient but you will have the opportunity to learn by doing that I think is not an aspect to be underestimated.

The reason why starting with small amounts is twofold.

On the one hand, if you have problems and can’t do the job, you can be honest and cancel the job by offering a refund.

On the other hand, I don’t advise you to work for large sums with a customer you don’t know because it’s extremely easy to get screwed.

Protecting oneself ie getting paid
I can’t tell you if it’s right to expect a 50% down payment when you start a job with a new client because I never personally did it.

I start with small sums, for example 100 euros, and deliver the work only after it has been paid.

Never deliver the final product unless it has been paid to you.

As a last tip, always try to have a written and signed contract. It can be important, especially to be able to re-discuss the budget or to evaluate a job based on written requirements and not on the requirements that you or your client had in mind.

Most online Freelancing platforms offer an implicit contract, try to find out why it can be very important.


Working as a freelancer is a special experience, in some ways magical. It is a profession in which the first labors repay with time and every day is a new experience.

I wish you all the best, respect others and be respected and I’m sure you will go great!


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