Just like many others, I was once very broke, doing low paying jobs and unable to make ends meet. Success in online freelancing was nothing but a distant dream.
Whatever I was earning monthly could barely help us survive for two weeks. I was in a financial rat race. Always in debt, struggling to pay bills and wondering whether one day I’ll get to live a better life.
One thing that I never lost though is hope. I was always very optimistic.
And that big break came in form of online freelancing.
It’s been four years and counting and I do not regret starting my online business. It has helped me to live a much better life, and get to some levels that I couldn’t even imagine.
On the other hand, I have seen many come and go. Few survive their first year of freelancing. Fewer get to the second year, and even fewer cross the 5 year mark.
So, how do you survive your first year as a freelancer?
1. Put aside some cash
You don’t start a business and expect it to bloom immediately. Businesses take time to grow. And shrewd businessmen start small but have big dreams and plans. Therefore, you don’t just quit your job, with no alternative, and get started online. It’s advisable, if possible, to have some cash saved up somewhere to cushion you as you go through the teething problems of the business.
2. Try out a skill that works for you
There are different things that one can do online. Some of the most famous ones include article writing, academic writing, transcription and graphic design. Others also choose to go for internet marketing instead, where they either sell their products or market other people’s products online.
If you’re confused about what will suit you best, you can take some time with a close friend and analyze what you’ve done best in your life.
For example, writing came naturally for me. From way back in primary school, I would excel with flying colors in anything writing related – English compositions and English literature were a walk in the park for me. I never even used to revise for them.
With real life data backing up my writing skills, it was easy to decide to venture into online freelancing as an article writer.
Whether you settle on writing, transcription or internet marketing, it is always best to have real life data that shows you what to choose.
If you’re unsure of what’s best of you, test different areas and take up what works best for you.
3. Optimize that skill
Once you’ve discovered your skill, you need to optimize it.
When I decided to become an article writer, I discovered that writing for the web is totally different from writing for school or for fun. I had to start afresh and research to know how exactly people write for the web. Graphic designers can do their research and know exactly how web graphics are done. The same thing applies in any area of freelance work you choose.
Whatever you do, make sure you find out how exactly people do it online. Always make Google and YouTube your friends. Look at the best in your area of expertise and aim to emulate them, and eventually even do better than them. You need to also be good in marketing your skills. Each legitimate platform has lots of resources online that indicate how to perfect your work in those platforms.
4. Have a career trajectory
Do not be stagnant my friend. Aim to always grow. Have a career trajectory that you want to follow. My former high school principal always used to say,
When you’re not growing, you’re dying
That’s true in every area of life. Even your body keeps growing daily, and when your body stops growing and developing, you slowly start dying.
Transcribers, for example can use the career trajectory below when they’re starting.
- January to March – Start out as a transcriber. Get trained and start working in freelancing websites.
- April to June – Do transcription as a business. Instead of doing all the work, you can pick jobs from different clients in online work platforms and hire them out to your own transcribers at half the amount. E.g. get a transcription client from Upwork.com paying $60 per audio hour, and look for writers, either online or locally, and pay them $30 per audio hour for the same job.
- July to August – Start a blog where you give thorough insights on transcription. Work on creating a good following.
- August to December – Create a training on transcription. Charge people a training fee.
- and the list goes on….
This will help you become more and more stable in future. And eventually you’ll end up earning more with less effort. If you were to, for example, follow the trajectory above, you’ll be having four streams of income by December i.e.
- Personally transcribing for your highest paying transcription clients
- Earning from the work that you outsource to other transcribers
- Making money blogging
- Getting paid to train
On your second year, you can work on even bigger and better things.
5. Keep track of your finances
Online freelancing is interesting, especially the fact that you don’t get paid at the end of the month. Some clients pay you every day, others every four days, and others bi-weekly. Others still just pay randomly, whenever work is approved.
Most people do not keep track of how much they earn and even how they spend it. The money comes in randomly and is all quickly spent. They even end up making these 8 excruciating mistakes.
Keeping track of your income and expenditure will help you to plan yourself better, make wise online and offline investments and experience steady growth in your online adventure!
6. Have a goal to get DCs only
DCs stands for direct clients.
Aim to get your own direct clients only, and to stop working for freelancing websites eventually.
As I write this, I don’t work for any freelance website, but only have direct clients where freelancing is concerned. Below are some of the advantages of DCs:
- They usually don’t have very tight deadlines
- They pay extremely well
- They hardly reject your work
Once you have many direct clients, you will discover that you earn much more, with much less effort.
I personally got most of my DCs from:
- My blog
- Emailing potential prospects
- Forums such as Affilorama and Wazua
- Social media, especially Facebook and LinkedIn
- Referrals from other direct clients
- Real life friends and family who need some work done that’s in my area of expertise
- Job boards
- Googling sites that pay writers and applying
Don’t be selfish. Network heavily and let people know what you do. Speak it out in blogs, forums and social media. Help out as many people as you can. If possible you can even organize seminars and train people on an area you’re good at. Train for cash and also train for free. In fact, most of your efforts should be done for free, but don’t forget to properly monetize other efforts.
As much as you give, you’ll also receive lots of helpful information from others. Be very open to learning. None of us knows everything. Even your own trainee can teach you more than you’ve ever learnt elsewhere. Humbly listen to others. Celebrate other people’s success stories and mourn with them in times of sorrow. Make lasting friendships with people in your networks. Real friends will literally do anything for you.
Most successful people build solid networks. Most successful people are built by their solid networks.
This point can be repeated many times. It needs to sink in deep.
Success is never easy. You have to persevere through the trying times. Life is never predictable therefore you may be faced with lots of challenges in your quest to survive this online adventure. Below are some of the common challenges:
- Not having a computer
- No access to reliable internet
- Being scammed online
- Having offline problems such as sickness and even death of loved ones
- Poor planning
- Not investing in yourself properly
- Power blackouts
Sometimes you literally feel like screaming your lungs out and giving up.
However, do whatever it takes to stay focused. It doesn’t hurt to take a break once in a while to re-energize. It also helps to keep improving your skills and increasing your charges periodically. Take advantage of the various tools that will make your work easier.
Real online soldiers persevere through the stormy weather. Real online soldiers eventually get rewarded for their perseverance and smart work.
9. Keep learning
This is self-explanatory. You need to always try and learn something new. Learn what you can about online freelancing. Go on and learn as much as possible about internet marketing. Know about new marketing trends, new ways of making online payments (e.g. right now you should be researching on bitcoins), new freelancing websites e.t.c. Make everyday a learning experience.
Making money online is never easy. In fact it can be really hard sometimes. However, if you follow the above tips, you will not only survive your first year of freelancing, you’ll also enjoy and survive many more years online. You will mentor many others and play a big role in helping many to join your noble profession and be able to earn a better living. Do you have any more tips that helped you to survive your first year online? Any queries? Be sure to share this post using the social sharing buttons above and also make your thoughts known in the comments.