How to start freelancing with no experience

A friend recently asked how I’d approach earning an extra $1,000 per month as soon as possible. My response? Start freelancing.

Of course, as my friend fairly pointed out, this is easier said than done for someone new to freelancing. It’s not as complicated as most people think, though. I got my start freelancing at age 18 and was earning roughly $500 per week before I even had a college diploma.

Keep reading as I share some tips regarding how to start freelancing with no experience.

How to start freelancing with no experience: 5 tips

1. Identify your marketable skills

Everyone possesses at least a few marketable skills. The lowest hanging fruit is typically familiarity with at least one language, which opens the door to freelance writing and proofreading.

Other services people often hire freelancers for include:

  • social media management
  • multimedia (video/audio/photo) editing
  • data entry
  • graphic design

If these don’t ring a bell, I’d recommend browsing service catalogs on popular freelancing websites such as Upwork and Fiverr. Within an hour or two of research, I bet something will jump out at you. 

If you’re still drawing blanks, you’re likely overestimating the level of expertise required to start earning money with a particular skill. Even if you’ve only ever done something once or twice for a personal project, there’s likely someone out there willing to give you a chance.

2. Create a small portfolio for each marketable skill you identified

Until you’ve built a roster of clients willing to vouch for you, a strong portfolio will be your main calling card. I’d recommend preparing two to five samples for each service you’d like to provide as a freelancer.

If you’d like to be a freelance writer, for example, publish a few blog posts on a website such as Medium. Interested in freelance graphic design? Create a few logos and keep the files handy so you can attach them to gig applications.

Be sure to put your best foot forward when preparing your portfolios. A strong portfolio will increase your chances of landing jobs. It will also give you a chance to practice your skills and learn a thing or two along the way.

3. Create accounts on freelance marketplaces and begin applying

Upwork has always been my go-to platform, both as a freelancer and as someone who hired freelancers quite regularly in previous jobs. It’s easy to use, has good protection methods in place (i.e. payment verification for clients so you don’t get ghosted), and is very popular.

Fiverr is another popular freelancing platform. You can also occasionally find freelancing opportunities in the “gigs” section of Craigslist (which is how I actually landed my first freelance writing job).

Tips to keep in mind when applying for freelance gigs

Once you’ve created any necessary accounts and are ready to start applying for gigs, here are some tips.

Look for gigs offered by agencies

In my experience, creative agencies are often more willing than brands themselves to give fresh talent a shot. There are several reasons for this, the primary ones being:

  1. Money. Brands typically have much larger budgets for projects than agencies. Consequently, they can afford to hire top talent (or creative agencies) you’d never be able to compete with as a newbie.
  2. Time. Agencies typically operate on very tight deadlines and need to churn deliverables out quickly. Consequently, they’d rather hire someone who can deliver satisfactory work promptly than someone who takes their time producing masterpieces.
Tailor your pricing based on how much value you can provide

Many new freelancers try to score gigs by dramatically undercutting the competition in terms of pricing. This isn’t the best approach. When I hired freelancers regularly in my last role, I automatically disqualified anyone whose quote was unreasonably low.

Most clients know you get what you pay for. The ones that don’t realize this (i.e. the ones that would hire you for rock-bottom pricing) typically have unrealistic expectations and aren’t folks you’d want to work for.

Provide a fair quote, then prove your value.

Be sure to highlight your unique qualifications in each application

Attention to detail goes a long way when you’re applying for freelance jobs. If you have prior experience that would prove useful on a particular gig, highlight it. Take the time to really sell why the client should consider you as opposed to the dozens of other people that will inevitably apply for their gig.

Don’t get discouraged

Landing freelance work is largely a numbers game. It’s not uncommon for even experienced workers to submit dozens of applications before landing a new job. I find a good way to push through this is by committing to submitting a set number of applications per day, no matter what. Keep this up and you’ll eventually find a client.

4. Focus on delivering a good client experience

There’s more to being a good freelancer than just delivering quality work. In fact, the more important traits are arguably things such as:

  • Reliability. Can clients count on you to deliver work at a consistent level of quality? Do you deliver work on the agreed-upon dates?
  • Communication. Are you easy to get in touch with? Or do clients have to send multiple messages to determine the project’s status? Additionally, when you need to push the project timeline back, do you provide sufficient notice? Or do you reach out only after the due date has passed?
  • Pleasantness. Are you easy to work with? Do you take feedback well? Or are you rude and arrogant?

Good soft skills go a long way, particularly when you’re new to freelancing and looking for opportunities to grow and gain experience.

5. Build strong relationships with clients whenever possible

Throughout my freelancing career (it was my sole source of income from 2015 to 2019), I rarely had more than one client at a time. I built very strong relationships with each client and always had at least one willing to give me enough work for a full-time income.

That’s a strong position to be in, especially if you plan on treating freelancing as a side hustle since it will reduce the amount of time you spend hunting for gigs.

6. Collect feedback and add praise to your portfolio

Solid reviews are essential for scoring more (and better paying) freelance gigs. Most freelance marketplaces have review functionality – ask clients to leave notes after each project highlighting what you’ve done well. This will go a long way toward increasing future clients’ confidence in your services.

How to start freelancing with no experience: Conclusion

I hope this article has left you with some valuable food for thought regarding how to start freelancing with no experience. For more of my career-related content, click here.

About the author

Brandon-Richard Austin

Brandon-Richard Austin is the founder of Rinkydoo Finance. He is an avid investor and digital marketer for startups and publicly-traded companies alike.