Freelancing is nothing but a way to make money by providing services you are skilled at, to others who require them. You are paid for the time you spend to do the work.

You offer a service as a full-time or a part-time contractor for a business or another individual, typically billed on an hourly or per-project basis, remotely from home.

How do I get started?

#1: Pick an area of expertise

You want to be known as an expert in something. Whether it’s creating a website, writing an article, designing a logo, or creating a successful SEO campaign, you need to know where your strengths lie.

Pro Tip: Pick a niche which you are interested in, have skills that can be marketed, and one that clients are willing to pay for.

#2: Register on multiple freelance websites

When you get started, it’s going to be difficult to get freelance projects. Register on multiple freelance websites and bid for projects you can handle. Some of the most popular freelancing sites are

Pro Tip: Just like investing, too many freelance websites can dilute your focus. Pick the top 3 or 4 freelance websites and focus on getting work from there. Move on only if you are not getting any projects from these websites for an extended period of time.

#3: Bid low, at the start, for qualified projects to get started

Bid very low initially to get started on a freelance website. Once you have successfully completed a few projects and have accumulated a few positive reviews, you can start charging nominal rates.

Pro Tip: Start small. Focus on a few niche projects before approaching bigger ones. In order to win bigger projects, you’ll need to have a strong reputation on the freelance website. This typically takes months or even years to build up.

You can freelance in almost any niche- from advanced machine learning projects to simple data entry work. Here are some of the most popular ones where people from India make a lot of money

  • Online tutoring– You can create courses and sell them online through your own website or third party web sites like udemy
  • Sell your expertise- Websites like let customers get on a call with you for a specified amount of time by paying your per minute rate
  • Web design– includes design as well as simple front-end coding
  • Graphic Design– For the creative minded people. Normal graphic design work does not include coding
  • Application Development– Includes end-to-end product development
  • Content Writing- Make money by writing for clients. Apart from top freelance websites, you can also look for content work on niche portals like textbroker
  • Marketing- From SEO to handing out flyers, there are tons of marketing related freelance jobs out there
  • Virtual Assistant- Everything a personal assistant would do, done remotely from home

Common mistakes people make when they get started with freelancing

#1: Not ensuring your eligibility to do freelance work

Freelancing can become illegal if you are working full-time and your employment contract prevents you from working for anyone else.

Before you start accepting freelance projects, ensure you are legally allowed to accept part-time projects. Check any moonlighting clauses that might be applicable in your case.

#2: Trying to play the pricing war

When you start, you under cut others to win the project. But that’s not a sustainable long term strategy. Start charging nominal rates once you have some reputation on the freelance website.

#3: Not following up after bidding for a project

Always follow up after bidding for a project. This shows the employer that you are serious about the work. It also helps you stand out from 1000s of other applicants who are trying to win the project. 99% of them don’t follow-up in my experience.

#4: Sending canned responses

If there’s one thing most people who post jobs hate, they are canned responses. Always read the requirement carefully and apply for the job with a customized response.

#5: Not filing your taxes

Freelance income should be treated as taxable income and you need to pay taxes on it. Failure to comply or trying to evade taxes is a criminal offense. Make sure you take into account taxes before you quote your rates because that can affect your in-hand income.

Tips to make even more money working the same number of hours

#1: Build a personal brand

Freelance sites are great sources to get the initial projects. However, you need to establish a brand outside of the freelance websites. Let clients find you instead of you chasing clients who want to create a Mercedes Benz for the price of a Tata Nano.

In my personal experience, when clients find you- through personal references or your website, they are more willing to agree to your pricing without trying to bargain. The deals are also smoother because people who come to you have a real problem that needs to be solved fast.

#2: Focus on repeat customers

It’s easier to sell to an existing customer than a new one.

Once you have already built the rapport with an employer, maintain it. Most people would prefer to work with someone they are comfortable with even if your fees are on the higher side.

#3: Tie up with other freelancers to provide a complete end-to-end solution

Maybe you are the best when it comes to coding efficient web apps. However, when it comes to your design skills, there’s much to be improved. If you tie up with a good creative designer, now you can provide a complete web design service.

Bigger projects typically come with more complex requirements. If you have resources you can tap into, it’s best to take up the project and outsource those areas that do not come under your skill set.

Few words of caution…

  • If you are unsure of going the full-time freelance route, start part-time. Once you get more comfortable with the work-from-home approach and you start earning the equivalent of your full-time salary on a consistent basis, you can go full-time.
  • Indians typically are trusted less due to the sheer volume of scams that happen. If your clients are uncomfortable, take on projects with a small upfront fee and remaining on successful project completion.
  • Risk applies to both freelancers and employers. As a freelancer, before you commit to a project, take a look at the rating and hiring history of the person who has posted the job
  • Freelancing is a bumpy ride. At times, you’ll have more projects than you can handle. Sometimes, you may have no projects at all. It’s critical that a freelancer has an emergency fund.