How to become a successful online freelancer

So you’ve probably scoured the internet looking for guides on how to become a freelancer. Having been there myself I can tell you, you’r not alone in this journey.

As the society moves through to a gig economy, more and more people will become freelancers. I mean who could blame them, it does offer a lot of advantages. But beware there are, of course, drawbacks as well.

After all everything has pros and cons.

What is a freelancer

For starters lets examine the definition of a freelancer.

According to Wikipedia “Freelance {…} commonly used for a person who is self-employed and is not necessarily committed to a particular employer long-term

and Dictionary.com says “a person who works as a writer, designer, performer, or the like, selling work or services by the hour, day, job, etc., rather than working on a regular salary basis for one employer.

To me both seem to give a similar understanding of what a freelancer does and Wikipedia goes onto give us an advantage as well. But we’re not here only to get a definition are we?

We want to know what are the type of jobs you can get as a freelancer?

Googling freelancer jobs will return an array of results along the lines of

  • freelance web designers
  • freelance graphic designers
  • freelance writers
  • freelance photographers
  • freelancer programmer

Not all of the results that appear on Google will mean you can give your notice come Monday morning. Some you can’t actually do them online.

However if you do a search on Google with something like “how do I make money online“, I can’t really guarantee that you won’t be visiting a scam sites. Though there are genuine ones out there too giving real advice. I mean I didn’t learn half the stuff I know from sitting atop a mountain.

We will pick freelance path and provide some guide from which you can apply a lot of the basics across other freelance careers.

How do you become a freelance online graphic designer?

Not to scare you or anything but the current online freelance market is relatively crowed. People from all over the world compete for the same jobs. So not as a early warning, you will need to pull up your sleeves to get those jobs.

There some good news too, websites like Freelance.com and Upwork means that you don’t have to go out and set-up your own agency to find jobs.

Where do I start?

If you’ve got the skills with Photoshop and Illustrator (paid) or their alternatives such as GIMP and Inkscape (free) then you go right to the “create your account” section.

If are completely new to graphic designing or illustrations, my first suggestion would be to start getting some training. You don’t have to spend a huge deal of money to get the basic training.

What Software suits to use for graphic design?

I’ve written an article before comparing a few alternative graphic suits. As mentioned the top two graphic suits are Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. These days you can purchase them as part of Creative Cloud subscription instead of a massive lump sum.

The pricing varies app to app, however if you’re student or a teacher you can get an enormous 60% discount and get the entire collection of Creative Cloud apps for under $20 in the US and just over 16 quid in the UK.

To be fair, these apps are seriously robust and feature-rich. I mean they’ve been around for a while so they’ve learnt a thing or two about creating good graphics design software.

There is another up and coming, easy-to-use, SaaS tool I want to introduce. Its call Canva.

What is Canva and how is it useful for graphic designers?

Initiated in Australia, Canva has a huge following with their browser-based software. Canva’s in-house graphic designers have created 10,000s of templates for almost every occasion you can think of. I think they were targeting everyday users to create their own posters and logos.

Who says you can’t use this create software tool for your clients. It has a paid and a free version. If you don’t want to spend much, you can get started with their free version and upgrade when you feel like it.

Once you’ve chosen the software suite you want you can get some pretty good training videos on YouTube. However if you want some tutor-led or community-led learning you have those too at your fingertips.

What is Udemy

Udemy is one of the largest tutor-led community learning platforms on the internet. You can get a really good graphic design course for under £20.

The platform is available world-wide meaning if you can’t find a teacher in person you’re still in good hands.

A single course can provide hours of learning and some come with additional resources as well.

What is Envato Market

Envato runs a large a group of digital marketplaces. Freelancers register to showcase their creative assets which include web site templates, WordPress themes, graphics, video, audio, photography and 3D models and incredible product mockups.

Envato also has a section of tutorials where you can learn graphic design and other freelancing skills.

They sell digital assets with varying licences meaning you can use for your clients too. Some of their work is very impressive which your clients might find useful.

Unlimited Downloads: 1,500,000+ Mockups & Design Assets
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A subscription to Envato Elements gives you unlimited access to over 1,500,000 Fonts, PowerPoint Presentations, Stock Photos, Videos, After Effects templates, Mockups, CMS Templates, Photoshop Actions, HTML5 Templates and even InDesign files – anything you can think of with no download limits!


Create a freelance platform account

Now that you’ve got the skills and wondering what do I do next. You should now head over to either Freelance.com or Upwork.com or even Fiverr.com and create an account. There is no rule to say you can’t create an account with them all but I’d start with one.

Now you’re a listed freelancer. Congrats.

The work doesn’t stop there. You’ve still got to make money, right?

Get jobs on these platforms is hard, really hard. Trying posting a gig and you will see. Once I needed a small bit of code done and posted the job on the site and you won’t believe how bids I got. 70 (yes, seventy) bids in under 20 minutes came through.

Now as someone who posted a job, what do I look for when hiring a freelancer?

Do they have a portfolio?

I want to see past examples of their work. They will usually post links to a website where they show their past work. This is something you need to take seriously. You’re going to get a lot of attention of you’ve got a page, website or even social network site where you can showcase your past work.

I say start building example work such as posters for your school or even your local community/charity. Logo for your siblings or friend which you can then ask permission to showcase on your website or Facebook/Instagram page.

Additionally https://dribbble.com/ is something you want to checkout for showing casing portfolio. You might even get discovered there for your work and of course given jobs.

Do they have good ratings

I look to see if someone has good testimonials. What percentage of their work was completed on time etc. These information gives good indication if I want to work them. You want to make sure these metrics are kept well and in order.

How long has a freelancer been registered on the platform?

Although you’re only starting out, its important that you don’t unwittingly delete and create new profiles as this metric serves an important purpose: trust.

Bid for jobs

The next thing on your freelancer to do actions is to bid for jobs. Look for newly posted jobs and bid for them. Take care to read the brief and provide potential solutions.

One freelancer looked at the job I posted and and quickly rewrote my brief which impressed me. Although this is something that can’t be very easy to do unless you’ve done the exact job before, I’d say be engaging in your communication with your client.

Bidding isn’t an one off activity unless you’ve got a project to last an entire year. You will need to be active on the platforms taking new jobs when you’re nearing completion.

I’ve seen a group of freelancers recruit an admin whose job is to bid for new projects and assign to freelancers. This can work pretty well if you have a group of friends who want to be freelancers.

They don’t all have to be doing graphic designs, someone can do web designing others can do spreadsheets etc.

Top tips:

  • Ask for testimonials from clients
  • Do the job well and treat clients with respect, you might get repeat orders
  • Continually replenish your portfolio as you do more tasks