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The 5 steps to getting started as a freelancer

Stijn SchutyserStijn Schutyser

We’ve said it a few times before: there are a ton of advantages to freelancing, such as choosing your own office hours, being your own boss, free choice of projects and clients, … Reasons enough to start your freelance career! But how do you actually do that? Here are the 5 steps to getting started as a freelancer.

1. Know why you want to get started as a freelancer

Set your goals when getting started as a freelancerThe very first step before getting started as a freelancer, is think about why you want to. Determine your goals and write them down. Do you want to make lots of money, or just supplement your income? Will you freelance full-time or part-time? Make sure to set realistic goals. This list of goals you want to achieve through freelancing is a baseline for all the major freelance career decisions you’ll have to take further down the line, such as your rates, work pace, the projects you’ll accept and deny and your marketing strategy.

2. Figure out your strengths

Hard and soft skills

Time for another list, but this time one with skills. Don’t limit yourself to hard skills (e.g. I know Java really well and have 10 years of experience), but also include your soft skills. Perhaps you’re undefeated when it comes to project management or are you a strong leader? Also think about your top-rated skills. Competence alone doesn’t make clients really want you. You want to be irresistibly valuable. Think of someone you know who is an amazing professional. There are probably one or two things they do that they’re absolutely the best at—the things you mention when you rave about them to others. What are those top-rated skills for you? Which things can you do better, faster and more efficiently than others? It also helps to list some cold, hard figures. Tell potential clients how much it increased sales and traffic, how much time you saved, how many projects you’ve led.

Sharpening your skills

After listing your soft and hard skills, it’s time to determine whether some of them need some sharpening. Do you need to get up to speed, get training or follow a workshop, recertify? It’s best to figure out where you’re at before you start freelancing, since your skills also have an impact on how much you can charge your customers. If you’re already freelancing, you might have to take midlevel gigs while you save for that workshop, class, or certification. Some extra help: we’ve written a whitepaper on the 10 tools you need for a successful freelance career, which you can download at the bottom of this blog post. Additionally, you can try out Skillshare, an e-learning platform with tons of classes about graphic design, accounting, marketing, web development and much more. If you sign up through this link, you can try out the Premium variant for free for 2 months. Courtesy of us 😉

3. Find out your customers’ needs

The best freelancers do these three things extremely well:

  1. They’re empathetic in their analysis of what their clients need.
  2. They’ve matched their skills to those needs.
  3. They’ve distilled it into a pitch of utter simplicity.

It’s actually not that hard: match your skills, strengths and ideas to what your market needs — not what you think they should need, but what they actually need. What’s important to your clients, and in what order? Speed? Efficiency? Accuracy? Beauty? Durability? … For hints, you can look at

If you need help with finding clients or projects or if you’re unsure whether your skills match your market’s needs, give IT MATCH a shout. They are a professional freelancing company that can definitely help you out!

4. Know what you’ll charge your customers

We’ve written a whole separate blog post about this subject, but it doesn’t hurt give some additional information here. You’ve already taken the first step in pricing: knowing your skills. It also helps to look at the norms in your profession to determine what you’ll charge your customers. Here are a couple of other things you should take into account when determining your rate:

5. Work out your budget

Your budget is split into 2 main parts: your personal budget and your business budget. Let’s start with your personal budget.

Personal budget

It’s a good idea to start mapping your personal budget by collecting financial records or bank statements from the last 12 months. Use these numbers to make a list of your family’s expenses month by month. Include things like mortgage, rent, travel, medical bills, food, fuel, … If you come across an unanticipated expense in a given month, you can exclude that as a one-time cost. Adding these numbers up and dividing by 12, you’ll quickly see how much you approximately need to earn per month to cover your expenses at home, including months where you’ll need extra cash for tuition or other large sums that are due. (While you have the numbers in front of you, this is also an ideal opportunity to check if you can cut costs anywhere.) The number you now have in front of you is what your freelance work needs to bring in to meet expenses. However, freelance work doesn’t always bring in the same amount each month. That’s why you’ll also need to be saving to pay expenses, plus for taxes and retirement. Estimate or calculate these costs and add them to the number from earlier. And there it is at last: your personal budget!

Business budget

Moving on to your business budget, we’ll have a look at what it costs to get your freelance career started. List any necessary start-up costs, from one-time costs such as equipment to ongoing costs such as supplies. Some will be fixed costs such as insurance, while others will be variable, e.g. shipping costs. You can put the numbers in an online start-up cost calculator like this one and arrive at the total start-up funds you need.

There you go! These are the 5 main steps to getting started as a freelancer. Of course, there are tons of other things you’ll have to pay attention to, but that’s something we might discuss in a future blog post. In the meantime, you can reach out to IT MATCH to find projects that are perfect for you personally. Good luck!

Download whitepaper 10 tools for a successful freelance career below

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