“Are you going to be on that big wrestling card at your gym?”
My friend was excited to see me wrestle live. They found out that there was going to be a big show at my gym through a post on social media. I felt so dumb because I didn’t know how to tell them that I wasn’t even asked to be on this show.
I made up an excuse and tried to change the topic. It really sucks when you’re trying to get experience but nobody wants to hire you as a freelancer. Let’s change that…
I’LL SAY THIS AGAIN: IT REALLY SUCKS WHEN YOU WANT TO START OFF AS A FREELANCER AND NOBODY WANTS YOU!
So, how does an aspiring freelancer get experience and eventually get paid for their work?
I actually became a freelance writer by accident. I was approached on a forum by a friend. I didn’t know what to charge so I made up a price. I ended up making more than I expected to from writing (I wasn’t planning on becoming a writer). I then starting managing this person’s blog for more money. I pretty much created a job for myself. I then picked up other writing jobs when bloggers would reach out to me. I kept on landing writing gigs without ever formally applying for them.
I loved this process. I don’t think I ever actively looked for work as a freelance writer.
When I wrote about a book freelancing, I didn’t have the struggles and the stories that I picked up later on in life. I learned about freelancing through helping readers get started. I’ve helped students with a variety of freelance jobs (from cutting hair to teaching guitar lessons to providing walks in the park).
You’re still reading because you want to make money on your own. You either want to get into freelancing or get some sort of online business off the ground .
How do you find experience as a freelancer when nobody wants you?
The obvious issue is that it’s difficult to find any experience at all when you’re just getting started. You’re ready to start making money. You just can’t seem to get anyone to care. It’s easy to give up or to not even bother with freelancing because it seems like a steep mountain to climb.
Before you start stressing about Facebook ads and working on fancy business cards, apply the following tips…
Become the best.
Are you really good at the service that you provide? Are you the best? Can you get better?
Before you start shouting on social media about how great you are, it’s important that you take the time to actually become good at what you’re trying to do. This is where many rookie freelancers mess up. They’re not that good. They got motivated by some meme and launched a service before they were ready.
You only get one shot at a first impression.
Imagine going to a barber and getting the worst haircut of your life. You would never return. You wouldn’t give someone a second chance to mess up your hair. You also wouldn’t give someone a second shot at doing your wedding pictures. You only get one shot as a freelancer.
You have to become the best so that you can charge the highest rates and actually go somewhere with this whole freelancing gig. There’s no time to waste on becoming a mediocre freelancer. The money always goes to the top.
How do you become the best?
- Get trained and educated properly. Take the time to get trained so that you know what you’re doing.
- Actually do it. Don’t read a motivational quote and then go start talking about what you want to do. Feeling inspired is cool, but you have to know what you’re doing.
I don’t want to see you embarrass yourself out there. If you suck, you have to get better. Self-promotion on social media is fun, but there has to be some substance behind what you’re promoting. You have to go back to the drawing board if your skills aren’t where you want them to be.
My brother Adrian was 14 years old when he ordered a DVD set from some barber in New York. The order didn’t even arrive on the first try. He eventually received the DVDs in the mail and studied his craft while destroying my hairstyle every week until he finally got it right.
Carve out a niche for yourself.
“In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is a failure. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible.” — Seth Godin
You can’t always compete on the same playing field. Sometimes you have to become totally different so that you stick out.
You have to carve out your own niche for yourself. You have to find a way to be unique so that you stand out.
This applies to popular freelancing services like video editing and personal training. The world will always need trainers and editors. You just to specialize now instead of being general.
While I’m at it, the world doesn’t need another general motivational blog or a men’s self-help magazine.
What are examples of carving out a niche?
- Instead of being a general photographer, focus in on something specific. My friend Andrea does work for pro wrestling shows.
- Instead of being a general personal trainer, pick a very specific demographic to work with (vegan crossfitters as an example).
Find out what you want to be a freelancer in and get as specific as possible. Then go find people who would want to work with you.
Offer to work for free in exchange for something.
“We can offer you experience.”
You’re going to hear this a lot. Guess what? You can’t pay your bills with experience. On the flip side, you have to build up some sort of portfolio and it’s difficult to do this with no examples of your work.
Two quick rules about working for free:
- Never get taken advantage of. Don’t let people string you along with the promise of making huge money one day.
- Always try to get something in return for your free work.
What can you get in exchange for free?
- A referral. Can this person put in a good word for you? Can you use them as a testimonial on your page? Can they promote you to others?
- Video of your work (this can be used to land more clients). Can you get proof of your work? Can you add to your portfolio?
- Quality practise. You have to practise until you can’t get it wrong. Sometimes you just have to put the hours in and get some experience under your belt. If you want to prove to the world that you’re an excellent freelance writer, then keep on writing until you have plenty of examples to share.
The sad reality is that you’ll be exploited and ripped off many times as a freelancer. People will promise you “exposure” and all of that kind of stuff. Don’t let it bring you down. Keep on getting experience and practise until you have to turn down work because you’re so busy closing paid clients.
Check out our Studenomics TV episode on working for free…
Do whatever it takes.
You have to find some way to get that experience. I don’t know what to tell you. There’s something here that I haven’t thought of yet. You have to see what’s working for others in your field. Steal from the best.
What does it take to make it as a freelancer in this field? Find out and make it happen.
Here are some things that you should consider doing:
- Try to get the best tools (you may have to save up). The tools will depend on your line of work (photographers need the best cameras while barbers need solid clippers).
- Learn from the best in the field. Pay for help if needed or try to find a mentor.
- Read books. You can start with biographies.
- Take courses. There are all kinds of courses being offered online.
Go out there and start freelancing. You don’t need to worry about the perfect business card or how many Twitter followers you have.
How do you land more freelance clients?
Here’s the situation now:
You have some experience and you want to get paid. You feel confident enough to start charging fair rates for your work.
It’s time to find clients now. It’s time to start making money. I have three simple tips for this part of the freelancing journey.
Tip #1: Use The American Pie Strategy.
What’s this strategy all about? Check out the video below…
Find one client and run with this.
The trick is always start with one client. Keep on testing out different offers until you find that first paying client. This is when you’ll know that you’re on to something. Treat this client like royalty. Over-deliver like never before!
What if you can’t find a paying client? Either switch up your offering or move on.
The best strategy is to rely on referrals until you’ve built up a funnel.
Tip #2: Put together the perfect offer.
Package everything that you do and use this as your offer to attract clients.
Social media has made this easier than ever before.
How do you show what you have to offer?
- Use Instagram to post client transformations if you want to be a personal trainer.
- Show examples of your video work on YouTube.
- Post your wrestling matches online.
- Share samples of your writing on your blog and create a “hire me” page.
Potential clients need to know the following:
- Why they should hire you.
- If you’re actually good at this. Similar to point #1.
- How much you charge. What’s your rate?
Tip #3: Provide high quality work.
Don’t mess this part up. You have to provide high quality work.
Since I don’t want to lecture you, I’ll stop myself there.
Here’s some further reading on freelancing:
- Why you should always make more money.
- Freelancing vs. an online business?
- 4,000 words on starting freelancing.
You have to start somewhere. Apply the tips in the article and become the best freelancer in your field. The rewards will be generous. More money will solve most of your problems.