So you’ve decided to finally make the jump. You watered the pots with organic basil. You walked the dog. You made fluffy pancakes and bacon that crunches ever so exquisitely. You’ve watched all the silly videos you could lay your eyes on YouTube…But it’s still Monday morning. And you haven’t made a lick of progress on applying to that first freelancing gig of your life.

Don’t worry! I am not here to point fingers at you. Instead, I will point you down the right path to getting started as a freelancer. Working on each of the following tips will dramatically increase your chances to putting your foot in the proverbial door.

And hey, you’ve already completed the first step – you’ve landed on Colibro. Pat yourself on the back, champ, it just gets better from here on.

Alright, here you have access to a vast and constantly expanding flow of project offers, but let’s be honest and self-aware: you’ll also be facing some stiff competition. Often, from more experienced freelancers. But don’t fret yourself – they, too, had to start from somewhere.

So first concentrate on building your reputation step by step.

Build a portfolio

Your good word might not be enough in today’s visual world. So take some time to create a blog, a platform or a project which showcases what you can do. These will be the avatars of the professional you. If you have the option, invest a little bit in your blog by hiring a designer or writer to give a unique look or voice to your brand. That way, you will also put yourself in the role of a client. It will give you a valuable perspective from the other side of the river.

Tailor your application

If you ever hire a freelancer to do a gig for you, not only will you be doing your bit to help out a fellow mercenary (Kudos to that!), you will also learn to differentiate between the variety of offers on the market.

You see, every client treats their projects as if they were their own children. You have to show them that you understand that and stand out from the rest – the majority will send generic proposals. Yours will be personalized, and it will speak directly to the client’s needs. You will describe how exactly you will go about solving his needs. Show with your words that you care for his project.

Work free or volunteer

It’s possible that you haven’t done any projects and no work bears your name. In that case, in the name of building up a portfolio, be prepared to offer your services free of charge for a couple of gigs.

Step aside from the professional platforms for the time being. Instead, approach your social and family networks. Talk to small business owner friends or that free-lancing cousin. Cold call non-profit organizations, make yourself known to charities and hobby clubs. Someone in your network can definitely make use of your talents.

Pricing is tricky – price vs. quality

On many websites the common practice is for freelancers to outbid each other in a race to the bottom for who can offer the lowest price. And that works for many clients for whom budget constraints are an issue. But not for all, there are clients who seek quality work over price.

Ultimately it is up to you how you would like to develop your profile. You could be low-cost, adequate and reliable, or you could be promote yourself as a refined expert. Do bare in mind that eventually the choice you make will also reflect on your future opportunities for work.

It won’t be easy to switch from a low-cost profile to an expert one because your portfolio will most probably reflect the kind of work you have done before. A good advice for that is: deliver a polished work even when the pay is not inspiring. It will help improve your showcase and will act as a reference to your ability when you decide to up the ante.

Pick small projects first

You are still new to this. Keep it in mind and try not to bite more than you can chew. Don’t be quick to dismiss small projects which might take a few hours or a couple of days to complete. Yes, probably they won’t spew rivers of gold onto you but stay focused on the essence here. At first, it’s all about building up your brand. Treat them with the same care you would give for a bigger client.

Choose a niche (or be a jack of all trades?)

This one is not necessarily easy to decide and it might take some time of being in the field before it becomes clearer which route to take. What’s important here is that whichever one you choose, when bidding for contracts you still have to play up the relevant experience that gives you an edge over the others.

Remember, clients only care how you will best solve their particular problem.

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