How to Start a Career in Online Freelancing

How to Start a Career in Online Freelancing

The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely shaken up a lot of industries. Some companies have permanently closed their doors, leaving hundreds to thousands of workers jobless. There are also companies on the brink of bankruptcy. During these trying times, not having a steady source of income can be a nightmare. Unless you have a year’s worth of savings, it would be difficult to fend for your daily needs. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities for folks who want to try something different, something like online freelancing. The only challenge is to learn how it works and understand what skills you need to jumpstart your career. Learn how to start a career in online freelancing as you read on.

Just a heads up, this a long post. If you want to get to specific parts of the article, feel free to click the section titles here:

My online freelancing journey

Not sure where to start? That’s totally fine. I was just like you back in 2014. Back then, I was totally unaware of this industry. As a fresh graduate, I wanted to land a job that could pay the bills and help me save enough money for other needs.

Sadly, I couldn’t find any job opening that relates to my degree. Or if there were openings at that time, they were located in the metro or somewhere far away.

I wasn’t really keen on going to NCR and trying my luck like every other probinsyano/probinsyana graduates I know. The high standard of living, expensive accommodation costs, and the stress of living in a thickly populated and crime-ridden city don’t sound enticing to me.

A chance encounter

So, one fair afternoon, I went back to the UPB campus. Back then, my sister was still attending the university and I extended my stay in Baguio to look for a job. On my way to the alumni building, I saw a poster of 51Talk, a company that offers online ESL classes to Chinese students. Immediately, I thought of sending my application to see how far I could get.  Surprisingly, after a few hours of interviews and tests, I was told to attend the training. After that, I was hired and allowed to open slots for class booking.

It took a month before I started getting enough bookings to pay my bills. And boy, it was absolutely frustrating to wait. Yes, it was a fulfilling job. In fact, I managed to stay for two years. I liked the fact that I get to touch someone’s life and help them find the means to express themselves better in English. However, at the end of every shift, I felt empty. I knew in myself that failed to grow professionally.

So, I sat in front of my tiny Acer laptop and looked for better ways to grow as a freelancer and yes to earn more money. Lo and behold, I found 199jobs, an online marketplace where you can offer your services for P199. Through this platform, I was able to learn more about online work. I got hired for all kinds of services such as:

  • Ghostwriting blog posts
  • Typing data in sheets
  • Transcribing videos
  • Creating PowerPoint presentations
  • Doing voiceover jobs

And that’s where I learned how to start a career in online freelancing. I met a lot of people who inspired me to stay in this niche. From there, I explored other platforms such as Fiverr, then Elance-Odesk [now called UpWork]. After a couple of years, I’ve optimized my LinkedIn profile and started pitching my services to people and organizations. I even got to work in a digital marketing startup here in the province.

Never lose your drive to learn and grow

As I found my calling in this industry, I looked for ways I could get the required skills to deliver more value and increase my earning potential. Then, I joined online communities, participated in events, and actively share what I know to people who want to thrive in this industry as well.

For me, I believe online freelancing is basically like your typical 9 to 5 job. It’s just as tiring and stressful. However, it can be a lot of fun and satisfying if you see it as a medium for growth and development. Also, you get to enjoy flexibility, in terms of where you want to work, what type of clothes you wanna wear, and what time you want to start and finish.

And I think the key wisdom I’d like to impart to people who want to try freelancing is that you should always be hungry to learn new things. Be on the lookout for better ways to grow not just as a professional but also as an individual. If you want to excel and offer value to people, you need to work on yourself.

If you feel like you want to be in this industry as well, then you’ve come to the right place. To help you determine what you need to begin your own journey, I’ve made a short guide on how to do online freelancing in the next sections.

What do you need for online work?

Before you get all excited to submit your applications or pitches, you need to sort out one thing first. And that is understanding what kind of role do you want to take on.  Find out where your passion lies. What are you really good at? Are you more of the person who loves talking to people on the phone? Do you love writing perhaps? Does seeing numbers and data excite you? Do you see yourself screening fellow applicants like you?

From there you can identify what sort of jobs you can take on. Right now there are thousands of openings in various companies from different parts of the globe.

Most common online jobs today

Online work comes in all shapes and sizes. Companies can outsource some of their tasks to workers like you. For example, a shop selling customized items may need help encoding products into their website. A novelist might need an assistant to file documents, schedule meetings, or call people on her behalf. A local shop owner might need a pro to manage his business social media page.

You see, there’s always a need for freelancers and online workers. Businesses from all over the world have been tapping into remote working professionals for years because it’s more cost-effective. Additionally, sometimes they can’t find a specific talent in their available area.

Below are some of the most in-demand remote working roles today:

  • Virtual Assistants
  • Content Writers
  • SEO specialists
  • Digital marketing specialists
  • Web developers
  • Graphics designers
  • Customer support
  • Sales agents
  • App Developers
  • Social media marketers
  • SEM specialists

Where do you learn skills for online work?

Starting in Online Freelancing - Where to learn new skillsNow that you have a bit of background on what jobs or projects are out there, you should look for places where you can seek training. In my opinion, you don’t need to hold a specific degree to succeed in your chosen niche. I’ve read plenty of success stories of fellow online freelancers. Some of these folks started out as working students.

If you truly want to exceed in this in this line of business then you need to train. There are countless places where you can seek training or mentorship. I started out with Google Ad certification as well as Hubspot Academy. I have also had clients who have sponsored free courses on Udemy.

You can also enroll in classes and mentorship training offered by local online freelancing professionals such as the Social Media Academy and The Freelance Tribe Movement. When you look for places or people who can teach you about a specific skill, see to it that you get awesome value from their content.

Also, while there is a lot of free content out there, you should consider investing in a premium course to help you develop that sense of accountability. Most of the time, when we are offered free stuff we take them for granted. However, when we spend our hard-earned money on something, we put more value into it.

Besides learning from the professionals via courses, you can also tune in to discussions online. Join a Facebook group focused on your target niche. Find out what techniques are used out there, and how people are finding areas for growth.

Lastly, take note that nothing beats learning from experience. Grab every opportunity you can to apply whatever you learn from your courses, social media communities, and other resources. Find out what works for you and build your technique as you go.

How to start a career in online freelancing – tools needed

A huge part of working online is understanding how to use certain technologies. As a freelancer working online, you need to familiarize yourself with common tools used in the industry such as:

  • Time tracking tools – The majority of clients want to track and gauge project progress, especially if you work for them on a part-time or full-time basis. It’s also their basis for determining how much they need to pay you per cut-off. They might ask you to ask tools such as TimeDoctor, Upwork’s time tracker, or Hubstaff.
  • Project management app – Tools such as Asana, Trello, and Basecamp help organizations or SME owners organize tasks for their employees. These are super user-friendly tools that allow you to upload documents, leave your feedback, and tick checklists.
  • Google Suite/Microsoft Office tools – Whether you need to generate reports, do data entry jobs, or produce content for your clients, these tools can come extra handy.

Your clients may also ask you to use task-specific tools like Podio, Google Analytics, Facebook Creator depending on your role. If you’re totally clueless as to how to use a new tool, you can always check YouTube for tutorials. Your employee/client may also provide training materials for you.

How do you get paid?

Getting paid when you are an online freelancerI guess one of the first few things people want to know when shifting to online work is the payment options available. How do clients pay you for your work? How often will you receive payment? Can you ask for a cash advance when you work online? I bet these are some of the things you’re thinking about.

When you work as a freelancer, there are plenty of payment options that clients or employers can offer. Some would pay bi-weekly. Others might pay you on a monthly or weekly basis. There are also clients that can send their payment right after you send them the deliverables.

So, the bottom line is your pay or salary arrangement would all depend on what you agreed upon in the work contract. For newbies, I recommend going for positions that either pay weekly or bi-weekly. If you’re aiming for project-base work, you can ask for a downpayment fee.

If you are getting your clients from a marketplace such as FreeUp or Upwork then you should check their payment schedules for more information.

In the case of cash advances, well, I do think employees or clients don’t really offer such an option.

Clients can send your payment thru various channels. Most of the time, your client chooses which channel to use. But if you are given the option to select the platform, I recommend looking into their perks and disadvantages.

Here are the commonly used payment channels:

  • Paypal
  • Payoneer
  • TransferWise
  • GCash
  • Paymaya
  • Coins.PH
  • Bank Transfer

Help is here if you ask!

Now that you know a bit about how to start a career in online freelancing, what do you feel? Do you think it’s the right choice for you? Are there other things that I failed to address in the guide? Let me know your thoughts. Also if you’re ready to start freelancing today and you still need a bit more help, I’m always here to lend a hand.

Stay tuned for more topics on freelancing from This Promdi such as:

  • How to spot scam job posts
  • How to improve your work productivity during COVID-19 pandemic
  • How to become a content writer
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1 Comment

  • Top 20 Places Where You Can Find Online Jobs | This Promdi July 5, 2020 at 7:34 am

    […] My freelancing journey pretty much began with I have worked with a lot of clients there and have learned the basic skills needed in SEO content writing and digital marketing through the projects I landed. So basically, you need to create an account and post the gigs you’d like to offer. Back in 2014, when I was still a newbie, I offered to write 500-700 words blog post for P199. I also offered to do all sorts of other stuff such as transcribe audio, create PowerPoint presentations, encode data, and more for a starting price of P199. […]

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