How to kickstart your Freelance career

Starting your freelance career can be pretty frightening. Back in the days, I wrestled with fear of uncertainty, self-doubt and if this was not enough, everything was topped by a layer of guilt which was fueled by my lack of action. Here are five tips which will help you to get started into your freelance career.

1) You need to be able to sell your service and yourself

For salespeople, this is a no-brainer (obviously). I’m always surprised about how many people tend to miss this main skill as a freelancer.

As soon as you start to become a freelancer you are kind of a company, a brand. Some people decide to do it deliberately while most aren’t.

The best freelancer who is a bad salesperson will earn less money than an ok freelancer who is a good salesman. So what to do?

Get comfortable with selling your service. I wasn’t at first, to be honest. What helped me out a lot was thinking about the service I am providing. What was I doing? How could I help the client? Dig deep and think through the service you’re offering. Why you might think? It sets the ground of believing in the value of the service you’re delivering. This will result in being comfortable talking about your service. Right there is where self-promotion starts.

2) Get your first client!

Maybe what is holding you back is your lack of clients. In most cases, clients don’t fall into the leap of a freelancer. Sometimes you get lucky because somebody knows you as the UX/UI or coder guy/girl and you get a recommendation. But luck is not what you should rely on when you want to get into freelancing. So, what to do then?

Start to build your Portfolio

If you have nothing to start with and are currently an employed designer, ask your boss if you can use some of the design work as part of your personal portfolio.

What should you do if you’re currently not employed as a designer and/or just starting out?

If you’ve been studying use the projects you did there to showcase.

Scratch your own itch

If you are not happy with your previous work, solve a problem you’re facing with a current app or website. What most clients are interested in, is why you solved a problem the way you did. Don’t just show fancy user interfaces. A lot of the work is taking place before that. A good showcase presents the problem, the concept you came up with to solve it and finally the user interface, prototype or even final website.

Only showcase work you want to be booked for in the future

Don’t showcase user interface work if you’re into front-end development and vice versa. Showcase the things you want to be working on in the future.

3) Nail your first client meeting!

This one is very important. It decides if you get the job or not. If you follow a few rules you’re good to go.

Keep in mind: It’s not about you, it’s about the client!

Listen to the client. Listen carefully, what does he say? Go even further. What does he communicate what he doesn’t say? What are his struggles? Why did he reach out to you in the first place?

A client has a certain problem needs to solve. That’s why he reached out to you. Now it’s about communicating to the client, that you can solve his problem with the least amount of risk.

Client: „Who can solve my problem with the least amount of risk“. Depending on the budget he’s willing to pay to a certain degree for the one who he feels bring the least risk of solving his problem.

That’s why listening and **empathy** comes into play. After listening to the client, you should ask questions. But not any. The right questions. After that, you can tell the client clearly if and how you can solve the problem. That’s what communicates to the client that you know exactly what he needs. This will create a feeling of safety for the client. He feels safe working with you.

4) The future of freelancing as a designer/coder

Before you get into freelancing ask yourself why? Because you want to sleep in, have more days off and not having to commit to your annoying colleagues? Sorry to pop your bubble. This is a recipe for quick failure.

If you can manage to survive with that then it’s because of luck and as time passes so will luck. No business can survive out of luck.

Make friends with staying competitive

That means constant learning, networking, deadlines, staying on top of technologies fast-changing world just to name a few.

Add a few more things to the mix such as: not getting paid when you’re sick, taking care of your taxes, managing your finances …. All in all, you need to be able to walk in a lot of shoes.

What would somebody do that when they can work in a safe environment you ask?

Exactly because of the things mentioned above. All the things are having upsides too. After a while, you can choose the clients you’re working with. Getting better and constantly learning new skills makes life more intense in my opinion. You get to take full responsibility and can manage your business. If things work out, well done! If not? Reflect, optimize and try again.

I’ve never encountered so much growth like in the time right after I decided to be my own boss. This changed me as a person in general. I was able to build the life of my dreams in every area.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to seduce you into „make one million in three months“ kind of motivational talk. But I deeply believe that being your on boss forces you to reflect, learn and grow. That’s a big bonus and upside.

If you’re good at what you’re doing, you’ll be able to earn a lot more money than you can as an employee. That’s maybe also worth mentioning.

5) Regret is worse than failure

The thought of being my own boss never really got out of my head. If you’re here and reading this, there’s a big chance you feel the same.

For me personally, I think regret is worse than failure. Every failure brings a chance of learning something if you reflect on it appropriately. You can either try again or you’ve **made the experience** that it’s not for you. Check.

What get’s me really uncomfortable in a good way every time is to imagine my future self. Would I regret not having tried? Would I regret not having taken this trip? Would I regret not having tried to build my own business?

„Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.“ -Mark Twain

Because once you regret something, you can not undo it. That’s when I get into action. You should too if the thought of your future self would be deep regret.

Do you have feedback, questions or input about the topic?
Write me on Twitter or comment the article.


Maruan has founded marumedia, a small digital product design agency based in Hamburg, Germany. Furthermore, he does consult in UX/UI design and development. He created to share his journey, learnings, pains, and lessons he encountered while doing so.

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