Have you ever wondered how freelancers do what they do? I made this post to teach you how to start a profitable freelance business, even without money, by using creativity and strategic planning.
The information age drastically improved how we do things, from education and entertainment to recruitment and employment. Online forms, evaluations, and video interviews have replaced traditional job-hunting methods of walk-in applications, and online classes have become the norm. Technology has opened the doors to starting freelance work without spending money. You can now attend several conferences and meetings in the comfort of your home and work for several companies with the right time management skills. The possibilities are endless in 2022.
My Freelancing Journey
Photo taken in Bali, Indonesia, after the Startup Weekend Women Asia Pacific Finals
I’ve been freelancing for over a decade and a half, but I don’t think I’ve accomplished enough at my age. I believe my slow start was because I thought I needed more money to make money, and I was discouraged by the lack of opportunities in our city. At the time, local companies only paid full-time writers around Php10,000 a month.
Eventually, I realized that beginners have the most crucial resource: time. I initially wasted a lot of time until I learned how to create a sustainable and profitable profession from freelancing through experience. I posted this because I aspire to be the mentor I didn’t have while starting freelance.
Fortunately, it’s never too late to start, and it’s better to start now than later. As you go through the list, you’ll notice that you will use time instead of money as your essential resource.
Freelance Tips for Beginners with no Money
Today, I will teach you the principles of pursuing a freelance career. When I say start freelance work without spending money, I mean you can adjust what you can do with what you currently have. More importantly, you need to know it’s not as complicated as you think.
If you want to go for more expensive freelancing gigs with tools, you might need a little capital, but the point of this post is to show that there are many ways to start without expenses. You can start small and work your way toward the coveted high-ticket clients.
Here are ways to begin working freelance without capital:
1. Plan ahead
The first and most crucial step would be to prepare everything you need. If you plan to start freelancing soon, you must condition your lifestyle and finances beforehand. The goal is to become a freelancer without putting yourself in a precarious situation wherein you can’t eat or pay your bills.
Preparation doesn’t count as spending money since you save money as a safety net while building your portfolio and accumulating experience. It would help if you treated freelancing more like a business than a means of escape from the dreary 9 to 5.
You may need to prepare the following:
- Safety net such as emergency funds to cover bills for the next six months in case you don’t get clients immediately.
- Career plan outline. Create a list of possible services you can offer your clients once you start freelance work.
- Research the supply and demand for your chosen career path. You can check job ads to see if people need your assistance.
- Professional persona on social media sites. You can create a Linkedin profile or Facebook fan page separate from your existing account.
- Government compliance. Going freelance means, you will most likely do everything yourself, so start researching how to register your business as a sole proprietor or self-employed.
In 2022, you can choose between hybrid, remote, and office-based settings, so it’s easier to transition from your day job to starting freelance work without spending money. I wish I had done this in 2006 when I was just a student who wanted to play video games and earn money as an article writer. I didn’t plan for a career because I expected it to be a one-time thing.
2. Build and maintain professional networks
Most successful freelancers have excellent client relationship-building and maintenance skills. Networking with other professionals means spending no money on gimmicks or marketing and building genuine connections. Working on your business-to-business (B2B) interactions will prepare you for eventual business-to-consumer (B2C) engagement.
Think like your ideal client and look for professionals in complementary businesses that eventually need your services. The great thing about creating a comprehensive network is casting your net to their clients while having more opportunities to help them in their careers.
For example, you want to be a freelance graphic designer or artist. It would help if you befriended non-competitor professionals such as writers, videographers, and printing company owners because they may need someone for graphics. They may hire you if you make a great impression on them. Similarly, you may need their services for your client and offer win-win opportunities for all parties involved.
3. Use resources already available to you
One of the misconceptions about freelancing is that you need exceptional instruments to succeed. There’s a saying that an artist never blames the brush, which means your devices, gears, and tools are only secondary to your skills. If you don’t have money to spend on equipment, look at your existing instruments to start freelance jobs.
Here are some steps to maximizing your current assets:
- List all the possible money-making tools you have at your disposal, such as a laptop, smartphone, desktop PC, Internet access, etc.
- If you lack vital tools such as the Internet or a laptop, find a way to borrow one from your close friends or family members.
- Adjust your offers according to your existing resources, and slowly save for better, upgraded gears.
While having better equipment will surely make your tasks faster, easier, and more efficient, using your available resources is key to starting freelance work without spending money. You can eventually save up for the better things you need when you earn more.
4. Convert your time to money
Time is one thing in this world that everyone gets an equal amount of, regardless of social status, wealth, or age. Everyone gets the same 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, and 24 hours in a day. Increasing the value of your time is key to becoming a profitable freelancer.
The key to spending no money is knowing that time is a more valuable resource, so use yours wisely. Everything is already available online if you know where to look. Instead of gossiping or watching shows for entertainment, use your downtime to prepare for a fruitful career ahead.
5. Take advantage of free platforms
Photo by Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash
An excellent tip to starting freelance geared towards profitability is knowing what tools you can access for free. This knowledge allows you to spend extra resources on more critical career-building aspects such as education or equipment.
Here are some of the most common free platforms that freelancers can use:
- Creative websites like Canva, Design Wizard, etc., for basic graphics and videos useful in social media and digital marketing management.
- Project management tools like Trello, Buckets, etc., for all types of collaboration.
- Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc., for client lead generation and communication.
- Image posting sites like Pinterest, Instagram, etc., for creative galleries.
- Portfolio or website building with Behance, WordPress, Blogger, etc.
- Google Drive with Docs, Sheets, Forms, Slides, Drawings, Sites, Apps Script, Jamboard, etc., for online document collaboration.
- Video posting platforms like Youtube, Tiktok, etc.
I haven’t recommended freelance job platforms because I don’t want you to sign up without knowing how to get jobs done. I believe those platforms aren’t suited for beginners, especially with the intense competition from veteran freelancers. I’ll make a post about freelance websites soon.
6. Build a portfolio
Your portfolio will give future clients a glimpse of your work quality, creativity, and craftsmanship. There are many ways to present your portfolio; the most inexpensive way is through social media pages since you can easily create a free account.
Be prepared to give discounts or freebies when you start freelancing to build a well-rounded portfolio, especially for those you’re not known for. The lower prices will give you an edge over the tenured freelancers with higher rates. You can think of portfolio-building as practice or reputation-building.
7. Never stop learning
It would help if you stayed competitive to be profitable in your freelance journey, which means occasionally updating your skills and capabilities. Some things you may have learned in school or a previous job may be obsolete in a few years.
You don’t need fancy or expensive lessons to succeed since plenty of free courses offer certificates. Fundamentals of Digital Marketing is one of the most popular online free courses in the Google Digital Garage with certification. Google Digital Garage offers a wide range of free courses you can use to develop your freelance business.
Freelancing is an excellent investment, allowing you to forego the 9 to 5 and eventually create a brand. However, starting a profitable freelance journey relies entirely on your ability to plan your career, take advantage of free resources and maximize your income with intelligent time and money management. My next posts will detail the points mentioned above.
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