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If I told you that you could build a business that starts making you money this week, possibly even today – how appealing would that sound?

I’m not talking about some get-rich-quick scheme that leaves you with nothing in the end, I’m talking about a real, tangible business that has value. Something legitimate, that you can depend on, scale, and do great things with.

When I started blogging at age 14, I had lots of time and no money. I literally had to ask my grandmother for a few dollars to buy web hosting, and thankfully, I got it. It then took months to start building even a small amount of income, and because I made some critical blogging mistakes early on, I ended up having to scrap the site altogether.

So I created a new one, which also took months and months to build up.

While every business should utilize blogging, and building up a brand through content marketing is still my favorite overall strategy, some of us can’t wait that long. We need to do something that brings in money right away – at the very least, to scale our businesses.

Fortunately, I have a solution for you. It’s just not going to be a solution most people will like:

Freelance. Offer a service to somebody, and promote it on your website. Make your time the product.

Don’t Worry About Passive Income Just Yet

What I just mentioned will send some newcomers screaming.

“But James, the whole point of working online is so I don’t have to listen to a boss! I want to work for myself, and earn money even while I’m not working!”

That’s great, and you can eventually get to that point. I used to think much of the same. Trading hours for dollars was the last thing I wanted to do. I get it.

However, I want you to at least consider what I’m about to share with you.

Why I Recommend Freelancing As An Entrepreneur’s First Business

Freelancing at homeEntrepreneurship is hard. It’s particularly hard when you aren’t earning anything in return for your efforts.

Most people underestimate how difficult it’s going to be to build a real business, especially on the internet. They buy ‘get-rich-quick systems’ that promise they’ll make you a killing if you just follow what they say, and then never end up going anywhere.

They grind and work hard for months at a time, but the dollars just aren’t coming in.

Then, they inevitably end up quitting, because they’re sane. Putting hard work in for nothing doesn’t make any sense.

Freelancing has a few huge benefits that make it perfect for beginners:

  1. You get to see money coming in right away, and it costs very little, if anything to start up. We’ll discuss finding clients in a moment.
  2. You get experience working with a wide variety of people with a wide variety of requirements. This makes you much better at your craft and helps you better understand what clients actually want.
  3. Freelancing can be scaled, work can be outsourced further (agency strategy), or exited completely once your business has taken off. Trading time for dollars doesn’t sound so bad if you only have to work a few hours a week to cover your expenses, doesn’t it? 😉

I do not think that freelancing is the perfect business model by any means, but the fact that is so straightforward means that it can be done by almost anybody. There is very little a beginner can actually mess up.

The key is to finding a job you excel at.

The fact that freelancing is so straightforward makes it the perfect business for beginners. Click to Tweet

Examples Of Freelance Jobs

Think about what you’re good at, that would be of value to somebody else.

If these skills are able to be utilized over the internet, you’ve got a fantastic prospect on your hands. You may have to get creative, but chances are, whatever niche market you want to work in has freelance work that you can offer.

Some examples of these would include…

  • Writing for others (blogs, eBooks, course scripts, reports, etc.)
  • Creative work (design, video / audio editing, photo retouching, animation)
  • Technical skills, such as computer assistance, software development, website creation, Excel work, bookkeeping, etc.
  • Tutoring somebody. Examples would be language learning, musical instruments, drawing, etc.
  • Business processes (data entry, transcription, customer service, etc.)
  • Consulting / coaching.  This one is huge. It’s not just the big markets (such as business development, dating, or health) that have paying clients in this area. You would be surprised just how far you can go with this – there are people making a living suggesting dog breeds to prospective pet owners, and millions of dollars are being spent to teach people how to get better at certain video games.

There are certainly others as well, but hopefully this list will serve to spark some ideas for you to work with.

If your goal in the long-term is to work in a specific niche, such as raising puppies or saxophone playing for example, I recommend pursuing something related to this niche from the beginning, as it will make it easier to transition your work later on.

Although more specialized work means it’s a bit more difficult to find paying clients, you’ve still got a way to monetize right away, and you’ll be building a business you actually enjoy working in.

Finding Clients: Reaching Out To Them

Reaching Out To Clients

If you’re starting from zero, unfortunately you’re going to need to spend time pitching potential clients if you’re hoping to bring in money right away.

This means conducting email outreach, signing up for relevant job boards, and creating a profile on freelance sites.

You can always delete your profile off of these sites later, but early on, it’s the best way to get going quickly. Because most are free to sign up, this also means you can get going without needing any money upfront.

The websites you’ll want to sign up to may be specific to the type of work that you plan to do. For most jobs, general freelance sites like Fiverr or Upwork will work well. I am particularly fond of Upwork, as clients will post jobs on a public board and allow you to easily apply for them. You also have a searchable profile for potential clients to find.

I won’t go into the details of creating a great profile or writing a great pitch, because quite frankly there are better resources for it, and it would be another article entirely.

What I will say is this – chase clients until you no longer need to. All the while, focus on building something that also brings clients to you. It will be harder than it sounds, particularly early on – but things will get better over time.

Finding Clients: Bringing Them To You

The safest, most reliable, and most profitable way to make money freelancing is if you can get clients to seek you out instead.

This means that one way or another, they want to hire you specifically, and not just any random person that can get the job done.

This will almost always correlate with higher rates, and an increased demand for your time means you can afford to turn down clients who want to pay less.

At the same time, you can also turn down jobs that you don’t feel you’d be good at, or otherwise don’t want to do.

Bringing clients to you involves creating a thorough marketing strategy. Some pieces of this may include…

Branding. Become known for being the best at something. It’s better to be known as somebody that writes the world’s best articles on home repair, than somebody who writes decent content on everything.

Word of mouth. Word of mouth always has and always will be one of the most powerful forms of marketing. Always try to exceed expectations with every client. You will get referrals over time. Remember, the person referring you wants to look good. They can do this by making their contacts aware of someone as awesome as you are.

Be active in your community. Post on social media, join forums, post on other people’s blogs.

Content marketing. I specifically recommend running a blog like this one that covers topics in your niche that potential clients would be interested in. Going back to the ‘saxophone playing’ example mentioned earlier, this would be something like tutorials, buying guides, maintenance tips, etc.

I once hired somebody for a large data scraping job – pulling data from certain websites and organizing it in a specific way. I paid a premium for his services because I knew that he was truly an expert at what I did. I found him through his blog, which was about data scraping itself – creative ways businesses could utilize data scraping, data analysis tips, and teaching others how to program data scrapers (he also offered tutoring as a freelance job.)

If you’re interested in utilizing content marketing to attract clients and boost your rates, I highly recommend signing up for my blogging course. This course is set up specifically to get everything working together in a system – from creating content that drives results, to bringing visitors to that content, to building a monetization strategy that’s optimal for your business.

Because blogs tend to grow over time, this will also correlate with higher rates – and less time doing work that doesn’t pay you. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, click here to learn more about my course on blogging!

Scaling And / Or Exiting A Freelance Business

“You can scale your money, but you can’t scale your time.”

It’s true.

Regardless of how well you’re doing in the marketplace, you’ll only ever have 24 hours in a day to get things done.

What if you have your eyes set on making enormous amounts of money – or stepping away from the business and working less?

Fortunately, there are a couple of ways to do this.

1. Raise Your Rates, Freelance Less

Once you are truly doing well, with a steady stream of clients coming in each month, raise your rates.

In some cases, you can raise them pretty dramatically.

As in, there are people charging  more than $1,000 an hour for their time.

This comes from being the best at what you do, and making that fact known. You have clients that want you, and the ability to turn them down.

This also comes from appealing to bigger businesses, who could afford to throw thousands of dollars at something and not even blink.

From there, you may wish to spend less time doing freelance work, and focus on building up another area of your business that doesn’t require you to constantly put in time to earn a return.

For example, I now make most of my money through this site from the courses I sell, and have increased my freelance rates accordingly.

Heck, you may want to quit freelancing altogether one day. Using the extra time, and the money you earn from freelancing to build something a bit more passive is a great way to do this. When your new projects are earning enough to make you happy on their own, switch over to them entirely.

If you think freelancing can't be scaled, remember this - there are people charging thousands of dollars an hour for their time. Click to Tweet

2. The Agency Model

You may not be able to scale your own time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t scale your company.

If you’re willing to accept a shift in your business, many successful freelancers grow even further by shifting to an agency model – building a business in which others work underneath them, for a lesser rate than what you’re charging. Typically, this is done either on a per-project basis, or by hiring somebody full time.

By this point you’ve hopefully got a good idea what it takes to build clients, the type of requirements clients of your type will have, and what systems you can utilize to get work done effectively. This makes it so much easier to train people later on.

Still this requires a pretty monumental shift in how your business is run as you have to start building a brand around your agency rather than just yourself (although a strong personal brand can definitely help here as well.)

You also have to learn skills like recruitment, management, delegation, etc.

It’s a lot of work, but one way to scale up to places you would never be able to achieve on your own.

Conclusion

It should not take you months or years to make money online. Due to the low startup costs and the straightforwardness of the entire process, freelancing is seriously worth considering for somebody making money online for the first time.

Although the idea of freelancing can seem to be the exact opposite of what you’re hoping for with entrepreneurship, it provides you a way to monetize your website and begin bringing money in right away.

Use this as fuel to grow, raising your rates and building up other areas of your business at the same time.

Looking back, you’ll be so impressed with how far you’ve come just 6 months from now.

And finally, remember that I am here for you every step of the way. If there’s ever any questions I can answer for you, just get in touch!

To your success,

– James McAllister

Summary:

Review the main points of this article in the SlideShare below. Feel free to embed this on your site, use it in your organization, and share it with others! All I ask is that you give credit! (Download links are available from SlideShare’s website, which you can access by clicking the LinkedIn icon)

[slideshare id=133615860&doc=freelancingfinal-190227221638]

About the author 

James McAllister

James is the owner of JamesMcAllisterOnline.com. He started his first blog at the age of 11, and has since gone on to start several successful businesses. In total, these businesses have sold hundreds of thousands of units and have touched millions of lives. Here on JamesMcAllisterOnline.com, he shares his knowledge that brought him to where he is today. If you want to connect with James, follow him on your favorite social networks!

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  1. Hi James

    Building a freelance side hustle is a perfect way for bloggers to start getting some income while they’re waiting for all that “passive” monetization strategy to work on their blogs.

    PLUS, if you coordinate your freelancing offers with the content of your blog, you can easily promote it to your readers at the same time.

    As you say, content marketing (and saxaphone playing) are perfect models for this.

    And to make this really work, we can take your suggestions for scaling up, and even going “agency” with some of these things.

    Great info, and I will share it with my students and blogging clients who are struggling to pull in some bucks while building bigger “passive income” strategies.

    -Donna

      (Quote)
    Donna Merrill recently posted…How To Share Your Blog Post On Social MediaMy Profile

    1. Hi Donna!

      You are right, ideally everything will work together in a system – the content will push people to the freelance clients, and the income from the clients can be used to sustain you and help build up the more passive strategies.

      When starting out I feel it’s very important for people to start bringing money in, even if it’s from work that isn’t necessarily the most enjoyable. At least then, you see that making money online is possible and it can provide some encouragement.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      – James McAllister

        (Quote)
      James McAllister recently posted…Don’t Wait 6 Months – Build A Profitable Business This Week, For Less Than $20My Profile

  2. Hi James,

    That’s a really interesting strategy, and I actually already have a freelance site open in a tab on my browser…. but I’ve been too busy (freelancing!) to even start looking for for more work.

    Things have changed for me quite a lot since we were last in touch (for the better). I have move to Norwich – which is LOVELY and I’m so happy here.

    I have been freelancing almost permanently throughout my business life, and while I had hoped to develop an online business, I have to admit that the freelance work I do is far easier and more profitable. The hourly rate I earn with what I tend to call my “offline businesses” is far in excess of what I earn online, and frankly, it’s more satisfying because of the grateful clients I am helping.

    My blog is still online, because I do actually enjoy blogging. But is has had a slight change of focus – possibly hardly noticeable because I’m still too busy freelancing. Apart from the occasional, inevitable, crisis, freelancing is proving far more enjoyable than the “make money online” niche ever was.

    I think you’ve given me an idea for a blog post 🙂

    Joy Healey – Blogging After Dark

      (Quote)

    1. Hi Joy!

      So glad to hear that things have gotten better since we’ve last talked. Far too many people dismiss the idea of freelancing because you are still “trading hours for dollars”, but as you rightly point out it doesn’t always have to be unenjoyable, and can be quite profitable as well. Plus you get that satisfaction and fulfillment of making real human connections, and helping them out.

      One thing I must ask is if you’ve got a full calendar, why not raise your rates (or at least look for new clients, advertising a higher rate?) Just curious!

      In any case, here’s hoping you don’t stop blogging entirely – I do enjoy visiting your site and have been doing so even during my absence.

      Will be keeping my eye out for that blog post! 😉 Talk soon Joy!

      – James McAllister

        (Quote)
      James McAllister recently posted…James McAllister OnlineMy Profile

      1. Hi James,

        You raise a fair question about increasing my rates or looking for higher paying ones… but truth is I appreciate these clients because we’ve established a routine and they’re happy to fit round the hours I choose to work. If I say I’ll be out on (say) Wednesday, 99% of the time they’re relaxed about it – because they know that on the 1% of the time there’s a crisis I’ll work round the clock if necessary. New clients may not be as accommodating.

        I DID get a new client – but had to “sack him” because working with him was too stressful for many reasons (although he was a friendly and charming guy). My current, long-term, clients are almost like old friends.

        Also, you may be surprised to hear that I’m not so much of a workaholic as I used to be. Here in Norwich I’m making new friends, going out lots and generally enjoying a much more relaxed life than I did when I was trying to start an online business. I’ve done some sums and decided that even if I earned the thousands of dollars a week I wouldn’t know what to do with it. I have all the material things I want.

        So long as the technical stuff doesn’t defeat me, I have no plans to completely stop blogging, because “you never know” but I’m much less obsessive about it and it’s no longer the chore that it became at one time.

        Much happier bunny these days 🙂

        Joy Healey – Blogging After Dark

          (Quote)

        1. That makes sense – sometimes it’s about enjoying the work, and dealing with less headaches than just bringing in more money. I understand that for sure, and especially now that my other ventures have taken off, is one of the reason I’m back here as well.

          Being happy is more important than making the most amount of money possible, and as time goes on I’ve understood that more and more. Once you’ve got enough to make you happy, it’s not worth trading stress and headaches for more dollars.

          Although I might be a bit hypocritical in this regard because I’m still quite stressed out with my other work, I try to keep the long-term vision in my head, and remember that in the end, happiness more than anything is what I’m working for.

          Thanks Joy!

            (Quote)
          James McAllister recently posted…Great Companies Are Built Around ValuesMy Profile

  3. Hi James,

    Your article is super-great and I can’t agree any less with you. Freelancing has been good to me, it has given me the life I dreamt of. I can travel the world and carry my office along, as much as I have my laptop with me. That’s the beauty of freelancing.
    However, attracting clients is a hurdle for many, but the tips you provided will help a great deal. I want to add that having a presence on social media with an optimized profile can also help you attract clients. My first ever writing client came to me from Twitter. He saw my profile, send me a message asking if I would be willing to create content for him. That one-time project resulted in a six-month gig.
    So, take advantage of social sites like LinkedIn and other major platforms, optimize your profile accordingly and see your business grow. Use job boards as well. An influential freelance writer once told me that jobs boards are useless, but do you know that I found my highest paying client on a job board? Therefore, do not listen to those who say job boards doesn’t work and leverage it.

      (Quote)

    1. Hi Moss, thanks for stopping by!

      That’s one of the beautiful things about freelancing, even though you’re still doing work for your clients, you get to choose when and where you work (for most jobs, anyway.) It still leaves you a lot more free than a typical 9-5 would.

      I agree completely that a strong social presence can help tremendously when attracting clients. I have hired my own freelancers based off this in the past, so I can attest to its power.

      Clients can come from anywhere and because business owners spend a good amount of time on social media themselves, anything you can do to get in front of them is bound to help.

      Great advice and again, thank you for your visit! Hope to talk more soon!

      – James McAllister

        (Quote)
      James McAllister recently posted…James McAllister OnlineMy Profile

  4. Hey James!

    Thanks for your engagement on my blog earlier. Nice to e-meet you 🙂

    And thank you for sharing your considerable insight and know-how in this honest blog post.

    Here is the brutal truth: Making money online is hard work, particularly when one is just starting out. And can I be honest? Those income reports of bloggers who (against all the odds) somehow manage to make thousands of dollars in their first month blogging doesn’t help.

    However, as you’ve rightly pointed out, with freelancing, everyone can earn some income in the early years. It won’t be millions, but it will go a long way to make the journey easier.

    In a recent blog post I talked about the 5 things people will generally pay you for. No matter how bad things may be, they will usually find the money for these 5 things. Permit me to mention them here as my contribution to this conversation.

    People will generally pay you to:

    1. Help them make money. This includes helping them make more money and helping them save money.
    2. Help them have more time.
    3. Help them lose weight, get into shape or have more energy.
    4. Help them get into a relationship, or helping them stay in a relationship
    5. Help them with their children or pets

    Thank you again for connecting. Content may be king, but networking is definitely key!

    Best regards,

    Pedro

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    1. Hey Pedro,

      It was my pleasure and it’s great to see you here as well!

      You are right, those income reports can be extremely discouraging to newcomers who may wonder what they’re doing wrong. I also feel they set people up with false expectations, without realizing that those bloggers are the exceptions. I do see the inspirational value of them, but it’s important for beginners to understand that those results aren’t typical, especially early on.

      Your list is spot on and if you think about it at a fundamental level, it comes down to the fact that there are so many problems in those markets that people are willing to pay to solve. Health, wealth and dating are hugely important to almost everybody, as is time. When it comes to children and pets, people are always going to want the absolute best for them, and that parental role becomes such a huge part of their lives. It’s part of the reason I chose to enter the parenting market with my baby product company – because you’re absolutely right.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing this, hope to talk with you more soon!

      – James McAllister

        (Quote)
      James McAllister recently posted…What Starting An eCommerce Business Taught Me About BloggingMy Profile

  5. Freelance job is logically indeed the other way other to make side income while passive income strategy is still in pending. I wonder where to be a freelancer and finding your clients without needing to show some experience.

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    1. Hey Paul! Thanks for visiting!

      You’re right, freelancing is great because it allows you to bring some money in while waiting for the other strategies to build up.

      With no prior experience working for clients, you can always create a portfolio of work yourself that showcases your abilities. If you’re a writer, write a few example articles to show on a variety of topics. If you’re a programmer, create some software, and use that as an example. If you’re a designer, make some example designs, and so on.

      I do a lot of my hiring out of the Philippines and many applicants come straight out of university. I have hired people with no job experience in their field just based upon their portfolio of examples, and these were for full-time roles. The same concepts apply to freelancing.

      Hope this helps!

        (Quote)
      James McAllister recently posted…Define What You Truly Want From BloggingMy Profile

  6. Hi James,

    The topic you raised here has a lot to do with me (honestly).

    Since I started online blogging, I have this negative thought towards offering any kind of freelancing jobs. Partly because all I wanted from my online adventure is to be my own boss.

    Answer yes or no to nobody, but myself.

    This has always been my dream and to this day, I have tirelessly worked towards achieving it. Although, I’m not there yet, but I believe with time, patient and the burning desire to never quit…I will.

    Going by my own experience blogging for over six years now, I will say your advice is a good one for beginners bloggers to follow.

    This is because like every other business, it takes some time for a blog to really transform into anything that could be called a “business” that generate significant income that one could depend on for livelihood.

    If I had started some freelance jobs back then, “maybe” it might not take that long for me to start earning good income online.

    Thanks, James, this is a good read.

      (Quote)
    Shamsudeen Adeshokan recently posted…How to Write An Article That Gets Read – The Art and ScienceMy Profile

    1. Hi Shamsudeen!

      Like you, I also had an aversion to freelancing for the same exact reasons – I didn’t want to answer to somebody else. That’s what brought me to online work in the first place.

      You have been very persistent having been blogging for so long, and most people aren’t as strong as you in this area. I believe in you and whatever you goals are regarding online work, I believe you will achieve them!

      For beginners, seeing some money come in right away will hopefully encourage them to push on further.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and hope to talk more with you soon!

        (Quote)
      James McAllister recently posted…Future-Proof Your Business Before It’s Too Late With These 8 StrategiesMy Profile

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