Note: Listen to this post instead using the audio player below!
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
Entrepreneurship 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
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.”
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.
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.
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
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)