After freelancing for a while, I started hearing this question more and more from students, young professionals and even friends who had been working at the same company since college:
“How can I get started with freelance work?”
The common thread was their search for more professional flexibility and freedom and they needed help scratching their itch. In other words, I noticed an opportunity to solve many people’s problems with the same solution and turn my clients (people who purchase hours of my time) into customers (people who purchase my products and provide passive income).
In my case, I wanted to show these people that full-time freelancing can be a realistic expectation, if you do it correctly.
What Is Freelance Work?
Now, if you’re a designer reading this, I hope you realize something about yourself: As someone with a background in design, you are uniquely positioned to communicate the value behind your own ideas. To put it another way, you are much better at showing than others are at telling. After all, most of entrepreneurship is communicating the value of something using a (visual) story.
That’s why I decided to use my skill set to create a brand around helping others start their own freelance studio and, in the process, turn my clients into customers.
Since I already had my own proposals, contracts and guides to getting started, I simply rebranded them into templates for others to use. Once that was finished, I took a series of posts I had written, covering everything from personal branding to onboarding clients, and repackaged them into an e-book. Finally, I decided to offer one-on-one consultations to anyone who wanted a more customized experience. However, this time I charged a premium since it involved trading hours of my own time.
Once I had everything finished, I set up a website, uploaded everything behind a paywall and pushed the damn thing live. I even created a social media campaign to announce the launch.
Now that the real work was finished, it was time to sit back, relax and watch people go crazy.
Unfortunately, I had forgotten one obvious step:
I never validated the need for these products. In other words, I didn’t prove that people would actually pay for them.
No one wanted the e-book or templates — instead, most of them bought the one-on-one consultations in order to ask specific questions.
How Do You Build Successful Freelance Career?
At the end of the day, I was still trading hours of my time for money, which defeated the purpose of starting this experiment in the first place. My goal was to productize my expertise so that I could build something once (i.e. an e-book) and then sell it many times over. Instead, people were still more interested in my services instead of my products.
This experience taught me that, when done correctly, you really can start to solve the problems of many people with the same solution and, ultimately, free up your time in the process. You just need to create products that speak to their needs.
After all, who wouldn’t want more time each day to focus on the things that matter most? From spending time with your family to devoting more time to creative projects, you really can work smarter instead of harder.
The key to a successful freelancing career is to package what you already know into a format that people want. Whether it really is an e-book, a series of online courses or even in-person workshops, you have to figure out which setup works best for you.
If you’re ambitious, why not take your expertise and repackage it into all of the above formats?
Just make sure to avoid the mistake I made and figure out what your clients want before you start.
When you turn your services into products (that people want), you also create more time for yourself. If you listen, create something valuable and make it scalable, you’ll be one step closer to turning your clients into customers and launch your successful freelance career.