I Made $8,000 Freelancing for 5 Months

Still think Freelancing isn’t a real job?

Current freelance role: Part-time marketing coordinator

First freelance gig: Blog post ghost writer ($50 flat rate/1000 words)

Total earnings: $8000+ since March 2019

Hours: 15-25 hours per week, based on my schedule

When my journalism professors told us that most of us would be freelancing our first few years after graduating, I laughed. I paid a small fortune to attend this school expecting them to help me get a “real” job. In my head, I imagined freelancers climbing through windows, snooping around police stations, and blackmailing politicians for a story, just in the hopes of selling something good to a publisher.

That kind of work wasn’t going to help me pay off six-digit student debt.

But five months after graduating, when I still didn’t have a full-time job offer that satisfied me, I found myself considering freelancing for the first time. Whether choosing to freelance or being forced into it because of media industry lay-offs, 36% of the U.S. workforce are freelancers now. That means there are plenty of websites looking to connect freelancers with work.

Here’s how I made more money than I imagined possible freelancing for just 5 months.

Connect with employers online

There are dozens of websites where freelancers with skills ranging from graphic design to coding can create an account, post their skills, and start submitting proposals. But not all of them have our best interest in mind.

Many websites, like Freelancers.com and Guru, have basic or paid accounts. Basic users encounter restrictions: with Freelancer.com, basic users can submit only 8 proposals per month before hitting a block and being prompted to upgrade to a paid account. Additionally, the service fee for “preferred” freelancers is 15% of your earnings, deducted.

My preferred website is UpWork, because if you land an ongoing contract, the service fees they extract from your pay decreases from the standard 20% per paycheck to 10% after you earn your first $500. After you earn $10,000, the fee decreases to just 5% of your earnings. Additionally, there are no “paid” or basic accounts. Instead, they charge a $.05 fee for each proposal. Even if you submit 100 proposals per month (who has time for that?) you’re still only short $5. Worth it to me.

Zero in on your skill…

First rule of freelancing: You have a talent and it’s something you can do better than anyone else. And if that’s not true, open your browser, type in YouTube, and start learning how to perfect your talent ASAP! Whether you’re a super-organized data entry specialist or a biology graduate looking to make some extra money writing research articles for companies, you have a skill that others will pay for. The more specific your skill, the easier it is to sell it.

…and Market yourself relentlessly

Second rule of freelancing: there are 57.3 million of us in the U.S. alone, and millions more around the world with nothing better to do than troll freelancing websites and beat you to submitting a proposal. And guess what: there’s always someone willing to do a job cheaper than you.

Instead of competing in a race-to-the-bottom of how little you’re willing to charge to do the work, focus on highlighting why you’re worth the extra $$ per hour. Have a special degree from a fancy school? Or perhaps you’re cross-trained in writing and data analytics–perfect for a marketing role. Whatever makes you stand out, emphasize that.

Be the best.

There’s no excuse to be mediocre at your work just because you don’t have a full-time job with benefits. Instead, you have to work even harder. Websites like UpWork let employers review your work, even if you only wrote one 750 word blog post for them. That means someone else has some degree of control over how your next employer will view you as a freelancer.

Make sure they only have good things to say by giving it your best. Yes, you’re working from home. No, you don’t get vacation time or benefits. But if you do it well, you can earn some serious money.

Let me know how your next job proposal goes @byamandasong!