A freelancer is a self-employed person who charges a fee to perform a service. This person is not committed to one company and can simultaneously perform tasks for a multitude of clients.
More and more people are choosing to work remotely and become a freelancer. Aspiring travelers can achieve greater independence and travel to places beyond their wildest dreams.
A couple of years ago, I made one of my biggest risks of my life and decided to become a freelance writer. I was itching to travel the world and thought freelancing would be the way to make it happen.
How did that decision turn out for me?
Life Before I Was a Freelancer
For myself, life certainly wasn’t bad before I made the leap of faith to become a freelancer. I had been working at a fitness facility for nearly three years and managed to earn my master’s degree at the same time.
Eventually, I got a promotion and became the operations manager of the gym. I received a pay increase, had more flexibility to create my own schedule and enjoyed the occasional weekend getaway. Niagara Falls, Philadelphia, Cape Cod and epic rock festivals are just a handful of places I ventured off to for a few days each.
Not a bad gig, right?
Everything changed when I finally put my vacation days to use.
My Inspiration to Become a Freelance Writer
With 14 days of unused vacation time, I was eager to travel somewhere far away. The only country I had visited outside of the United States was Canada, but that doesn’t qualify you as an intrepid traveler.
For my first true international experience, I chose a destination that seemed like magic the moment I discovered it on my social media feed.
My trip to Iceland was only five days, but it remains the most spectacular time of my life to this day. From dipping my toes in the Blue Lagoon and witnessing the majestic Northern Lights to frolicking along the South Coast of Iceland, it was a joyride that eclipsed my imagination.
Just over a month later, I used the rest of my vacation days to go on a nine-day Caribbean cruise. I lounged on the white-sand beaches of the ABC Islands (Aruba & Curaçao), swam in the crystal-clear waters of the Bahamas and went on a snorkeling adventure at Grand Turk Island. Swimming inches from two dolphins underwater remains one of the most exhilarating moments of my life.
After these two life-changing trips, I came to one conclusion upon returning to my job at the gym.
I want to travel more!
How to Become a Freelancer
After using all my vacation days, I was working nonstop at the gym and becoming increasingly miserable by the day. The travel bug hit me like a ton of bricks, and I spent my time fantasizing about new destinations.
When you’re spending all your time at your desk planning the next trip instead of doing your daily work tasks, that’s a signal to make a career change. I realized now is the time to make a change if I’m ever going to realize my newfound dreams of traveling the world.
I buckled down and spent all my time researching how to earn money online as a freelance copywriter.
You may be wondering what steps to take first when deciding to become a freelancer. Although I cannot speak for every freelancer, I’ll guide you through the process that helped me find my path.
Choose Your Career
The first thing you need to do is decide what career is right for you. Thankfully, today’s digital world has opened opportunities that weren’t around 10-15 years ago. More jobs are becoming remote, and all that’s required is a computer and a solid internet connection.
Here is just a brief list of jobs that can help you become a freelancer:
Freelance Graphic Designer
Freelance Computer Programmer
Freelance App Developer
Freelance Data Entry
Freelance Virtual Assistant
Freelance Online Tutoring
That’s just a sample and there are dozens of other career outlets that you can turn into a freelance job. If you’re unsure of what skills you possess, that’s okay. Take all the time you need to figure the best career path for you. Maybe take a few online courses, gain a certificate or seek advice from someone who has already started freelancing.
Writing is what I ultimately chose to pursue since I believed it would be the easiest path for me to begin a career as a freelancer. You may be surprised by this, but traveling wasn’t the first thing I started writing about.
When I first started my career as a writer, I was desperate to try just about anything to begin earning money online. The eagerness of wanting to travel the world more was driving me insane and I applied for all sorts of writing jobs.
Sports, history, health, romance, sci-fi, you name it! I tried all those topics.
But I struggled.
Most jobs were low-paying, projects were difficult to finish, and I was unable to retain most of my clients. Even though I was barely scraping by, I still managed to travel via house sitting.
After around 7-8 months, I realized the only thing I enjoyed researching and writing about was travel. That’s when I buckled down and focused strictly on travel writing jobs.
It took a few months, but I eventually found clients who saw my previous travels and took a chance on me.
Select a Freelance Website or Platform
Once you’ve chosen your career, the next step is to find the freelance website or platform that will help you obtain the most work. I researched for days on the internet and signed up for a few, but Upwork is the platform that I ultimately chose.
Upwork is likely the biggest player in the freelance world and it’s the best platform to begin freelancing in my opinion. There are millions of jobs posted on the platform every year and you’ll find plenty of clients willing to take beginners.
As you complete jobs and produce quality work, clients can leave you positive reviews that show up on your profile. Having these reviews makes it much easier to attain future clients.
I can say with full confidence that Upwork is a legit freelance site that any freelancer should check out for work in their field. I’m not a big fan of their fees, but any freelance platform is going to take a cut of the money.
Build Your Resume
I advise freshening up your resume when first joining the platform unless you already have an updated copy. If you already have job experience or certifications for your career, then put that towards the top of your resume.
I was in a tough predicament since I didn’t have any formal writing experience and was basically winging it. If you’re in a similar situation, place your education and the most valuable jobs you’ve had at the top.
Make your work ethic and past accomplishments stand out!
Create Your Freelance Profile
Making your profile is an easy process that shouldn’t take you a lot of time. The site will ask for all your basic information and will include a section where you can list your skills.
Don’t rush through it and provide detailed answers to every question in your profile. You don’t want potential clients to browse through your profile and think you did a sloppy job or that you’re not serious about finding work.
Lastly, upload a quality picture of yourself that best depicts your personality. Some freelancers choose not to place a picture of themselves, but I think it’s important to connect your face to your profile.
Once I transitioned to writing exclusively about travel, I changed my profile picture to one from my previous trips. As a travel writer, I think it’s important to prove you’ve actually traveled.
Start Searching for Jobs
Now the fun begins! It’s time to scroll through the enormous list of jobs and start applying to the ones right for you. Don’t be surprised to see thousands of jobs each day. If you’re new, it’s important to scroll through the job feed several times per day.
On Upwork, you’ll see roughly how many freelancers have applied to the job. When you see 20-50 candidates have already applied, there’s a good chance they’re already interviewing candidates. That’s why you need to look often and apply early to any job that interests you.
When I first started, I applied to as many jobs as the site would allow me. There would be a limited number of connects that you had each month and you’re unable to apply for more jobs once you run out.
Unfortunately, Upwork started charging a $0.15 fee for each connect. This now makes it crucial to pick your jobs wisely in order to not waste your money.
My Tips for Becoming a Freelancer
Build a Foundation Before Quitting Your Job
If you want to save yourself financial stress, make sure you’re generating a decent income before freelancing full time. I surely could have used this piece of advice before I left the gym.
Although I was increasing my freelance earnings, I had reached nowhere near the monthly income I was earning at my steady job. I was extremely impatient to travel the world more, and my funds quickly depleted the first several months after quitting my job.
My suggestion is to spend as much time as you need honing your skills in your new freelancing profession and build a solid group of clients before ditching your 9-5.
It would have saved me some financial hardship had I waited a little longer before writing full time.
Apply to Tons of Jobs
You know that old saying, “a closed mouth doesn’t get fed.” That is exactly the type of attitude you need to have when first starting as a freelancer.
Although I didn’t have prior writing experience, I was relentless to find any work I could get my hands on. As a freelancer, you must understand that you will almost ALWAYS be searching for new projects.
It comes with the territory, so get used to applying to many jobs on your feed.
You might have more freedom as a freelancer, but you also have more responsibility to ensure your income comes in each month. Organize your days in advance and make it a priority to accomplish specific tasks each day.
And it’s tough, believe me! I still struggle to maintain self-discipline while traveling and making sure all my work gets done. Sometimes you must remain inside all day before you have time to explore a new destination.
But the bills must be paid though!
Only Accept Jobs You Can Finish
This tip comes from my personal experience. As a freelancer, nothing feels worse than being unable to complete a job assigned to you.
This scenario happened to me a few times before I strictly focused on travel writing. Some assignments caused me lots of headaches, and I spent lots of time making little progress.
Ultimately, I had to refund the client their money and take my losses. It was a huge stress relief to no longer have those assignments on my plate, but it was wasted time I wouldn’t get back.
That’s why I recommend you review each job carefully and only accept it when you know you can finish it.
Track Your Purchases
Without a doubt, the biggest negative about being a freelancer is having to file your own taxes. I’m writing from an American point of view and your experience may differ if you’re from another country.
As an employee, part of your earnings are withheld and you often receive a refund during tax season. Freelancers must pay quarterly taxes throughout the year or else expect an enormous bill the next year.
Luckily, you can write off business purchases to save money on your taxes. That’s why I highly recommend saving all your receipts to see what can be used as a tax write-off.
Every little bit helps!
Do I Regret Becoming a Freelancer?
Not at all!
Freelancing requires a hustle mentality, ambition, and self-discipline, but I wouldn’t trade the freedom for anything. I’m my own boss, work any time of day and can complete my assignments anywhere I have internet.
The income fluctuates each month, but I’m slowly building my portfolio as a travel writer. And I’ve traveled to 16 countries in just the last two years. My travel dreams have started to come true, and I hope to continue circling the globe as long as possible.
I might have made some poor decisions when I first started, but becoming a freelancer was one of the best decisions of my life.