1. Career Advice
  2. Career Path
  3. How to start freelancing or contract work
How to Start Freelancing or Contract Work

How to start freelancing or contract work

Artwork by: Antonina Kasyanikova

  • What Can I DO?
  • What Value Do You Bring?
  • Who Needs Your Skills?
  • Where Can I Find Work?
  • Conclusion

Instead of hiring full-time employees, many companies are looking for freelancers or contractors for short projects or tasks. Maybe you’ve noticed more and more listings for “freelance” or “contract” positions.

As a result, more people are going into business for themselves as full-time freelancers. This is what people mean when they talk about “the gig economy.”

Freelancing and independent contracting is nothing new - ask any carpenter. But with e-platforms that allow certain work to be done anywhere, anytime, this type of career has become incredibly common.

If you’re interested in starting gig work or freelancing yourself - whether it’s temporarily or working towards a full-time career, here are some things to consider:

What Can I DO?

One of the first steps to freelancing is figuring out what you want to do and who needs the skills you offer. With some critical thinking, this might be easier to determine than you imagine.

Do you have any hobbies or special skills your friends are constantly asking you to do? This can be specialized labor like tailoring or computer repair, but skills like editing, teaching/tutoring, and graphic design are also in demand. One of the most common ways people get started freelancing is by turning these extra-curricular activities into a job. 

If you’re interested in doing this, that’s fantastic. Just remember that you won’t spend all your time doing the work you like to do. Most of it will be spent running the business. It’s important to find a way to avoid burnout and find a new relaxation outlet, since the thing you do to relax is now work.

What Value Do You Bring?

Another way to determine what you offer as a freelancer is by breaking down your previous roles. This doesn’t just mean the tasks you performed, but also what value you brought. How did you actually make your workplace better? You want to present yourself as an answer to your clients’ potential problems.

What is it about you that made things better for a company/its customers? What are you adding?

So, how did you/your work:

  • Make your company a better place for people to want to work/stay?

  • Improve relationships, internally or externally?

  • Give your employers something new to offer customers?

Answering these questions will help you discover why a client can use you and your skill set specifically. Not just someone who can do a set of tasks - You.

Who Needs Your Skills?

Many freelancers get stuck figuring out where to pitch their work. You may have “dream clients” - organizations you’d love to work with, but don’t know how to approach. 

One way to identify potential clients is to look at your former employer - who were their customers? Who were their competitors?

Just by answering these questions, you’ve already built a list of organizations with a proven need for your skillset. Even if you don’t pitch to any company on this list, you’ve identified a type of company to target, and that’s helpful in itself. 

(Don’t forget to add your old employer to that list. Many freelancers go back to their old companies as consultants as part of their self-employment.)

If you’re still stuck, talk with other freelancers that do work similar to what you do. See where they find their clients. Try to determine what audiences they’re reaching or not reaching. 

Successful freelancers may even have clients they can recommend you to or excess work they can outsource. These connections are great for getting started.

Where Can I Find Work?

If you’re still not sure about freelancing, uncomfortable pitching yourself, or not convinced there’s a market for your skills, there are several platforms you could use to explore before jumping in fully. 

Try browsing sites like upwork or fiverr. These are marketplaces that connect freelance workers and people looking to hire them. Browse both the clients’ job listings and the freelancer profiles. That way you can discover what work people need and their common costs.

These sites are great for freelancers who are just starting out. They make connecting easy and they have built-in protections to make sure you get paid on time. However, they aren’t ideal places to build your long-term business around. 

Their fees take a large percentage of your income, and you’re always competing with someone willing to work cheaper. Think of them as stepping stones while you’re getting used to the idea of self-employment.

You may also discover a market that you didn’t even know existed. For example, many small-business executives are now hiring “virtual assistants,” which perform most of the duties of an executive assistant without needing to be in an office. Virtual freelance customer service or technical support roles are also a popular market.


In the end, looking for clients and building a business for yourself is not extremely different from looking for a full-time job. 

Both involve knowing your value and communicating that value effectively to others. You still need a brand and examples to back it up. And they both can have amazing, life-changing results if you are willing to put in the time and effort. Not to forget the nice work-from-home arrangement!

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