How to start a freelance career from scratch when you’re unemployed

The job market is tough. The traditional method for getting into work after graduation is obsolete. Think about it – you labour for 3 – 5 years, graduate, beg someone to hire you, fail, learn a course or two, beg to be hired again, if you’re lucky, end up doing minimum wage jobs, repeat. It’s ridiculous, especially as your parents probably paid good money for your education. If you had a refund of your termly school fees x the 9 terms you were at university for, you could have started a business with the money. Yes, you would still need an education to get by. I completely understand, and I’m not saying that education is of no value, I’m just saying that the current system isn’t working. Enter Freelance working.

As a freelancer, rather than begging people to employ you, you’re offering them services that they need. Once you’re well established, you set your prices, choose your customers and even your working hours.

Freelance jobs come in various shapes and sizes, and encompass a large variety of skills.

Nigerian-based Pen Prince charges £690 per article for submitting articles to high-traffic websites. 48 people bought this service the last time I checked.

 Angela in Kenya earned $1,241.52 writing articles for a financial website based in Australia.

Spyros from Greece charges £70 to design booklets.

There are so many of your existing skills that can be refined and packaged in exchange for money. As a freelancer, you can write if you like to write, draw if you like to draw, manage social media if that’s what you enjoy, and you can code if you like to code. Freelancing offers you the opportunity to do what you enjoy doing, and charge for it. They key thing to remember is that you aren’t just making a career for yourself, but you’re actually launching a business.

This is a HUGE life-changing step, so you need to be prepared to change yourself. You need to let go of all the ideas and systems of work that have not enhanced your lifestyle in the past. This is harder than it sounds. You need to be prepared to always be learning. You need to prepare to stop looking at yourself as someone who needs help to find a job. Start looking at yourself as someone who can help other succeed, through your new-found skillset.

How to start as a freelancer

  1. Looking at the market to ascertain what skills are in the most demand. To do this, you will need to select 2 or 3 freelance websites and look at the number of job listings for each skill. This should give you an idea of which skills most businesses need.  By doing this, you ensure that the demand exists, and that you are not wasting your time by putting your efforts towards a dead-end industry.
  2. Next, create a list of the top 20 skills with the highest number of jobs. From this list, pick out 2 skills you already have, and can improve on.  This list of 22 bankable skills shows how easy it is to pick up skills which will earn you money over the internet. The idea is to start from where you are and work your way upwards. If you’re good at writing for example, you can start offering your skills as a writer while taking all the free courses you can on being a good writer.
  3. Brush up on your grammar and writing skills. You are looking to serve a global audience, so “Gud morin, ow wuz ur nite?” won’t cut it. You will be immediately branded as unserious and will never be given a job again, and you might feel that witches are trying to hinder your prosperity on the internet.  In this lifestyle, 99% of your communication is written, so if grammar comprehension isn’t your thing this isn’t the lifestyle for you. If however, you’re open to learning and improving, I would suggest that you get Grammarly to help you correct your grammar. Also spend some time reading edited forums such as Quora and newspapers such as The New York Times, Guardian, The Economist, Washington Post.
  4. Learn how to use social media properly. Try to resist the urge to waste your data following gossip. You are a changed person now. Try to get on the other side to understand how social media can be used to generate buzz for businesses and specialise in doing this. Believe it or not, people will pay you to help them tweet or post their images on Instagram. These resources will help you become better at using social media for business
  5. Set up your workstation. Get a work computer and ensure that you have a reliable source of electricity, internet access and as few distractions as possible. In a world where you don’t interact with your customers face-to-face, responding to an e-mail within 1 hour of receiving it is the real world equivalent of going into work on time. You want to create the best impression possible, and you don’t want your paying customers to ever feel you are unreliable or out-of-reach.
  6. Choose one skill to learn and spread the word. Use your internet data connectivity to tell your social media contacts of your new venture. The people you know will be your best advocates, so let them know what services you’re offering, and even if they might be customers themselves, they could refer you to your first few customers.
  7. Set up a website show casing your portfolio. There is a step-by-step guide here that shows you how to set up your own website or blog. You will also need to be present on LinkedIn, and freelance websites such as,, and Your potential customers are looking for workers on these sites, so you need to be in the same space.
  8. Start applying to jobs. Start be being active on these freelance websites. for example offers you 60 free “connects” each month, and each job bid costs 2 “connects”. This means that you can apply for 30 jobs monthly for free, and beyond this, you are required to pay to apply to any additional jobs.
  9. Set up a system to accept payments globally. Most freelancing websites have their own internal  escrow payment systems, where you can keep your payments before transferring over to your bank or Paypal account. The problem is that when you start having regular customers, you will need to have a system to invoice them directly, and accept their card payments regardless of were you or they are in the world. Paypal is a good option for this, as long as your country is accepted. Another alternative is Payoneer, which is less restrictive than Paypal in terms of accepted countries. This post offers a step-by-step guide on getting a Payoneer account.
  10. Be awesome. When you get a job, aim for perfection/repeat customers and be awesome at the job. Complete your jobs to a very high standard, and beat your time deadlines.
  11. Constantly seek ways to improve your skills. Take more courses, and learn new things, as you are ultimately selling yourself in this career. Join support groups that help you become a better entrepreneur.

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