Freelancer: self-employed person offering services, usually to businesses and often to multiple clients at a time
As with so many things on the Internet, Americans have co-opted the lifestyle of freelancing/working online and traveling the world.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find articles and guides online that don’t give you entirely American statistics and options for freelancing. And worst, most of these aren’t applicable to those who live in third world countries with crappy passports and low pay. If I sound a little bitter about this, you’re on to something. I might be.
The good news is that quite a few successful freelancers from developing countries have found their own path to success. I’ve talked about my own online freelancing career on this blog. Since posting, I’ve gotten emails almost weekly, begging for more information about how others can start their own journey.
So today, that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m sharing some critical steps to get started with becoming an online freelancer in developing countries like Jamaica. Follow these steps and you’ll minimize the awkward “trying to figure this shxt out” phase that others, including myself, had to go through without such a guide.
Before we dive in, let’s have a quick discussion about where freelancing fits into the bigger picture of earning an income online.
Earning An Income Online
There are essentially only three (3) ways to make money online:
- Selling a service – people hire you do what they can’t or don’t want to do
- Selling your own products – you create your own physical or digital products
- Selling other people’s products – you help others sell their items through affiliate marketing, advertising, dropshipping, among other things
Dassit. Every transaction that happens online (and offline, for that matter) falls under one of these three categories. Freelancing, of course, is a huge part of the first category, selling services. Many persons who start in freelancing often diversify their income in other ways, but freelancing is considered a good start for working online because it’s easier to get started.
Now let’s get into the steps you need to take.
Getting Started as a Freelancer Online
1. Change Your Mindset
One of the most important things to know about freelancing online, especially when it’s your only source of income, is that it’s going to be a lot different from having a regular day job. You’ll be working strange hours, you might have to do a variety of tasks and not just one thing, and you might have to adjust financially at first because of the fluctuating income.
This is one of the biggest reasons I became a minimalist, which ended up helping me save enough money to do a lot more than I could when I had a job.
If flexibility and freedom are important to you, just know that you will have to make some other sacrifices to live this lifestyle. Otherwise, stop reading this and go apologize to your boss for wasting his work time.
2. Get Access to a Laptop & Internet
It’s easy to assume everyone owns a laptop and has regular access to Internet, but I know that’s not true. If you don’t have one though, don’t be discouraged.
At the brokest point in my freelance life, my computer went out on me and I ended up finding a great used HP laptop at a pawn shop (yes, in Jamaica) for approx. US$150 (JMD$18,000), and for years I used a Chromebook which I bought brand new for US$95.
I even had an assistant who used her smartphone and data because of sketchy Internet where she lived. So don’t be afraid to hustle until you can earn enough to get something better.
There are used Chromebooks on Amazon for as low as $74 (Link)
3. Identify Your Skills (or Acquire New Skills for Free)
If you have skills that are easily transferable online (writing, design, etc.) then you’re already ahead of the game. But if not, again, don’t be discouraged. There are tons of free courses and guides online to learn exactly how to do the jobs people are hiring for.
While I had a background in marketing, everything I know about digital marketing today came from Googling and doing online courses. Check out edX, Udemy, Coursera and more – some of these may be paid courses, but between discounts and free looks, you can cobble together your own modern version of a certificate course in no time and at very little cost.
4. Set Up a Way to Receive Money
Straight up, this crippled me when I just started working online. I was making money that was just sitting in PayPal that I couldn’t quite access without a lengthy 81 day process, with twists and turns at every corner. Luckily, I was introduced to Payoneer, an online account that comes with a Visa debit card, that allows you access to your money anywhere in the world.
Once you get paid through PayPal (the accepted online standard for payment), you can transfer your money to the Payoneer account and access it on your Payoneer card locally, by using it at point-of-sale machines like a prepaid credit card, or withdrawing money from ATMs.
(Disclaimer: Some persons do have difficulties adding Payoneer credentials to their PayPal account, but I know that it’s definitely still possible and I’ll be sharing these details in my email newsletter soon. Subscribe here.)
5. Build Your Online Presence
Whenever someone wants to hire you online, it’s very likely that they Google you beforehand to see your work and background. It’s your job to make sure they find the best information at the top of their Google search results. Here are few sites that will come up, which I suggest optimizing as best as possible.
- LinkedIn – This is a big one. Not only is it work-related, it will come up in the first five Google search results, guaranteed. Fill out your profile, add a pic and share any info that might be related to the service you’re offering online.
- Facebook – This one often comes up too, so just make sure to keep your profile clean (or private) and don’t share anything publicly you wouldn’t want a future client to see.
- About.Me – If you don’t have an About page, go ahead and get one. It’s an easy way to create an online snapshot of who you are without building a full-on website.
- Behance – If your work is visual, get a Behance portfolio to showcase your best stuff. (I can’t give much guidance on how this works because I’m not a designer, but I have hired designers based on their Behance profiles.)
Who needs a website when you can have a great About.Me page?
A few other notes about building your online presence:
- Photo – Clean, professional headshots work best. Pay a few dollars to get them done at a photo studio (request electronic versions) or have a friend take them with a good quality phone, if you’re on a budget. Use the same or similar photos across networks to be easily recognizable.
- Grammar & Spelling – If you know you’re not the best writer, tap a friend who has the skills to help you out with this task. You don’t want someone turning you down for work because they are worried about your communication skills.
6. Create Your Freelancing Profiles
Now that you have your online presence on fleek (is fleek still in?), it’s time to start looking for work. The easiest way to do this is by using what are called “freelance marketplaces”, websites that bring together sellers and buyers. Sellers post their credentials or buyers post their jobs, and the marketplace gets a small cut when the job gets done.
The top three freelance marketplaces I recommend, based on my own usage as a seller and buyer are:
Again, I’ll be going into a lot more details on these sites for email subscribers. You need to subscribe if you don’t wanna miss it!
7. Begin Applying for Jobs
Once your profile is up, it’s time to start hunting for jobs. These sites literally have thousands of jobs listed per day, so you’ll have to do a little searching to find ideal ones. In terms of Fiverr, look around at the skills others are offering to get an idea what skills you might be able to list – they’ve got everything from writing and design to guys painting their bodies and doing crazy dances (my cultural appropriation senses tingled at that last one).
Is this even legal?
When it comes to setting pricing, this can indeed be quite tricky, but Upwork has written their own guide on pricing that you can check out. Starting out, you may have to go low to build a portfolio of clients, but keep testing out prices until you find a sweet spot.
Here’s a great Freelance Calculator that can give you an idea of what your hourly rate should be.
A Few Bonus Steps to Earning Online
8. Check Out Job Boards
If you happen to be interested in longer term remote jobs and not just one-off freelance gigs, there are a ton of sites that offer remote jobs. Quite a few jobs are limited to residents of America or Europe, but there are a few gems that don’t have such requirements. Here are a few sites worth checking out:
9. Start Blogging / Creating Content
A great way to attract attention to your work and showcase your knowledge is through creating content. Starting talking about the work you’re doing and what’s happening in your field/industry on social media. Share videos, graphics, anything you can think of. It doesn’t even have to be yours! Sharing other people’s content on social media and adding your professional opinion can be just as effective.
If you’re interesting in blogging but you don’t yet have a website of your own, you can use LinkedIn’s article feature or set up a free visual blog on Tumblr.
10. Tell Your Friends!
This step is often something we skip over out of fear of the responses we’ll get or just an assumption no one will care. The truth is, very often, your friends can be the ones supporting your career, whether through hiring you directly or sending you potential clients. I cannot tell you how much money I’ve made from my friends!
Go ahead and send out a quick email, and tell the people you see and meet everyday what you’re up to. Best case scenario, they want to hire you or recommend you to someone. Worst case, they’ll become intrigued and want to start freelancing too. Just send ‘em the link to this blog!
Freelancing Is Accessible to Everyone
One big reason I decided to write this post is to show just how accessible freelancing is to anyone worldwide, as long as you have a laptop and an Internet connection. Skills can be learned online, for free and the more dedicated you are, the more you’re likely to succeed.
For many of us, the most important part is to get started, and trust me, it will figure itself out along the way.
Want Some More Help To Get Started?
I am more than happy to help others in starting and building their freelance business online, but due to my own work and schedule, I can’t always accommodate every request.
If you have a quick (specific) question about working online, feel free to send me a message and I’ll do my best to reply. If you’d like more hands-on help and in-depth advice with getting started, there are two ways to do this.
1. Subscribe to my mailing list – For my email subscribers, I provide way more timely, in-depth advice on making money online and living life on your own terms. You also get exclusive freebies and discounts to workshops and courses (coming soon) before anyone else. Click here to subscribe.
2. Get a one-on-one consultation – For a whole hour, you get to pick my brain and get any advice you need on getting started. We can even build your profile and begin applying for jobs so I can give your more guidance on how it’s done. At US$80/hour, I understand this may be out of reach financially for some readers, but unfortunately, I do have to charge for the time, as I get multiple requests and can’t handle them all personally. If you’re interested, send me a message on my Work With Me page.
(My comment section has taken an impromptu vacation for some reason, so until then…)
Shout me out on Twitter or send me a message telling me if you found this helpful, if there’s any other information you’d like me to share and any stories about your own freelance journey so far. And don’t forget to share this with friends who wanna make some extra dollars online too!