How to start doing freelance work.

After years of working minimum wage jobs I decided to get into freelancing.Thanks to this career change I've been able to travel the world and even achieve the 4-Hour Workweek.

In this post I share my story so you can learn how to do freelancing.

Ryan Astaphan


My story as a freelancer

Like many others, I went to university because I was supposed to. But truth be told, I had no idea what I was doing there. I did graduate cum laude with a degree in history, but I had no idea how to survive in the real world.

For about four years following graduation I worked minimum wage jobs. I wasn't happy with where my life was heading and I eventually hit a breaking point. Things needed to change.

I decided to live a little, so I went on a backpacking tour of Asia.

  • A month in India practicing yoga.
  • Two months in Thailand teaching English.
  • And two months in China learning Shaolin kung fu.

Like many backpackers, the trip was an illuminating experience. I learned what I wanted in life, but I found myself no closer to knowing how to achieve it. So I came back home and got a job as a waiter.

But less than a year after returning home I decided to give freelancing a shot.

Elance, which is what Upwork was called back then, was where I began freelancing. I won a job in my very first week. It was a simple job, all I had to do was perform a face swap on some family photos. For less than an hour’s work I made $15 or $25.

In my second week I was awarded a $1200 job by an agency in Argentina to build their website.

After these two jobs I went on to have a somewhat successful freelancing career, going through highs and lows that can be expected with freelancing. It was that journey that brought me to where am I now in life.


What is freelancing?

Simply put, freelancing is an alternative hiring method. In place of getting hired part or full-time, one gets hired on a per project basis. In some cases a freelancer gets hired by a client on a continual basis.


The benefits of freelancing.

I believe freelancing is one of the broadest and most accessible fields of online work. Whereas many online jobs require a large investment of time before seeing any profits, freelancing is one of the quickest ways to earn money online.


  • Location independence
  • Freedom over how you work
  • No need to commit long-term
  • Ability to grow and improve yourself

The negatives of freelancing.

There are two harsh realities that must be faced by all freelancers:

  • There's no guaranteed paycheck
  • You're on your own

Freelance jobs. is the largest freelance marketplace online. According to them, jobs can be found in any of these categories:


How to start freelancing.

Here I will give you the basics needed to get started. These are just the basics, though.

For the best advice, I recommend you getting a copy of The Modern Guide to Freelancing. It costs only $50 and if you don't make your money back in 30 days via freelancing then you get 100% of your money back via refund.

  1. Go to and register as a freelancer.
  2. Browse through the various categories to get an idea of where you could fit in.
    *If you do not yet have the skills needed to succeed, jump to the next section to learn where you can earn these marketable skills.
  3. Browse through individual job postings to get a feel for what can be found of
    This will give you a sense of what actual services are in demand, and subsequently what services you can offer.
  4. Fill out your profile.
    *Your portfolio is perhaps the most important thing you can show a perspective client.
  5. Apply to jobs.
    Always keep in mind that you are there to serve the client. Only speak about yourself in terms of how you can bring value to the client. Also know that the goal of your opening message is not to win the job, but to get your foot in the door.
  6. Create a job application routine.
    Winning jobs is a numbers game. Every workday you want to allot a block of time to job applications. You do this to not burn yourself out and to increase your odds of having consistent work.
  7. Customer service.
    Your client is the one who puts food on your table, treat them with respect. Be dependable and quick to respond.
  8. Long-term earnings.
    Don't think of your projects and clients as one-night stands. If you treat them well and deliver great service, then you are much more likely to get hired again and again (and receive referrals from them).
  9. Legally form a business.
    *This advice is for Americans. Different countries very well may have different laws.
    When you begin to make good money, you'll want to form a business / legal entity. The two main reasons for doing so are so you can potentially save thousands of dollars in taxes and to protect your personal assets if for some reason you ever get sued.
  10. Pay taxes.
    *Again, this advice is for Americans.
    Long story short, get a good accountant. They are costly, but they can help you save thousands more than they charge.
  11. Manage your money.
    Budget. Save. Invest wisely.

In the Modern Guide to Freelancing I cover all of the above in detail.


Become a better you.

If you do not yet have the skills needed to freelance, or if you want to improve your skills, please visit This website has amazing tutorials that are very easy to learn from. The instructors over there are awesome. I've learned so much from Lynda, from Photoshop to SEO and even photography.

If you're not sure where to start, register for a free 10 day trial here. You'll see the site has learning paths, which are essentially career tracks. The learning paths fulfill the skills needed to work in various positions. In fact, they have 90 different learning paths between these categories:

  • CAD
  • IT
  • WEB Online Training Videos

I cannot recommend highly enough, but they’re other learning options available to you.

YouTube is chock full of great tutorials that are free. And one more place that is great for learning code is Code Academy.

Remember that education is an investment in yourself. You're doing this so you can make more money in the future, which will hopefully bring you an even better life.


How to excel as a freelancer.

Let’s make it clear, as a freelancer you are not just a designer, business analyst, writer or what have you. As a freelancer, you are also a business person.

And as a freelancer it can be argued that your most important task is to win jobs.

Once a job is won, your interactions with the customer are as important as the actual work you provide. It can also be argued that the human element of your project is more important in terms of getting repeat customers than the technical elements.

Long story short, put yourselves in the shoes of your (potential) customers and think about how you can serve them well.

TIP: Your success as a freelancer is dependent on your profile and review scores. If you provide a good service/product and good customer relations skills, you will do well (YOU MUST DEMONSTRATE THE QUALITY OF YOUR WORK WITH A PORTFOLIO).

Making more money as a freelancer.

  1. You’ll be able to make more money as you become more efficient, which will come with experience.
  2. Also with experience, you will come to know what types of jobs and clients pay more. Then you will be able to focus your efforts there.
  3. Knowledge is power. You can make yourself more valuable by:
    1. Learning how to market yourself better.
    2. Learning how to provide a more luxurious customer experience (I guess this could actually fall under marketing yourself better).
    3. Learning new technical skills:
      1. For instance, most college students/graduates have the ability to write research papers. This is a skill that translates well to working online (getting hired to write blog articles or other written content). That’s a useful skill, as it can translate to $.10-$.15/word at minimum. This skill can be built upon and made more valuable by learning the basics of:
        1. SEO (onsite search engine optimization, in this specific case for writers).
        2. Email marketing.
        3. Press releases.
        4. Sales copy (basically, the text you see in a print or image ad).
      2. With just a couple of weeks of learning (on Lynda or elsewhere), a good writer could become a competent (and more valuable) internet marketer. These people could also make such transformations:
        1. Business and accounting students/graduates.
        2. Software programmers.
        3. Web designers .
        4. Graphic artists.
        5. Video makers.
        6. Sound engineers.
        7. And I bet many others that I cannot think of.

A Note on Upwork. has a pretty shitty reputation. Many freelancers believe customers there are cheap and unpleasant to work with. Freelancers also criticize Upwork for taking a large cut out of their earnings. So why do I recommend Upwork?

  1. There is money to be made there because there are good clients. The filtering tool (used when browsing through job postings) is your friend. Learn it, use it, find good paying jobs. Good luck.
  2. I think of as a lower-level league like is seen in professional soccer. It is a great learning ground where you can develop your skills. The business skills you learn freelancing on Upwork translate very well in other arenas. When you’re ready to venture outside of Upwork, you’ll be prepared to actively seek clients online and in the real world.


Beyond Upwork: Finding new clients.

When you're a seasoned freelancer and ready to expand your horizons, you'll see that there are many avenues for growth. Here are some options:

  1. Build a website.
    You'll want to do this, as it can serve as a portfolio to show potential clients.
  2. SEO
    By ranking highly in search engines, you can have potential clients seek you out. As a small website, you'll want to focus on local or long-tail keywords.Lynda has good resources on SEO and is the authority on the subject.
  3. Google advertising
    You can also seek out clients by driving potential clients to your website from Google's search results page. To do this, you'll want to learn about Google AdWords on Lynda or elsewhere, or more broadly speaking you'll want to learn about PPC (pay per click advertising)..
  4. LinkedIn and Email Marketing
    These two can go hand-in-hand. Using LinkedIn you can search for prospects, gather their contact information and then cold email them. This method can be used outside of LinkedIn as well. As you could guess, Lynda has courses on email marketing.
  5. Local
    Don't neglect reaching out to local businesses and people in your network.
  6. Word of mouth
    If you treat your clients well, the favor will be returned here and there.

Alright folks, that's it for now. If you want the best advice, make sure to get your copy of The Modern Guide to Freelancing.


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