Freelance work is a tricky beast for many budding online entrepreneurs because you have very few steady guarantees about your monthly income and in many cases you’re always on the search for new clients, new projects, and the latest technology in your field. You have no boss so it means you have to find all your work on your own accord.
It’s tough and not for the feint of heart. But if you’re a self-starter and able to manage your time well creating a freelance online business can be one of the most effective ways to eventually ditch your day job and work remotely for 100 percent of your online income — which is a great step for those hoping to become expats in Asia or considering traveling the world.
This process is a rough guide of the initial steps you’ll need to take to find freelance work online and turn it into a stable remote business for yourself.
Decide a Freelance Field of Work
You’re dreaming of the money you’ll bring in from the internet, but have you thought about what skills you have to offer?
This is your first step, you have to have a niche, a focus for your freelance work that will lead you to a set of highly interested clients out there in need of your specific skills.
To narrow it down I suggest you list all of your major (and minor) skills on a piece of paper. Many of us are multi-talented and possess a range of skills we don’t even consider complimentary. Write them all down and then circle the 10 most interesting skills you have (hopefully some of those are the ones at which you excel too!).
Now, combine and narrow.
Are you a skilled coder with a flair for art? Then consider building a niche focus for your programming and coding skills specifically within the art community. There are already a lot of freelance programmers searching the job-boards and dreaming of working from home, but if you can combine your skills into a unique niche then you not only have a leg up on the competition, but you have a starting point for your self-marketing skills and a method for attacking the job-boards.
Just remember, it’s okay to be hyper-specialized because that makes you just precisely the perfect candidate for jobs within your niche.
Become an Authority in Your Niche
This is a process you will do throughout your months and years working as a freelancer, not just one step to tick off of your list. Find your way to become an authority on your topic. This has a two-fold benefit, you have more credibility and you have access to those in your niche who will need your services at some point in time.
I love LinkedIn for the site’s networking capabilities; though the site is not a job board in the conventional sense of the word, it’s more of a watercooler for the people talking about your niche industry. I highly recommend joining several groups and becoming a source of information and advice within that group and community. This networking has led to numerous inadvertent jobs in my own freelance business and is a verifiable source of clients and income for many freelancers I know.
Other considerations could be building a presence on Twitter as a thought-leader in your field and even consider blogging as a way to put your ideas and skills in front of more people.
Head to the Freelance Job Boards
There are numerous job-posting boards online right now and each one seems to have its pros and cons. Some of the ones I have used to either post work or look for freelance job advertisements include:
Elance and oDesk: These two are quite similar but have different vibes once you sign up and become involved in the community. It will really depend on your freelance skills which, if either, of these are ideal for your freelance business.
MediaBistro: These jobs are very niche in the marketing and writing side of the online business economy (and some are not remote job postings at all), but it’s a well managed site with high quality listings.
Craigslist: This site has a bad reputation in some circles but can actually be a great source of work for some freelance fields; and an added bonus is the fact that Craigslist has freelance job opportunities for nearly every major city all over the world.
Rinse and Repeat
The vast majority of businesses build up slowly so keep this in mind as you build a body of work and solid foundation for your freelance work. As I noted above, unless you are blessed with steady clients in your chosen field there is often an element of uncertainty in freelance work and you will need to continually seek out new clients and new networking opportunities.