If you're like most people, you use the internet for a lot of things.
To communicate with friends and family, to find out what's happening around the world, to publicise your thoughts, to feed your human need to watch other people's lives unfold, to entertain yourself, to do mundane and important tasks or to jump into rabbit holes of information about anything whatsoever (Thanks Wikipedia!).
But have you ever thought of using it to add some money into your pocket?
Maybe you have.
And no, you don't need to be a famous blogger, a vlogger, a social media influencer, or a celebrity - you can simply become a freelancer.
A freelancer is someone who sells their skills for a fee.
And with the internet, you can sell your skills to anyone, from anywhere in the world.
You don't necessarily need to be a 10,000-hour master, or to have 100,000+ followers, or to have won the genetic-lottery in face or in body. All you need is some intelligence (yes, "some"), a lot of hardwork and unquestionable commitment.
Freelancing is not for the faint-hearted. I honestly think it needs more commitment than intelligence and more hard work than mere credentials. But if you have all three/four, you'll hit the jackpot, my friend!
So whether you need a side gig, or a main gig, make the internet your playground and get yourself a space in the gig economy.
In six simple steps, here's how you can get started.
1. Figure out what you can offer
This is probably the hardest yet the most important part of this entire process. Before you take any first step into the world of attempting to work for yourself, you must sit down and really figure out what you can offer.
Some questions you could ask yourself here are: What am I good at? What do I naturally excel in? What do I do effortlessly that I could offer as a service to others?
These questions are not even close to being as comprehensive as you should be with yourself when you are trying to figure out this first step. So here's something that can help. It's an interesting process that will give more clarity about your goals and what you should offer the world.
But one thing you need to remember is that not every single plan you come up with can be executed via the internet space. Some simply need to be in a physical environment in order to thrive. If that's the case for you, well and good. You are on the fast track to becoming an entrepreneur.
If you are focused on coming up with skills to sell via the internet as a remote worker, you'd be a freelancer - and in my eyes, an entrepreneur too.
In case you are stuck and still don't know what you can offer, use this right here as a shopping list. You could simply pick what you feel you would be good at and what you feel you would enjoy (which is an important factor) and head on over to step 2!
2. Update your skills
So you've figured out what your go-to skill(s) will be as a freelancer. Great!
Now all you need to do is get really good at it/at them.
And in the age of the internet, you absolutely have no excuse as to why you can't become one of the best in your chosen skill.
Trust me, you can start from scratch. It is pretty much what I did with social media management. It interested me, I kept learning about it and now it's one of the skills I offer as a freelancer.
Whatever skill you chose to chase, you can learn anything and everything about it by yourself on the internet with little or absolutely no monetary investment.
You have Google.
You have Youtube.
You have a million blogs you can subscribe to.
You have amazing MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) at your disposal. I've tried edX.
You could also go for the awesome skills courses on Linkedin if you choose to switch to a Premium profile. You could try Treehouse for programming skills that are definite money maker. These two options are not free but they are certainly worth it.
At the moment, I'm aiming to learn some programming languages and to get my mind around this cryptocurrency mumbo jumbo. I have content writing and social media management in the bag but it doesn't hurt to upgrade my skills collection, right?
The point here is: with time and commitment, you can learn anything you want.
Wait- what? You say you have no time? Well, if you reduce the time you spend on TV and endless scrolling on Facebook or Instagram, you could free up some time to get some new skills.
3. Find your brand
As a freelancer on the internet, the most important thing you can do for yourself is get a brand.
Look at it this way: it's only your friends and family who know you exist and think you are pretty amazing. Everyone else has no idea about you and honestly, they don't care. But you want potential clients and people who might want to refer you to potential clients to care.
And how will they care?
If they feel like they kind of know who you are already.
It's this simple: If you are going to work on the internet, you need to get found on the internet.
You must be out there. And not as an alias or a convoluted online self - but as yourself. As the person you would like to be known for.
Be intentional with social media and with your blog or website. It's the best way to build a reputation and the best way to get found by people who would normally not be able to find you.
4. Portfolio, Portfolio, Portfolio!
You could be having your brand online and all but if people still have no idea what you do and how you do it, there's literally no point to it.
This is where building a portfolio comes in. And you can do it in many ways.
As a freelancer on the internet, you could choose to drop your portfolio on your own website or plaster it on a freelance portal which would certainly have more eyeballs on it.
But don't underestimate social media. You could share your work on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and even LinkedIn. And by the way, LinkedIn allows you to upload websites and images to each job you add on your profile. If that's not "portfolio" enough, I don't know what is!
Whatever skill you chose, if you are new at it, a portfolio will come with time. If you have some experience with it, begin making a collection of your work. It could be snapshots of what you've done, testimonials from previous clients or employers, or links to your work. Whatever it is, choose the best and display it for all to see.
5. Get pitching
I mentioned earlier that a freelancer is pretty-much an entrepreneur right? And what do entrepreneurs do on a daily? They pitch. This means you need to do the same. No excuses or questions asked. You just need to pitch.
As a freelancer on the internet, there are a number of ways you can do this.
You could use the good old freelancer portals like Upwork, Freelancer, Fiverr, People Per Hour and others, sit your butt down, create a comprehensive profile and apply for the various gigs on offer. These portals are highly competitive so you need to apply with a lot of flair (in order to be memorable) and A LOT of patience. Did I say patience? Well, it's more like perserverence.
Another this you could do is jump in on the various sites which are pretty much job boards for remote work. Here's a list I found the other day. You could pitch away at any relevant job that would suit you.
Another way you could pitch is to use your lovely friend - email. Start with your network by simply sending an email explaining what you are getting into and that you'd appreciate their referrals. You never know who might know who that needs your services.
And don't underestimate your weak ties. They might be more uselful to you here than your friends and family. You might not have spoken or seen someone for months but they might have the exact opportunity you need to get started.
Another way to pitch is to go cold. Here, I mean cold emailing. Not exactly easy but it might work way better than these other tactics. It's recommended if you already have an online brand and portfolio in place.
With this one, you would first have to do some research on the kind of people, companies or organisations you would like to work with. Learn everything you can about them then find their email address and send an introductory pitch elaborating what you can offer. You may or may not get replies but keep trying until you get something.
There's no giving up in freelance land. Absolutely no giving up. Remember that.
With all these tactic, set goals and action plans. Perhaps you must do 10 pitches a day or 15 or 20. Whatever it is, keep adjusting it for it to make sense according to your success rate.
6. Be the best
Whatever you choose to get into, you need to be the best you can be.
You could be the smartest, most intelligent, badass-iest worker out there but if you are not reliable, communicative or open to learning, you'll make it absolutely no-where.
So I'd say, be reliable, be great with communication, and keep learning. The three most important qualities for a freelancer.
With these three in hand, nothing will stop you from succeeding. Your clients will be able to trust you meaning they'll probably refer you to other potential clients or offer you a long-term contract which is what every freelancer aims for.
So there you have it. Six steps to get you started as a freelancer on the internet. As with everything in life, you need to take the first step then another and another and then another and soon you'll be getting somewhere.
I wish you well in this new quest.
If you have any question on anything I've mentioned above, let's meet in the comment box below :)