A Fool’s Guide to Freelancing

When most people think of working, they think about having a job. Which inevitably means having a boss, probably working in an office, and drinking terrible coffee from the break room.

For many years, this was people’s reality and there were only so many ways you could escape it: start your own business, become a criminal or go on unemployment (to name just a few). To escape from the 9-5 was considered a fool’s errand that not many were wise to pursue. But now, due to the growth of the internet and networking services in general, anyone has the ability to sell their labor on a case by case basis.

This is called freelancing, and it can open up a whole new world for those who are willing to supply their skills in the open market and be mobile. In fact, by the year 2027, it is estimated that more than 86 million people will be freelancers.

Freelancing may seem scary, but it’s actually quite liberating when you think about it. No matter what you do, you have the opportunity to freelance your labor out to willing individuals/groups or learn skills that enable you to do so. Whether you are going to ply your carpentry skills to the public or take a crack at some more common freelance jobs like SEO writing or data entry, it is all within your power. Along the way, you may encounter some odd looks, stares, and judgments from friends and foe alike, but remember that a lot of these people will secretly be jealous of you for your freedom, creativity and, ability to get paid promptly.

While there is no “best company to work for,” once you see the innate satisfaction involved with being a freelance creative laborer (whatever your skill may be), it’s hard to see how you could disagree. At the end of the day, the best company to work for might be working for yourself.

Digital Jobs and Remote Work

With the advent of computers and the internet, the world changed fundamentally. Some say it was for the better, others tend to focus on the negatives. But one thing is for sure about computers being networked together to share information: it enabled remote work in a way that no other technology had before. With email, word processing software, video conferencing, and online design tools at your fingertips it’s never been easier to be a digital workhorse. Some of the most common freelance jobs utilize any combination of these tools, and if you are willing to master them you can do a wide variety of remote work for top pay.

With basic word processing software and a diligent mind, you could be well on your way to doing freelance writing and copyrighting from anywhere in the world. Start by scouting the internet for reputable companies that engage in providing written content to others, and query about the payments, schedules and guidelines involved. You may not make much money doing it, but with experience and a growing portfolio you may be able to move onto more specialized content.

An eye for design could win you a whole host of projects, especially if you have experience. Some of the most common freelance jobs start with “I need (blank) designed, but I don’t know how…” or a similar query. If you have experience with Photoshop, PowerPoint or other digital design tools and a halfway decent portfolio you can start charging customers for designing custom logos for them. Inhabiting the halfway point between art and business, design can be a bit difficult to get started in until you make a name for yourself. A good way to promote yourself to get more work is to enter designs into competitions to be judged, or to design things for the public good (such as a city or charity logo) in order to get your name and creativity out there.

Knowing another language has always been a great asset, but now that the world is so vastly interconnected it is quickly becoming an even greater one. The same content that people read or enjoy in the USA and Europe would like to be enjoyed by those who do not speak the language. Therefore, translators who are fluent in both languages become necessary as the bridge between content in order to bring enjoyment to all. Depending on what languages you’re fluent in (and how rare or in demand they are), this could be one of the most common freelance jobs in the upper tier compensation range. A bonus of this type of freelance work is that sometimes you get to interact with people from all over the world and make international friends.

If you’re adept at coding and know a decent bit about computers, you could also try your hand at web design and development. Designing websites and creating a satisfactory user experience are always skills that are in high demand, with a field that is constantly changing the rules and trying to keep up with software developments. If you’re adept at making sure that websites render well on mobile devices, you will continue to have work for years to come. Anything mobile/smartphone-related will have many common freelance jobs attached to it, from website design and debugging to app development and more.

Selling stuff online has never been easier, and if you’re a natural-born salesman who’s willing to put in the effort you could easily make that your primary job. Sites like eBay make it easy to sell everything from pickleball accessories to dolls for a small fee, complete with your own digital storefront and promotions. You can sell items at auction or for a set fee to customers all over the world and ship from anywhere as well. If eBay’s fees are too high for you, alternatives include Facebook Marketplace, Etsy, and others. Of course, there are always free sites like Craigslist that perform the same function if you’d rather keep 100% of the profits.

Physical Jobs and Handyman Work

Perhaps you’re not so adept on a computer, or have barely learned how to make calls on your smartphone when not accidentally opening an app. Don’t worry, there are still lots of common freelance jobs that take place in the physical world that people would be more than glad to have you do. Some, but not all, would benefit from trade school experience. Most of them involve being out in the elements, like being a local roofer, and some keep odd hours, but all are rewarding work if you enjoy working with your hands.

The trades have never gone away, and things like plumbing and carpentry will always be in demand. While you have to be licensed in many areas in order to perform these services for money, you can always apprentice under someone to gain the necessary skills before you decided whether the business is for you or not. And while it’s not recommended to do business under the table in these professions, it’s also unlikely that anyone will complain to their local labor board that you illegally fixed their toilet at a great rate to their satisfaction. Try and find the easiest way to perform labor while staying compliant and you will be able to have the best of both worlds.

Lots of physical labor requires no licensing at all, just a bit of sweat and elbow grease. Landscaping services are always in demand, especially during the summer months, and people will gladly pay money for mulch service or flower planting so that they do not have to bear the brunt of the summer sun. You will also reap the benefits of physical exercise, get your required Vitamin D allotment and get to see a whole host of outside property set-ups that will allow you to learn how others like their land manicured. Depending on whether you own your own company or contract yourself especially to people one-on-one for your labor, you can make a pretty penny and be outside at the same time.

Simple, but necessary contractor jobs like painting and tiling are also easily done by anyone with a good work ethic and excellent word of mouth reputation. While not among the most common freelance jobs, if you make a name for yourself as a hard worker and fair dealer it can be done on the fly. If you decide to specialize in something (marble tile or antique lead paint) then of course you can charge more, even if only for a consultation. Your access to special or rare materials may make all the difference in creating a market all your own, which you could easily develop into your own company with employees.

Appliances break, and appliance repairs are such a pain for most people that they’d rather return the items to the store that have them fixed. But some items, like toasters and refrigerators, are still relatively simple devices that aren’t full of computer parts. If you know enough about these appliances (or can take specialized classes to learn) then you can quickly become valuable in the marketplace. Nobody wants their fridge to die (especially when it has their favorite ice cream inside) nor their vintage toaster to fry, so if you can help them revive these precious appliances they will thank you kindly.

Looking Professional, Even When You’re On Your Own

Just because you’re a freelancer and don’t technically work for anyone else doesn’t mean you have to look unprofessional. Along with the most common freelance jobs comes a multitude of technologies, services and products that can make your customers feel like they’re dealing with a Fortune 500 corporation even when it’s just you. Take the extra step to invest in yourself and your work so that repeat customers become the rule, not the exception.

If your business gets a lot of phone calls, skip having it go to voicemail. It looks unprofessional and like you’re not available to get in touch with, which will eventually lose your customers. Instead, invest in a business digital phone system that can professionally route your calls to different options (including a live secretary) if needed. These can be found online or through management companies and can make all the difference in the world when someone calls the phone number on the back of your elegant business card. Just because you’re engaging in common freelance jobs does not mean you have to have common customer responses over the phone. Even a digital secretary will beat voicemail.

For taking payments, you have a number of physical and digital options. For an online business, you can use services like Venmo or PayPal to collect digital payments easily, even adding tax and shipping when appropriate. For physical payments, you can buy a small cash register to carry around with you (including a pos paper roll for receipts) or still go all-digital with services like Square to take credit cards. Receipts are an important part of your business for tax and liability purposes, so make sure to make two copies: one for you and one for the customer.

When You’re Your Own Boss, You Can Rest Easy (Until New Work Arrives)

If you’ve taken the tips in this article to heart, then not only have you learned about some of the most common freelance jobs, but you’ve grown comfortable with being your own boss. While not having someone above you in a job hierarchy can be liberating, it also comes with its own unique challenges to navigate. From headaches to hoorays, it truly can be a wild roller coaster ride. But in the end, it’s worth it to be liberated from the mundane existence of an office job that doesn’t full reward you, isn’t it? Most freelancers seem to be fulfilled in one way or another

Once you’ve nailed down your schedule and know how to freelance the headaches tend to stop, but you should always be trying to improve your skills and work toward commanding more money for your services. Just because you’re engaging in the most common freelance jobs does not mean you have to stay satisfied with a common salary. You’ll also have to look into saving for retirement and saving, because you are now responsible for these things. With no 401(k) to fall back on or match, your budgetary skills are another skill to master.

Remember that no matter how much work you get, it’s important to relax at the end of a hard day and recharge. You’re the boss, remember? What you say goes and that’s the way it is. Not only do you choose the coffee and decide if Tuesday is “donut day,” but you pick your own healthcare provider in invest in your own retirement funds. Lunch breaks are whenever you say they are. With power comes responsibility, but without rest comes exhaustion. The benefit of freelancing is that you can truly work to live instead of living to work, and you should consider yourself among the lucky ones. Perhaps with a little grit and a big smile, you can even inspire other people to work for themselves too and we can all be a little more fulfilled.

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