How To Make $300 In Your First Month Of Freelancing
I don’t know many people who would turn down an extra $300 a month. I certainly wouldn’t. When I created my freelance profile on Upwork at the end of January, I did so with zero expectations of any success. I did not expect to be sat at my laptop one month later, able to share lessons I learned and stories of success.
If you’re reading this, then the chances are pretty good that you’re contemplating freelancing, or have recently started. I, too, was reluctant at first, but let me share with you some advice that a good friend offered me:
‘Whats’ really the worst that could happen?’
I don’t share this information to brag about my success. I have a VERY long way to go if I ever hope to make an income that could support my family. But making an extra $300 in your spare time feels a damn sight more rewarding than binge-watching The Office on Netflix for the third time this year.
My hope is that by providing full disclosure on my first month of freelancing, you can push past the doubt and reluctance you’re likely feeling. If you dream of making some decent money through your writing, I want you to reach the end of this article and think ‘If this guy can do it, why can’t I?’
My month (and a bit) in review
From January 27th, 2020 to March 1st, 2020:
I have removed the client’s names for obvious reasons, but for the purposes of full disclosure, below is a breakdown of my month:
Jobs Applications: 122
Jobs Interviews: 19
Application Response Rate: 15.6%
Jobs Completed: 12
Average Feedback Rating: 4.98/5
Total Billed: $382.50
Fees deducted: $76.50
Net Earnings: $306.00
Not bad considering I was doing this in my spare time, right? Once again, this article isn’t written as a way for me to brag. I’m writing this because I want you to know that you could do just as well, if not better than I have.
But it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. In fact, it was bloody hard work. It was incredibly rewarding, however, and I’ve learned a huge amount along the way. Below is a selection of the key lessons I wish I’d known when I was starting out.
1) READ the job description
I know it sounds crazy, but apparently the number of freelancers who don’t read job descriptions is staggeringly high. How do I know this?
I know this because I’ve seen job descriptions where the client has written something along the lines of this:
“Please write the word ‘Bananas’ at the top of your proposal so I know that you’ve read the description fully.”
The fact that clients are having to include silly requests like this, shows that many freelancers send proposals for jobs where they haven’t fully read the description, which potentially means that they don’t even have the expertise required to complete the job.
Want to get ahead of the competition? READ the job descriptions before you apply, and only apply if you’re qualified for the job.
2) Personalise your pitches
Of all the advice I’ve read on how to succeed as a freelancer, this seems to be most divisive. Some freelancers are advocates of the ‘copy and paste’ approach, the art of sending the same cover letter to one hundred different clients and hoping to hear back.
I tried this approach in the very beginning. I had a Word document ready to go that I could copy and paste into my job proposal in five seconds flat before moving on to the next one. I may change a few words here and there depending on the requirements of the job, but for the most part, my pitches were all the same.
I didn’t enjoy a lot of success with this approach.
But then I read some advice which advocated personalising your pitches. They argued that many clients can smell the ‘cookie-cutter approach’ from a mile away, and that it sends a clear message to the client that your interest in the job is purely the money at the end of it.
It wasn’t until I tried to personalise my pitches that I started to see an increased response rate from clients. I would try to extract information from their description to use in my proposal, to show that I had read the description fully.
For example, if a client is looking for help with their CV, as part of my proposal I’ll ask them to provide some more details:
- Do they have an existing CV, or are we starting from scratch?
- Is it the content they need help with, or the style and format?
These sorts of questions demonstrate an interest in the project beyond your own financial gain, and is much more appealing from the client’s perspective than a proposal that says ‘You should hire me because I’m amazing at CVs.’
Pro-Tip — Many freelancers leave client feedback which includes their name. Try looking through feedback before pitching, a proposal that starts ‘Dear Jon’, is much more eye-catching than one that starts ‘Hello’.
3) Be persistent
I cannot stress this point enough. As you can see from the figures above, I applied for 122 jobs since joining Upwork. Of these 122, I heard back from 19 clients. So, for roughly every six jobs that I applied for, I heard back from one. My friend Edie will be the first to tell you how often I complained that I wasn’t hearing back from clients, only to then hear from two clients a few hours later.
In the beginning, it will be hard. I applied for at least ten jobs before landing my first, which was advertised as ‘No experience needed, 5-star review guaranteed’. I had to write 2,000 words on a topic I knew next to nothing about to earn the grand total of $5 and the client feedback at the end, which is of infinitely greater value than $5. It was a start.
You will go through phases where you don’t hear from any clients, only to be followed by times where it seems like everyone wants to work with you. My advice for when you’re going through a drought is to keep applying for the jobs you know that you’re qualified for, and then apply some more.
You don’t know what you’re capable of
$300 is not enough money to live on. In a month’s time, is it likely that my earnings will have taken a significant enough leap to allow me to quit my job? No. But if you only take away one lesson from this article then let it be this:
You never know what you’re capable of until you try.
Jon Peters is a 28-year-old writer from the UK, who has walked 6.1 miles around London today. If you made it this far down the page, thanks for reading. It’s great to have you here! If you’d like to read more of my work, you can get to my profile by clicking here.