Submitted Date 01/29/2020

Freelancing Online: Getting Started

Freelancing online seems like the perfect solution for many people who need to earn money but who want to stay at home or have to stay at home. Plus there is no dressing up, no dry-cleaning bill, no time spent commuting and you avoid the cost of gas and maintaining a car. And you can even set your own hours.

As I have said, that's all true but then organizing your time and getting the job done takes discipline -- and lots of it.

Having said all of that I have been published by six publishers and I have never met my editors or publishers face to face. It has all been done over the Internet or via the phone. I have been doing this for over 20 years now. So I know it is possible to craft your own kind of lifestyle along with freelance jobs.

At the same time, there is an entirely different set of requirements to online work vs. face to face work.

Today there are a number of online services that try to match clients with online workers. Here are some tips from my experience.


Online services have become increasingly concerned about validating their workers. So you may be asked to submit a driver's license with a picture and also a bill, such as a utility bill, that shows your physical address. The service may then contact you via Skype or other services to talk to you for a minute to make sure you are the person you say you are.

While this can be a bit aggravating, you need to realize that these services must be kept free of scam artists and people who misrepresent themselves as that harms everyone in the service.

The simplest way to cut through much of the red tape is to get what is now called a "Real ID" and is indicated on your driver's license. When you get your license show a birth certificate, your social security card, and a utility bill or your mortgage that has your physical address. Submitting a copy of the driver's license with your picture and "Real ID" symbol provides the best verified proof that you can offer.


There are quite a few freelance online services. In a sense, you might think of these like a dating service. The company is trying to match a job offer with the best-qualified person.

However, there is one major problem when you are a newbie. It takes a lot of work and a long time to get established. It can be very discouraging. I suggest that you treat it like a part-time volunteer job for six months to a year. By that I mean you send out proposals but don't get disappointed when you hear nothing. In the beginning, you might have to send out 10 or even 20 proposals before you snag an interview much less a job. But hang in there. The proposal writing gets much easier the longer you do it.

The problem is that you need to establish your reputation online. And that takes time. The online service you are dealing with needs to know how well you operate in the online world, i.e., how well do you deal with clients over the Internet. So, in the beginning, you start at the bottom even though you may have had tons of experience in your field. Believe me, I know, because although I had authored five books with major publishers, I still had to start pretty much from scratch.


The first order of business, of course, is to set up your account. So list all your skills, document your accomplishments and put your best foot forward. These sites will often have a profile score, meaning that they want a full amount of information. And until you have reached the 100% level, you will probably not get any jobs.

I suggest that before you sign on to a service, you look at what they require to have a completed account as you might need to make sure you have all the correct information.

And very important, although not always required, is a good picture of yourself. Studies have shown that clients are much more likely to do business with a person whose face they can see than one who is anonymous.


Your first approach to a prospective client will probably be a proposal via email. With these companies, it will be an internal email for your initial contact and negotiation. They do this for your protection. The emails will spell out the back and forth bargaining, for example, which will lead to the final job offer and the company will have a record of those.

It goes without saying that your email should be without spelling or grammatical errors as these will automatically cause your proposal to be rejected no matter how good your qualifications. Also if you do submit a proposal and later find a mistake you will probably not be able to correct it. While you can change your salary offer, you cannot change the text of your proposal so make sure you get it right before you submit.

Avoid sending out emails that are essentially boilerplate or paragraphs that you keep using over and over in your proposals. The first half of your proposal should deal directly with the job that is being offered and should be original. Clients can sense when people just send out the same old tired stuff and have not really read or understood what is needed.

You need to demonstrate that you do understand what they are trying to accomplish and that you will do your best to help them do that. Refer to your specific experience that relates to the job offer and anything else in your background that might be relevant.

Having said the above, I need to mention that many job offers I have seen are quite general and vague. This makes it hard to be specific when you send a proposal for that job. I suggest you read the job offer several times, look at the title and also the list of qualifications that the client checked off. These may give you a better idea about the job than the actual job description.

Also, convey a sense of enthusiasm. You'd really like to do the job and you will make it a top priority.

The very last couple of paragraphs can be ones you do use over and over as they generally sum up your experience and your overall qualifications such as your education, prizes you have won, publications where you have been mentioned, etc.

TIP: If you have a pdf or other type of computer file that shows your work attach that to your proposal. Instead of just hearing about your skills, they will be able to see exactly what you have done. I have found that an attachment can make all the difference.

Once you have submitted a proposal, check your account periodically and have all notices from the online service send to your regular email. Many services like you to respond in 24 hours and at the very minimum respond in a timely manner. This is one of the ways that you establish a reputation online. The online service can monitor just how quickly you do things and that is important.

TIP: In the beginning apply for small jobs that don't pay well but help you get established. Look for jobs that are the best possible 'fit' with your skills. When you bid, bid at the low end and also promise a fast turn-around time. When you've done a couple of these you will be well on your way to being seen as a desirable worker.


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  • Cheryl Krause 7 months, 3 weeks ago

    I totally disagree on bidding on small low paying jobs to get started on a freelance platform. When you start low it's hard to raise your rates. Most platforms allow potential clients to see your work history and what you have been paid for jobs. This leads clients to wonder why you did a job last week for $15 and now you want $100. I'm a freelance writer and over the years I've raised my rates, but they are always in line with market rates for professional writers in my niche. Practice writing a proposal that knocks the client's socks off. Focus on what you can do to help them achieve their goals. If the job description isn't clear, your proposal is the perfect place to show them how you can help them not only define exactly what it is they need, but how you can deliver.

    • Rick Doble 7 months, 3 weeks ago

      I am glad your strategy worked for you but it did not work for me. The strategy I outlined above did work for me and now I am getting high paying jobs.