You Want to Work at Home, but You Have No Idea Where to Begin
So you’re really wanting a change of pace, and working at home (or actually being able to work anywhere) is something that really interests you. The freedom to determine what you do, when you do it, and how for long you do it, is so appealing, no matter who you are or what you decide to do. In today’s post, I’ll be showing you how to start working at home as a freelancer by figuring out what you should be doing, how to get set up, and get your first client. Next Monday, I’ll be expanding on today’s post, showing you how to be more efficient, how to navigate the paperwork (like invoicing and contracts), how to automate your work, and how to get more clients (and more gigs from those clients).
Because sleeping in on a Tuesday while your neighbors rush off to work is a really satisfying feeling.
Even better? Walking out to get your mail, still in your pajamas, at 5pm, as your neighbors are just coming home.
Sick? No big deal. Take off a few days and catch it up later when you’re up to it. Or heck, if you can manage the commute, walk into your home office, grab your laptop, and carry it back to bed. That’s what I’m doing today (thanks for the strep throat, honey).
Need a Vacation? Every day can be a vacation day if you’re up to it. Your job is as mobile as your laptop, so feel free to get your work done anywhere you’d like.
If you prefer strange hours, freelancing is fantastic for that too. Where most office jobs keep typical office hours, you’re free to work whenever, so 3rd shift is an option for the more vampy freelancers. Sprinkle your work out over the course of an entire week, or have binge work for 48 hours so you have a five day weekend (you’re insane if you choose the latter… but I can’t help but respect you).
Working at Home IS Possible…
… but you have to know where to begin.
I’m doing this, and you can too. You just need a little bit of information first to get you started, and then set you apart from the competition.
First of all, I want to clarify that in this particular post, I’m just focusing on how to work at home as a freelance writer. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of ways that you can work remotely- but I’m only talking about this method right now. It’s simple, and it’s what I know well. Many of the tips I give you though, are pretty universal for many freelancing gigs.
How to Start Working at Home
How to Start Working at Home- Step 1- Research
Here are 4 questions to ask yourself to help you decide what you should do as a freelancer:
- What do I like doing ‘for fun’?
- What makes me feel most accomplished and purposeful?
- What am I good at?
- How can I take the answers from questions 1-3, and monetize them?
How to Start Working at Home- Step 2- Specialize
Once you determine what you want to do as a freelancer, you need to niche down. For example, lets say you want to write SEO (search engine optimized) articles, and you really love makeup. You could niche down and really target beauty and makeup review blogs. Still not understanding?
I, for example, specialize in these three niches:
- Personal Finance (I mean, obviously)
- Intentional Living / Minimalism
- Truck Driving (I have not driven a semi, but I rode with my husband who is a trucker for one full year. I know all the lingo, how the industry operates, the rules and regulations, how per diem / taxes work, how the machinery operates, as well as some insider dispatch info. I dare you to find another girl in her early twenties who not only understand big rigs, but can also copywrite, build websites, and optimize a post for the first page of google).
Now just because I specialize in those three specific niches, does NOT mean that I am limited to them. I can work for whoever or whatever I’d like. Niching down simply means that I’m a priority freelancer for clients who come from one of those three topics. They’ll want to come to me first, before going to a more ‘general’ freelancer.
How to Start Working at Home- Step 3- Create a Portfolio
As freelancers, we all start at nothing, BUT that doesn’t mean that your portfolio has to have nothing in it when you pitch to your first clients! Now that you know what you want to do, and in which niche, you need to create your first example pieces for clients. If, for example, you want to write articles about the trucking industry, you should write pieces such as:
- 12 Things Every Trucker Wants You to Know
- OTR Drivers, Here is Everything You Should be Packing in Your Truck
- Rant: The People You Meet on the Road
- The Best Truck Stops for Truck Drivers
- The Trouble That is Living Tiny and Traveling
If you want to write mostly ‘opinion’ pieces (such as Rant: The People You Meet on the Road) you should be targeting blogs, and your portfolio should consist of opinion pieces.
If you want to write factual, listicle type pieces (such as 12 Things Every Trucker Wants You to Know or OTR Drivers, Here is Everything You Should be Packing in Your Truck) you should be targeting blogs, listicle websites, and individual niche specific companies.
If you want to write reviews, (such as The Best Truck Stops for Truck Drivers) you should be targeting affiliate websites and blogs.
If you want to write mostly experience based pieces (such as The Trouble That is Living Tiny and Traveling) you should be reaching out to blogs, and niche businesses that want to operate a blog on the side to grow their credibility.
If you’re like most freelancers, and you want to a bit of everything, it’s best to put up one to two of each writing piece style. Please keep in mind that clients will not be reading more than 2-5 of your pieces, so just write a few for your portfolio, and make sure they’re darn good. Putting up more than 5-15 pieces is a waste of your time and energy, plus it can be overwhelming for your clients to pick through them.
Your portfolio can be a simple file you keep on your computer that you email to potential clients, it can be a google drive file, or it can go directly on your blog / website. Step 4 will help you set that up.
How to Start Working at Home- Step 4- Create a Website or Blog
I’m not going to teach you exactly how to build a website or blog here (because there are so many amazing resources about that online already), but I am going to show you what should be on your website or blog once it’s built.
Pssst… I also build beautiful websites at super affordable rates, click here to check that out.
Your blog or website needs:
- Your services offered, like a Hire Me page. It doesn’t need to be fancy, simple is always good! Click here to see my Hire Me page. On this page, make sure you also specify your niche if that’s applicable, as well as your prices (don’t worry, I’ll cover how to price yourself in a moment). I know some freelancers don’t like putting out their rates for the public to see, but I strongly believe it’s good for business for the following reasons:
- It keeps clients from wasting your time. There will always be some obscure online magazine that wants to hire you to write a 2000 word article for a whopping $5. Let them know ahead of time exactly what you expect, so that way you aren’t wasting your time or theirs by explaining your rates.
- It makes you more credible and trustworthy. Clients want to know that you’ll be treating them fairly and equally. Let’s say for example that you want to get the oil in your car changed. You visit three mechanics’ websites. The first two sites list their rates plainly. The third says ‘call for an estimate’. Look, an oil change is a very standard practice, it shouldn’t require a consultation to figure out the rates. If I see a mechanic do that, I automatically assume that he (or she) is trying to guage my knowledge of cars, to see if he or she can take advantage of the situation. That doesn’t mean that the mechanic is actually malicious but that’s how I (and many others) feel about the situation, and you don’t want that negative denotation associated with your business. If its a simple rate, such as cents per word, just list it.
- Your contact information. How will people ever hire you if they can’t reach out to you? Personally, I don’t like putting my cell phone number or email address on my contact page, I prefer a simple contact form. It’s no-nonsese, straight to the point, saves you from being added to spammy email lists, and best of all, it sends the information directly to your inbox (without the sender actually knowing any of your contact info). You can then reply back to the client via email or phone, depending on which form of communication information you required in your contact form. Click here to see my contact page and my contact form.
- Once you begin getting clients or guest posting for other blogs/websites (if you’re a writer of course), it’s a good idea to create a little “as seen on..” graphic for your footer, sidebar, and Hire Me page.
- A photo of you! I know, you just want to hide behind your screen, write, and make money. I get it, because girl me too! BUT- people are visual creatures, and we want to know who we’re investing in. Unless you have video conference calls (ugh, amiright?!), the photo you place on your website will be the only form they’ll see you in. This is huge! Yes, you have to dress up a bit (and by dress up, I mean get out of those week old pajamas for something a little more formal, like a clean shirt and jeans), put on a little makeup, and find some nice lighting, but this is a one time thing! After you do this once, hundreds, if not thousands, of people will see you, and you only had to make yourself look nice once. Put in the effort, get in some good lighting, have a clean background, face the camera, and smile.
- Your elevator pitch. Don’t fret, I’ll go over that in a bit as well.
- [OPTIONAL] Your portfolio. For the most part, my blog and all of its posts are my portfolio. Beyond that though, I don’t care to freely share my previous clients’ projects online when I have a lot of work going on already. If, however, my work slows down, I’ll post a link my past client projects on my Hire Me page.
How to Start Working at Home- Step 5- Create your Elevator Pitch
Elevator pitches are perfect for networking opportunities, which you will eventually run across. Instead of stuttering out something stupid (like I did for about a year), you need to create a statement about who you are and what you do, in a neat and condensed elevator pitch.
An elevator pitch is a brief 30 second introduction of yourself. If someone were to step on an elevator and ask what you do or who you are, you would say exactly what you need to, before the door reopens. The beauty of an elevator pitch is that it:
- Allows you to sort of guide the other person’s first impression of you.
- Makes you look professional, poised, and put-together, because you know exactly what to say such as “I’m a blogger who specializes in personal finance, and intentional living. I help people recognize their potential, and then find ways to optimize their wealth creation and time available, leading to lives that are more impactful and less busy.” Which is much better than the alternative of “oh, I, uh, write stuff online, about money and stuff“.
4 Important Tips for a Killer Elevator Pitch:
- Make it about them, rather than you. You’re not pitching to sound cool, you’re pitching because you want their business. “I work from home as an SEO writing freelancer” is about you, while “I help beauty bloggers get their website on the first page of Google search results, so that they gain more readers, and ultimately, more affiliate sales”.
- Keep it as short as you can, you don’t want to get winded! What looks good on paper doesn’t always sound so great when it’s said out loud.
- Don’t use jargon– most people will not understand what you’re talking about. You want to seem knowledgeable AND approachable. Instead of talking about SEO, just highlight what SEO does, which is rank higher in search results.
- Practice it every day! When you’re fixing your hair or putting on your makeup in the mornings, say your elevator pitch once. It should be short, and take up less than 30-60 seconds of your time, and it’ll boost your confidence. When those scary, in-real-life introductions happen, you’ll be ready and you’ll be killing your first impression.
How to Start Working at Home- Step 6- Set your Prices
Pricing always trips new freelancers up, but it’s not as scary as you think. Here is what rates typically are as a writer (in cents per word)
- Beginner- 1.5 cents to 8 cpw
- Intermediate- 10 cents to 15 cpw
- Experienced- 20 cents to 30 cpw
- Expert- Up to $1 per word
Assuming you write 500 words per hour (which is pretty average) this is what that pay looks like as an hourly rate
- $7.50/hr to $40/hr as a beginner
- $50 to $75 as an intermediate
- $100 to $150 an hour as an experienced
- $500 an hour for the expert.
If you don’t know where to begin, start with as low of a rate as you can stand, and work your way up. It’s totally okay for your first 1-3 articles to be $5 for 500 words. You are not locked in at those rates, and you are free to change your rates as much as you’d like, especially as you gain experience, reviews, and build up that portfolio.
Two of my freelance jobs requires me to hire writers for my team, and I can tell you that I have hired some excellent people who had no experience and an empty portfolio, but because they had super cheap rates, great attitudes, and were open about their lack of experience- they got the job. This allowed us to get some excellent work at a low rate, they got a reputable company under their belt, a little bit of money, AND a glowing review.
How to Start Working at Home- Step 7- Find your First Clients
Upwork is my favorite platform, right after my own blog.
- Join Facebook Groups where your Ideal Client will be hanging out (always follow group rules, don’t pitch if it’s not allowed, and always be genuine and helpful!)
- Join UpWork (see the infographic at the bottom of this post!!)
- Check the Problogger Job Board
- Check on Craigslist (yes, seriously!)
- Check Indeed
- Check Fiverr
- Find lists of them on twitter, for instance, say your target client runs a beauty blog. Find a beauty blogger with 1000 or more followers, and click on the ‘lists’ tab on her profile. You’ll probably find a list or two that says ‘beauty blogger’ or something similar. Click that, and look at all the members on that list. Bingo. You now have a literal list of your ideal client!
- Read where these 20 freelancers found their very first client
How to Start Working at Home- Step 8- Contact Potential Clients
When you find that perfect potential client, it’s time to reach out! Don’t worry, the worst that can happen is they say no or ignore you! Here’s what the perfect cold email should entail:
- It should come from a professional email address. This may be firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or even firstname.lastname@example.org. Do not, I repeat, do not use that embarassing email address you made up in middle school! DragonSlayer6969@hotmail.com will not be getting you any new clients!!
- Your subject line should be a little bit catchy, but never spammy. Personal touches to it can be beneficial too. For example:
- “Hey Kate, I just read [latest blog post title] and it got me thinking”
- “Take next Monday off, I can write that post for you”
- “I have an opportunity for [person’s blog name] that you can’t turn down
- Do your research! I cannot stress this enough! If you are pitching to a client who has a website, look for a contact me, or work with me page first. See if that person is open to collaborations. Read the About Page. Subscribe to his or her email list. If they have social media profiles attatched, follow those and look through posts. Do as much research on that person as possible, you want to be able to connect with them, and also get a read of if this is a pleasant person to work with. Believe me, niceness matters, part of the reason why you want to be a freelancer is so that you don’t have to answer to a mean, overbearing boss.
- Once you do your research, look for that person’s pain points. You want to know what you can say to be different, hit a nerve, and make the person want to bring you aboard to help them and their project. Don’t be rude! All you’re trying to do by identifying the pain point is connect with the person better and relay your skills as crucial to their project / endeavor.
- Inside the email, make sure that you’re basicaly expanding upon your elevator pitch. Make it about what you can do for the client, or more importantly, how what you’re doing for the client, can improve their business and get the results they’ve been desiring.
- Flatter the person. You don’t need to overdo it, but compliment him or her in a professional way.
- I loved the way you took your flatlay instagram photos last week
- Your brand’s color scheme is so dreamy- I love light blues and whites
- This morning’s newsletter totally killed it! I’m excited to see what the next newsletter has in store!
- Either drop a link to or attach your portfolio, OR simply ask the potential client if he or she is interested in seeing your portfolio or some examples. Both options have their pros and cons. Including the samples / portfolio makes you seem confident, and saves time. But, asking the person if they’d like to recieve some of your past work first before sending it over encourages them to reply back to you, and it can be seen as a polite gesture. The choice is ultimately up to you.
- If you are contacting the client from a website such as UpWork or ProBlogger, make darn sure you read those directions super closely, and answer all questions thoroughly (without rambling on).
Don’t be discouraged if the first few clients don’t respond or decline your offer! You can’t land new clients if you don’t keep reaching out to them.
More Information on How to Start Working at Home
Check out my facebook group here. It’s new, but I’m sharing lots of free and useful information to show you how to start working at home.
I’m now taking names for people who want even more one-on-one help with freelancing. Starting at the end of July/beginning of August, I’ll start coaching others on how to start working at home. Click over here to get more details, or sign up yourself.
How to Start Working at Home Part 2 is on the Way!
Come back next Monday for Part 2 of the How to Start Working at Home Series! I’ll be sharing the following:
- How to write your own Contracts
- Important Legal Stuff (so you don’t get banned from programs, or get a visit from the IRS)
- How to write up invoices
- How to Craft the perfect follow up emails + mailing lists
- Would you ever consider working from home?
- What are your tips for landing your first client as a freelancer?
- Any cool work-from-home jobs you can think of?
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