How to Start a Freelancing Business that won’t Fail (4 Sure-Fire Steps to Follow)

How to Start a Freelancing Business

(guest post: Gina Horkey)

Have you been thinking about starting a side hustle of some kind to earn extra money?

If you have and you don’t have any idea of what you should try to get started, you’re in luck! There are many different ways to make money as a freelancer and I’m going to show you a step-by-step process to figure out one that might be right for you. Are you ready?

Featured download: 8 Tips to Start your Freelance Career

Step 1: Consider Your Experience and Passions

How to start freelancing

What do you currently do for a living? Is there a way to take your current career and find a way to moonlight a similar activity on the side? If not, no worries. Regardless, your current day job can be a great starting point for many.

For example, I used to be a personal financial advisor. I recently took my freelance writing business full-time, which is super exciting. But it wasn’t easy to get there. First, I started writing as a side hustle.

How did I pick writing as my thing? I started by trying to figure out how I could become happier in my current career. When I got honest with myself that being advisor wasn’t what I wanted to be for the rest of time, I gave myself permission to start looking into different possibilities.

I came across freelance writing for the web and was hooked. See, I have always had a passion for writing – I just didn’t know that non-fiction writing for the web was something that I enjoyed or that it was a viable career choice. My passion was in writing fiction, or so I thought. Turns out, I’m actually better at the non-fiction stuff – I just never knew it, until I tried.

I also used my experience in personal finance to position myself as an expert in this niche or subject matter. For me, considering my experience and my passion is what helped to unfold my side hustle turned full-time gig. It could be the same for you.

Action step: Sit down for a half hour and list out all of the areas that you have professional and personal experience in. It could be your current or previous job, fields that you have/have had an interest in, etc. Don’t forget to brainstorm your passions and hobbies.

Step 2: Consider What’s out There

how to become a successful freelancer

Hopefully the above yielded a list of freelance activities that you can look into. Don’t worry if it didn’t, as I’ve put together a list for you.

Here are 12 different freelance areas that I’ve run across, that by themselves or put together with others could make up a list of service offerings for your new business. It’s not exhaustive, but it’s a good start to get you brainstorming potential options for you.

  1. Freelance Writing
  2. Editing
  3. Business Coaching
  4. Website Development
  5. Virtual Assistance
  6. Graphic Design
  7. Social Media Management
  8. Website Management
  9. Web Programming
  10. Professional Blogging
  11. Brand Manager
  12. eCommerce

My point is, is that there is a lot out there that maybe you didn’t know about. If you don’t know how to do any or all of the above, something may stick out to you and interest you enough to learn how to get started and later to master it. Others you may have some experience with and can turn into a side hustle with a little effort.

Don’t let your lack of experience keep you from trying. There are a ton of people making a part or full-time income online. We’ve just got to figure out where your sweet spot lies.

Action step: Consider the above list of freelance activities. Which do you have experience with or an interest in developing a skill-set in? Choose 2-3 for our next step.

Featured download: 8 Tips to Start your Freelance Career by Gina Horkey

Step 3: Research for Viability

how to get experience as a freelancer

So now you have a couple of potential freelance side hustles in mind. If you don’t have any (or much) experience with them, it’s now time to put your researcher cap on.

When I started looking into alternative career options, I didn’t really know what I was looking for. I just started perusing the interwebs, curious to find what was out there. I really didn’t realize how viable it was/is to make an income online, until I ran across some resources that uncovered it for me. Frankly, it never crossed my mind.

I think the opportunity for making an income online is just going to continue to expand. In reality, it was only 20 years ago that the internet came to fruition on a mass scale. Most of us didn’t have regular access to it until well after that. Now, it’s a way of life! Just think of where we’ll be in another 20 years!

Action step: Take out your list of 2-3 potential freelance activities and start researching online. Find people that are currently making a living doing what you’re interested in and start reading their story – how did they do it?

Step 4: Make Connections

Make connections

It’s true that you’re going to get farther with the help of others, then you are on your own. You can’t go out there with an entitlement attitude though and expect people to help you, even though they don’t know you from Adam.

Instead, use the research you performed in step three to take you to the next level. Reach out to the individuals via email or social media and authentically compliment their work and then ask their permission to ask a question.

It may make sense just to make a connection first, without asking anything in return. Comment on their blog posts or share their work via social media (and make sure to copy them when you do). Email them with a specific reason why their work helped you or your new business.

People love to help others and they especially enjoy knowing which item of what they put out there was especially helpful. Did you catch the most important part? You need to be authentic. You can’t just skim a bunch of websites in your niche and then start mass emailing people for help.

The key is to be specific and make a connection with one or two individuals. You don’t need much more than that in the beginning.

For example, when I started looking into freelance writing, I started following Leaving Work Behind and uncovered Tom Ewer’s awesome business and personality. I emailed him asking him more about his course before I pulled the trigger and bought. He started to learn my name from that, by being active in his blog’s comment section and his free online forum.

From there, I was able to authentically build a relationship with him. Not only was he my first paid client (he subcontracted out some writing work to me, which got my feet wet), but I also met my mentor through his material.

Through his course, I was introduced to the work of Carrie Smith of Careful Cents. I joined Carrie’s free Facebook community and boldly reached out and asked if she was interested in doing any pro bono mentoring. My timing was fated and we started a coaching relationship.

She mentored me for free for a couple of months and then I started paying her. I now meet with her weekly and we’ve been working together for almost nine months. This would have never happened, if I hadn’t done my research, made some authentic connections and boldly (but politely) asked for help.”

Action step: Use your research to connect with 1-2 people in your sphere. Authentically make the connection first (i.e. read/comment on/share their work, subscribe to their communities and purchase their products if that makes sense) and then boldly (but politely) ask for help.

Featured download: 8 Tips to Start your Freelance Career by Gina Horkey

In Conclusion

Starting an online side hustle isn’t easy, but it isn’t impossible either. There are many ways to make money part or full-time via the internet, you just need to figure out the right way for you.

For me, it ended up being freelance writing. For you it might be the same or something completely different. Start by considering your current or past experience, passions and hobbies. Next, consider what’s currently out there – what are others doing successfully to make money online.

Then research these areas for viability. Who’s currently doing what you want to be doing? Lastly, start making connections with these individuals and ask for help.

This process isn’t fool-proof, it’s just what worked for me. It’s what helped me to go from a career I was less than passionate about (building someone else’s business), to finding my sweet spot, building up my side hustle and ultimately taking it full-time.

Why not you, why not now?

P.S. If you’re interested in finding out if the freelance writing angle is your sweet spot, check out my blog where I write about all things freelancing or my course, 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success – an email course for brand spanking new freelance writers.


Gina Horkey is a writer, with a background in personal finance. She also offers editing, virtual assistance and business coaching services and recently launched a course, called 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success for aspiring writers for the web. In June of 2015, she plans to be writing and traveling around the US in an RV, young family of four in tow! Please stop by Horkey HandBook and say hello!

7 comments… add one
  • Ivailo Durmonski September 21, 2015, 4:23 pm

    Thanks for the tips. I already started my own thing online, but still no results. How long did it took you to start earning some income from your own website?

    • The Becomer September 21, 2015, 6:16 pm

      Thank you for your comment Ivailo. Gina started making money online on month 2. For my part I’d say 3, 4 months. If you need help with your business, shoot me an email at simon[at] so I can help you reach your goal 😉

  • Mariken Zuydgeest September 21, 2015, 10:22 pm

    Hi Gina,
    Great advice and I so agree with reaching out to people to get some help along the way. There is so much information out there that at some point it tends to get overwhelming and simply getting someone else’s take is invaluable. It helps to keep you on the right path and going strong.
    I certainly would not be feeling as sure of the possibility to make it, find jobs and earn a living without it.

    • The Becomer September 23, 2015, 6:55 pm

      Absolutely Mariken! Finding a mentor is a great way to save time and achieve what we want.

  • Emmanuel November 1, 2015, 10:45 pm

    Hi Gina, your post has been inspiring fit me. Thank you.

  • Liz December 5, 2015, 1:33 pm

    Thanks Gina for the concise yet effective article on freelancing. Webinars are also great for networking. That’s what is helping me get started.

  • omondi March 16, 2016, 5:37 pm

    thank you so much for this advice. I always wanted to be a freelancer but I find it difficult. I have passion for writting short stories ( fictions) or about 500 words. but again polishing my grammar to the required standards has also been a problem please. help me achieve my dream. Proffesinaly I am a trained teacher.


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