A First Hand Guide On How To Start Freelancing

  • Post category:Blog
Freelancer - Photo Courtesy of Brent Nelson
In this guest article, Jacen Nicely goes through the first hand personal experiences of becoming a freelance designer detailing the emotions and the three phases of the process (research, planning and implementation) of going from frustrated to a full time freelancer. This article is applicable to all freelancers, not just designers.
When Jacob first threw out the offer on Twitter (Follow Jacob On Twitter) to write a post for his website before he left on his trip around Australia I responded with“I would offer but I don’t have any examples of written work, just the last 6 months of planning & implication of starting my business.”
I mean I’m a nobody you’ve never heard of right? This is why I really didn’t expect much from that but I was shocked with how Jacob responded back which was “If you think you can get an article out of your experiences and benefit others, why not?”
I may be a nobody but I am a nobody that has been struggling with a way to escape the desk job life for almost six months now which I am sure there are many others who could relate with me in that scenario.
Over the past few months I have researched, planned and implemented my way into a new life of freelancing and what I wanted to do was show you what it was like for me to go from frustrated to the first client in six months. The article details the three main phases of the process: research, planning and implementation of becoming a freelancer.

Making The Choice To Freelance

You could feel free to name your typical frustrated cubicle jockey situation where thoughts of meaningfulness fly around in your head on rotating shifts. Thoughts like “What am I doing” and “Is this what I am going to do for the rest of my life?” were a Monday through Friday routine. I knew the answer to the second question for sure and it was a very emphatic negative.
I had been surfing around the web and discovered entire websites dedicated freelancing and the art of how to start and I was instantly hooked. I had been working with Photoshop for around 7 years and enjoyed doing random projects for friends and family, all of which paid in meals, which was fine with me because I always got the steak. So I knew that I enjoyed doing the work but I didn’t really like not getting paid. This freelancing gig seemed like a good deal, you find work and people actually pay you for the work you do.

Doing The Research

So I began my search for how people were starting out and I found a lot of resources available out there, this site being one of them and found that it wasn’t that hard to start up. There were a lot of great ideas out there of what one needed to be aware of before taking the plunge.
Mostly articles about getting started as a freelancer, pricing ones self and independent insurance coverage cost, which if you are a family man like I am that is pretty important for the sanity of your entire household. There were many of great resources for anything that you could possibly dream up on sites like Freelance Switch, Freelance Folder and Vandelay Design.
These along with Just Creative Design were my top four inspirations for getting started, which if words were to actually have a weight measure then these sites would have TONS of information for any eager wannabe freelancer out there.
To this day one of my favorite posts is Jacob’s “Why logo design does not cost $5.00” because it helped give me a sense of value to the work I did and erased the fear of quoting a cost to someone even if it seemed a little “expensive” in their eyes. I also found other sites like FreshBooks or Zoho Invoicing to assist with looking extremely professional when it comes to sending an estimate or letting someone know you mean business by sending a bill for services rendered.


I was stoked to say the least, here were all of these mostly free resources to utilize so that I could basically operate out of my home in my pajamas should I desire, but I needed a plan.
I couldn’t just be excited everyday and not do anything. There came a time to face quite possibly two of the most dangerous words in the entire English language, Personal Responsibility.
To be comfortable with that I wanted to make sure there would be enough funds in the bank to cover any unforeseen trouble in case one month didn’t go as well as another. I believed 6 months of my gross income saved up would be enough and I set a date one year from then to have that money saved.
I also wanted to make sure of exactly what services I was going to offer and I knew that I was most comfortable with print type projects but I knew that there was some major money to be made with website and blog designs.
I actually ended up teaming up with a friend of mine that I have known for almost 15 years that has a lot of excellent experience in developing web sites. So now I knew how much money I needed to save and what services I was going to offer now all I needed to do was to start getting my name out there. Which leads me to the next section.


I decided to get some business cards and a small brochure, make a list of local business’s that didn’t have a web site or who desperately needed a makeover and drop by for a visit. Editors note: You may like to read A Guide On How Freelancers Can Compete Against Large Design Studios.
I also decided that whenever I would meet someone and they would ask what I did I would make sure and tell them that I was a graphic designer who designed anything from wedding invitations to websites. This really did two things, it boosted my confidence and it opened up a lot of opportunities for some business card projects and yes even a wedding invitation.
It’s amazing what a little eye contact and decent suit will get you. Those projects gave me a lot of encouragement… it helped me to think that this could actually be done. I started letting other people know what I was doing. I sent out a letter to every friend and family member whose address I had and I got a couple of projects out of that as well until recently we got our first order for a full-on e-commerce website and logo.
It’s hard, tedious and I am pulling some late nights but I honestly love it. Editors note: You may want to read the article Freelancers: Inspire yourself, Vary your Working Environment to help you become more productive.


  • It is completely worth putting your man/woman pants on and owning up to what you want to do in life.
  • Personal responsibility isn’t so scary once you commit to the pursuit of your dream.
  • The more action that I took towards making a freelancers life, the better I felt about the decision I made.
Can you relate to Jacen’s experience? What resources have helped you the most in your freelancing career?