If I got a pound for every time someone asked me, ‘How do I make money online?’, I would be retired by now.
I want to be able to share with you one of the ways people like myself are able to earn real money online, without the need to spend a single penny from their own pocket. Of course, before I start I need to give a brief disclaimer:
“I can not make the promise of any earnings or income, nor that you will be able to achieve the same or similar type of results. With that said, if you work exceptionally hard and commit, why should you not see amazing results?”
I have been freelancing since about 2006. In 2011, when I went to work for National Tyres and Autocare, I stopped to concentrate on a career that would provide the amazing opportunity to deal directly with some of the biggest digital agencies in the world. I was even part of the re-design of a website with Shane Cassells, the conversion optimisation expert for Google.
With that being said, people who know me know that I am not a freelancer full-time and I no longer concentrate as much as I want to on freelancing work. By freelancing, it doesn’t mean that I do not have clients; freelancing simply means that you work on ad-hoc campaigns or projects.
I am on several freelancing sites – the most popular ones are Odesk, Elance and Freelancer. In the past, I used to take on Joomla-based projects, and would therefore utilise the services of niche freelance sites like Joomlancer. Consequently, there are countless numbers of freelancing sites, depending on what you want to offer.
Here are a couple of screen-grabs for my accounts:
Now, you may be wondering, “How did he manage that?” fig. 1.1
Before I go into the details, I want you to bear in mind that everyone starts somewhere, and what you see is a polished result or years of dedicated commitment – commitment that everyone has the capacity to give in order to achieve exceptional results.
I am sure that many of you have come across a huge number of websites and emails expressing how to earn money online. Many of these talk about earning money without spending money at all.
The reality is that most people would prefer to be able to earn an extra income without spending any money. This post explores how you can actually achieve this. By ‘FREE’, my interpretation is not to spend money on advertising and marketing, but you still have to invest money in upskilling (although there is a lot available for free) and dedicating your time.
We are discussing freelancing work that have contracts. You will be earning an income from either selling a specific service or offering skills, talents or consultancy. You will be assisting people in getting their jobs completed.
If I were to ask you, “Are you interested in making a monthly income whilst working from home?”, I am sure the response would be “Yes!”.
My #1 secret to making money online freelancing
I am not a web developer or a graphic designer. I am skilled in SEO, PPC, Conversion Rate Optimisation, and more. Essentially, I focus on Digital Marketing. However, when it comes to freelancing, I will take on jobs related to anything online, including web development and graphic design. Thus, the freelancing jobs I take on are as a manager and then I assign work to the pool of freelancers that I have access to. Sometimes, I will assign a job to a new freelancer I have not worked with before.
Without actually doing the work myself, I am able to delegate work to others who will complete it for me. I would estimate a cost of the job, let’s say $500, then find a freelancer who will do the job for less, allowing me to make my usual mark-up. Simple.
However, in order to be successful with this method, you need to have an understanding of the type of jobs you take on board. For web development, I understand HTML, PHP and CSS well enough to look at the requirements of the job specification, relay that back to the coder and make an formal assessment of the completed tasks given back to me by the coder.
Likewise, I have an understanding of Photoshop and graphic editing.
I also have an understanding of apps for smartphones, especially Android. I have developed two Android apps with coders that have achieved 300,000 downloads. By observing exactly what the developers did, I am now in a position to offer app development to others.
One of my favourite ways to build a website is using WordPress, according to W3techs, 21.4% of all websites constructed in WordPress. WordPress uses the web language of PHP, and most of the popular content management systems that make up the web are built in PHP.
I have personally built several websites in PHP and WordPress, and once I had sufficient knowledge of how WordPress worked, I was able to take on jobs that are WordPress-related. In some instances, I have had discussions with potential clients about their websites being built in WordPress. I mention that if they are looking for an eCommerce site, I would build it using WordPress + Woocommerce, thus giving a potential client the confidence to go with a WordPress-built site, and more importantly, to work with me.
I have been working with WordPress since 2005, therefore, I have 10 years experience on the platform and take on complex jobs. However, I would still enlist the services of a coder who could build the website – no different from owning a business and having a skilled employee.
Example of tying an offline job to freelancing
I was working alongside the local NHS (National Health Service, UK) on creating material for local communities. They needed to have the material translated into five different languages. I went over to rentacoder.com (now known as freelancer.com) and got each language translated, averaging $10 each. I then sold the whole pack to the NHS with my mark-up, netting a profit for an hour’s worth of work.
I had to be smart, so I told the freelancers that the work would be proof-checked by another translator. They had to deliver the quality of the work, and fortunately for me, I got some really good translators for that price.
#1 Identifying A Niche That Is Highly Profitable and You Have a Good Understanding Of
The most profitable niche that I have come across in freelancing online has been related to web development. Projects can run into $1,000,000+. To be successful in bidding for $1m+ projects, you need the backing of a skilled team, extensive experience and feedback for similar jobs that you have worked on previously with a cost into the high 6 figures.
This might be your goal, but when starting off, you need to understand that this is a profitable niche which is in demand. You will be able to make a start by doing much smaller tasks.
We have not yet discussed upskilling yourself in order to do the task yourself rather than outsourcing. You can re-read the title as ‘Identifying A Niche That Is Highly Profitable (that you are either good at or can learn the skills needed to get the job done).
It may be that you already have a skill that you want to offer, or you may have found something in a profitable niche that you want to learn. That’s great, and by all means, go for it. If you can acquire a valuable skill or you have a valuable skill to offer, there is no reason why you can not or should not be taking up the job yourself. This post, however, is geared more towards those who are looking to get into generating an income the most optimal way possible. For that to happen, you either have to be a manager or become skilled in a niche that is proven to be highly profitable.
Odesk created a visualisation chart back in 2013, showing the specialisation that was in demand on their platform.
A question posed on Quora, exploring the most in-demand skills for freelancing, brought up no surprises with the following list:
The list goes on. Uzair did some research on Elance, and found his niche in translation-related jobs. He ended up earning $500,000, just from freelancing.
Those are broad general topics, however. In another list, you will see increases of 328.43% for jobs related to video, 209.85% for jobs related to HTML5 and 101.3% in iPad development.
Once you have established the niche that you want to target, start building your plan of action. I strongly advise studying Project Management. Having an understanding of how to manage a project will put you ahead of a lot of people – believe me when I say that nothing is more satisfying to a client then speaking to someone who explains exactly how they intend to deliver, especially if they can explain the use of spreadsheets, documents and project management tools to ensure all activities are tracked and monitored.
#2 Focus initially on only one of the popular platforms
The cliché, ‘spreading yourself too thin’, does ring true in this instance. There are too many freelancing platforms that you can work on, and it’s essential that you build yourself a reputation. Reputation on freelance sites come from feedback. The quality and quantity of feedback plays a crucial role in whether you are considered for the job. Most freelance platforms have a recommendation engine, usually powered by ratings, reviews, the number of jobs worked and hours spent.
If you apply for a job, the system may recommend you. Furthermore, when applying for a job, it is one of the first thing the client looks at before reading your bid.
Before Rentacoder was sold onto freelancer.com, they had an amazing dispute and resolution system. Each dispute was dealt with by a human in one of the most robust methods I have ever seen. Over the years, Rentacoder got better and better in refining the system. What looked like lengthy paperwork was actually terms and conditions that protected both the client and the freelancer. Since all funds were escrowed, you had assurance that the funds had been added prior to commencement of the work. This is still the case for most of the leading freelancing platforms.
I did work on an unknown platform once with another coder. I had reservations working with a platform that I was unfamiliar with and what the consequences would be if a dispute arose. A dispute did arise, and without any notice or communication, the platform refunded the client all of the money ($750), even after we had submitted the work. That was it! The client had received the completed work and not paid a single penny, leaving us $750 out of pocket – boy, was that a lesson learnt!
#3 Have an amazing profile with head-shots and complete descriptions
Although the main thing when bidding for bigger projects is your reputation, the first thing that will pop up in front of a prospective client is your picture. They will start to browse and look at the bid proposition, following on with your work history, feedback, work samples and portfolio.
A professional looking head-shot is vital. You’re looking to display a business look and this tips list on how to have an outstanding head-shot has some great pointers.
It is well worth scanning through a list of profiles for those in your chosen niche that have been successful in accumulating a lot of work and positive feedback. I am sure you will see a pattern in the format of the descriptions. Of course, if you are starting out, you may not have much to add in terms of awards and success, but that’s fine. As long as you are using clear statements with perfect grammar and spelling, it is likely to be overlooked, especially if you’re bidding on smaller jobs.
Bullet points (or a list in the form of a tree) helps to make things clear and concise. Use headings such as ‘Skills’, since this gives the prospective client an opportunity to quickly glance at your set of skills.
Less is more, and you can start by writing down an opening statement in a notepad. Start to strip away words in order to make it more concise. My rule for when writing a CV or resume is that every word has to earn its place on the page, and it’s similar when attempting to sell yourself on a freelancing site – you want to stand out with as few words as possible.
Links to sample works are always effective, and you would be amazed at the number of times I have received sample work links in a bid, only to see that the links are broken. It puts me off immediately, since if a person is not willing to take the time to put thought into the bid and just included an outdated profile or canned response (more on this below when discussing bids), then what regard will they have for my work?
#4 Becoming a superstar freelancing ninja that satisfies the clients’ needs
Freelancing sites will have thousands of jobs posted on them daily. If you subscribe to a certain category, your inbox will be flooded with notifications. It’s easy to become overwhelmed and start bidding for any and all jobs. You want to stay away from doing that, and only go for jobs which you are super confident that you can deliver. If you are going to be managing projects, you want to be working with a freelancer who can deliver on those promises.
Get to know the freelancers that you will be working with – ask them personal details, such as their family, kids and time zone. It’s important that you know when they will be available and how much time they can commit to a job. I have had the luxury of working with different freelancers for years, and can second guess their capability, times and commitment levels to make a decision on the spot. If for any reason one was not available, I could request another. With that said, I frequently see freelancers requesting other freelancers to bid for jobs that they themselves have bid for. I do not believe that there is anything wrong with this, as long as the prospector gets what they are paying for.
Being comfortable bidding for jobs that you can deliver on means you can get them completed in no time and with the fewest problems. When you deliver in a timely fashion or exceptionally fast, payments are released immediately and a positive feedback follows.
#5 Super fast response and impressing the prospective client
When you are starting out, you should subscribe to the categories that you intend to work in. Subscription means you are notified when jobs come up. You want to be able to apply for jobs as quickly as possible. Smaller jobs do not require a lot of deliberation, and the first person to bid can get the job. If you are new, there is no shame in mentioning this in your proposal. If you are able to display eagerness in getting the job done, chances are you’ll win the job. Low cost jobs do not require extensive thinking from the prospective client, and they are usually happy to give work to the person who explains well enough what they intend to do and for a reasonable price. If the cost is reasonable, they will snap your hand off. When I started out, I was taking on jobs that made me no money at all.
Anton was the first person I worked with on Joomlancer.com. There was a Joomla extension that was broken and needed fixing – he bidded $12 to fix it, and I snapped him up immediately. The extension went on to to be downloaded over 100,000 times, and Anton built me a premium version that went on for sale, while also creating me other extensions. We went on to bond a partnership, whereby I shared 15% of all profits from extensions sold. It was a fantastic partnership, and I learnt so much from him.
You have to impress using your cover letter when placing a bid. The sheer number of bids I get with a canned copy (copy and pasted) is ridiculous. Most people ask a question or two that have to be answered, usually specific questions to ensure that the specification has been read clearly; if the questions are not answered exactly, they will ignore that bid. Out of every 10 bids, I receive approximately 7 that fail to answer the question. I suspect they get notified since they are subscribed to that category – they just look at the title (related to the service they offer) and paste in the canned response. This equates to spam!
The first part of your bid has to be unique to the requirements. Be straight to the point answering the exact questions, why you have applied and what makes you the perfect fit. Show similar work that you have done in the past, and state exactly when you intend to complete the task by. Usually a deadline is given, but explaining that you will finish at a certain date gives comfort. If, for any reason, the deadline is unrealistic, tell them why – everyone loves honesty and a well thought-out response.
Here is a typical bid proposal that you could include:
You requested answers to the following questions:
**Include the question, then answer below**
Greetings from Azzam Sheikh, Digital Marketing Manager based in the UK.
I came across your project and I am interested in assisting you with ….. (include the context of what the client needs).
I’ve been working in the field of (category), and have extensive experience and knowledge. I have assisted many clients to (again, include the context of what the client needs) frequently. The links below will take you to samples of my work:
(paste in 2 – 3 working links)
Please take the time to check out feedback and reviews that have been left for my previous work and the portfolio of work for clients that I have completed on (mention the freelance platform).
(If you are new to the platform, mention this.)
I have looked over the job and …. (try to ask a question here – it really helps to get a reply from the client, and getting a reply means you can engage with them).
Please do let me know if I can be of any help. I am looking forward to being able to work with you.
#6 How to position yourself as a ninja strategist that makes you huge amounts of money
Here is a reality check! Global connectivity, hype around making money online and an abundance of competition means that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people who can do exactly what you are offering to do. So why would they pick you?
Don’t get put off just yet.
For those of you who are starting out and want to earn an income from freelancing, remember that you have to start off somewhere. This usually means at a potential loss. You have to bid at 1/2 or less of the expected budget of the prospective client. This is not to say you go so ridiculously low that they are put off and think you will probably do a rubbish job. People looking to hire aren’t always aware of what an acceptable price is, unless they are frequent users and used to buying services.
Most clients are looking for someone who is willing to work below their expected budget. More often than not, they will go for the lowest bidder unless someone displays an exceptional skill-set.
Once you have built a reputation for yourself and now have a position of expertise or authority in your niche, you will start to get invited to bid on jobs. Most of the platforms have a recommended engine once a bid is placed, and if your feedback and quantity of completed jobs is high, you will be included in that recommended list. Clients invite those people to bid on the job. You have the luxury at that stage to either decline the job, picking only those you want to work on, but at the same time, you can negotiate the rates.
Several factors are taken into consideration when you are invited to bid:
Tip: It helps to specifically request clients of completed jobs to give you a 5* feedback, as well as mentioning what it is that appealed to them about you. Try to get them to mention communication, delivery times, understanding of jobs and anything else which will make you look good. These are usually rated on a star system, but nothing beats a client actually mentioning your good qualities in words.
When you are starting out, your hourly rate will be low – perhaps as low as $2. The fixed priced bidding is around 1/2 or just below that. Once you have worked hard at building a reputation, increasing the number of jobs completed in your portfolio, completing jobs successfully before a deadline, and getting a string of 5* ratings, you will be able to increase your hourly price and fixed prices. Test this as you go along by increasing from $2 to $5 to $10 to $20 to $25 to $35, etc.
#7 Continue to grow and develop in your niche, sharpening the tool
I came across a service provider on Fiverr. He was offering screen recordings of websites. For $5, he would point out what is wrong with your site. He did this so that his mind was always kept sharp, since as a day job he is a conversion rate expert. Being able to look at other websites and critique them meant that he was constantly nurturing and keeping his mind fresh.
If your chosen niche is copywriting, join a few of the top copywriting forums and join the chatter. Keep yourself abreast with the latest discussions.
I am in the field of Digital Marketing and oversee PPC and SEO. I am subscribed to around ten regular blogs (filtered down from 100s), member of 3 – 4 forums and pay for courses that help me up-skill. I like to keep myself on top of my game, and also ahead of the curve. Oozing with actionable knowledge that can be shared is a sign of maturity, and clients like to know that a contractor has a finger on the pulse. The smarter and more effective you are, the more you will influence and sway the bid in your direction.
I hope these 7 tips have proven to be useful and you are able to put them into action. Here’s to your success and your path to achieving $1,000 a month from freelancing.
As a Digital Marketeer and Entrepreneur, I have been fortunate to have learnt from some of the best of the best. That is what I believe is critical to ensuring anyone’s success. Take what has worked for successful people and make owning it, knowledge first and then applying what you learn by taking action. Persevering on that path will bring about sure success, simple but effective formula.