How to Start Freelancing: 2023 Guide to Become a Freelancer 💻

  • Remote Working & Freelancing
Kaitlyn Arford
· 11 min read

When you choose to use Contra, you’re in the right place to gain valuable work experience and work with great freelance clients. Regardless of whether you’re a freelance writer, graphic designer, web developer, social media manager, or even an engineer, you’ll have the opportunity to find your ideal clients here.

Contra is committed to helping you build your freelance career. Contra was designed by people who were once freelancers themselves, so we know the challenges you face. Freelancers (who we refer to as Independents) need to be able to market their services, manage client relationships, and get paid with ease. Contra is built to handle every step of your freelance business, and we’re here to help you start freelancing.

Ready to start freelancing? Let’s walk through how Contra can help you launch your freelance business.





Create a Contra Profile 👋

Starting your freelance career is really exciting — and it all starts with your Contra profile. Attract new clients, get matched with opportunities, and show off your freelance skills with your free Contra profile.

The process of creating your Contra profile is simple:

  1. Sign in with your email or Google or TikTok account.
  2. Write up a short bio about yourself for your “About” section and add your job title.
  3. Showcase your three best freelance work samples in the “Work” section.
  4. Show off your services in the “Services” section.
  5. Add two social links.
  6. Verify your identity.

Need inspiration? Take a look at some of our favorite profiles. You can also take a look at some success stories from freelancers just like you.

Build a portfolio that stands out 🎉

As a freelancer who is just starting out, creating a portfolio should be a top priority. Your portfolio is your best marketing tool, your digital storefront, and your key to landing clients. Portfolios establish your credibility, so they’re really important to set up. But how do you create a portfolio when you’re just starting out?

You could try to build a whole website with Wix, Squarespace, or Webflow, but those are expensive and time-consuming options. Instead, turn your Contra profile into a Portfolio with the press of a button.

Portfolios by Contra are powered by your Contra profile. Independent workers just need to press a button to create a project-based portfolio! Portfolios by Contra are created specifically for Independents, so they put your projects and services front and center.

All you have to do is select a customizable template and choose your color theme. If you want, connect a paid domain to your Portfolio. That’s it! Now you’ve got time to do the next step: searching for freelance work.



Search for freelance opportunities 📌

Find freelance opportunities where you can work the way you want from anywhere in the world. After you set up your Contra profile, you’ll have access to Contra’s opportunity feed. This opportunity feed is your gateway to new clients!

Sort through opportunities by filtering to different roles (including engineering, design, writing, social media and marketing, and video and animation).

The best part about opportunities on Contra is the transparency. Clients must include a job description, project deliverables, project timeline, and pay to post an opportunity on Contra.

Every opportunity posted on Contra is reviewed to ensure that it’s high quality. You won’t find low-paying work here — opportunities posted on Contra must pay a minimum of $250 or $25 an hour. 🤑

Once you find a freelance opportunity you’re interested in, send in a proposal!



Send proposals with Contra 👇





Send winning proposals to land your next great client. It’s free to send a proposal on Contra and always will be. 🤩

When you see an Opportunity you’d like to apply for on the Opportunities feed, you’ll need to send over a proposal. A proposal on Contra includes four sections: a project name, your email and the Client’s email, your payment and timeline, and the deliverables.

Make your proposal shine:

  • Read the description carefully. Include anything the Client requests, like work samples and answers to their questions. Clients will want to know that you’ve read the job description, and you want to show that you’re the Independent for the job.
  • Include your payment terms and timeline. On Contra, you can work with an hourly or flat rate or through milestones where you break up a project. You even have the option of getting an upfront deposit! Think about how you want to work and how you want to get paid.
  • Create a detailed overview of your deliverables. Review the opportunity and address the needs of your potential Client. Include how you’ll provide the deliverables they need. For example, if you include two rounds of revision, mention that!


Send Inquiries with Contra

If you find a Client you’d like to work with, think about sending them a pitch! Let them know how you can help their businesses by sending an Inquiry through Contra. Your Inquiry is almost like a cover letter: you’re explaining to a client why they should hire you instead of another Independent. Tailor your Inquiries specifically for each Client.

  • Focus on the client’s needs. Explain in your Inquiry how you’ll help this client reach their goals. What experience do you have? How will your experience help them? What problems do you solve?
  • Include your experience, work samples, and portfolio. Clients want to see Independent’s past work so they know that they can trust you to deliver the results they need. Always include a few links to relevant work samples in your portfolio. If you have testimonials and case studies, include those too.
  • Write it professionally. You don’t need to include personal details. This isn’t the time to show your sense of humor. Write your proposal concisely with professional details, and without unnecessary fluff.

Here’s an example of what your Contra Inquiry might look like:

Hello,

I am a freelance video editor who can execute your YouTube marketing project.

With my five years of experience editing for clients like Bookshop and Buzzfeed, I have refined my skills for reviewing raw footage and adding graphics, sound, and special effects. I can complete your project in two weeks.

My clients have complimented my timeliness and attention to detail. You can see samples of my relevant work here:

[Example of commercial with a link]

[Example of commercial 2 with a link]

[Link to your overall portfolio]

Thank you for your consideration!

John Doe

Work the way you want 📣

If you want to work with freelance clients on your own schedule, you’re not alone. In fact, nearly 25 percent of independent workers choose to freelance for flexibility, according to the American Opportunity Survey.

Contra’s freelancing platform allows you to work the way you want with clients. There’s four ways to work with Clients on Contra:

  • One-time hourly rates. Charge Clients by the hour for the work you create.
  • One-time project rates. These flat rates create a transparent pay structure so you know exactly what you’re getting paid, and your Client knows how much they’ll spend.
  • Milestones. Milestones break down long-term projects so you can avoid scope creep and have a more consistent cash flow.
  • Recurring projects. Get paid on a weekly or monthly recurring basis with regular clients.

You can even charge an upfront payment to kick off your working relationship!



Be discovered by Clients on Contra 🧠

Top-rated Independent profiles are featured on the Discover page. Clients sort through the Discover feed to identify Independents they’d like to work with. 🔍 They’ll use the drop-down menu to search for Independents by filtering through categories and roles (like social media or brand designer) and specific tools (like Figma or Slack). They can even filter by hourly rates, languages, and project duration.

When a Client finds an Independent they’d like to work with, they can send over an Inquiry by clicking the “Get in Touch” button.

Want to be discovered by Clients on Contra? Do the following:

  • Mark your profile as “accepting new clients.” Clients will want to work with Independents who are obviously available for their projects.
  • Add specific tools to your profile. As you add projects to your Contra profile, include any tools you used to create them. Don’t forget to feature tools you use in the about section of your Contra profile!
  • Write a professional about section. A snippet of your about is featured in your profile on the Discover page. Write a concise bio that shows off your skills and services.
  • Become a top-rated Independent. As you take on projects, do your best to complete high-quality work on time. When you’re done, Clients will be prompted to write a Recommendation. By completing professional projects and cultivating a top-notch Contra profile, you’ll become a top-rated Independent. ❗


Build community with other freelancers 🔥

You may find your first client from an unlikely source: Slack. Once you create your Contra profile, you have the option to apply to Contra’s Slack community. The community is nearly 10,000 strong!

Contra’s Slack community is the perfect place to create relationships in the freelancing world. You’ll see a lot of first-time freelancers talking about their freelancing journey and full-time freelancers offering advice. The Slack community may be where you find your next freelance job.



Get paid commission-free 💪

Contra will never take a commission from your hard work, so the hourly or flat rate you see is exactly what you’ll make. You can’t say the same about Upwork or Fiverr.

There’s no upfront cost to using Contra, and there’s no hidden fees. Contra Pro is completely optional, and you can choose to use these paid features if you want to grow your freelance business. If you’re interested, join the waitlist now!

With Contra, you get paid through US-based bank payouts. If you prefer, get paid through Crypto payments (in most countries). To get paid on Contra, you just have to verify your identity with Stripe and connect your US bank account, debit card, or Crypto wallet. Contra is adding more payment options in the future! 💸

By the way, your personal information is safe with Contra. Contra doesn’t collect or store your Social Security Number or sell your data. If you need help getting paid, send your questions to payments@contra.com.



Manage and complete freelance work on Contra 💻

Project management looks a little different for every freelancer. But no matter what services you provide, you need to deliver work to a client professionally.

Enter: Contra. Regardless of whether you're working on a freelance project for the first time, or are handling existing clients, Contra can handle every step of your workflow.

  • Discover Clients and send proposals. Land a new favorite Client by discovering opportunities and sending proposals.
  • Sign a legal contract. Before you start a project, both Clients and Independents must sign a contract. Contra has a built-in contract so you don’t have to deal with the headache of creating a contract from scratch.
  • Chat with your clients directly through Contra. Contra’s chat makes it really easy to discuss deliverables and ask questions. You can even connect your scheduling tool to the chat so Clients can book meetings with ease.
  • Work the way you want. As we mentioned before, you can work with Clients through milestones, flat rates, or hourly pricing.
  • Complete projects and gain recommendations. When you complete your project on Contra, Clients will be prompted to write a recommendation. These testimonials add credibility to your business, so you can land new clients in the future!
  • Get paid commission-free. Enjoy and keep every penny you make. We’ll never charge you a commission. 💵

Be patient, and remember that rejection is normal 💛

Building a freelance business is hard work, and it takes time to land new clients. If you’re rejected for a role, that’s totally normal! Even experienced freelancers get rejected from different opportunities. Rejection means one thing: try something new.

  • Revisit your Contra profile. Review your profile to see what you can add to make it stand out even more. Pro tip: post in Contra’s Slack channel to get free feedback from community members and Contra Independents!
  • Apply to more opportunities. There’s no harm in applying to more opportunities that you’re qualified for! The next proposal you send may result in a yes!
  • Share your portfolio widely. A big part of freelancing is marketing your services. Share your work and portfolio with friends and on social media. Let people know that you’re available for freelance work.
  • Pay attention to your online presence. Optimize your Linkedin and Twitter profiles to land more freelance work.

Freelancing is a long-term strategy. Persistence pays off.

We’re working to serve you better 🚀

Contra’s built to help you start and grow your freelance business. We’re adding new features to improve your experience in the future.

Feel free to reach out to hello@contra.com with any questions. We’re here to help you!

Kaitlyn Arford
Award-winning writer ready to tell your story.
I'm a full-time freelance writer specializing in writing features, profiles, and news stories. Every story matters. Let me tell yours. Contact me here or at kaitlyn.arford@gmail.com.

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