Hi there! You’re probably here because you’ve been thinking about working at home or have already jumped into the freelancing pool, but aren’t having any luck booking clients. I’m here to help you! In this article, I’ll try my best to show you how to start working at home even if you have no previous work experience.
All the tips I’m going to share with you are based on my experience as a freelancer. It’s best that I introduce myself and how I started so you can better understand why it’s possible to earn an income from home even if you don’t have work experience and just a few skills to work with…
My Beginnings As A Freelancer
My name is Kimberley Reyes (but everyone calls me ‘Kim’). I started freelancing in 2008 when I was a college student in Ateneo de Manila University. I was looking for a way to earn income despite my busy schedule in school because I had expenses that I wanted to pay for myself and because I wanted to save up for a new laptop. To give you an idea of my situation, my classes would start at 7:30 in the morning and would end at either 4:30 or 9:00. I also had one class on Saturdays, which took up my whole morning. I spent most of my time in school, which is why if I was to work, I had to be able to do it from school, during my breaks. Hence, my work had to allow me to work flexibly and from anywhere. That’s when I discovered freelancing.
I created my first ever freelancer profile on oDesk (now Upwork). I had no previous work experience and only had the basic skills: I am able to speak and write in English, I can use a computer, and I have a reliable internet connection at home and in school. My only bragging right then was that I’m already a Civil Service Professional Exam passer, but that’s not a biggie for some clients.
I submitted proposals to numerous projects on Upwork. At some point, I felt like it was a waste of time because no one was even considering me for an interview. But, I pushed on. And I think that’s one of the most important thing to do as a freelancer–to keep moving forward, to keep trying until you land your first project then your next and your next and so on.
Since I had no work experience nor a portfolio to show, I decided that I had to step up my client-finding game. I wanted to offer writing services, which is why I created a blog that can serve as my portfolio. I wrote about what I was most passionate about then: food and travel. I wrote as often as I could while still applying for projects on Upwork. I made sure I mentioned my blog in my proposals so that potential clients will at least have something to look at when they open my proposal.
Three months later, my efforts paid off. I landed my first writing gig as a Product Description Writer. I was paid just a dollar an hour, but I didn’t mind. My goal was not to earn money yet, but to deliver excellent product descriptions so I can get a good review from my very first client. When our contract ended six months later, I was so happy to get my first ever 5-star review! My freelance career took off since then. I put all my heart into all projects I took on, making sure that I deliver nothing less than excellence. “Magis!” we were repeatedly told throughout my college years. Do more, be more.
I took a quick break from my freelance career in 2010 when I went on an internship in the United Kingdom. Although I had to stop working as a freelancer, I didn’t stop learning AND networking. I used my internship in Destination Marketing to acquire new skills for my freelance career. I also used my time in London to network with potential clients. I told them about my sideline as a freelancer and gave them my contact details so they can contact me in case they needed help.
When I came back to the Philippines, I started accepting more writing projects and eventually started charging more for my work. I also invested on local workshops and online trainings, which led me to evolve into a virtual assistant offering not just writing services, but also administrative, creative, and technical support.
By the time I graduated in 2011, I had my hands full. I decided not to follow the normal route as my classmates did. I didn’t apply to corporate jobs. Instead, I invested and started treating what I do as a real business–not just a sideline. I eventually registered my business and have been growing it since then.
I want to start working at home… but how?
There were many doubts and moments of wanting to give up throughout my journey as a freelancer. There are seasons of abundance, but also seasons of scarcity. When you experience the latter, a good mindset is very important. “Rest if you must, but don’t quit,” my husband would always tell me–and it’s true! Remember what Dory said in Finding Nemo? Just keep swimming! So when you find yourself in a season of scarcity, just keep moving forward and set your mind on your goal.
Here are some statements I’ve heard from new and seasoned freelancers and what my advice is when you do start thinking about them:
“I want to start working at home… but I don’t know how to start!” JUST START. In every goal you want to achieve, you have to start somewhere. Start by creating profiles in different freelancing websites. Once you have your profiles set up, start looking for projects and never stop until you land one. My suggestion is to focus on one platform first so you won’t feel overwhelmed. Once you get a hang of it, create more profiles in other websites.
While looking for projects, invest time on creating your portfolio or building on your skills. If you’re a writer, create a blog. If you want to be a social media manager, start reading up on how social media works. If you have extra money, you can even go for paid trainings, like the ones offered by Create Your Laptop Life and VA Classroom.
“I don’t have work experience. How can I find a client who will hire someone like me?” If you read my story above, then you’ll know this isn’t an excuse. If you don’t have work experience, then find a way to create a portfolio. Aspiring writers can start by creating a blog or writing guest posts for other websites (just make sure they will acknowledge that you wrote the article). Aspiring graphic designers can start creating designs they can showcase–or offer free design services to family and friends in exchange of a testimonial.
Even if you don’t have previous work experience, we all have skills that someone somewhere needs. Just being able to type can land you a job! It all comes down to how you will package yourself in front of the potential client. Target their pain point (what they need help with) then offer a solution and you’ll eventually land projects. Some of these clients need help with the simplest tasks, such as copying text into another document. I bet you can do that even if you don’t have work experience!
“I already have my profiles set up in freelance websites, but no one is hiring me!” You’re super lucky if someone hires you the first time you apply for a freelance project. But for most of us, that’s not the case. If no one is hiring you, ask yourself these questions:
- Is there something I can do to improve my profile?
- Is there something I can do to improve my portfolio?
- Is there something I can do to improve the way I write my proposals?
Sometimes, little tweaks on your profile, portfolio, or proposal can make a huge difference. I always remind freelancers to check, double check and triple check their profiles. Make sure that it’s well-written: with minimum (or zero) spelling and grammar mistakes and that your sentences are clear and concise. This is especially important if you’re aiming to become a writer.
I also advise freelancers to create unique proposals for every project your apply to. Don’t have just one generic cover letter for all potential clients. Read the project description then craft a proposal based on the needs of the client. Let the potential client know that you’re there to solve their specific problems, and not just applying for the sake of applying.
Are you ready to start working at home?
Anyone can start working at home if they put their mind and heart into it. I won’t say it’s an easy journey to go on, but it pays off once you reach your goals. In my case, I’m now able to work in freedom–the ability to work on my own time from anywhere (not just at home) while also being able to pay for my business and personal expenses.
Of course, there are many other things you need to work on if you want to achieve this since success doesn’t end in earning money. You need to learn to manage your time AND your money wisely. But let’s leave that for another article as this one is getting too long. :)
If you have questions about how to start working at home, feel free to comment below. I’d be happy to answer your questions! Make sure you include your e-mail so I can easily contact you.