How to Get Started as a Freelancer in the US

April 8, 2024


Interested in getting started as a freelancer?

Freelancing is my favorite method to earn money so I can travel full-time, and I think it’s a great option if you’re interested in becoming a digital nomad!

Every country is different with how they handle freelancing.

And if you’re from the United States (which if you’re reading this, I’m guessing you are!), then you also have to factor in each individual states needs.

Buy we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

What is a Freelancer?

A freelancer is someone who works for themselves, or self-employed.

You work as your own boss and take on clients for select services.

Some examples of services are virtual assistance work, blog writing or copywriting, graphic design, programming, social media management, and more!

The containers in which you get paid can be either project-based or retainer-based with a fixed retainer fee.

Choosing to be a freelancer does give you the location independence you need to be a digital nomad, making it a great option if you’re looking for a travel-friendly, remote job!

How to Get Started as a Freelancer

Step 1: Map out your current work experience

Grab a piece of paper, Google Doc, or Notion doc and map out all of the professional experience you’ve had in the past.

If you have resumes to reference, get those too to identify anything you may have forgotten about.

If you don’t have a ton (or any) professional experience, think about extra-curriculars you’ve done in school, volunteering, and school projects you’ve completed.

You’re a human being who uses phones, manages emails and a schedule to some extent, and can follow instructions.

Don’t think about this too hard, and don’t worry about filtering the list down at this stage – you just need to get a clear idea of what you’re working with!

Step 2: Brainstorm the types of services you’d like to offer

From this list of experience that you’ve mapped out, start thinking about what you enjoy doing.

What are some options that you see yourself doing for other people?

Are there skills others have complimented you on?

What stands out as an exciting option?

What matches your long term professional goals?

This is just simply a brainstorming stage, give yourself permission to be creative and messy at this point.

You’ll also want to research your competition to what others are doing, which we’ll get into in the next step.

Step 3: Research your competition

This step is crucial in my opinion.

It gives you an idea for what packages people are creating for their services, boosts your self-confidence, gives you an idea of what you can work towards.

It also can be great for identifying what areas you might want to add to your professional development plan.

Pull up Google (or your choice of search platform, Pinterest could be good to check out too), and search ‘freelance xyz service for hire in the US’

This will help give you an idea for prices.

❌ I don’t recommend using Fiverr or Upwork personally, as the rates on those websites don’t reflect the cost of living in the US.

Step 4: Create your service + decide your rate

After you’ve done you research, now it’s time to get clear on your service.

Map out the deliverables you intend to complete, using your competition as a foundation.

And remember – having competition is a good thing.

It means there’s demand for your service, otherwise people wouldn’t want to hire that role.

Then, once you have your deliverables mapped out, decide on your freelance rate.

There’s a few options you can do for this:

  1. Project-based services (a one-time fee)
  2. Hourly retainer services (a pre-defined hourly rate and you track your hours)
  3. Fixed retainer services (clearly defined deliverables at a fixed rate)

It will take some experimenting and experience to determine what you like best, and that’s okay!

Step 5: Setup your business logistics

Now it’s time to set yourself up for success.

The main 2 things you’ll need to do is:

  1. Register your freelance business (I recommend a DBA or Sole-Proprietorship to get started)
  2. Create a business bank account.

To set up your business bank account, I recommend just checking out your current bank and see what business banking options are available. You can also check out Novo, a commonly used bank in the online business space.

I strongly recommend setting up a business bank account to make your accounting easier.

You’ll be able to keep your business expenses and your personal expenses more organized.

Step 6: Start marketing your new service

It’s time to now get your service in front of people.

You’ll need to determine where you want to market these services, depending on your preferences.

Some options include:

  • FB groups
  • A business IG
  • LinkedIn

And literally so much more!

Step 7: Nurture potential leads

When you start marketing your services, people will start to show interest.

Keep in mind during this stage – the ‘yes’ might take time.

They might need to get their ducks in a row before they’re able to hire you, and that’s okay!

We want to make this step a relationship-building stage, not a greedy gimme-your-money stage.

If you get interest from multiple leads, consider creating a lead tracker to organize their name, needs, and contact info!

Step 8: Book clients!

Your leads are interested in booking with you – how exciting!

Everything you’ll want to have in place before booking your client includes:

  1. A contract outlining your services (to protect yourself and your client)
  2. An agreed upon rate for services rendered.
  3. A confirmed payment platform (I recommend Wise or PayPal)

That’s the bare minimum.

Whatever service you complete will determine how thorough of an onboarding process you’ll need.

And it will take some experience to iron this process out, especially as you figure out your service.

Conclusion: How to Get Started as a Freelancer in the US

Freelancing is a great tool to have in your tool belt if you’re looking to build up your location independence.

Whether you’re wanting to do it full time, or you’re wanting to earn some extra money on the side as a side hustle, it’s a great habit to build into your life.

Not only do you get extra money in the bank (who doesn’t love that), but it’s a great confidence builder and will teach you SO much about yourself.

And I hope you embrace the freedom it allows by traveling this beautiful world of ours!


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