How to Start Freelancing as a Creative: A Comprehensive Guide for Success

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Are you dying ditch your 9 to 5? Or maybe you’re just out of school and want to build your career on your own terms? Becoming a creative freelancer could be your ticket to start doing what you love on your own terms.

We’re going to break down how to start freelancing in the creative space so you can turn your artistic side hustle into a full-blown career—where you call the shots. So, whether you’re performing, doodling designs, weaving words, splashing paint, or cutting videos, we’ll walk you through the ropes of making a living from it without getting lost in the hustle.

Let’s get you ready to kick that 9 to 5 to the curb and start living that freelance dream. 

What are the first steps to begin freelancing as a creative?

When you first start freelancing, there are a few crucial steps you need to take before you get started. Walking through the following steps will help set you up for success from day one. 

  1. Identify your skillset: Determine which creative skills you possess that can be monetized.  Are you a graphic design, a musician, a writer, or maybe photography or video editing is your thing? Start by making a list of all your skills and aim to focus on your strengths while refining your weaknesses.
  2. Create a portfolio: You want to be able to showcase samples of your previous work, as well as any testimonials you have received from clients or collaborators. Your portfolio should highlight your style and demonstrate how you can bring value to potential clients. Choose a platform like Behance or Dribbble for visual works, or consider creating your website using WordPress or Squarespace.  And if website creation is something that scares you, Khara Wolf is a musician and creative who specializes in web design!
  3. Develop your personal brand: As a freelancer, you are your brand, and your personal brand is essential when looking to stand out from the competition. It should reflect your unique selling points, and it’s vital to be consistent across social media profiles and your website. Focus on your style, voice, and the type of work you want to be known for.
  4. Find your target market: Research your competition and identify your niche. Determine which industries and clients would best benefit from your services. Tailor your offerings for this specific audience and consider creating sample works for popular industries or styles.
  5. Set your prices: After researching your competitors’ rates and analyzing your skills, determine your price structure. Do not undervalue your work, and be sure to adjust your prices as your experience and skills grow.
  6. Network and market yourself: Engage in online communities related to your niche, as well as attending local events and workshops, can help you network and begin to build a client base. Building valuable connections and showcasing your skills through networking can lead to both job opportunities and referrals, and don’t forget to utilize social media platforms like LinkedIn to reach a broader audience.

By focusing on these key steps, you’ll be well-equipped to make your mark in the freelance world. Remember to stay persistent and continue learning to ensure you remain a top choice for clients seeking your creative services.

Understanding How Freelancing Works

Since freelancing is a career you’re considering, it’s essential to understand what it means to start freelancing and how it differs from traditional full-time employment. Freelancing is a way of working where you provide services to multiple clients or companies while being your own boss. Many professionals choose to go freelance – pursuing a full-time career or supplementing their income – because it offers flexibility, remote work opportunities, and autonomy.

It’s crucial, though, to recognize that freelancing won’t be a cakewalk, and like any professional endeavor, it demands hard work and dedication. Taking on freelance work requires you to be proactive, disciplined, and adaptable in order to consistently find and complete projects. As a freelancer, you’re going to face a myriad of challenges, such as managing both your time and budget, marketing your skills to potential clients, paying your own taxes, and staying on top of relevant industry trends.

To become a successful freelancer, it’s essential to acquire and develop marketable skills in your chosen field, whether it’s coding, graphic design, or content creation. Continuous learning and adapting to new technologies or methodologies will also be crucial for staying ahead in the competitive world of freelancing. Finally, networking with other professionals and freelancers can provide valuable opportunities and insights into the freelancing landscape.

One of the main attractions of freelancing is the ability to work remotely, often allowing you to work from anywhere, whether you prefer a home office or a cozy cafe. This comes with the responsibility to create an organized and efficient workspace that promotes productivity and helps you stay focused on the tasks at hand. In addition, managing your finances and taxes as a freelancer can be challenging compared to traditional employment, so it’s essential to educate yourself about finances and invest in tools to streamline your financial processes.

Essential Skills Freelancers Need


Good communication skills are crucial for any freelancer to succeed. As a creative freelancer, you will need to effectively engage with clients and understand exactly what they want, whether it’s for writing, design, or copywriting projects. Building your expertise in both verbal and written communication is essential to ensure the accurate delivery of your work and establish a professional reputation. Clear instructions, regular updates, and prompt replies to client inquiries will not only help you maintain a strong relationship with your clients but also lead to successful projects.

Building an Online Presence

A strong online presence is an essential part of showcasing your skills, experience, and professionalism as a creative freelancer. By creating a well-designed website, curating a portfolio, and engaging on social media platforms, you can demonstrate your expertise and attract potential clients who are looking for your services. You also need to participate in online communities and forums related to your industry to network and learn from others. This way, you can stay up-to-date with the latest trends and develop your skillset further.

Financial Management

Managing your finances effectively is critical for maintaining sustainable growth as a freelancer. Good financial management skills, including budgeting and basic accounting, will help you better understand your income and expenses, and help you to make informed financial decisions for your freelance career. Here are some suggestions for managing your finances:

  • Set a budget: Allocate funds for essential expenses such as rent, utility bills, insurance, and taxes. Plan for long-term goals, emergencies, and potential financial gaps in the future.
  • Track expenses: Use a spreadsheet or apps like QuickBooks or Fresh Books to record all your financial transactions. Analyzing your expenses will help you identify areas where you can cut costs and increase your profit margins.
  • Invoicing: Create professional, accurate invoices with a clear description of your services, agreed-upon rates, and payment deadlines. Be prompt in sending them to clients and follow up on late payments.

Woman sitting at a desk doing freelance work with her mac book and ipad

Finding Your Niche

As you’re getting started as a freelancer in the creative field, the first step is to find your niche. This will help you focus your skills and expertise, and make it easier to market yourself to potential clients. To identify your niche, start by asking yourself what you are passionate about and what areas you excel in.

If you love writing, consider becoming a freelance writer specializing in topics you enjoy. This can range from blog posts to technical documentation. Your passion for the subject matter will make it easier to create engaging content for your clients.

For those with a strong visual sense, graphic design or web design may be the perfect niche. Whether creating logos or designing stunning websites, you’ll be able to utilize your creativity and attention to detail to produce eye-catching designs.

As a developer, you can explore various areas such as mobile app development, game development, or software engineering. Your skills can be applied across various industries, allowing you to work on diverse projects while honing your technical expertise.

Photography is another popular niche in the creative field where you can showcase your talent. From portrait photography to capturing stunning landscapes, you can tailor your skills to your interests and pursue a fulfilling career capturing memories and moments.

If you’re interested in helping businesses grow, consider specializing in digital marketing as a blogger or marketing strategist. Your ability to understand and analyze market trends will be invaluable as you help companies improve their online presence, engage with their target audience, and increase sales.

Ultimately, your niche should be a unique blend of your skills, interests, and experiences. This will ensure that you’re not only passionate about what you do but also capable of delivering exceptional results in your chosen field.

Building a Portfolio

As we mentioned earlier, a portfolio is something every freelancer needs and it’s important to build one when you’re first starting out, so let’s take a look at what you need to include in your portfolio, and how you can use it effectively to get clients. 

What to Include

When starting your freelancing journey as a creative professional, building a diverse and robust portfolio is essential for showcasing your work and attracting clients. A comprehensive portfolio should include sample projects, websites you’ve designed or contributed to, illustrations, articles, and other creative works that demonstrate your skills and abilities. Don’t forget to include any accomplishments or awards you’ve received, as well as case studies that detail successful projects and their outcomes.

If you’re just starting, don’t worry about not having many professional projects to showcase. Include any personal projects, school assignments, or pro bono work that highlights your creative talents. Remember to keep your portfolio updated with your latest creations and achievements frequently.

How to Showcase it to Get Clients

An engaging and well-organized digital portfolio is critical for showcasing your talents and increasing your visibility as a creative professional. Begin by creating a polished website that is mobile-friendly and SEO-optimized.  It should highlight your work and offer easy navigation. Your website should include sections for your resume, project galleries, product descriptions, contact information, and a blog.

In addition to building your website, it’s essential to maintain an active online presence. Utilize professional networking sites like LinkedIn to connect with potential clients and showcase your portfolio. Share your work on social media platforms to expand your reach, and consider starting a blog where you can provide valuable insights into your industry.

When formatting and displaying your work, utilize tables, bullet points, bold text, and other formatting techniques where necessary to convey information effectively and make it easy to scan (because, let’s face it, nobody reads anymore). Prioritize clarity and simplicity, so your site visitors can quickly understand your value as a creative professional.

Finally, remember always to maintain a confident and educated tone in your descriptions and communications. Clients will appreciate this quality and feel reassured that they’re working with a skilled and competent professional.

Marketing Yourself

As a creative freelancer, marketing yourself is essential if you want to build your brand and attract potential clients. Confidence and clarity are key to successfully promoting your skills and services to your target audience. Here are a few steps to help you effectively market yourself as a creative freelancer from day one.

First, create a strong online presence. As we mentioned earlier, you need to have a great website that showcases your work, and you need to consistently show up on Social Media. By consistently updating your website and social media with fresh content, you will maintain visitors’ interest and keep them coming back for more. In addition to demonstrating your expertise, make sure to interact with your followers. This will help you establish a reputation as a knowledgeable and approachable professional.

Next, you want to develop a strategic marketing plan. Identify your ideal clients, their preferences, and the platforms they use the most. Tailor your advertising messages according to their needs and preferences to create a strong connection.

Collaboration is another powerful tool in marketing yourself. Partner with other freelancers and businesses to exchange services or work together on projects. This will not only improve your skillset and expand your network, but it will also showcase your ability to work well with others.

Finally, don’t forget the importance of self-promotion. Speak confidently about your work and its value at networking events or in discussions with potential clients. Share testimonials and success stories to prove your worth and demonstrate the benefits of working with you.


Networking is essential when you start freelancing if you want to grow your client base, but the idea of putting yourself out there can seem overwhelming. Luckily, there are a few different ways to go about networking so you can dip your toe in the water as you get more comfortable in your field. 

Leveraging Professional Networks

As a freelance creative, it’s essential to tap into your professional networks to grow your client base. Start by connecting with your existing contacts, such as past colleagues and clients, on platforms like LinkedIn. Starting with people you already know makes the networking experience seem less daunting and allows you to get your name out ther.

Next, expand your network by joining industry-specific groups and participating in online discussions. By actively engaging with others in your field, you can easily demonstrate your expertise and potentially attract new clients.

Attending industry events, conferences, and meetups is another way to grow your network. These gatherings offer opportunities to connect with other professionals, potential clients, and even mentors. Remember to exchange contact information and follow up after the event to build lasting relationships.


Your blog or online publication can be an invaluable asset for building credibility, showcasing your skills, and attracting new clients. Regularly posting high-quality, relevant content related to your niche will help you establish yourself as a knowledgeable and reliable professional. Make sure your blog is easily discoverable and optimized for SEO to increase visibility among your ideal client base.

Woman doing freelance web design on a laptop

Consider collaborating with other bloggers or industry influencers to expand your reach even further. Guest posting on other reputable blogs, for example, can expose your work to a wider audience and drive new demand for your services.

In addition to your personal blog, take advantage of platforms like Medium to publish your content. Medium’s built-in audience and easy-sharing features can help your content reach more potential clients. Consistently engaging with your readers and responding to comments demonstrates your commitment to building strong relationships and creating value for your clients.

By leveraging your professional networks and investing time in blogging, you can increase your visibility, build relationships, and ultimately grow your freelance client base.

Finances and Taxes for Freelancers

When you start freelancing, you need to keep in mind that you are now running a business.  Thinking of your freelancing career as a business is essential if you want to be successful year after year.  This kind of thinking will also set you up to make business decisions in a way that will continue to support your success.

How should I set my rates as a creative freelancer?

Start by researching the industry standards for similar services. You can do this by checking out competitors’ pricing or joining specialized forums. Also, take into consideration your experience, skills, and overhead costs when determining your rates. Setting a rate that reflects your value will help you attract clients and maintain a sustainable freelance business.

Budgeting as a freelancer

Budgeting for freelance income can be challenging since your income can be inconsistent. Here are some steps to help you manage your finances:

  1. Track your income and expenses: Keep a record of all your freelance income and business expenses. This will help you understand your cash flow and identify areas to save or cut costs.
  2. Create a monthly budget: Allocate your income toward fixed expenses, such as rent and utilities, and variable expenses, like marketing and supplies. Having a budget can help you manage your finances and plan for future investments in your business.
  3. Set aside money for taxes: As a freelancer, you are responsible for paying self-employment taxes. Make sure you set aside a portion of your income to cover these taxes. A good palace to start is 20% of your income.  We recommend you set aside this 20% in a separate bank account that you only use for taxes.
  4. Maintain an emergency fund: Due to the fluctuating nature of freelance income, it’s essential to build an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses or lean periods. Aim to save at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses.

Maximizing Your Income 

Leverage Freelance Marketplaces

Freelance marketplaces like Upwork and Fiverr can be excellent platforms to kickstart your freelancing career. As you build your profile, showcase your creative skills, and establish your reputation, you can increase your income in these marketplaces.

  1. Create a professional and complete profile – Make sure your profile informs potential clients about your skills, experiences, and accomplishments.
  2. Craft a compelling proposal or gig – Tailor it to each project, communicating your understanding of the client’s needs and how you will deliver results.
  3. Deliver quality work – Consistently providing top-notch outputs will yield positive reviews and referrals, leading to more projects and higher income.

*Utilizing freelance marketplaces is also a great way to find suitable freelance business ideas and identify your niche. Explore different creative projects, gauge client demands, and adapt your offerings to the market needs.

Raising Your Rates

Once you start to get regular freelance clients, its time to think about raising your rates.  This may seem intimidating at first, but if you were in a regular 9-5 job, you would likely expect a raise as your performance improves.  As a freelancer, you’re entitled to the same raise, but the only person who’s going to give it to you is yourself. 

Turning Freelancing Into A Career

Setting Clear Goals

As you embark on your journey to transform freelancing into a full-time career, it’s essential to set clear goals for yourself. Determine the type of work you want to pursue, the amount of time you’re willing to dedicate, and the income level you want to achieve. Assess your skills and expertise, and identify any gaps that need to be addressed. Setting specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals will help you stay focused and on track. Remember, flexibility is key in a freelancing career as the market and your needs can change over time.

Balancing Work and Personal Life

One of the challenges of freelancing is maintaining a healthy work-life balance. It’s vital to allocate time for family, health, and self-care, as well as your career. Develop a routine that enables you to work productively while making room for personal interests and commitments. Consider using a calendar to manage and prioritize your tasks, set boundaries for work hours, and allocate time for breaks and travel. This will help you uphold a sustainable balance between your professional and personal life.

Dealing with Deadlines

Meeting deadlines is crucial for maintaining a successful freelance career. By effectively managing deadlines, you will build trust and credibility with your clients. It’s important to communicate openly with your clients when an issue arises, while simultaneously demonstrating dedication and commitment to delivering quality work. Be realistic about the time you can dedicate to each project, and consider using project management tools to keep track of your progress. Finally, don’t overlook the importance of maintaining a work-life balance, as taking care of your well-being can help you stay focused and efficient in meeting these deadlines.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which platforms are best for finding freelance creative jobs?

There are several platforms available to find freelance creative jobs. Some popular options include Upwork, Fiverr, and Bēhance. Each platform has its unique features and may cater to different creative fields. Expanding your search across more than one platform increases your chances of finding the right projects and clients for your skills.

What skills and tools are essential for a successful creative freelancer?

As a creative freelancer, you should hone your craft and constantly update your skills. Depending on your area of expertise, this may include skills like graphic design, illustration, or web development. Familiarize yourself with popular industry tools such as Adobe Creative Cloud or open-source options like GIMP and Inkscape. Additionally, working on your communication and time management skills allows you to present yourself professionally to clients and meet project deadlines.

How can I effectively market my creative freelance services?

Successfully marketing your creative freelance services involves several key steps. First, create a strong portfolio showcasing your best work, including a range of project types and styles. Networking, both online and offline, is crucial to make connections and get your name out to potential clients. Utilize social media platforms and industry-specific forums to engage in conversations and share your work. Finally, don’t hesitate to ask for referrals and testimonials from previous clients, as they can boost your credibility and help build trust with prospective clients.

What legal and financial aspects should I consider when starting a freelance creative business?

When starting a freelance creative business, it’s important to address several legal and financial matters. First, determine your business structure, whether it’s a sole proprietorship or a limited liability company (LLC). Register your business name if necessary, and obtain any required permits or licenses for operating in your area. Be diligent in tracking your income and expenses throughout the year, and ensure you understand your tax responsibilities. Consulting with a tax professional or financial advisor can help you navigate these aspects and set your freelance business up for long-term success.

Final Thoughts

Freelancing is a great way to earn money doing the work you love!  We’ve given you everything you need to get started making your mark on the freelance work and find clients who keep coming back for more.

Remember, shifting from the 9-5 world takes time, but if you’re persistent and continue to refine your skills, network like a boss, and build that dazzling portfolio your business will take off before you know it. Most importantly, never stop believing in your creative spark. The world of freelancing is as vast as your imagination, and your unique talents are the keys to doors you’ve yet to open.