What is a freelance business?
As a freelancer (or contractor) you’d be building and running your own business.
You would use specific skills or training to provide an online service. Clients or agencies would pay you for your time and/or output.
You might hire other people to help you out occasionally, but you’d be doing most of the work yourself.
If you don’t want to get a remote job, freelancing is my #1 recommendation to get started earning a living online.
Freelancing is one of 19 types of online business and considered a Level 2 online business, according to our framework.
6 Levels and 19 Types of Online Business
Level 1 = Novice
Okay for side income or beer money, but hard to earn a living.
Level 2 = Intermediate
Best for earning a living online when you’re starting out, but hard to scale.
Level 3 = Advanced
Easier to scale and higher income potential, but you usually need significant investment of time and/or money upfront.
Level 4 = Superior
Even more scalable and even higher income potential, but also more complex / difficult / expensive.
Level 5 = Distinguished
Most complex / difficult / expensive, but the rewards here can be massive.
Level X = Wildcard
These are the misfits. Many aren’t even considered businesses in the traditional sense, but they are all ways to make money online. You typically need a lot of time, money, or luck to succeed with anything here.
How can you make money online as a freelancer?
Here are the legit ways I’ve found to make money online with a freelance business…
Freelance Your Existing Skills
You probably already have skills you can freelance online.
For example, if you’re good with kids, you could try your hand at virtual babysitting via VeeBee…
- Virtual Babysitter at VeeBee
- $16 average hourly rate
If you’re an experienced entertainer, you could earn even more working as a performer at Virtual Babysitters Club…
- Performer at Virtual Babysitters Club
- $18 – $90 per hour
If you have decent social skills and enjoy teaching, you could help people learn English on iTalki…
- Community English Tutor on iTalki
- $4 – $25 per hour
You can earn even more on iTalki if you have a language teaching certification (like TEFL)…
- Professional English Teacher on iTalki
- $5 – $44 per hour
Or you could start freelancing the same skills you used at your 9-to-5 job.
That’s what Kat Ambrose did, going from producing content for an ad agency in Denver to running her own online writing business…
- Freelance Writer
- $4,500 monthly revenue
Similar story for Carrie Dagenhard…
- Freelance Writer and Content Strategist
- $67k – $91k estimated annual income
To be clear: you will have to learn additional skills to become a successful freelancer – the skill of getting clients being the most crucial – but leveraging your existing skills can get you earning good money fast.
Learn New Skills You Can Freelance
This can be done faster than you might think, given how easy it is nowadays to learn new skills via inexpensive or even free online courses.
A great example is Justin Clifton, a college dropout who spent two months building and practicing a new skill set. He landed his first client at $9 per hour and a year later was charging as much as $50 per hour while traveling the world…
- Freelance Google Ads and Web Analytics
- $6,000 monthly revenue
Fiona Wong got kicked out of college but was able to teach herself enough to earn a living online as a single mom with two kids…
- Freelance Virtual Assistant
- $7,000 monthly revenue
Writing is one of the most popular skills people learn to start freelancing.
Conor Walsh confessed to having “zero experience” when he started freelance ghostwriting, but was quickly able to earn a good income from it…
- Freelance Ghostwriter
- $2,700 monthly freelance writing income
To give a more extreme example of a self-taught freelancer, this 19-year-old hacker from Argentina earns big money helping major companies improve their cybersecurity…
- Ethical Hacker at HackerOne
- $1 million earnings in 3 years
Offer a Productized Service
A popular way to boost your freelance earnings is to offer a productized service.
For example, Wayne Chin sells his voiceover service as several “products” on Fiverr…
- Freelance Voiceover Artist
- $50 – $250+ revenue per Fiverr order
When you sell a productized service like Wayne, each project you work on is quite similar, making it easier to optimize your workflow and thereby earn more money in less time.
Work with Groups
Another way to scale a freelance business is to offer the same service to a group of clients rather than working with each of them individually.
For example, Nagina Abdullah started offering group coaching in addition to one-on-one coaching and was able to work with “hundreds more clients.”
- Online Weight Loss Coach
- $15,273 avg monthly coaching revenue
Pros and Cons of Freelancing
- Easy enough to get started even if you’re unskilled or inexperienced. You can work for free or at a low rate and learn as you go.
- You can work for several clients at the same time and diversify income, so you don’t have all your eggs in one basket.
- Can be a good way to gain skills and experience that you can use to find a remote job or build a higher-level business.
- Potential to scale into an agency business (see below).
- Feast or famine: many freelancers struggle to earn a consistent income unless they can charge a retainer or are particularly good at finding clients.
- While there’s plenty of ways to increase earnings, you’re essentially trading time for money, so there’s only so much you can scale without changing the business model.
Is freelancing a good way to earn a living online?
Yes, it can be.
I see it as the simplest type of online business to start and earn a living from.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy – many freelancers struggle to find clients and earn consistently – but it’s usually easier to earn a living with freelancing than with any other type of online business.
Freelance Business Resources
- The Hedgehog’s Guide To Skill Selection
Use this process to figure out which freelance skill you should focus on.
- How To Rapidly Build Your Skill
And start getting paid.
- How To Earn Your First $100 Online This Weekend
A three-step plan to find your first freelance clients.
- Double Your Freelancing
Brennan Dunn’s site about freelancing. His free email series is solid.
- The 6 Figure Freelancer
A short, top-rated course on Udemy to help you find more clients.