Sunday, August 7, 2016

Freelancing 101: How To Apply For A Freelance Job

Virtual Talent Philippine's Freelancing 101 blog posts are intended to help out freelancers who are
just starting out. From time to time, I do receive emails and messages asking me about how to get started in the freelance career, how to apply for a freelance job, how to create a proposal to potential clients, and the list goes on.

With my 5 years freelance work experience, I must admit I still have a lot to learn. Nevertheless, those years have given me sufficient learning experiences to understand the ins and outs of the business.

What I'd like to discuss right now is how to apply for a freelance job. However, before applying for a job, if you seriously want to make freelancing as your career, make sure you have your online profile ready first and if possible with your portfolio. Read my previous blog post on Freelancing 101: Beginner's Guide for New Freelancers to see what preparations you have to do prior to applying for a freelance job.

Freelancers are expected to be expert at something or at least experienced in various tasks. Hence, potential employers or clients anticipate that you are able to deliver the output efficiently. In most cases, which is true to most of the short term projects, clients just post their jobs and discuss the specifics and their expected output during interview. They are busy people hence they wanted to outsource freelance service so they can focus on the things they deemed more important. Sometimes, you only get to talk to these clients during the interview, start of the project and end of the project.

Some employers or clients might be willing to hire newbies whom they can teach and train you, micro manage you even, but don't expect you can negotiate your rate--they will hire you at entry level rate, which is actually what they are budgeted for.


Before sending your application or proposal, it is logical to find for the right freelance job first, right?

If you decide to find your freelance job or projects in a freelance marketplaces such as Upwork and, make sure you have a complete profile on those platforms with your skills highlighted.

Find jobs/projects that you can do confidently. Read job details and make sure you understand the requirements.

Remember, client's feedback is valuable for freelancers. The only way to get positive review is to deliver quality service. Choose jobs you know you can perform very well.

You may choose to take a different route, instead of applying for a job and compete with other freelancers, you may look for potential clients for your service, If you are a graphic artist for instance, you might consider networking with entrepreneurs, business owners, business executives, or even fellow freelancers on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is a goldmine for business but it is still an unfamiliar terrain to many freelancers, entrepreneurs and consultants.

Recruiters would sometimes post their needs for freelancers on LinkedIn. Sometimes, managers would message a member to offer jobs. But if you are an aggressive person and confident with the service you offer, you don't have to wait for those opportunities coming in, you create your own opportunities by networking with your potential clients on LinkedIn.

One helpful website I recently came across with that is really worth checking is Opportunity. It helps networking with your potential clients easy. The site matches you to some leads (people whom you'd be interested to network with). These could be recruiters or managers in your LinkedIn network who are looking for freelancers. You can even message them through the platform.


When you find the right job, immediately apply for it. In freelance marketplaces, timing is of essence. There are so many freelancers out there who are looking for jobs/projects just like you. When you spot an opportunity, go for it. As much as possible, apply for jobs with few applicants which gives you a higher possibility of getting interviewed. Websites such as Upwork and Freelancer shows you how many people have already applied for a job.

Send a proposal specific to that job you are applying for. If you've prepared or copied a proposal template, make sure you are customizing it to every job you apply. Employers can sense if it is a canned proposal.

Your proposal should include the following:
  • WHY you applied for the job;
  • HOW will you do the job, how much you charge and how much time can you allot for the project;
  • WHEN are you going to deliver the output;
  • WHAT is your qualification
Here is what you are going to see on Upwork when you are about send your proposal:

Upwork gives you an idea of the rate you can charge the client. It could be lower or higher than your published rate. It is really up to you how your price your service.

You'll see a space for your cover letter where you can write those WHY, HOW, WHEN and WHAT. Don't forget to properly address the person you are sending the proposal to. Sometimes the job description doesn't show any name but by looking at the feedback from freelancers, you may find a name. But if there is none, you can just write "Dear hiring manager".

Always remember, the proposal intends to share relevant information showing your potential client that you are capable of handling the project and to highlight your strengths and skills. You shouldn't write a lengthy autobiography and include information that are not really that important to the project.

 You are sending a proposal to express your interest on working with the client and for the client to know how you are going to work his/her project.

If you look at yourself as a subject matter expert or a consultant, that should be transparent in your proposal.

The client is mostly likely just interested to know about what you can bring to the table.

Follow instructions. Clients would sometimes ask you to write a keyword or answer specific questions. This helps them identify who are sending canned cover letters or weed out those who couldn't follow instructions.

Go straight to the point. Your profile already tells a lot to your client. You just need to highlight specific skills and mention similar work experience in your application.

Be creative.  The client is probably bored to death reading applications.

Ask questions. If something is not clear in the job description, you may want to clarify things.

Provide work samples or share your portfolio. Some clients would ask freelancers to provide samples. At times, they may ask you to do a test work say for an hour or 2. Be sure to ask for a paid test. Just imagine that client asking for a free test work to every applicants, he/she could probably get the work done just by asking for a test work. Did you get my point?

Upwork warns freelancers on customers asking for free work and consider the following illegal:

"Requesting, demanding, or receiving free services, including requesting Freelancers to submit work as part of the proposal process for very little or no money or posting contests in which Freelancers submit work with no or very little pay, and only the winning submission is paid the full amount."

You may email unsolicited proposals to people who do not publicly post that they are looking for freelance services. I must admit that I haven't done this yet except for pitching my travel articles to editors; but I've always thought I can always turn things around when the need arise.

You can network with your potential clients through LinkedIn, engage them for a chat, tell them what you can provide and ask if there is a possibility you can work together.

If you wanted to get noticed on LinkedIn, strive to build a strong presence in the social media site. If you are a social media manager, blogger or writer, you may showcase your skills by creating and posting your content in the blog.


Here are some winning proposals I've found from Googling. These will give you ideas on how to create your own cover letter/proposal.

Steps blog
Bren on the Road

Freelance life is never easy. It can be later on, you just need to set your foot inside the door first. It can be challenging at the very beginning. But I can assure you, the journey is worth it. You will learn a lot, not only about the business, but you'll discover a lot about yourself. Applying for a job can be a pain especially to newbies but once you won your first job, you're bound for more opportunities.

Success is not just about the money. It is also being the person that you will become. Many successful freelancers become what they are right now because they have failed, they get up and learn, and they try again.

If you find this blog post helpful, feel free to share. Thanks!

(Updated August 11, 2016)

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