A 5 Step Beginner’s Guide to Selling your Services Online

If you’ve proven to yourself that you’re good enough at what you do, you’re probably good enough to start selling your work professionally. Whether it be web design, coding work, or another type of online service, this guide will help you on the right path.

While most experience and lessons will be learned along the way, this guide has 5 main steps to becoming a professional online worker, which include:

  • Creating a successful portfolio
  • Getting more formal, and the steps involved
  • Becoming known in the online community and among clients
  • Setting a plan to go full-time
  • And finally, what’s needed to actually be a full-time online worker

1. Portfolio

The first essential step is to create a portfolio. This will take time. Even if you’re able build a website in a day– it’s not worth the rush. Create a design that is not only attractive, but also effective.

The Goal

The goal of a portfolio is for the visitor to really look at your pieces, and to be able to easily and quickly find the necessary information when they’ve decided to work with you.

The Solution

Portfolio pieces should be high-quality, and easy to view. Ideally, they should be on the front page, and the main focus. When the potential client is done looking through your work, they should then be able to find pricing, terms, and most importantly: a way to contact you. Have contact information on the front page as well, and include a form for ease of use.

What if you have nothing to put in it?

This happens quite often with beginners. You’ll need to create a base portfolio, even if the works are not done for a client, or they’re done cheaply. Start searching on Freelancing forums, Craigslist, and job boards for potential clients. Try to find clients dealing with church websites, non-profit organizations, or small companies on a low budget. Offer your services for free, or for a very low cost.

If possible, create a website for your local church, school organization, or something of the like. Getting known in your own community can arise more clients down the road as well.

2. Get Formal

With a few projects completed, you have a strong working portfolio. You’ll probably want to leap up and start finding even more clients, or head straight to the mall to spend your hard-earned money. Before you do that though, you have to realize you’ve just started a business. At this point, it’s smart to set up a few formal rules.

Create a Contract Template

Going pro means you can run into problems along the way. It’s time to create a formal contact to share between you and any future clients.

Below are a couple of useful links about how to create a contract for freelancing:

Payments and Invoicing

This will all have to be laid out in your contract as well, but it’s time to start thinking about a real payment plan. Are you going to work per project or per hour? How will you track your hours? How will you send your clients invoices?

Even though you may be a beginner, having professional invoices, timesheets, and a payment plan gains you loyalty with the client. Also, by better analyzing what your work is actually worth, you’ll earn a more effective income per time spent.

Loose Ends

Find any other loose ends that might be making you seem unprofessional. For example, if you’re still using your Gmail account for client contact, switch to an email address with your portfolio domain name. If you don’t have a domain name at all, it’s time to get one. You are now switching into the realm of a complete online business.

3. Getting Known

After you have a set base portfolio, and you’ve created all the necessities, you can start really advertising your work. Advertise your services in forums and submit your portfolio and services to directories. Be sure your portfolio is optimized for search engines correctly, and submit your portfolio to them.

Try some of my articles on SEO & Web Traffic:

There are a ton more tips and techniques to becoming a known designer than the few I’ve mentioned here. Do your research.

4. Set a Plan to go Full-time

At this point I’m assuming you’ll still be freelancing part-time, with another full-time job for income. As you start to see a regular client base, however, you may start thinking you want to go even more professional. To do this, you’ll want to create a schedule for yourself.

Don’t Quite your Day Job

This is the number one rule for any article like this, but it can’t be stressed enough. If you think you’re making a lot now, it’s not going to seem like that if you quit your other job. It’s a process of slowly weening into working as a freelancer.

Create a Schedule

Create a formal schedule for yourself. Create a schedule over the next few months, over the week, and down to the day. Just because you’ll be working from home, doesn’t mean you’ll be working less.

Don’t Take too Many Clients

Just because you need the money, that doesn’t mean you should take on more clients than you can handle. If you can only handle one at a time, then so be it. If you can do two or three, then that’s great. If you’re starting to get more requests from potential clients, it may be time to switch to part-time with your day job. You can start to slowly adjust your schedule as you get more work. Just be sure the work is guaranteed.

Go Full-time

With enough clients and experience, you will eventually be able to move to a full-time freelancer selling your work online.

Reevaluate

When switching to this stage, it’s a good idea to reevaluate your work’s worth. You may be able to charge more now. You should also be able to take on more clients with more free time. Be sure your portfolio is up to date, and consider a revamp of the entire site to represent your updated status as a professional.

Stick to the Schedule

Get up at a normal time, and work normal hours. With more freedom, it may be easy to stray. By treating it like a real job, you’ll be more likely to stick to it and treat it professionally.

Find Other Sources of Online Income

If times get slow, take use in the extra time to explore new venues. Start a blog, sell some advertising space, or start a new service. Expanding your personal empire creates endless possibilities.

Think About Joining a Team

You could start to think about joining an online team to do work with, or create your own firm. More clients could be found and the work could be spread out evenly so there are no times of too much or too little work. With a working portfolio and the tons of experience, it should be easy to get started, with just the technicalities to take care of.

Conclusion

It’s obvious to say this process won’t be fast. It may take a few years, in fact. These are the essential steps any online worker has to take before they go pro. If anyone has gone pro with something they love to do online, or has done at least some work online, tips and experiences are always welcome in comments.

Written By Kayla

Kayla Knight is a 20 year old college student, part-time web developer, freelancer, and blogger. Webitect is where she spends too much of her freetime, sharing interesting finds and valuable resources. Be sure to check out her portfolio.

4 Comments

  1. Matt Hanson

    April 6th, 2009 at 09:00 am

    Good writing. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed my Google News Reader..

    Matt Hanson

  2. Laura

    April 10th, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    I’m visiting from the 31 Day Better Blog Challenge. Thought I’d get a look at some of the other blogs and bloggers.

    This is a great idea for a post Kayla. But, “getting more formal” is a bit sloppy for your professional post. Just plain “Get formal” would work better. I’m Stumbling your post cause it should be read. It’s a great topic.

  3. Kayla

    April 10th, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Laura, thanks for the tip. I can see your point, and I’ll change it as soon as I get a chance today. Also, thanks for Stumbling my post!

  4. Rafy Higueros

    July 10th, 2009 at 01:07 am

    Wow I really enjoy this post.. it was very useful for me.. :)
    I really like the way you write, I read “The Roadmap To Becoming A Professional Freelance Web Designer” at Smashing Magazine and I love it.. :)
    keep that way… I’ll definitely twit this post..