Three No-Cost Ideas for Starting Out as a Freelancer

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The wife and I were at lunch when our waiter introduced himself. Right away, I noticed his golden voice. I asked if he was a student and what his aspirations were. He had left college for personal reasons but wanted to be a voice actor. He had no idea how to go about achieving this. Even from my students, I hear a lot of inquiries of how to get started as a freelancer and jumpstart their careers. Here are three tips for getting started in freelancing at no cost to yourself!

BUILD YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA CIRCLE

Having social media profiles is no new thing but are you using them professionally? Social media can be a powerful tool for marketing yourself. However, you need to begin thinking of yourself as a brand. Is your existing social media reflective of how you want to sell yourself? Probably not. Rather than painstakingly adjust your current online presence, create a new one. Start from scratch and shape each aspect of how you will be presented.

You need to begin with one email that can be used to create all the other profiles. This email could also serve as your primary contact. I recommend using Gmail since many services since you get a Youtube account and access to Google’s services (Drive, Docs, Calendar, etc.). Begin using this email to register for all the other websites and social media profiles.

A Facebook Page and Twitter will be great ways to publish your work, update people on your current projects, and socialize with followers. Starting a WordPress blog lets you both write on your current projects, your related interests and thoughts, and even create hub for all your other profiles. A Youtube and/or Soundcloud profile will let you upload and showcase your audio/visual work for potential clients.

With an online presence established, start publishing! Even when you’re not getting work, talk about your topic and become a source of information on it. This will help build yourself as a professional in your field. Find the message boards and other online discussion groups where other professionals meet and join the conversation. Do everything to put yourself out there.

FINDING FREE EQUIPMENT

Equipment is expensive. Professional media equipment easily costs thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars. The problem I’ve seen too many times are novice freelancers maxing out credit cards to get the toys but not knowing what’s next. Finding no gigs, they’ve put themselves in debt. If you are just starting out, then accept that better equipment must be earned.

“That’s all fine and good,” you say, “but how am I supposed to do anything with no equipment!”

Take an inventory. Chances are, you have a computer and a smartphone. That’s ok. Use what you have. Smartphones may not be professional equipment but you can still make a professional product with them. Check out my Smartphone Storytelling series! With just a smartphone and computer you could easily put together a commercial for a small business, a video for a church, and many other smaller gigs.

If you know anyone doing media, especially as a freelancer, see if they have any older equipment they don’t mind parting with. Through my early work, I managed to nab all kinds of gear, including an audio mixer and a lens for my DSLR. Get whatever you can and as you gain profit begin upgrading your tools.

Software is perhaps the easiest to get. Plan on doing audio recording/editing? Try Audacity, a free audio editor comparable to Adobe Audition. Need something to edit photos? How about GIMP, a free photo editor comparable to Photoshop. Animation and graphics? Blender. Video editing? Davinci Resolve. Even legal document templates are available online to help you create your contract (which you will need). Just start searching!

GET IN THE GAME

To start freelancing you need start doing it! There are many free online marketplaces to tap into that will put you right in the game. The basic plan on GigSalad allows potential clients to find you. Fiverr lets you create a job that you will do for $5 and other higher cost premium jobs.

To be more proactive, you could also look for opportunities on Craigslist and similar websites. These sites consistently have opportunities for freelancers. Indie filmmakers are always looking for casts and crews. Startup businesses have needs for photographers, media performers, and other roles. Seeking them out can help you choose the gigs that work best within your schedule and abilities.

Finally, if you are truly just starting out, you probably have no experience or any samples of your work. This makes it hard to get a paid gig. So forget about the money. Do pro bono. Many non-profits, churches, or small businesses have a need for media work but neither the resources or personel to do it. This approach allows you to help support a cause or business you favor. Additionally, its an easy way to build that portfolio when starting out.

Don’t be discouraged to start small and work up from there. You have to crawl before you run.

Freelancing isn’t for anyone. It takes a lot of work! However, you won’t get anything accomplished unless you try. Using no-cost strategies, you can test the waters before diving in and possibly getting in over your head. So go ahead! Get started!

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