Out of all the different ways of earning money online, freelancing in India has seen a major rise amidst the Indian workforce. Be it students, home-makers, working professionals or retired personnel, many people are looking forward to learning how to do freelancing in India in the near future.
However, in a country where 9-5 jobs still dominate the market, freelancing is yet to achieve its potential. Also, there are many myths and queries among aspiring freelancers that remain unanswered.
That’s going to change for you!
I have been working as a freelancer for around four years and since you’re here reading my article, I can confidently say that I know my stuff well. I have gained a lot of experience in my freelancing career, and I would like to share it with you through this article.
Mainly, I would take you through the following points in my journey of freelancing in India:
Why wait any longer?
Making the decision: Starting my freelancing Journey
I have been into recruiting for a major period of my life and in 2011, I used to work for a company in Gurgaon (now Gurugram) and managed a huge portfolio.
Everything was hunky-dory, but little did I know that my current lifestyle, which involved long sitting hours in front of the computer, would cause my health to deteriorate.
After some time, I started facing major health issues like severe back pain and cervical stress.
It reached a stage where I was bed-ridden for around three months!
Now, because I was at a very senior position in my firm, I was able to manage my work without going to my office. I had the freedom to work remotely. At that time, I couldn’t work on my computer as I had a sling on my hand and a collar on my neck.
Fortunately, the company could afford to give me support by appointing other people to handle my computer work.
At this point, a very big question popped up in my mind.
And it was, what if a junior employee would’ve had to go through the same situation?
The company wouldn’t have been able to support him/her immediately!
He would’ve had just two options
- Either go without pay
- Or quit the job
“How would I make money if I were not able to go to my office due to some reason?”
Searching for an answer to this question was one of the reasons why I started thinking about freelancing work.
The Global Recession
2008 - 2013 there was a great recession. Many senior professionals were ruthlessly laid off in front of my eyes.
Since I was in the hiring business, I received endless calls from highly-experienced professionals who were struggling to find a new job. They reached a point where they couldn’t manage their loans and expenses. Consequently, their finances immediately came to a hit!
The demand of job opportunities kept on increasing exponentially, while at the same time, their availability decreased at an even faster rate!
This was quite alarming for me and many others out there who were totally on the mercy of their companies.
After some time, when things started getting back on track, I moved to Pune on the role of country-head for my company. The workload increased from what it was previously and I had to continuously work in night shifts.
But again, since my work involved long sitting hours, my health conditions came to an all-time low.
In 2016, my back pain and cervical stress started building up to a stage where my doctor said that if I don’t do something about my current lifestyle, I could face paralysis!
“Either quit your job or lose five years of your life”-these were the exact words of my doctor.
Just remembering my situation back then sends chills down my spine!
So, eventually, I quit my job and decided to work from home and start something of my own i.e freelancing!
The Need for a Passive Income
While I was in my corporate job, I overlooked the potential of a passive income. Also, I wish that I was sensible enough to start my freelance business alongside my job.
This is because it is quite difficult to start something new from scratch when you urgently require money, or when your life puts you in a panic-inducing situation.
However, this did not happen because when everything goes according to plan, we forget to prepare ourselves for the worst!
I made this mistake
You just need to learn from it!
I believe that every working professional should be well-aware of these four things that can affect his/her career adversely:
The Great Recession of 2008 rendered numerous people jobless.
This issue came into light after COVID-19. All of us are already well-aware of the havoc caused by this Pandemic in our daily lives along with the Job market.
The Chennai floods of 2015 caused 50,000 job losses.
Like my own example, you never know when your body might betray you!
These things are totally beyond our control. Due to these events, our future plans come to a sudden halt.
This is when a passive source of income is the only solution that will help you survive, which, unfortunately, I didn’t realise earlier.
When my Doctor gave me a frightening reality check, I had to leave my job but I didn’t have a clue of what we would do now!
The only thing we could do was use our skills and make money i.e freelancing work in India
I had already decided that I would not enter my family’s traditional brick and mortar business. I knew that handling godowns, sales processes and leg work were not my cup of tea. There is a huge cycle to maintain, and the expenses incorporated within it are even heavier!
In a business, whether or not you’re making any profit at all, your expenses remain stationary, you just can’t cut down on them.
Therefore, I thought of creating some source of passive income online and that’s how the journey of freelancing and creating websites started.
Getting clients as a freelancer
Time and again, many people ask me which websites they should target to get assured freelance jobs in India.
When I started out, I had the very same question in my mind.
However, over the years, I have found the perfect answer to this question!
Nothing works unless and until you build an audience of your own.
In the beginning, you should focus on developing your portfolio and increasing your reach among the people in your niche.
You should try to build strong contacts with influential people.
Positive comments on your profile would certainly act as a gold mine for you!
Think from your client's perspective
Let’s suppose that you’re looking for an IT consultant for your firm.
You would immediately focus your attention to freelancers who have a lot of feedback/recommendations and following.
You would look for someone who’s trustworthy and this trust comes from feedback and content analysis.
As a freelancer looking for such an opportunity, you should create a blog on Linkedin and post quality content. There is a high chance that your clients would contact you before you contact them!
Therefore, blogging is an essential skill for all freelancers. Your posts should demonstrate your knowledge. Your client should be able to get an idea of your experience and expertise.
Believe it or not, this tactic is quite underrated.
The Strategy - if you want to start freelancing in India
Clients can decipher a lot about you from your feedback and blog posts!
So, instead of contacting people and asking them to appoint you, you must make yourself so capable that clients would try to connect with you themselves!
It is quite true that when you’re asking for work, you’re always on the downside.
However, when people are connecting with you, you always have an upper hand!
To increase your influence, you can use social media sites such as LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook etc. depending on your niche.
The importance of having a personal blog cannot be stressed more.
These things in sync with each other, and a continuous flow of content on what your abilities are, or what you have to offer is the way to go!
This will take time, but in the future, you’ll realise that every second spent was worth it!
Top freelancing websites for beginners in India
Underlying risks in the freelance business
The biggest risk or drawback you can face in the freelance business is losing your time and money.
Let us understand this with an example:
Let’s suppose that you’re new in the freelance business.
If you don’t have your audience and contacts, you’re pretty much at the mercy of your client here. It’s possible that your client might pay you only after you complete your project.
Or worse, your client might decide whether to pay you or not based on your performance!
This can result in a huge loss of your time and money.
Some freelancers use legal measures to get their payment, but again, such kind of procedures are quite draining, physically and financially.
This risk can only be avoided by creating your own market before stepping into the freelance business, as mentioned previously.
I take 50% of my patent in advance to avoid such circumstances.
Yes, it is important to specify your terms and conditions to your client.
A lot of people are also concerned about whether or not they would receive enough projects to make sufficient money every month.
I can assure you that once you build a loyal audience and network, you wouldn’t have to worry about projects! They would keep coming to you.
There can be fluctuations, yes, but it would be wrong to say that you would ever be rendered penniless!
Other than this, I don’t really think that there’s any sort of risk in becoming a freelancer, because you can make use of all the time you have and decide how much you really want to work.
Once you’re at a stage where you don’t need to worry too much about making money, and can live a peaceful life with a limited number of projects, you might want to switch back to the regular routine of spending more time with your family
You would finally be able to balance your personal and professional life.
It all depends on your aspirations and expectations from your freelancing career
In short, there is no potential threat, unless and until you put yourself in a long term contract without any legal guarantee.
Highest paying freelancing jobs in India
Some of the most bought skills when freelancing work in India are:
- Digital Marketing
- Content writing
- SEO Specialist
- Social Media Managers
- Financial advisors
- Data analytics professionals
- Web developers
- Education and training
- Creative designers
- Video Editor
- Health and fitness coach
- Baking and Home Food Business
Digital marketing is very much in-demand.
FYI: if you are looking for top future jobs in India in 2020 - click here.
The world's highest paying job
Back in time, since the inception of business, or I would say since those days when the Barter system prevailed, the most in-demand and highly paid skill is nothing else but sales!
If you have the ability to sell something, you would be able to demand the amount of money that you need!
However, there has been a revolution in the way sales are conducted nowadays as compared to how they happened earlier.
Push vs Pull
Earlier “Push” sales used to take place. In this type of sales, a lot of pressure was put on the customer to buy a particular product or service.
The more the customer heard it, the more he was compelled to buy it!
You’re living in an illusion if you think that this type of sales pattern would work in today’s world!
Nowadays, if you would try to push your customer into buying your products, he/she would certainly pull away from you. No one would ever surrender to your requests.
People now go on the Internet, “Pull’ the required information and then decide whether or not they should buy that product.
They read reviews and do a lot of analysis before buying anything at all!
Let’s say that I’m an influential blogger with a huge audience. If I write about a particular product, it is quite possible that my viewers would go on to but the product I’ve written about.Running behind ‘highly-paid’ jobs would land you nowhere!
Importance of blogging
Blogging influences the sales of a product and helps people make buying decisions.
This is a major reason why Blogging has gained immense popularity over recent years.
People always pick up their phones and scan Google for relevant blog posts whenever they wish to research about a particular product.
As more and more traditional businesses are coming online, the need for digital marketing has been ever-increasing.
Consequently, it can be said that skills like blogging, website creation and digital marketing are mandatory to stay competitive in the freelance business.
Artificial Intelligence is also another highly-paid skill as AI is our future!
Without a doubt, AI is embedded in all our online systems and helps us process our customer’s psychology, buying trends and interests.
IT-related skills have always been one of the most highly-paid skills of all time. They do require knowledge, experience and expertise.
Decision making on what skill to sell
I believe that when you decide to become a freelancer, you shouldn’t start by looking at highly paid jobs and then decide where you want to offer your freelancing services.
This is a wrong yet popularly followed approach!
Unless and until you are passionate about what you do, and you can work for hours at end on your project without feeling the need to be pushed by someone else, you can never be successful.
Freelancing business is not about looking for highest-paying skills, but it’s more about asking yourself-” What is it that I love to do?” or “What services would I like to offer others?”
The skill you come across while answering these questions is the one you should be picking up on. Believe me, no skill goes wasted in the freelance business! You can make money from literally any skill that you possess.
If you follow your heart and work on what you’re passionate about, you would be able to make enough money for your survival as well as your future!
Working with clients from around the world
Many people ask me questions like “What is your take on International clients?”
For me, if you’re there to provide services, how does it matter that who’s the consumer?
The services you provide and the cost at which you provide them is going to stay the same whether your client is from India or the UK.
In some cases, it might happen that the skills you wish to offer are not so popular in India.
For example-hedge funds. If you understand the working of Hedge Funds and wish to guide other people in investing in the same, it’s possible that you might not receive many requests from India.
However, in foreign countries, many people actively invest in Hedge Funds.
So, in this case, you would need to build an international audience as well.You can talk to your ‘sad’ customers and resolve their issues so that they can be moved to the ‘happy’ customers bucket.
Favourite countries to sell freelancing skills
I have been asked on many occasions to reveal my favourite country in terms of clients for my freelancing work.
Now, I cannot be irrational by categorizing my customers by saying whether they were good or not. People connect with us from all walks of life. Currently, I sell a lot of online courses and as a result, many people connect with us from around the globe.
I have students from the UAE, Singapore, USA, India, and European Countries.
What I have observed is that everybody has a different level of understanding and expectations.
What each student wants to achieve by enrolling into my courses is different.
The course, content and teaching style is the same, yet everybody experiences it differently.
Consequently, each student would react differently.
All we have to understand is the agenda behind their reactions and resolve any issues.
There are only 2% of people across the globe who would intentionally try and trouble you. It’s not that they hold some grudges against you, but it’s just a habit which they develop over the period of time.
All we can do for such people is let them know if their expectations from our services are highly unrealistic and move on!
You can be quite sure of the rest of 98%, it’s just that their understanding level is different!
Therefore, as a freelancer, you can never categorize your customers as good or bad, but rather you should keep an eye out for “repeatable’ customers.
A repeatable customer would go on to buy your services and pay you. Whereas, a non-repeatable customer might not wish to invest his/her money in your services!
Your goal should be to convert non-repeatable customers to repeatable ones by providing them with knowledge about your business.
Another way in which you can group your customers is by listing them as ‘happy’ or ‘sad customers.
You can ask your ‘happy customers to give you valuable feedback. Trust me, getting feedback from your customers is equivalent to gaining a lifeline!
Top 4 qualities of a successful Freelancer
In my experience, here are 4 qualities that you need to become a successful freelancer in India:
- Self accountability
- Learning Curve
You need to maintain a discipline towards your work
Along with the freedom that comes with freelancing, also comes the temptation to procrastinate and be careless about your work.
Without this quality, your career as a freelancer is bound to cripple before it even starts!
If you are not sincere about your work, you’ll miss deadlines and consequently lose current as well as potential clients.
Creating a work schedule and sticking to it is paramount for the management of your daily activities.
You should stay self-accountable
You should be able to ask yourself questions like
- Did I make proper use of my time?
- Did I work on my project whole-heartedly?
When you work in a corporate office, it won’t make any difference if you do not utilise your time productively. However, when you’re working for yourself, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that you’re digging your own grave by not listening to your conscience.
You should have a learning curve
If you don’t have a learning curve, it would be impossible for you to stay in business. You need to upgrade your knowledge each and every day and keep up to date with the industry.
Consistency is Key
If you’re not consistent in what you do, your clients would find you highly unpredictable. No one would ever be able to trust you with projects in one go.
You cannot work for a month and go on vacation for the next two months.
No, it doesn’t work that way!
People should be assured by the fact that you would always be there to receive projects and deliver them on time.Inconsistency could cause you to lose your clients to your competitors!
Scope of Freelancing in India
The Freelance in India has seen a tremendous rise amidst COVID-19.
However, I have noticed that people have now started thinking aggressively about becoming freelancers, just after this pandemic happened.
This is because now they have started to realise the threat of being laid off or losing their income.
This has quite a negative impact on both, the Freelance market and freelancers because since you’re in a hurry to make money, you reach a point where you offer your services to customers at a lower price.
When you do so, the following situations arise
You seem inferior to your client-
Your self-respect is more important than money if you want to continue as a freelancer! Clients should not have the right to treat you inferiorly. If you’re completing their product sincerely, you have the right to ask for what you deserve. Do not settle for anything lesser than that!
You should research extensively before you present your rate card. Analyse the bids made online and then decide your pricing. Do not make the mistake of placing a higher or lower bid than what your particular service or product is paid for.
However, you can try providing additional benefits to your client and in turn, increase your rate. Providing more and demanding less is never going to work!
Do not let your client be under the impression that you would do any kind of work or that you’re desperate for money.
You compromise on the quality of your work-
It is human nature that we would not work sincerely if we are not paid as per our will.
If you do not deliver quality work, your client would lose trust in you.
In fact, I have seen many companies dropping the idea of hiring freelancers due to the very same reason.
This adversely impacts the Freelance market
All of this happens because
- You haven’t given your freelance career much thought before starting it
- You haven’t created a business plan
- You haven’t built your audience
- You haven’t spent time in introspecting yourself and deciding which services you would be offering
You can avoid all of this by pre-planning your freelancing journey using the tips and mantras mentioned earlier in this article.
Decisions made hastily in panic would never benefit you in the long run!
All in all, it can be said that the future of freelancing in India looks bright with a positive and diversified scope of growth.