11 Things I've Learned in 1 Year as a Freelancer in Asia & Australia

11 Things I’ve Learned in 1 Year as a Freelancer

11 Things I've Learned in 12 Months as a Freelancer

Freelancing is tough. No need to worry about scaling or knowing every single detail about your service offering instead learn on the job and focus on getting clients, if you that you will win.

In 2017, Martina and I packed up our stuff and left our jobs in Dublin to go on our first mini-retirement to travel to Asia and move to Australia. I had been following numerous successful entrepreneurs and thought I could go freelancing to pay for our travelling.

Unfortunately, it didn’t exactly work out as planned.

Here are my keynotes from the year….

#1 Meet Market Demand 

Be warned though don’t just quit your job and expect to do the same thing for someone else. Ideally, I could have just went project management freelancing but unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. I did spend the first 3 months applying for project management jobs with no success. There was a demand for digital skills like website management, development, and marketing luckily enough in my spare time for the last 4 years this has been my hobby. Looking back I should have focused on providing services to what people wanted.

So you need to know freelancing is a slow burner and try taking on work freelancing work while working your 9-5 job and don’t make the jump till you know you can get clients.

#2 Start with Local Businesses

After spending 3 months applying for PM jobs on Upwork with little or no success I resorted to applying for jobs on Gumtree. Originally would have seen this as cheating since they didn’t come through a marketing or email campaign because it wasn’t scalable but it turns out who cares its money and got to learn 10X more being actually onsite with clients. If I was starting over this is what I would do… 

  • Apply for small local gigs on Gumtree & Craiglist 
  • Put up FREE ads offering your services on Gumtree 
  • Put up posters in local supermarkets 
  • Join all local Facebook groups (People are constantly looking for recommendations for services – got my first SEO client from this) 

#3 Tell People What You Do 

Talking to people is easily the best way to get clients, got my first two month’s rent paid for by creating a Shopify website for the landlord. Then once my friends realized what I was doing they started tagging you in posts on Facebook and will try recommend you when they can.

Local Facebook groups are really good place for finding clients, when people do tag you just message the poster don’t bother commenting.

#3 Just Get a Foot in The Door 

For my first big client where I built two websites, managed a software upgrade project and provided SEO services the actual initial job was a data entry role. Before the interview research on the companies website and saw it wasn’t mobile optimized, no SEO, absolutely zero conversion optimization so I just explained what I could do for them instead of discussing what they advertised. 

That first meeting was a recon mission trying to identify their pain points. Then took this information and got solutions/explanations for their concerns.  Then at our next meeting, I had a doc outlining what they could do and a demo of a basic WordPress website. Once they knew I had the skills they needed they were happy that I could backup what I was saying. They didn’t request this I just went the extra mile and it paid off. 

#4 Get Paid to Learn 

Originally, when pitching my services I knew high-level strategy, could talk the lingo and most importantly explain it to the owner what they needed to do to get the results they wanted. When I was implementing the strategy though they were lots of unexpected outcomes which couldn’t have been foreseen without actually doing it. 

Before I was trying out strategies like the sky scraper on my blog which took crazy amount of time with zero ROI. I rationalized it as “learning” but it didn’t pay any bills. When I got clients I was implementing marketing strategies on their websites, learning what and where was suitable and most importantly getting paid for it.  

This was probably the biggest learning point over the last year. 

#5 Upwork isn’t a Silver Bullet

Freelancers predicted to become the U.S. workforce majority within a decade, with nearly 50% of millennial workers already freelancing, annual “Freelancing in America” Upwork study finds.


Upwork is great and has plenty of job listings but I received very little responses. Then like most people online I switched my focus to the next shiny thing – my project management blog and basically forgot about Upwork.

Now I know Upwork is just one possible work stream, should have focused on local ads & outreach.

  • Build up reviews and do jobs for penny on the dollar so could get my profile flagged as a “rising star”. 
  • Play the numbers game. With Upork you just need to commit to applying for 5-10 jobs a day for 2-3 weeks. 

#6 Get an Accountability Partner 

The best thing about 3M1K was being part of a community of freelancers all chasing the same dream of financial freedom. The course has a Facebook group where they do Wednesday win Day, Friday Fail Day where members fill in people on what they are up which really helps. When you are part of the community it also gives you an opportunity to get an accountability partner someone in a similar situation as yourself who you can talk to. It can be a pretty lonely road freelancing.  

#7 Pick a Niche 

I kind of have the attitude I can do anything so really struggled with this but what really helped was trying loads of different things. Over the last year have done website development, process mapping, SEO, content marketing, Facebook marketing, graphic design, content writing, a digital marketing consulting, teach project management, doing project management, PPC Adwords.

Being honest with myself I would have been 10X better to pick one thing and stick with that.

Know How to Price Work Freelancing

#8 Know How to Price Work

Nobody wants to underprice themselves and make sure they are getting what they think they are worth but being honest if you don’t have a few years experience or an extensive portfolio you can’t be charging top dollar and expecting to get away with it. There will be expectations and if you have the sales skills you should pitch high prices for high-value clients. 

I started charging $30 per hour and last time priced $65 simply because my confidence has increased and got better at what I do. It didn’t simply double overnight. Went for $30 to $38.50 to $45 to $55 to $65. The reason it increased is that I was getting that from clients than for every new client I pushed the price up since… 

  1. Knew I had the skills to deliver 
  1. Had cash flow from other clients which put me in a stronger position to not need clients. 

Here is a freelancing pricing guide I found online that I used to help price the various services especially since it was all new to me.  

#9 Don’t Rely on Clients 

It’s happened at least a dozen times where get a phone call or email from a prospective client looking for a service. You talk them through the process/service, asking questions and try to identify their pain points. They sound extremely happy and confirm they will go with your services. Then never hear back from them again. I have spent all night up writing up contracts and proposals for dead cert clients only for them to fall through for some random reason to just them never following through 

It’s extremely frustrating but just do not rely on a client’s business till the money is in your bank account. A good working relationship can easily seem like a new found friendship but don’t be mistaken it’s a business partnership, not friendship. 

Never be Afraid to Follow-up

#10 Never be Afraid to Follow-up 

Even though they never got back to me I still do follow-up either with email or phone which has converted one or two so never be afraid to follow-up. Best way to remember follow-ups s put a meeting or a note in your calendar to follow-up with them. 

#11 Set Mini-Goals for Small Wins

The biggest mistake I made was not setting goals. My overarching goal was to create a digital agency and I should have set weekly goals to achieve this and this would of helped stop getting distracted. I could have asked myself writing this blog posts, doing this course does it really help me to achieve my goal? I think 80% of things I focused on then didn’t and that was one of the biggest failures. At the time the real thing that would have moved the needle is speaking to more people and getting more clients. Instead, I lacked confidence in thinking I could actually do it and what I was learning was right.

To maintain focus I discovered this model from Third Circle Theory:

  1. Build Knowledge
  2. Take Action
  3. Get a Small Win
  4. Repeat

This helps to gain confidence, confidence overcomes fear, then you set higher goals and belief is formed.

This will ensure you don’t give up and keep that focus you will need to succeed.