My Freelancing Journey

How I went from being paid 1.66$ per hour to creating my own agency

Chapter 1 : Epiphany

Back in April 2015, I was a normal business school student. In my free time, I enjoyed reading publications like HBR, Lifehacker or asking and answering questions on Quora. Many times the articles that I enjoyed were the advice articles.

Some of you might argue that those articles are stupid, and in a way they are. However, the reason for them being stupid is because barely anyone actually follows the advice.

One day I decided that it was time to follow a specific piece of advice that I had seen many times. Mostly on articles about getting rich, or having a job, or creating a company.

This piece of advice was :

Start Freelancing

And so I did. To begin with, I laid down a basic plan.

  1. Find what skills I have are in demand at a reasonable rate
  2. Decide on a pricing
  3. Market myself

The first step was the easiest one. I had always been interested in marketing and been kind of a geek so digital marketing seemed to be a perfect choice. Even though I didn’t know much about it, it seemed that it was easy to learn it online because of the numerous resources available.

Deciding on a pricing was a bit more tricky. I had to balance affordability with perceived value. If the price was too high I wouldn’t have any clients and if it was too low I’d perceived as “cheap” which would be a bad start in terms of reputation.

Finally, as to marketing, Upwork appeared to be the right solution because it’s a marketplace putting freelancers and clients in contact. So I assumed it would be “easy money”.

Chapter 2 : Freelance Beginnings

And at first, it was easy money. I got my first job within 2 days . It consisted in auditing a website to make sure it appeared high in search rankings. I thought it would take me one hour so I charged 10USD.

My latest Upwork profile

In the end, it took me around 6hrs because of the lack of defined process. So the hourly rate turned out to be 10USD/6 = 1.66USD per hour. For this rate, it would’ve been better to take a part-time job in Singapore where I live.

Anyway, I decided to give it another go and a few days later I landed my second client for social media and blogger outreach.

This turned out to be a great contract for which I worked more than 25 hours at a rate of around 18USD per hour.

After that, I was pretty satisfied and thought that freelancing was my new ideal career path.

Except that, after a few days nothing happened. I continued applying for jobs only to be rejected endlessly.

Chapter 3 : goodbye Upwork #1

Finding clients wasn’t and will never be an easy task. I registered on other websites which were either fraudulent, overcrowded with poor quality freelancers or clients or had ridiculous fees.

Observing that I decided to create my own website using Squarespace and I assumed that because it was beautiful and my offerings were clear I would get more clients.

My first website

Once again, I was dead wrong. People weren’t suddenly going to type Bryan Blanchot on Google to find marketing services.

So even though I kept that website I went back to Upwork. And drastically lowered my rates, and improved my profile.

I signed a few clients but nothing satisfactory and then in June Upwork increased their fees from 10% to 20% of the amount freelancers charge to clients and while they might had good reasons for doing so it’s not really fair for freelancers.

Chapter 4 : Creating an agency

This led me to decide that once and for all it was time to move out of Upwork and to develop my image better.

That led to the creation of a digital marketing agency. My objective with this agency is to serve more targeted, qualified, and interesting clients than on Upwork.

The reason why I decided to create this agency is because I was fed-up of the amount of bullshit I found on Upwork.

At the beginning expenses will be funded through Upwork revenue but once the clients “start rolling in” I’ll completely deactivate my Upwork profile.

A website is easier to market than an Upwork profile and gives more credibility.

Clearer Simpler’s website

It gives me the possibility to develop a vision and to try new things. And if by luck I have too many clients I can always hire freelancers myself.

Chapter 5 : Synthesis

Quickly with this agency, I signed two clients at an acceptable rate within the first week.

So to sum it up I went from business student to Upwork freelancer, to agency owner within a few months and I was able to learn a lot through this process.

Now the plan is to put the freelancing experience and the things I learn in B-school to work.