Here’s How You Can Become A Freelancer In India: 2020 Edition

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how to become a freelancer in india
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From how to start freelancing to freelancer earnings & FAQ’s: Everything a beginner needs to get started

Last updated: 30 August 2020

If you have been wondering about how to become a freelancer in India, say hello to the ultimate guide for women on how to not just become a freelancer but also on how to make it big.

This guide is meant for beginners or those who want to know how have just started freelancing in India.

Table of content

What is freelancing?

Pros & cons of freelancing

Freelance earnings in India

How to start freelancing?

Types of freelance jobs in India

FAQs

What is freelancing?

Freelancing or a freelancing job is when someone offers her services for an agreed period of time in return for a fee. Freelancers are independent of the business or individuals who hire their services and are free to take up multiple freelance projects at one time. 

Freelancers typically get freelance projects online – via freelance websites like Fiverr, Upwork or Kool Kanya Marketplace, or even through their own social media. Another way to get freelance projects is via onsite. This works when freelancers have an established network of clients and companies.

The different kinds of freelancing jobs

Here are five basic kinds of freelancers that you will find in the Indian and global job market. 

  • Full-time freelancers: They are the ones who make all of their income from freelance and do not have any other full time job. 
  • Contract Freelancers: These freelancers work with companies or on projects for a stipulated period of time. 
  • Side Hustle Freelancers: These are the people who have full-time jobs and freelance on the side. Most content writing freelancers start out this way, although, it is important to check your full-time job contract and see if you can actually freelance, legally.  
  • Freelance Business Owners: They are the people who treat freelancing as a full-blown business. They either work alone or have a team of people helping them create content for various clients.
  • Consultants: Consultants work with various companies, or projects, for a fixed amount of time every week/month/year. For example, I am a consultant for Kool Kanya for two days a week, and the rest of the days I freelance with other websites. 

The advantages and disadvantages of freelancing

Freelancing offers you a lot more freedom and flexibility than a regular desk job. You get to choose the type of work you do, who you work with, how much time you spend on a project, and the location you work from.

Research also suggests that employees who work more than 50 hours per week suffer from decreased mental and physical health. Work stress can also increase your risk of cardiovascular problems, including heart attack, by 60 per cent. You can maintain a sufficient work-life balance when you are a freelancer.  

Like with every other job, freelancing also comes with its own set of disadvantages that you should address. 

For starters, if you are working from home, it can get lonely. As a freelancer, you have minimum interaction with coworkers which can lead to you feeling isolated.

You also have to give up on job benefits like a PF account, health insurance and paid holidays. 

Freelance pros and cons in tabular form

Freelance advantage (Pros)Freelance Disadvantage (Cons)
Lot more freedom of choice than a regular desk jobLack of job stability and periods of time where you may get no work
Sufficient work-life balance when you are a freelancer  Working round the clock to meet deadlines
Getting to be your own boss/entrepreneurApart from your work, you also need to invest time in administrative responsibilities like marketing yourself, following up on your payments and chasing clients
Charging as per the work that you put inForegoing benefits like a PF, health insurance and paid holidays.
You usually work from home and do not have to commute & no office politicsWorking from home, it can get lonely minimum interaction with coworkers which can lead to you feeling isolated
More flexibility than a regular jobYour income depends on the workload. So you cannot take too many off days.
Table of freelance pros and cons

How much do freelancers earn in india?

According to a recent survey by PayPal, freelancers in India, on an average, earn about Rs 19 lakh.  The survey further breaks it down

  • About 23 per cent freelancers earn in the range of Rs 40-45 lakh annually
  • 23 percent earn in the range of Rs 2.5-5 lakh a year
  • 13 percent earn between Rs 10-15 lakh annually
  • 11 percent earn Rs 2.5 lakh or less annually 
  • 8 percent earn Rs 7.5-10 lakh annually

How much does a beginner freelancer earn and earnings of experienced freelancers.

According to our interviews with dozens of freelancers while handpicking the best for the Kool Kanya Freelance Marketplace we found out that beginner freelancers earn between ₹ 10,000 to ₹ 30,000 per month in India while experienced can even make up to ₹80,000 per month. (see infographic below). Of course this earning depends on the type of work and the scope.

Freelancer earnings in India & freelancer charges Infographic

We have compiled average earnings of freelancers, freelance earnings per month for both beginners and experienced freelancers in this infographic. We also talked to some freelancers on the Kool Kanya Freelance Marketplace and found out how and how much they charge for different freelance gigs so that you get a complete picture.

A detailed depiction of freelancers earning in India
Freelancer earnings in India per annum and per month for beginners and experienced freelancers

How much do freelancers charge in India + ways to charge for freelance work

There are three ways by which freelancers charge their clients.

Retainer basis

A freelance retainer is a contractual agreement between a freelancer and a company. The agreement states that the freelancer will work a certain number of hours per month in exchange for a flat fee payment.

Charging hourly

This works if you’re dedicating a certain fixed amount of time per week to your freelance clients. Set an hourly rate for your freelance skills and calculate by the amount of hours it takes you to finish a project.

Charging on a project basis

This is by far the most common method. Most freelancers take cognisance of their skills and account for everything that goes into a project. Project basis is usually when the freelancer sees a particular freelance project end to end.   

The following are some real life examples of how much freelancers earn, and how they charge.

Malvika a content writer with 3 years of experience charges on a per word charge. Her rates are between ₹3 to ₹10 per word depending on the complexity of the content to be written.

Kavya, a content writer with 2 years of experience as a content writer charges per hour.

Sayli, a graphic designer with 5 years of freelance experience charges on a project basis for logo creation and brand identity. Her rates begin at ₹30,000 for this.

According to your’s truly (Ainee Nizami, I’m the one who has written this article), your rates largely depend on the kind of work you are putting in and the client’s requirement – which means no two projects can be the same. 

When I had shifted from a full-time job to consultant role here what I did: I took my current drawn salary and broke it down in five days a week and eight hours a day to find my exact hourly rate. I added 20 per cent to it – to include health insurance and PF that I would not get as a consultant – and quoted an amount for my consultancy role. – ainee nizami (freelance content writer)

If you are just starting, you can ask your fellow freelancer friends what they charge. You could also ask a question on message boards like Quora to find out the current market rate. 

Set up a primary rate card of sorts for the services you offer. Here’s how you can get started if you are a content writer. 

  • 6 rupees per word for one article
  • Rs. 36,000-Rs. 50,000 (depending on the research work) for 20 articles a month for 300 words each  
  • And finally, Rs. 5,00,000 for an annual project ( articles + social media posts)

How to start freelancing in India?

The first step of course is to get freelance work.

If you’re starting freelance work without any prior experience it’s a good way to start building your network first. Tap into your primary network of friends or close acquaintances and let them know that you’re looking out for freelancing.

Networking is the key to getting new projects when you are a freelancer. Everything from attending events for freelancers to being a part of online communities of freelance, you never know when, how, and who can give you a job. Here are some of the things you can do:

  • An essential part of networking is to keep in touch with your old friends, acquaintances and associates. These guys are the ones you can count on to lend a helping hand, especially career-wise. 
  • Make it a point to attend at least one networking event in a month. It’s not only useful to meet new people, but the experience can be handy in accelerating your career graph.
  • Send out cold pitches to places that you want to work for once a month. Go through their website and social media to find out the kind of work they do, and make your pitch as personalised and relevant as possible.

Click here to read about a personal account of a successful freelancer and a detailed list of the top 5 networking tips that helped her get more work as a freelancer in India.

“Over the years, I’ve learnt the importance of putting myself out there and letting people know what I did. Networking not just helped me get more projects, which is the ultimate end goal, but I also got several ideas for the stories I wrote.” – Ainee Nizami, an expert freelance writer.

So start with updating your resume, your social media handles and letting people in your primary network know that you’re up for freelance work.

  • If your work holds a lot of visual value, use Pinterest to create a professional board and showcase your work to clients.
  • Use your Twitter bio, to sum up, the kind of work you do and share links to your work at least once a week.
  • Facebook is a great place not just to share links to your work but connect with like-minded people. Join communities and job portals and be sure to look out for posts detailing project requirements. 
  • Even if you are in the creative space, and LinkedIn seems too professional, use the platform to drive traffic to your other social media pages/blog. Connect with the heads of departments of the companies you like to work for and watch out for their posts on job opportunities.

Next up, join local freelance communities and check if someone has posted a requirement that is perfect for you. Some of the committees you can join are:

1. The Kool Kanya Community
2. Networking Now India
3. GUAVABEAN Free Facebook Group
4. Remote Jobs
5. Remote Work & Jobs For Digital Nomads

Apart from joining the committees mentioned above, check specialised job portals for freelance work and make your profile on those sites.

Read these guides to learn how to market yourself as a freelancer

Getting work as a freelancer – The ultimate guide for beginners & experienced freelancers

The ultimate Instagram guide on how to market yourself as a freelancer in India

Starting as a freelancer: Take care of legal aspects of freelancing

There must be a lot of questions in your mind when it comes to the legal aspects (business registration, taxes including GST and contacts for freelance work. We have written an exhaustive guide on all this and more after talking to charted accountants and lawyers. You can read this guide by clicking below.

Read the everything a Freelancer in India Needs To Know about Tax (GST), Registration, Contracts & Payments guide.

Ensuring work-life balance while working as a freelancer

While a freelance career ensures flexibility of working hours, you often tend up overworking to meet deadlines and make more money. One of the first things you need to do is set strict working hours for yourself. Don’t look at anything else during those hours, and focus on finishing your work.

If you are working with an international client, work out the odd timings in your schedule. Instead of starting at 10 AM while working for a US-based client, begin in the afternoon so you’ll be available for calls and meetings. 

Types of freelance jobs in India

Read our freelance success guides for specific freelance jobs

Frequently asked questions on freelancing in India

What Expenses Do I Need To Factor In While Charging For A Project?

There are several things to consider while charging for a project. First up, fix a minimum rate that you charge for all your projects. This is the rate that you will never compromise on no matter what the project is.
Once that’s done, add in your costs. Include things like conveyance if you have to go for multiple meetings for the project and a software fee if you have to purchase new software for the project.
Then think of the days you will spend working on this project and multiply those by your hourly/minimum rate. If you feel that the client is a difficult one and may ask for multiple changes, tell them that you will charge an extra fee after the second or third change. 
Lastly, don’t forget that you are paying a professional tax on this bill – make sure to factor in that 10 per cent. 

What Skills Do You Need As A Freelancer In India?

With a considerable amount of people taking to the freelancing life more and more by the day, upskilling is most certainly a significant part of the process.
Here is where you can find a detailed list of the Top 7 In-Demand Job Skills for freelancers in India in 2020.
And if you’re wondering how and where can you acquire these freelancing skills? Click here to know more about the best websites and online courses to upskill yourself.
Wondering how upskilling can help you get more work and finding success as a freelancer in India? Click here to read a successful freelancer’s account on how upskilling helped her in her career.
And here are the top 10 courses to sign up for as a freelancer in India.

What Is The Difference Between Freelancing And Working From Home?

While people often tend to use freelancing and work from home interchangeable, there is a big difference between the two roles. A freelancer is primarily self-employed possibly with a contract. Whereas someone doing work from home job may not be self-employed. They are most likely working remotely for one company and are an employee and not an independent worker

How Do I Avoid Scams And Fake Jobs?

According to a PayPal survey, in India, 61 per cent of freelancers report not having been paid at least once through their career. While the best thing to do is sign a contract with every individual or project you associate with, not everyone is willing to do so.
In such cases, what you can do is send out an email detailing the terms you both have agreed upon before you start the job. Make sure to mark one department head in the email, so that even if the person you are coordinating with leaves the company, your payments will not get lost. Don’t start working till you get a confirmation response on your email and treat that as a form of informal contract later. 
Another good idea is to insist on one face-to-face meeting with the client before you start the job. Visit their office to get an idea of their work culture and how genuine the company is. If’ it’s a fake company, there are most likely going to refuse your request. 
Another red flag to watch out for is when companies ask for money from you to give you projects. Refuse that deal instantly; it reeks of fraud. Remember it’s okay to say no to deals that don’t seem genuine or don’t interest you.
You could also ask around in your freelance communities before starting a job with a new client. Check for other people’s experiences, and ask them about the frequency of payments. 

Is There Any Specific Requirement To Becoming A Freelancer?

As long as you have the skill sets that a business or individual needs, you don’t need anything else. However, it is a good practice to:
Have a set of contacts who can give you freelance jobs or introduce you to the right people who can hire you
A basic blog/website where you can showcase your work
Updated social media profiles to let people know you are looking for projects
A basic understanding of handling your finances and marketing yourself

Research Credits:
Devika Awasthi
Kritiksha Sharma
Abhishek Munian

Ashutosh Bharadwaj
Dimum Pertin

Come, be a part of our women only career community where you can network, ask questions, share your opinions and collaborate on projects & opportunities. Join now.

Feminist. Writer. Reader. That's the precise order in which Ainee functions daily. She has been writing for a decade now, and her primary interest lies in working on pieces that resonate with the modern Indian women, helping them discover their own identities. Apart from writing over 1000-words a day, she loves to sit by the beach and dream of a better world, while sipping on an adrak wali chai.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Ainee,

    Thanks a lot for your guidance on Freelance writer/ writing. It makes several of my daughter doubts clear & hopefully after this post I feel I can again start working as a freelancer soon. Thank You!!!

  2. Hi Ainee,

    Thanks a lot for your guidance on Freelance writer/ writing. It makes several of my daughter doubts clear & hopefully after this post I feel I can again start working as a freelancer soon.

  3. Hei this blog is just super it helps a lot. Really just amazing .thank you ..i does not see anywhere this blog on any other social media ..i think this blog need marketing . Anyway thank you

  4. I love freelancing a lot, it not only helps me to stay updated about stuffs and helps me to earn while staying at home.
    Being the only girl, I earn more than from my brother and this all through freelancing

  5. Hello how to register in freelance activity i had experience 16 year fmcg like supermarkets & consumable durable & apparels like departments handled Store Operation Manager,Commercial Manager ,Inventory management,Loss Prevention Manager & Mis analyst departments.

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