Being the new kid on the block sucks, right? It's so overwhelming starting at the beginning. As new freelancers or bloggers, it can feel extremely overwhelming when you start to look at what you need to do to get ahead and be successful.

The feelings are not dissimilar to starting a new job…

I remember getting started as a new freelancer. I was giddy with excitement at the prospect of what I could do as a freelancer, how my life would change, that I kind of skipped over some important steps.

Here's what the first three months of my freelancing career looked like…

A Cautionary Tale

It was August 2011. Lise, a new freelancer, had just applied for her first gig on oDesk (now Upwork). She had decided to get her feet wet and see what she could do.

Having no prior experience as an SEO consultant (the area that Lise was freelancing in), Lise was pitching herself fairly low in the hopes that a client would take a chance on her.

After about two weeks of applying for low-paying gigs, Lise landed her first SEO client. The process hadn't been too bad, although chatting to someone over a Skype call was more than a little nail-biting… “what if they saw that huge pimple on my forehead?!”

Lise was excited about this particular gig. She had managed to score a pretty sweet deal and was being paid $300 to set up a simple WordPress site. While this wasn't really in line with being an SEO consultant, she felt she could do this regardless of her lack of experience.

She had set up her own WordPress website, so really, how hard could it be?

Fast forward to the following week, where we see Lise slumped over her laptop at 3am…

“OMG, what am I doing? This is taking forever!”

“The client keeps emailing me back and forth, asking for tweaks here and changes there. I'm going to have to pay someone to do some of these customisations!”

Lise was finding out that WordPress while easy to set up; when clients start to ask for things to look a certain way, then you're looking at customisations with HTML, CSS and PHP, which are definitely outside of Lise's current skill set.

By the end of the project, Lise has spent close to 40 hours on the ‘simple' WordPress site. Divide the payment of $300 by 40 and Lise was getting paid $7.5o an hour. Not at all what she could quit her job on! And let's not forget that she had to pay another freelancer to do some of the customisations… Lise was actually in the red by the end of this job.

While it's always great to jump in and get started, there are some key areas that you need to make sure are in place before you do this.

Three Important Tips for New Freelancers & Bloggers When Starting a Side Hustle

Top tips for new freelancers and bloggers just starting a business. Click through to learn what these are now.

#1: Stick with your skill set/niche

When you're just starting out, it can be tempting to just take on any gig that you feel you can do. But if you don't want to end up like newbie Lise above, then you'll take this advice.Stick to your skill set or niche when starting out

For your first few gigs, stick with the skill set that you're starting your side hustle with.

Similarly, if you're writing a blog that goes along with your side hustle, focus on blog posts that relate to that skill.

If you want to connect with the right clients and target audience, stay within the skill set/niche that you want to make money in.

If you spread yourself thin initially, it will be difficult to get traction and will be more than annoying when you find yourself in a situation like Lise above… earning $7.50 an hour and having to pay someone else to finish the job for you.

Don't put yourself in this situation upfront. Yes, you can diversify your skills further down the track, or expand the niche that you're writing about on your blog, but do this once you've got yourself well established in what you're starting with.

Lise learned her lesson. After this particular gig, she took a step back, decided that being an SEO consultant wasn't for her and decided to focus on freelance writing. 10 months later, she quit her job and went full-time as a content creator for a number of small businesses, having well and truly replaced her income.

Not once did I deviate from freelance writing during that time!

#2: Track your income and expenses

Another area that new freelancers and bloggers kinda leave out of the mix in the beginning is keeping track of what they're earning and what they're spending.

If you've never had to run a business before, it can be difficult to know what to keep track of, what expenses you should be recording, what amount of income to note down for tax time etc.

Finding the right tools to help you manage this is an important part of starting out as a creative entrepreneur. If you can nail this early on, it will be a lot easier for you come tax time.

Some of the tools I recommend you check out include:

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  • Freshbooks (invoice management, income and expense tracking, time tracking)
  • Invoice2Go (invoice management right from your smartphone!)
  • Wave Apps (similar to Freshbooks with an app too)
  • Nutcache (a cheaper alternative for budget-conscious freelancers)


Honestly, this is something I wish I'd implemented early on. It took me a good 12 months and one tax season to get my head around this and start tracking it all. Once I did that, the hassle and stress was removed and now, my accountant takes care of it all 🙂

#3: Setup onboarding sequences

Whether you're a new freelancer working with clients or your a new blogger connecting with readers, you need to have an automated onboarding email sequence that lets your clients and readers know what to expect next.

Let's look at this from the new freelancer point of view.

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Customer Onboarding: 

What happens once you start working with a new client? Do they know what to expect next? Setting up a 3-5 email sequence will help your clients know what to expect when working with you.

Here are some ideas on what you could include in each email:

Email #1: Welcome, introduction to how you work (when you're available to chat), a copy of the contract and your bank account details.

Email #2: Links to their Dropbox or Google Drive folder where you can easily collaborate

Email #3: A brief update on the project

You could also include a few videos on how to use any project management tools you're using too.

The point of this sequence is to make it easy for your clients to work with you.


But maybe you're not doing a lot of freelance work. Maybe you're focusing on your blog and connect with readers as you build out your first course. What should you send them?

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Blog Reader Onboarding: 

As a new reader grabs one of your freebies/lead magnets, what happens next? Do they get the freebie straight away? How do you want them to interact with you?

Ideally, you want to have a welcome email series that goes out over 5-7 days, letting them know what to expect next from you.

Here are some ideas on what you could include in each email:

Email #1: Delivery of freebie (this should be immediately sent after they confirm their email)

Email #2: A welcome email from you that says who you are, what you believe and how you can help them. Ask them a question to figure out where they are at

Email #3: Links to some of your best blog posts that provide more value to your reader

Email #4: Soft sell of any products you have or provide another freebie (something they wouldn't be expecting!)

Email #5: Let them know that they will now hear from you regularly and mention any products you recommend that will help them improve their life (or business, depending on your niche)

If you've got any webinars, mention those and link to any guest posts that might be of interest too.

The point of this sequence is to connect further with your readers and get them to know, like and trust you.


I hope you can see how important these three tips are to the success of your freelancing business or blog. I wish that I had focused on these when I got started and I'd love to help you avoid making those same mistakes.

But it's over to you now! Implement what you've learned and leave a comment below if you think there are more important aspects new freelancers and bloggers should focus on.

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Lise Cartwright
Lise Cartwright

Founder of Hustle & Groove and your creative business strategist. If you want to get notified of new posts just like the ones you see here, then make sure you join the awesome H & G community — Join Now!

    15 replies to "My Top Three Tips for New Freelancers & Bloggers"

    • Joel

      There are some really good points here, I am constantly looking at what I can do easily and thinking it would be great to do this bit extra, but in most cases, I know that bit extra is going to be a challenge for me. It is something that I can work out and fumble through on my own project’s, but something which really needs to be done right and efficiently when it comes to a client’s project.

      I think it is really great advice to stick with what you do well, and what you know, it can save so much stress later on. Although another aspect of this can be ensuring there are specific and clear guidelines on what services are included within the scope of the project.

      • Lise Cartwright

        Agree Joel! Clear guidelines always help but clients don’t always provide them!

    • Veronica

      Great tips Lise! It’s so hard to price jobs when you’re first starting out. I’ve had so many friends talk about this very problem. I agree it’s really important to set up expectations at the very beginning about what customizations/changes are included in the fee.

      • Lise Cartwright

        Agree Veronica, I find that if you take the initiative and lead clients through what you need, it works better and less issues ?

    • Marc Guévin

      Thank you Lise for mentioning Nutcache as an income/expense tracking tool, but Nutcache also includes all the project management tools a freelancer/blogger needs to become successful. 🙂

      Marc Guévin
      The Nutcache Team

    • August Roundup: Great Posts I Have Been Reading | Coach Joel

      […] 3. Hustle & Groove – My Top Three Tips for New Freelancers & Bloggers […]

    • Luka

      Hi Lise!

      So true about the first point, in fact we often accept gigs just to have something to work on and to be paid. But too often it happens like you described it – I also had similar experience.:)

      And thanks for the tips for the customer onboarding sequence, they are valuable!


      • Lise Cartwright

        Hi Luka, thanks for commenting! And no problem re onboarding, I’m glad you found it valuable 🙂

    • wendy mccance

      Terrific advice! Loved the outline of the first few emails. Always a helpful way for new freelancers to stay on target. Just found your blog and will be reading some more articles. I’m really enjoying how you lay it all out there!!

      • Lise Cartwright

        Hi Wendy, thanks so much for your comments. I’m glad you found it helpful!

    • Cristin

      Hi Lise. Lots of great advice here. I just began writing a monthly blog for a small company focusing on women’s health. I’m an American living in Europe, and everyone I talk with says companies are desperate for native English speaking writers, but I’m having a hard time finding clients. I’m not sure where to even begin and the quarterly tax bills are pouring in. Any advice on how to drum up some business? All suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Even some short projects would be great. Thanks so much in advance.

      • Lise Cartwright

        Hi Cristin, thanks for your comment. I’d start by connecting with some business groups on and grabbing business cards and following up to see if you can offer your services. That would be a great place to start. Industry events are another. It’s about building relationships and where possible, niching down so you’re specialising in what you write about. Then you can connect with those companies even further.

    • Aurora

      Hey Lise! I LOVE your onboarding email set. That’s such a good idea. I feel like signing up for new blogs is such a risky thing to do because you may get weird emails afterward, but that clears it up. So, I was reading here about insurance, and you talked about keeping up with your expenses. Is there any insurance that you use yourself?

      • Lise Cartwright

        Hey Aurora, thanks for the email. Insurance is such a personal thing and depends on where you live… at a minimum, personal liability insurance is a good idea!

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