Looking to start your freelancing business in India and are feeling uncertain?
You’ve probably held on to a full-time job. Are you ready to be self-employed? Should you start freelancing as a side income and eventually build it into a full-fledged freelance business?
Let’s look at a few figures on the freelancing market in India. According to a report by PayPal, the Indian freelance market is expected to reach $20-30 billion by 2025. This growth is attributed to the increasing number of people who are turning to freelance as a full-time career choice or to supplement their income.
Technology has opened up freelance opportunities for folks who might need to work remotely. With a freelance job, they can continue to stay relevant, sustain their livelihood and continue to seek out opportunities for personal and professional growth.
We've built this guide for all aspiring new freelancers looking to find success in a new career of being your own boss. Let's get going!
Table of Content
- Why start your own freelancing business in India?
- What are the benefits of freelancing in India?
- How to start your freelancing business in India?
- What are the qualifications to become a freelancer?
- Find your niche and area of expertise
- Essentials tools you will need as a freelancer
- Build your portfolio
- Establish your online presence
- Register your business
- Find your prospective clients
- Set your pricing
- Important things to note when starting your freelance business
- Popular freelance career options in India
- How to find success as a freelancer running your own freelancing business in India?
- What is the best way to get jobs as a freelancer?
The alluring factor: why start your own freelancing business in India?
Freelance business offers a wealth of knowledge along the way. Whether you’re young or a mid-career professional, a freelance business unshackles you. You get to learn the ropes of your business firsthand.
The psychological reasons to start a freelance business are many. Overall, it could be any trigger, positive or negative. Each could be a window of opportunity. For example, the drive for personal and professional excellence, the discomfort of working under a boss, to satiate one’s curiosity about whether you can helm a company entirely on your own, an adventurous spirit, experimentative nature, or boredom under present working conditions.
Before you begin, recognize that there will be challenges that you need to face as you build your freelance career. It could be a bit of a bumpy ride until it stabilizes. However, persevere and keep your sight in reaching your end goal.
What are the benefits of freelancing in India?
There are a multitude of personality profiles we encounter. Certain professionals thrive when they have flexibility of working hours. A freelance career provides unparalleled flexibility, while still upholding the commitment to meet deadlines. However, having the flexibility also means that time management is key. You'll need to have good discipline and develop a good work schedule to ensure that you can deliver all your client work on time.
2. Ability to work remotely
Access to technology has simplified matters. Today, long-term remote working is a reality. With a freelancing job, you not only have the option to work from home, but also the freedom to work from anywhere in the world!
In a population-dense country like India, remote work can be beneficial for you if you have to spend long hours in daily commute. Besides the time saved from travelling back and forth, you are potentially helping to reduce pollution in one of the most populous countries in the world.
With a freelancing career, a small room with minimal distractions, at home, becomes an ideal workplace. If working at home is not an appealing prospect, you can try working in a cafe. If security is an issue for sensitive data, India has opened doors for co-working spaces such as WeWork. There are several options to explore as alternate workplaces.
3. Work with clients worldwide
A freelancing job can come knocking at your door from any corner of the world. The world is truly your oyster! Ensure your freelance website is updated with all your work and contact details. If you are interested in collaborating with diverse individuals, and exploring different cultures, work styles, and personalities, a freelance business presents the exceptional opportunity to enhance your own personal growth while engaging with clients from various countries.
4. Work on multiple projects
If you are the type to flourish while juggling multiple projects concurrently, a freelance business is an ideal environment to showcase your unique ability. Engaging in simultaneous work on multiple projects work leads to a more diverse and meaningful career path and portfolio. It also acts as a great motivator to push yourself at all levels to achieve your best levels of satisfaction and progress. If this excites you, you’re choosing the right career path!
5. Build your own network
If client conversations, negotiations, and connections comprise your cup of tea, as the boss of your freelance business, you are entirely in charge. With the right approach, and your ability to help your client, the sky’s the limit. You could receive recommendations for your work and showcase them to usher in more projects. As you develop strong relationships with your clients, you become a valuable link in the chain, fostering trust and playing a pivotal role in connecting people.
How to start your freelancing business in India?
What are the qualifications to become a freelancer?
Unlike traditional employment, employers or clients are more likely to look at your past experience and portfolio instead of your formal qualifications.
As a freelancer, your are primarily evaluated based on your skills, expertise, and ability to deliver quality work to clients.
While professional qualifications certainly hold value, it is your proven track record that truly captures attention leading to opportunities.
While formal qualifications may not be mandatory, continuously improving your skills and staying updated with industry trends and latest innovations can help you stay competitive in the freelancing market. There are various online courses, workshops, and certifications available that can enhance your expertise and provide credibility to your freelancing profile. Your success as a freelancer depends on the value you can offer to your clients and your ability to deliver exceptional work consistently.
On top of that, learn to maintain and sustain long-term relationships with your existing and new clients. Effective client retention strategies can lead to repeat business, increased customer lifetime value and positive referrals about your work.
Find your niche and area of expertise
This step marks the beginning of your freelance business. Think about the experience and expertise that you have and most importantly, think about whether clients will be willing to pay for that. Spending time to identify a niche that will be profitable for you is an important first step. Besides willingness to pay, you should also endeavor to carve out a niche which allows you to compete on quality instead of price.
Essentials tools you will need as a freelancer
Before we begin the process of prepping for your freelance business, let's take a look at the list of tools that you might need to get started.
Some freelance businesses need minimal paperwork to start with, while others might require relevant licenses or certification before you can begin taking on clients. If your freelance business requires licenses or agreements, ensure you make a list and procure them as soon as possible. For freelancer looking to offer physical products, you might also need to set up some infrastructure or equipment before you commence your business.
Tools to help potential clients discover your business
- Portfolio: Create a great impression with the right portfolio. Keep it updated, handy, and shared on all relevant freelancing platforms. Read on to learn how you can build your portfolio!
- Personal domain & website: Your website is your calling card. Infuse your website with your unique style and approach to work, your personality, and the values you represent. As with the portfolio, remember to keep it visually appealing, easy to understand, and with the aim to give a potential client a clear idea about what to expect from your work. Showcase your work in the best light possible.
- Professional email: A significant part of building freelance business involves communication via email. Therefore, it is important to have a professional email that matches your domain name. Read this article to learn about the benefits of a professional email.
Tools to start and manage your business efficiently
- A computer/ laptop/ mobile
- High-speed internet connection
- A productivity suite such as Microsoft 365
- Accounting software such as Quickbooks of FreshBooks
Build your portfolio
A good portfolio is an essential part of building a freelancing career. In order to get more projects, you need a portfolio to showcase all your exemplary work, areas of expertise and ability to cater to different businesses and clients.
A well-curated portfolio also establishes credibility and trust in potential clients. As a start, you would want to ensure that your portfolio is easily accessible by anyone. By building a website to house your portfolio, your potential clients can discover you via search, or be able to access your portfolio easily online with a few clicks.
Keep the portfolio interesting. It is not a mere collection of work samples, but a well-organized visually appealing testimony of your expertise, experience, and accomplishments. Highlight your best work and update your portfolio regularly. Keep the presentation engaging, and highlight your unique selling points.
Related: 7 portfolio examples to inspire you
Establish your online presence
Decide how you will attract work online and build a presence accordingly.
There are several tools and apps to choose from, but building a website allows you to showcase your portfolio and decide how you will present yourself and your skill sets to potential clients.
As a start, you can decide on a suitable domain for your website, keeping in mind that your domain should reflect your personal brand and/or the business that you will run.
There are many ways to get your website up and running, and you don't always need to have coding / technical skills to build a website. We have prepared a guide for you to help you get started on building your personal website.
On top of that, a strong social media presence is also important in helping you land new work and clients. Depending on the type of services you offer, you can showcase your portfolio and build your following of different platforms. LinkedIn is a great professional networking platform that would allow you to network and discover new connections and opportunities. Folks who offer visual-centric services like art and photography can also consider platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest.
Many freelancers also build their online presence and portfolio on freelancer websites and marketplaces. These sites are great places to search for new opportunities, and many contain feedback and testimonial functions that allow your clients to leave feedback for your great work. Some popular examples include UpWork and Fiverr.
If you need help to get started, check out the 17 top freelancing websites in India.
Register your business
Before you begin your freelancing business in India, consult a chartered accountant with your plan to seek advice on relevant permissions and registrations for your business.
If you plan to register your freelancing business in India, these are the options to choose for your business. You can register your company as:
- An individual/ Proprietorship
- Private Limited
- Public Limited
In proprietorships and partnerships, the entire process is simplified in terms of banking and financing, taxes, contracts, and agreements.
As a company, the complexities multiply. The last two choices are not too relevant for a freelancing business in India.
If you are running it entirely on your own, and your business takes the form of a freelance job, register preferably as an Individual entity and benefit from all the advantages.
However, the Government of India does not expect you to register your business soon after you begin. In fact, you do not need to mandatorily register your freelance business until your work reaches the requisite turnover limit. Legally, you are not required to register your business until your annual turnover is within 20 lakhs per annum.
Find your prospective clients
Several young students have bagged giant projects by following a few simple steps. They study a website thoroughly or an Instagram account and plan a strategy to get a potential client interested. Once you’ve identified problem areas and planned out a convincing solution, it’s time to connect with the website owner or Instagram account holder and demonstrate how you can add value to their brand or product.
If your freelance business is in the digital marketing space, here are a few ideas to implement to increase your client base.
Additionally, active bidding on freelance websites where projects are regularly listed can be a valuable starting point to expand your client base and secure new opportunities. If you are fairly new or just ventured into this space, consider giving competitive pricing, in order to be the preferred choice of a potential client. Remember that your freelance business can take flight once you’ve bagged your first few clients. After completion, request for a client testimony to showcase on your online portfolio.
Related article: 7 ways to get more digital marketing work
Set your pricing
One of the most difficult parts of a freelance business is setting your price. This is where the balance may or may not tilt in your favor. Research thoroughly on the current price range for your specific type of project. Ensure you are not overpricing your client. Sometimes freelancers fall into the trap of expecting far too much because they’ve experienced a long waiting period before bagging their first or next client. This might make your client suspicious. Instead, falling in the correct price establishes trust. If you are charging a premium price, justify it with the specialized solution you have in mind for the additional cost incurred by the client. As long as you can offer the correct justification, you can command a premium price.
Negotiations can be tough as clients would want the best value, and some might look for opportunities to cut costs whenever possible. While you might want to adjust your fees to accommodate a client, make sure you are not exploited.
Draw clear contracts and demonstrate your professionalism. Keep it transparent and cover all necessary aspects in them. Rigorously market your work on all the various online platforms and enjoy the fruits of your labor when your client base increases.
Important things to note when starting your freelance business
As a freelancer, you need to understand the tax obligations for freelancers in India. Before you start your business, you may wish to consult with a chartered accountant to ensure compliance with tax regulations. Depending on your business' annual turnover, you may be required to register for Goods and Services Tax (GST).
One of the key processes to ensure that you have business continuity as a freelance business owner is to use well-drafted contracts and agreements when working with clients. After all, you don't want to end up at a disadvantage or worse, not receive payment from clients for all your hard work. Depending on your area of profession and services, each contract can vary. As a start, you should ensure that in every contract, you clearly outline the scope of work, payment terms, timelines, and any other relevant details. Before commencing any client work, you should consult with a lawyer to create legally binding contracts.
Managing your finances and cash
As a business owner, you need to know how to manage your business finances. This is essential for the survival of your business. For a start, you can look into opening a separate bank account for your freelance business to separate your personal wealth and business income. This will help you keep your personal and business finances separate and make accounting and tax filing easier. Depending on your contractual obligations, you may be receiving payment from your clients at different stages. Always create professional invoices for your clients and maintain proper records of your income and expenses.
Having a strong network can potentially give a boost to your portfolio, potential business opportunities and the type of work you will get to work on. As a freelancer, it is important for you to build a strong professional network. You can do so by attending industry events, joining relevant online communities, and leveraging social media platforms. Within these networking circles, you would also want to ensure that you have an easily accessible portfolio (such as an online portfolio or website) that you can readily use to showcase your work and attract potential clients.
Establish your personal brand
Running your own freelance business is no different from running any other types of businesses. In this case, you are your own brand.
You are unlikely to be the only person offering a type of expertise in the market, so it is important to think of how you can differentiate yourself.
Some methods to help potential clients understand your expertise can include starting a blog to talk about your work, maintaining an active social media presence through meaningful content and engagement on the platform.
Popular freelance career options in India
There are a variety of freelancing opportunities in India, and these continue to grow as technology advances and remote work becomes more prevalent. If you are still contemplating what your freelancing business could be, here are a few options you could explore:
With more businesses recognizing the need to build their brand and market to customers online, the demand for digital marketing is steadily increasing. If you have extensive experience in managing media budgets and executing digital marketing plans to help business build brands and drive revenue online, you are well on your way to establish yourself as a digital marketing professional. Having these skill sets would allow you to establish your niche as a digital marketer and start your career as a freelance digital marketer.
If you need more tips on how to get more work in digital marketing, check out this guide!
Content writing - freelance writer
Are you good with words? If you can communicate effectively and have a flair for writing, consider becoming a freelance writer! give this a go! Not only is it a thriving industry, but it is also addictive for writers who enjoy their job. As of 2023, the average salary of content writers stands at ₹20,081 per month. From product descriptions to brand content, writing is fundamental in any company's operations. As such, many companies require freelance help in copywriting and producing online content. Moreover, if you have developed a niche area of expertise, you might be able to command a better rate for your work.
If you are starting out as a freelance content writer, be sure to check out our resources on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and become an expert in writing SEO optimized content!
Graphic designers are in great demand. Whether it is to design a website, create marketing, branding, and advertising material, product design, or web and user interface design graphic designers have a wide range of skills that are up for grabs in the market. Do you also have motion graphics and animation experience? You are in high demand!
The demand for web developers continues to rise as businesses increasingly rely on online platforms. India, in particular, has a thriving IT industry and a growing startup ecosystem, providing ample opportunities for freelance web developers. From building out simple websites for small businesses to creating customized tech solutions for businesses, the spectrum of available work in web development is vast and varied. If you have the requisite technical skills, you can consider becoming a freelance web developer! Whether your target clients are niche or you prefer a broad spectrum of work, you get to call the shots on the type of work you want to engage in.
On top of that, being a freelance web developer requires staying up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies in web development. This constant learning process helps you sharpen your skills, adapt to industry changes, and remain competitive in the market. It offers a dynamic and challenging environment that fosters personal and professional growth.
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Social media management
If your experience includes managing a business brand, running marketing campaigns, creating brand awareness, engaging a target audience, developing short-term and long-term strategies, monitoring social media channels, and responding to comments and queries, you have a potential business opportunity. Your freelance business could be as a social media manager.
As a video editor, you can find yourself editing films, short films, events etc. There is ample work if you are a skilled editor. Your freelance job as a video editor is highly lucrative.
Do you have a distinct eye and interest for photography? Have your images been recognized or appreciated? Take it a notch further with freelance photography! You might start slow but a freelance photographer gets paid as high as 15 lakhs per annum. Keep a business plan ready, showcase your work, and keep at it.
Are you proficient in two or more Indian or foreign languages? If so, you can earn from your home. Get certified to get noticed. Usually, certification leads to professional networking and receiving job offers.
With minimal skills and just a good typing speed you can start taking up freelance jobs and earn a living. You can earn anywhere between INR 85 to 100 per hour in India.
How to find success as a freelancer running your own freelancing business in India?
Expertise & domain knowledge
Expertise in a specific field with specialized knowledge and skillsets in a certain domain that can help deliver high-quality services to clients. Awareness and expertise in specific domains helps to contextualize problems better and design targeted solutions that address specific industry challenges. It also helps you in recognizing potential opportunities that may not be apparent to someone without that expertise. Domain knowledge also comes in handy for quick decision-making. Communication becomes more effective and allows you to provide valuable insights and recommendations to your clients and other stakeholders. You become dependable and indispensable.
Strong communication skills
Strong communication skills is the bedrock of a successful freelance business. Effective communication, both verbal and written is paramount to understanding client requirements and translating them into smart and efficient deliverables. To grasp concepts and convey your ideas in a concise and clear manner helps in seamless execution with minimal margin for error.
Aptitude for problem-solving
Critical thinking and problem-solving, the ability to approach and simplify complex challenges are highly useful skills to possess. Indians have an innate skill at problem-solving. As the country with the largest population in the world, Indians are accustomed to taking the bull by its horns and working to provide creative solutions. High population results in high competition. Therefore, they are also quick problem solvers. Hone your skills and stay alert to resolve problems.
To stay relevant and competitive in the market, a freelance career involves continuous learning of the latest developments in the chosen domain of expertise. Staying updated on the latest tools, techniques, and industry trends aids in developing efficient solutions for clients. Decide to read a couple of articles every day relevant to your freelance business. If you seek interaction, sign up for networking and knowledge-sharing conferences in your city. You might end up receiving valuable insights.
Be consistent and hold yourself to the highest standards
As a freelancer, your work ethic and output is one of your key calling card. Therefore, you should always focus on delivering high-quality work on time, and provide good services to your clients. Satisfied clients can become repeat customers and refer you to others, helping you to grow your business.
What is the best way to get jobs as a freelancer?
Finding your first freelancer gig can be a daunting experience, but you can definitely get a headstart through these methods:
- Freelancer portals: Look up freelance portals that advertise for the niche your business belongs to.
- Leveraging your network: Your professional network is a great place to start. The stronger your network, the better your chances to get noticed by well-wishers and their contacts. Some may offer to spread the word on your behalf or introduce you to potential clients. Be prepared, to begin with your strategy immediately or within a few days.
- SEO-Optimized Websites – Make sure your web content is SEO optimized so that they reach your target audience. Invest in researching keywords and ensure they are embedded in your pages. Audit them periodically to check if your web pages are being noticed in your specified geographic regions. With stiff competition, this becomes an important step in gaining ground for your freelance business.
Now that we’ve covered numerous aspects of establishing a freelance business in India, take your first step and start seeking out your profitable niche. Let your hard work and talent help you pave your way to becoming a successful freelancer!
Start your freelancing career by getting your personal domain online now.
Editor's Note: This article contains contributions by Ler Ka Leng.