Canadian's Internet Business

How to Start a Digital Content Freelancing Business in Canada ©

Freelancing has always been around, but it has exploded online in the past decade. This evolution of self-employment is often referred to as the “Gig Economy” or “Freelance Economy”, with both the freelancers and businesses of all sizes embracing it. Specialized freelancers can earn serious money, depending on the demand and level of competition in their chosen niche. Today, no niche has more potential than digital content production. Content truly is king online and Canadian companies are screaming for it.

Digital content freelancing jobs may include:

Freelance content businesses can focus on a type of digital content for any industry, or specialize in a specific industry and offer several types of content for it.

Regardless of how you carve out your online freelancing business model and niche, it’s important to at least familiarize yourself with Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It will play an important part in most online content production. More importantly, you need to familiarize yourself with your intended audience. You cannot be successful with digital content unless you know, and serve, your audience.

“Content may rule, but your online content must be the right sort of content: Customer-focused. Authentic. Compelling. Entertaining. Surprising. Valuable. Interesting,” writes Ann Handley in Content Rules. “In other words, you must earn the attention of people.”

Creating engaging content requires talent as much as skill, but that doesn’t mean you have to be gifted. If you love to create content and enjoy learning about it, you can do very well in this high-demand category. That said, it’s important to know the difference between doing something and doing something well. There are many people who have made graphics, written on their blog, or created a video, but that doesn’t mean they’re good enough to be paid for it.

Develop your skills with reading and research. One of the best ways to improve is to learn from top talent so you can recognize what “good” is. You’ll find them in the freelance job markets listed below, in books on Amazon, and by searching online. Study digital publications that use freelance content on a regular basis. What do they publish? What do they feature on their main page? What is their end-game and how are they getting there?

You’ll also learn a lot about the skills that are in demand from job listings. If you see a demand for a certain software like PaintShop Pro, go learn how to use it. If many job postings mention a certain video editing style or program compatibility, get it under your belt.

Then, you’ll have to practice and apply what you’ve learned. Your best testing ground is your own website/blog. It’s cheap and easy to start a blog these days. Just choose a good website host that has one-click WordPress installation and away you go. You can also post your work in applicable forums or groups to ask for peer reviews.

How to Get Freelancing Clients

The best part of being a digital content freelancer is its ease and flexibility. You can do it part-time or full-time, work from home or anywhere else you want, and become a thriving online business in record time. Initially, all you have to do is set up a simple website and focus on promoting your personal brand. Learn how to market yourself and you’re on your way to success.

Demonstrate Your Talent, Prove Your Expertise

Getting clients for freelance content production takes more than just saying “I’m capable.” Luckily, proving your content creation skills has never been easier, thanks to online platforms that allow you to showcase your work. Start a blog, submit guest posts to other blogs, write for well-known publications, post to social media networks like LinkedIn, YouTube and SlideShare, or consider writing an eBook.

Even if your focus isn’t written content, it pays to write about your chosen freelance niche. For example, your blog could include posts about the benefits of using video in marketing. You can’t create effective content if you don’t have the expertise to guide your creative process. Writing about your niche online proves you really know what you’re doing. If you’re new to blogging and want to get off to a roaring start, check out the Blog by Number ebook + course. It’s designed to take you through the entire process of starting, maintaining and marketing a blog.

3 Reasons you shouldn’t dismiss low-paying jobs:

  1. Low-paying jobs can grow and turn into repeat business.
  2. Even the lowest paying freelance job sites, like Fiverr, accommodate growing projects with “extras”, so you can upsell in addition to the first task.
  3. Use low-paying freelance job sites to introduce people to your work with “special reports”, infographics, meme backgrounds, or 5-minute product demo videos. For special reports, you can rewrite content you already have to make better use of your time, or dip into other resources like PLR (Private Label Rights) content for inspiration and enhancement. Blank graphics designed for customization are fast and easy projects to demo design skills. Slideshows are also quick projects. Look around the low-paying freelance sites to see how others are managing to make it a good use of their time.

Keep Them Coming Back

Be reliable, efficient, over-deliver, and do your very best work EVERY TIME. Only accept projects you know you can do exceptionally well and on time. Your reputation is your bread & butter and the Internet can make or break you in an instant.

The Business of Freelancing

Whether you are starting a large freelancing online business or simply want to be self-employed at home, you’re going to be responsible for business tasks like bookkeeping, pricing, customer relationship management, marketing, information back-ups, taxes and more. A comprehensive book written specifically for creative businesses, is The Business Side of Creativity: The Comprehensive Guide to Starting and Running a Small Graphic Design or Communications Business, by Cameron S. Foote.

Documentation

While I’ll chat on the phone if the client insists, I strongly prefer eMail communication. It gives both parties a written record of what was said, including task specifications and deadlines. Nobody can remember everything. Plus, your reputation may be ruined by misunderstandings or something as simple as “I thought I told you that…”

Any project should start out with a clearly defined description and expectations. Having a standard project form will save time and ensure you have all information clearly documented. For example, the client may tell you she needs a special report done in a couple of weeks.

A form for this task would include standard, specific information, such as:

Free Freelancing Tools and Resources

When you freelance online you’re usually doing so remotely, outside of the client’s office. With today’s technology, it isn’t difficult to work effectively off-site and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Following are some free tools that will keep your freelance business functioning like a well-oiled machine.

Open Office – A free office suite including word processing, spreadsheet, multimedia presentation, and drawing software. Compatible with other popular office products.
Google Docs – Write, edit, and collaborate wherever you are, free of charge.
Freedcamp – A free collaboration tool packed with features like a calendar, lists & sticky notes, unlimited users, unlimited projects and 200MB of free storage.
MindMeister – Create mindmaps, collaborate, and share. The free option allows you to create three mindmaps per month.
Trello – Both a collaboration and organization tool. Upload files from your computer, Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, and OneDrive. Add checklists, labels, due dates, reminders, and more. Post comments for instant feedback.
Hemmingway App – Auto-editing to improve your writing. It alerts you to sentences that are difficult to read, alternative phrases, adverbs and excessive use of a passive voice.
Wave – Invoicing, accounting and payroll are a breeze with this free app.
DropBox – 16GB of free cloud storage that you can access from anywhere.
Google Drive – Back up your files and access them from any smartphone, tablet, or computer. Up to 15GB of free storage.
Skype – Free phone calls.

Canadian Resources for Freelancers

Canadian Media Guild
Professional (Non-Fiction) Writers Association of Canada
Canadian Freelance Union
The Canadian Press Stylebook
Top Legal Documents for Freelancers
Sessions College Business Templates for Designers – Contracts and client management templates.
Standard Freelance Editorial Agreement from the Editors’ Association of Canada
Free Independent Contractor Agreement customized by Canadian province.
How to Write a Freelance Contract 101

Freelancing Courses

Freelance Business Courses
Create A Graphic Design Business Course
Video Production Courses
Seth Godin’s Freelancer Course

Freelance Job Sites

You’ll find lots of freelance job sites online and lists thereof. Following are a few of the most popular websites, along with some Canadian freelance job sites.

Freelancer
Fiverr
Canadian Freelance Writing Jobs
Workhoppers – Based in Canada, this searchable database plays matchmaker between freelancers and employers. Categories include design, writing, translation and more.
Local Solo – Add your profile to this local freelancer search engine.
99Designs – Businesses post logo jobs and designers compete to win the sale.
Monster Canada Freelance Jobs
Upwork – Open to every kind of freelancer imaginable. They have a “Freelancers in Canada” section.
Guru – You’ll find lots of freelance jobs here and you can filter results by country. Categories include Writing, Translation, Design, Art & Multimedia.
The Canadian Writers Market is a book that includes many publishers with digital options.

Are you new to online freelancing or are you an old pro? Please share your experience or questions in the comments below.

✔ You may also be interested in reading:
5 Quick and Easy Online Businesses to Start in Canada
Checklist: Choosing a Website Host for your Canadian Business
B2B Blogging Guide: Best Practices
Help for the 54% of Canadian Small Businesses Without a Website (Statistics)

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