How to Start Your Own Freelance Business In Nigeria – Updated October, 2024

Hiring freelancers is becoming not only more acceptable, but more attractive for many businesses. This creates an incredible opportunity for people with useful skills to start a freelancing business on the side, and eventually grow that into a sustainable self-employed career.

The freelancing industry in Nigeria has greatly grown at an amazing record-breaking rate in the last couple of years. Same as the number of high-paying remote jobs that are posted on freelance websites. Becoming a freelancer in a country like Nigeria is such a wonderful route to financial freedom. As a freelancer, you can make money without limits from the comfort of your home.

1. Define Your Goals

Without clearly defined, easily measurable goals, you’re going to have a very difficult time getting to where you want to go.

  • Is freelancing a path to just earning extra income on the side of your day job?
  • Do you eventually want to become a full-time freelancer because of the lifestyle benefits of being your own boss?
  • Or, are you looking to use freelancing as a stepping stone to eventually achieving a different goal entirely?

Regardless of what your ultimate goal is, you need to make it abundantly clear. This is something that all of the world’s top entrepreneurs agree upon when it comes to successfully starting a business.

Take the time to understand why you’re considering starting a freelance business in the first place. Do you want to…

  • Become a freelance writer?
  • How about a freelance designer?
  • Maybe a freelance developer?

Make sure this decision is the right move in your progression toward achieving your bigger-picture goals. Only after you have the clarity around where you want freelancing to take you, can you start backing into your shorter-term goals and benchmarks that’ll help your freelance business become a success.

2. Find A Profitable Niche

Let’s assume you’re a graphic designer by trade, or you’ve at least been building your skills with Adobe Illustrator & Photoshop in your free time.

Clearly, there are a lot of competitors in your industry that’ll be willing to charge much lower rates than you, no matter what you do. There are people from all around the world with lower costs of living that’ll always be willing to accept lesser-paid gigs than you. Get over the idea of trying to compete on price as a freelancer, right now.

It’s not worth racing other people to the bottom for work-from-home jobs on a freelance basis, especially when sites like Fiverr, Upwork, or other freelance job sites already have countless options for low-priced freelancers. Side note: I personally recommend not ever listing your services on either of those sites, unless you absolutely need to (after striking out from trying everything in this post first).

By taking the time to find a profitable niche for your freelance business (just as you’d pick a niche to blog about should you choose to launch a blog), you’re actively seeking out an industry and type of client that values quality. When you’re in a space that competes on quality, you’ll completely change the ways in which you sell your services. You’ll be competing on value, not price.

Instead of taking any graphic design project that comes your way, choose to concentrate solely on infographic design for startup blogs, or writing eBooks for enterprise tech companies. Choose an area that genuinely interests you, and focus on becoming the best designer in that narrow space—that’s how you really find the right side hustle niche. Once you’ve built your skills to a level that you can confidently charge a premium for, then you’re ready to start your freelance business and look for your ideal clients.

3. Get Ready For Business

To operate, you’ve got to corporate, to one extent or another.

Now you’re going freelance; you have to register your business. You have three choices, which you choose depending on where you`re going.

  1. SOLE PROPRIETORSHIP – (Simple and cheap to start, low accountancy fees, but you’re financially liable for the business)
  2. LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY – (More complicated and expensive to start, higher accountancy fees, but you’re not liable for the business)
  3. CORPORATION – (Generally not chosen by freelancers due to the complexity, high costs, and unnecessary benefits)

If you plan on staying as an independent freelance writer, then registering as a sole proprietor would be the least expensive and straightforward option. However, many freelancers choose a limited company as they get the benefits of not being personally liable without the complications of a corporation.

4. Identify Your Target Clients

Just as important as finding a profitable niche, is attracting the right types of clients for your freelance business.

As you’re just starting your freelance business, it’s fine to take a bit more of a shotgun approach to landing a few clients. Make some initial assumptions about who you want to work with, target them first, and after working with a few of them, you’ll develop a very clear sense of whether or not you want to continue pursuing similar clients.

Since starting my freelance business, I’ve honed my target client profile over time to match only two very specific types of businesses. High-growth tech startups and business influencers with well-established personal brands.

5. Build A High-Quality Portfolio Website

While a signature email will help you find gigs, at some point, you’re going to need a website and a social media account. Both provide a point of contact for future customers and a place to showcase your past projects and clients. Most importantly, you can advertise yourself in a way that sets you apart from other freelancers in your market.

A professional-looking and visually appealing website show potential clients that you’re a legitimate business and someone they can trust. While listing on a platform like LinkedIn is an excellent way of getting known within your marketplace and expanding your employment network. Use these to advertise your achievements, gain likes and followers, and before long, you’ll be turning the work away.

Your freelance portfolio needs to do the following, in order to be truly effective at selling your services:

  • Communicate the specialty & display examples of your work.
  • List your contact information & show off your personality.
  • Highlight your relevant skills, education, and accomplishments.
  • Display testimonials (even if they’re from coworkers or former bosses when you’re just getting started).
  • Have regular updates that show your evolution, new clients, and updated sample work.

As you’re developing your portfolio site, find other freelancers within your space and get some inspiration from them to help uncover how they’re positioning themselves, formulating their value propositions, and going about building their businesses.

6. Set Strategic Prices For Your Services

I’ve spoken a lot about setting the right prices for your freelance business before you get started. I even architected an infographic that walks you through the process of setting your freelance hourly rate.

From a pure numbers perspective, this freelance rate explorer from Bonsai is as good as it gets for determining what your expected hourly rate should be for your industry—in order to see if your rates will meet your income goals and expense levels. There are tons of great tools out there for double-checking that you’re charging enough to afford the lifestyle you want to live, but I recommend starting to determine your pricing strategy with a very different progression in mind.

Remember, you need to price yourself based on the value you deliver, not based on what your competitors are charging.

7. Mention Potential Clients In Your Content

Scouring the Internet for the best remote jobs won’t always net you instant results. And you’re going to have a hard time making a name for yourself within your niche if nobody knows you exist.

That’s why within every piece of content I create on my blog, I regularly mention the brands, companies, and individuals I see myself potentially working with one day. Even if I’m not quite ready to take on new clients, or I’m not even qualified to go after such huge deals yet, it’s never too early to start building goodwill and getting your name in front of the right people at your target companies.

Look ahead at the content you plan on creating for your website over the coming weeks, and keep a running list of the companies you want to feature whenever possible. Then, once you publish something that mentions them, take a few minutes to reach out and let them know about it.

8. Learn How To Pitch Yourself

If you want to start freelancing, you need to know how to pitch yourself—it’s an asset that’ll be worth it’s weight in gold for years to come. No matter how skilled you are at your craft, if you want to turn your skills into starting a freelance business, you need to be able to communicate those strengths and convert your conversations into paying clients.

9. Find Customers And Build Your Client Base

Now you’ve found profitable niches, designed a logo, built your website and social profiles, and set your price structure it’s time to find customers and start building your client base.

But you’re new to the game, so what’s your approach? You may already know some of your future clients, or you’re entirely in the dark, at this early stage, a fishing net approach, rather than a fishing hook, might be your best bet. The goal is to land your first gig and get in the game.

Your client’s location will depend on your market. You can contact them directly via their website, social media platforms, or email. Another option is to register yourself on a paid membership platform.

Paid platforms provide a service for a fee, so unlike their free counterparts, it’s a place where professionals come together. Once you’re working, you can hone your target client list, only choosing reliable ones that provide regular well-paid work.

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