How I Started & Earned $45 in 3 Hours For My First Freelance Gig

Everyone has to start somewhere.

I am a writer on technology and for the past 8 years, I have worked for numerous technology blogs and magazines here and there. Last August, I joined ProPakistani as a freelance writer. Apart from writing, I have had literally zero experience working on any freelance project.

Back in 2015, I, like many other starting freelancers, signed up for a handful of gigs-based freelancing sites like Fiverr, PeoplePerHour, Freelancer, and oDesk (now called UpWork) in the hopes of making a quick buck. And now, with the benefit of hindsight, I wanted to put my example out there.

I believe that my story and personal experience can spur more people into freelancing, especially for those who just need that little motivation to start out. My example is by no means a guide on how you can instantly start earning $$$ through freelancing. It is about how I, a writer and a high school student at that time, managed to earn a reasonable amount of money on PeoplePerHour with barely three hours of work and no experience at all.

How did I do it? Let’s start with first things first.

How do freelancing gigs on these platforms work?

For those who aren’t aware of how these sites work, here is a quick explanation.

  • A seller can post his or her services or the work he or she is willing to do (design a website, design a logo, conduct research) along with a quoted price. A buyer (the person who avails the services) can hire them to carry out the project.
  • A buyer can post a particular project along with the requirements and a seller (the service provider) can apply for the project with a quoted price.

In both the cases, the buyer gets to cherry-pick the seller. Usually, they choose to pick the best-rated ones even if they are a little expensive as compared to others. So, a person’s rating and reviews matter a lot.


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The catch is that new-comers don’t have any experience, nor any reviews, so getting the first few jobs are the hardest part. But if you do manage to pull it off and score a few good first reviews, then gigs start coming in at a pretty regular rate. The trick is to not give up.

Getting the first “Hourlie”

Having a decent amount of knowledge about freelancing gigs through my writing work, I decided to give it a try. I flicked through projects here and there, selecting a few choice ones that I thought I could do.

Back then, I hadn’t even started to learn programming, web development, or any other form of learning that could lead to a decent first job, so it was appearing to be a lost cause. The only ones I found that I could do were related to writing, and even then, they were related to academic writing projects that I had no interest in.

A few days after I joined as a freelancer, I came across this project about an “SMS Survey Solution” on PeoplePerHour. PeoplePerHour is an online platform lets people posts “Hourlies”— jobs that are paid based on the number of hours a person spent on it. Every person sets his or her own hourly rate. The Experience Level, a tag to indicate how hard the job can be, said it was an “Intermediate” job. Intrigued, I delved in and went through the description.

“We need to do market research survey using SMS. The challenge is to find a method of sending an SMS survey to large numbers of people without such a high cost. We are looking for someone to help us research our options and suggest solutions. This is for about 4 hours support.”

It appeared quite simple. I hadn’t used any SMS survey solution in the past but I knew a few people who had and even if I hadn’t, it looked like a fairly simple job. All I had to do was know how to Google! The person who posted this job also looked like they had just joined the platform a few days ago and this was the first job they posted about.

So I submitted a proposal and since it looked like barely a 1 or 2 hour work, I set my hourly pay to “$15/hour”. Had it been a longer job, I would have probably pitched with a “$5-6” per hour to make my proposal much more appealing.

As luck would have it, the buyer accepted the proposal and sent me some more information on what she exactly wanted. I can’t reveal the exact details of the project but it seemed too simple. All that she wanted was to find an online service that could send around 10 questions to around a thousand people in a country in Africa and then get their replies directly to her computer through the same service in a spreadsheet.

It just took me just over half an hour to compile a list of some of the best services available and the pros and cons of each one of them. The rest of the work was sorting through the data and presenting it in a way that would be easily understandable. The only skill I needed? Knowing how to Google well, and knowing how to quickly skim through the data and rates to find the relevant information.

Over the next few days, she also added some other requirements and asked for some clarifications on the rates for the services I had suggested her. I reached out to the support for some of the services to get confirmation for their rates of conducting an SMS survey and searched some more for other services but that’s pretty much it. In four days, I had worked exactly two hours.

PeoplePerHour lets you send an invoice for every hour you have worked so you know that you are being paid before the job ends. She paid me for my 2 hours of work, $30. I worked one more hour for her to provide some further information and clarification a week later.

To sum it all up, here’s how it went for me:

Job Start: 14th July
Job End: 28th July
Total Duration: 12 Days
Earnings: $45
Earnings Per Hour: $45/3 = $15

When considered by the number of days, it doesn’t feel like much. But keep in mind that not only was it my first job, but it was also the only freelancing project I was working on and I worked on it whenever I got some free time.

Yes, that’s not a lot of money. Yes, my writing experience did kind of help me a little. Maybe I caught a lucky break. Maybe getting your first job is a lot harder. Maybe freelancing won’t work for you. The purpose of this article isn’t to act as a guide for existing freelancers out there, but it is to show everyone else how easy it can be to take a start.

The hardest part, as they say, is to start something.

One thing which I want to emphasize is that, whatever project you are working on, try to be extremely professional in how you talk to the other person and don’t give an impression that you are doing it for the first time. If you don’t know something, Google is there it for you. If you don’t find a clear answer, simply say that you don’t know and ask them to clarify instead of wasting your as well as their time. Losing a project won’t do you any harm in the long run but getting a bad review is certainly going to be much worse than that.

If you are a freelancer and you have some tips for newbies looking for their first gigs, do share them in the comments section below.


  • @RehanAhmed do shed some light on how to receive payments? It is a tricky thing in Pakistan

  • The best way to get your first job is to ask your freelancer friend to refer you to some of his clients.

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