Part 1: How to Determine What Freelance Services to Offer

This is the first installment of a 4-part tutorial series I’m doing, Freelancing 101: A Dead Simple Method to Get Your First Freelance Work. In this series, I’m walking you through the exact process I used to get my first freelance clients. The nice thing about this method is you get to start slow and simple, get your feet wet and grow at your own pace. Instead of trying to land and then deliver on $3,ooo or $5,ooo or $15,000 projects right off the bat.

That can be scary as hell.

What I’m going to show you isn’t. Yet, you can still make damn good money doing it.

But, with that said, lets jump into Part 1: How to Find Problems People Will Pay You to Solve. And, the key here is finding urgent problems you can solve for clients. The more urgent the problem, the easier it will be to get clients. So, here’s what to do:

1. Create a Google Adwords Account

Google’s Keyword Tool is the best out there, by far. But, you need to create a Google Adwords account. You will probably have to provide payment information, but you never have to run any ads or spend any money. So, do try to get an actual Adwords account. That said, there are free-ish alternatives like WordTracker, WordStream and You can search, for free, right off their sites without an account. But, they’ll only show a limited view of the information. You have to pay to get the full data. But, we need a keyword search tool.

2. Search Using “Urgent Problem Keyword Modifiers”

An example of this is “error”. Add the word “error” to most any search and you’ll find a list of urgent problems for you to solve. For example, type “wordpress error” into your keyword tool and you’ll see a list of urgent problems like this:

Now, think about each of these keyword phrases for a second. In most cases, this is someone whose website or web page is down. They updated a plugin or changed a theme, and suddenly, their site is broke.

THAT is an urgent problem.

These people will very often pay good money to get their sites back up. So, what you’re looking at is an endless source of potential freelance work. And, it’s simple jobs that you can usually solve with an hour or two and get paid a few hundred bucks per project. Do the math and you’ll see you can make damn good money from these small, easy projects.

(A side note for Patrons of mine. I’ve uploaded to full list of these “Urgent Problem Keyword Modifiers” over on Patreon for you. The word “error” is one among many. So, with this full list you can find every possible urgent problem a particular market might be having and maximize your potential problems. You can download it here: If you’re not a Patron, you can learn more about becoming one and getting access to this PDF document here:

3. Build a List of Urgent Problems

Now, you need to decide what urgent problems you want to solve. So, pick out at least 10 of the problems you find and write them down. Sort them by search volume. For now, don’t worry about whether or not you know how to solve the problem. I’ll show you how to figure that out later. For now, we simply want to assess commercial viability.

You, also, do NOT need to pick the top 10 BY search volume. Just pick 10 problems you think you wouldn’t mind solving for people. THEN, sort those by search volume.

4. Assess Commercial Intent On Upwork

Now, go to and figure out the commercial viability of each search term. For most of your search terms, you won’t be able to type them into Upwork exactly as they appear in Google Adwords. You’ll need to look for “broad matches”. So, for example, a search term like “wordpress error establishing a database connection” won’t return much, if anything, in Upwork. Clients don’t write their project descriptions like that.

However, a search for “wordpress database error” returns 28 jobs on Upwork (as of this writing). A search for “wordpress error” returns 258 jobs.

So, don’t be afraid to expand your search, if necessary. The point here isn’t to find a million jobs on Upwork. 28 is plenty. We’re simply seeing if ANY jobs come up. If so, that’s a good sign. The more, the better.

But then, we’re also looking at the budgets for those projects.

What are people willing to pay to get this problem solved? For “wordpress database error”, you see a lot of $100s and $200s. Some lower bids at $25-$50 and some higher ones at $500 or more, but generally it’s in the $100-$300 range.

That’s good.

Do this for every search term you wrote down in Step #3. And, as you look at each search term in Upwork, start to zero in on the ones you think you’d want to work on.

5. Pick One

Now, just pick. You can have 3 or 4 you think you want to do, but pick ONE to start with. Don’t overthink it or super-analyze it… just pick one and move on. Our overhead for getting work from this isn’t a ton, so if it turns out to be a dud… you won’t have wasted much time. Biggest thing… DO NOT get stuck here! Just pick one and move on.

6. Figure Out the Solution to Your Urgent Problem

Now, we need to know how to solve this problem so we can offer it as a service. That’s the best part of all this. Pretty much every problem you’ll find already has a solution. So, you don’t even need to figure it out on your own. And, don’t worry… there are plenty of non-technical people who are more than happy to just pay someone to do it for them.

So, google your search term. For example, “wordpress error establishing a database connection”.

You’ll have a full list of solutions. Go through the first 1-2 pages and read through the different solutions. Write them down. You don’t need the detail. You just need a simple list of possible causes of the problem and the link to the full article where you found it. As you go through the pages, you’ll find a lot of the articles say the same things. This is your “consensus solution”. Pretty quickly, you should be able to develop a “checklist” of things to check when it comes to this problem.

For example with the search term “wordpress error establishing a database connection”, you’d have these steps:

  • Check if it’s happening on /wp-admin
  • Check the wp-config.php file
  • Check the web host
  • Check the site URL
  • Etc.

These posts will give you all the answers. And, this is now your “how to solve the problem” checklist.

Now, if you stop and look back…

You have some pretty important thing already done:

  • You have an urgent problem
  • A problem people want solved quickly
  • A problem people are willing to pay money to get solved
  • You have a checklist of things to solve the problem
  • And a whole list of resources you can use to help you

You have a freelance business idea. A very solid one.

And, the best part… it’s quick to solve, you can make a couple hundred bucks off it and do several a day if you wanted to.

To put this in context, there’s a big push in America right now for a $15 minimum wage. Politics aside, if you were making $15/hour you’d have to work 20 hours in a day to make $300. But, here YOU have a service you can offer where you could make $300 and solve the problem in 2 hours. That’s $150/hour. And, how many could you do in a single day?

And, you don’t have all the pressure of managing and delivering on a weeks-long, $5,000 project. A couple hours, a couple hundred bucks…

But, it adds up quick.

All right, so that’s it for today. In the next installment of this series, I will show you how to build your service sales page. This is where people will go to hire you. And, the big thing here is: simplicity. What I’ll show you isn’t going to take long for you to build. And, won’t require a bunch of fancy sales tricks. So, be sure to check back for tomorrow’s installment.

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John Morris


I’m a 15-year veteran of freelance web development. I’ve worked with bestselling authors and average Joe’s next door. These days, I focus on helping other freelancers build their freelance business and their lifestyles.

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