Written by Andrew Moran
Many people possess an entrepreneurial itch that needs to be scratched. Thanks to the internet, you no longer need to invest thousands of dollars in capital to open an office, hire employees and go through a bureaucratic hassle. Instead, you achieve your dream of producing hilarious refrigerator magnets by setting up a freelance business from the comfort of your home.
Perhaps this explains the increasing number of professionals who are delving into the world of self-employment. Indeed, according to a 2019 GoDaddy survey, one in three millennials have a small business or a side hustle.
To help you start your freelance business, and ensure you succeed, we have compiled a checklist of things you need to do first.
1. Find a relevant niche
Are you good at something that somebody would pay money for? Is the written word your thing, or do you excel at graphic design? Whatever your hidden talent is, when you decide to start a freelance business, it is important to home in on a relevant niche. It may be common sense, but a lot of neophytes make the mistake of following their passion, even if they’re not very good at this passion. When this happens, their freelance endeavours crumble, and they immediately concede defeat instead of going back to the drawing board.
You may love the concept of fitness training, but if you’re out of breath after just ten minutes of jogging, then perhaps this is not such a great business idea after all. However, if you’re great at academic tutoring, then maybe this is a freelance idea worth exploring.
2. Outline measurable goals
To ensure you are succeeding in this new venture, you need to outline a few quantifiable goals. As you start, you may measure your success by just seeing your bottom line at the end of the month. But there are a few more sophisticated measurements you must consider to find out if this enterprise has some legs to it or if it is only generating a few bucks per month.
Many experts recommend getting SMART with a freelance business:
- Specific: A realistic objective of your freelance concept.
- Measurable: How will you measure the success of your business?
- Attainable: The step-by-step process of how you will begin and then how you will attain clients.
- Relevant: What does achieving your goals do for you or your freelance business?
- Time-based: A couple of estimated dates of meeting your aims.
This acronym will help you determine if you are meeting your milestones and accomplishing your goals – both long- and short-term. Moving forward, it is necessary to keep track of your key performance indicators.
3. Establish strategic prices
Let’s be honest: a lot of people who start are afraid of presenting competitive prices for their services. Because of the enormous competition in the global marketplace, many freelancers fear that they are pricing themselves out of the market – this is one of the disadvantages of freelancing in today’s economy. This may have been true a few years ago, but companies and professionals finally understand that they get what they pay for, so they’re willing to fork over a few more dollars.
For example, someone may want some written content for a blog. A long time ago, they may have paid pennies for 600-word articles filled with spelling and grammatical errors. This typically resulted in more editing and perhaps an entirely new article after review. Today, companies are willing to spend a little bit extra to ensure they are buying high-quality work.
If you are good at what you do, make sure you are getting paid for your talent. At the same time, you can also work with clients and come to a reasonable price based on their budget.
4. Highlight your expertise
As a freelancer, you need to entice clients with your experience. For example, before you entered the world of wedding photography, you applied your photography skills for 13 years at a national newspaper, two years in the military and three years at the college publication. You also have some incredible equipment at your disposal.
Put simply, you need to highlight your expertise to stand out from your industry rivals. This could consist of a wide variety of tactics:
- Put together a portfolio of examples of your work
- List your qualifications (education, certification, and work history)
- Create testimonials from past employers or clients who were satisfied with your work
5. Choose your first clients wisely
Sure, you want to attract as many clients as soon as possible when you’re starting. The problem with this strategy is time, particularly if you still maintain a full-time job during regular business hours.
As a freelance business owner, you possess a finite amount of time to serve your clients. Therefore, it is crucial to select the types of projects you want to work on and the rates you would charge. Ultimately, you are setting yourself up for failure by taking on uncouth customers or accepting assignments from clients who are paying you paltry rates. This then triggers a domino effect:
- You will not submit your best work because of the dollar figure attached to the job.
- You will resent the work, so you may rush it and come up with an inferior product.
- Your referrals will not be impressive.
- Your reputation could take a hit without enough testimonials or portfolio examples.
Therefore, take time to find professional clients who are willing to pay for good work and extend a review of your stuff.
6. Create and maintain an online presence
If you are not on social media or accumulating some type of online presence, you need to. In today’s business world, it is critical to present yourself to the internet and maintain a presence in the digital arena. This could include a myriad of methods, such as being active on social media, developing a digital marketing plan and staying in touch with past clients and future prospects through email and social networking.
Unless you are embracing the hyper-local business plan, you will need the internet to survive and thrive.
7. Produce a marketing plan
How are you going to market your services? This is a crucial question for every new entrepreneur. Typically, a freelancer enters this world because they had success with one client. But the key is to multiply that number gradually. This can be achieved through online marketing.
A freelance business needs to employ all the various white-hat digital marketing measures to attract eyeballs to your website and brand. Unsure where to begin? Here are some ways to come up with a stellar marketing initiative:
- Use search engine optimisation (SEO) to climb to the top of the search engine results page (SERP).
- Invest in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising in which you pay a fee each time your ad is clicked on.
- Become an authority with blog post writing on your website on subjects relevant to your niche.
- Utilise social media to your advantage by being actively present.
- Initiate an email marketing campaign that can turn newsletters into sales.
- Attend industry conferences and participate in community events.
Sure, you’re an interior design consultant or virtual assistant, so what do you know about marketing? Well, two things: you can always hire a professional marketer or start a campaign.
8. Emphasise customer service
Since you’re a one-man-band, you are dealing directly with all your clients. This means that customer service is of paramount importance, and this is a crucial and untapped marketing technique. A common complaint that businesses have is that many freelancers are unreliable; prove that you’re not like the others by staying touch through every step of the project.
Moreover, you can always incorporate the little things into your business model. If you are a writer, you could always charge full price and then offer one free edit. These gestures could aid a client’s decision to hire you over somebody else.
9. Use the best tools
A lot of freelancers who are just getting started might be shocked at how many freelance tools are available to help advance your business. Indeed, there is anything you could imagine, ranging from budget management to proposal writing. Unsure where to start? We have some must-have apps to download right away:
- Google Calendar: Keep track of your projects by using a digital calendar with Google.
- Dropbox: Share and edit your documents instantly with your clients by using free cloud storage software.
- LegalZoom: Protect yourself with contracts and legal paperwork.
- Proposify: Do you want new clients? Reach out to prospects and submit excellent proposals with Proposify.
- FreshBooks: Manage your dollars and cents, create professional invoices and accept credit card payments.
As time goes by, you will eventually come across even more tools that you’ll find are relevant and helpful.
10. Prepare to scale
Do you want to grow your freelance business only at a certain level? Hey, as the kids say, you do you. You should not be pressured into thinking that you need to clock in 72 hours a week to sustain your current Rolodex of clients and meet all your deadlines. Whether you want to work 25 hours a week or around the clock, preparing to scale is of the utmost importance.
Here are some tips:
- Increase your rates for your services
- Outsource some of your work to others
- Use software to automate more aspects of your business
- Narrow your niche and concentrate on the most relevant clients to your freelance business
- Or, run an agency and offer a whole host of services related to what you do
11. Keep your day job and your freelance business separate
Let’s face it: Starting a freelance business is intoxicating. It is an incredible feeling to start working for yourself, even if it is just one client at a time. But you should avoid mixing your day job with your freelance business. You don’t want to get caught responding to emails from possible clients when you’re supposed to be finishing an assignment at the office.
You have two lives: your full-time position and your new freelance business.
Thanks to global connectivity, high-speed networks and perpetual evolution in technology, you can do pretty much anything on the world wide web. This includes earning a living by selling your services, whether your expertise is writing or marketing consultancy.
If you finally want to take advantage of your online capabilities and start earning some extra cash on the side (or as a full-time income), then it is imperative that you consider these steps as you fulfil your freelance dreams. It will be hard starting, but with perseverance, dedication and a little bit of luck, you can succeed beyond your wildest dreams.