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5 tips to help you start your freelance business today

Going freelance might seem risky. But these 5 tips can help you make the leap with confidence.

Nera Cruz
September 6, 2017
Entrepreneurship

Maybe you’re a stay-at-home mom with a lot of free time now that the kids are in school? Or, maybe you have an office job that makes you miserable and it’s time for a change?

Whatever your situation, starting your own freelance business may have crossed your mind. Maybe you’ve put it off, settling for good enough or thinking now isn’t the right time.

But now is perfect! The gig economy is booming. People are discovering they don’t necessarily have to be stuck in a traditional workplace and they’re turning to freelance.

Take a leap and start your freelance business now

Freelancing means you can do what you feel passionate about and still get paid for it. You’re also completely in control of your time and effort. Start small if you’re worried about financing your business — maybe occasional landing page design or part-time content writing for a client or two. Or what about selling your homemade candies? Maybe you could use your long-forgotten drawing skills to personalize mugs or pillows?

Of course, freelancing isn’t all about DIY arts and crafts. There’s an increasing demand for freelancers in the corporate world. When you start your freelance business, you’ll be in control of who you work for. You can choose your clients and what you want your work to represent. This all adds up to more satisfaction and fulfillment in your work.

Start with a business plan

Freelancing is sometimes associated with afternoon naps and binge-watching Netflix. But the truth is, being a freelancer can require more work than being an employee.

Think of it this way: when you go freelance, you’re suddenly the CEO, head of marketing, advertising, finance ... and every other conceivable department in the corporate world. Planning out your vision and the future of your business will help keep you from getting overwhelmed.

This sample business plan template is a great resource for your own business plan. It’ll get you thinking about your business summary, why you started your business, a 12-month plan, your target market, your team, daily operations, and budgeting for expenses and income generated. All important stuff.

Launching a business definitely isn’t easy, but I have 5 helpful tips for a promising start!

1. Sell the right stuff

One of the keys to a successful freelance business is finding your niche: a unique product or skill.

So ask yourself: What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? What’s the thing you get complimented on or asked about the most? Just because you know something, doesn’t mean everyone does. If people consider you an expert, it’s possible you’ve got marketable skills and knowledge. Spend some time reflecting on these details — this is your chance to follow your dream!

Be sure to focus on one to two products or skills in particular. And be as specific as possible. Ambiguous terms like “graphic design” or “beauty products” don’t give prospective clients a clear idea of what you offer — or help you stand out from other brands.

Inspiration for niche products can come from anywhere. A good example of this is the business I Do Now I Don’t, which buys and sells pre-owned jewelry directly. Founder Josh Opperman established the company when his fiancée left him after a 3-month engagement. Heartbroken, Josh decided to return the diamond engagement ring, only to be offered much less than he expected.  

He discovered that jewelers’ mark up their product two or three times above wholesale. Today, I Do Now I Don’t is incredibly successful and has been featured on several talk shows, including The Rachael Ray Show and Wake Up with Whoopi.

In today’s market, you can sell almost anything, if you get creative.

2. Get your goals straight

So we know it’s important to have a solid, long-term business plan, but what about your day-to-day work as a freelancer? Daily goals will keep you and your company organized and increase productivity.

Keeping tabs on your goals can be challenging, especially if you manage a team. Thankfully, there are a ton of project management and time tracking tools that will help you record progress, export accounting spreadsheets, and let your team log their time.

Of course, your goals aren’t limited to your present freelance business — what personal aspirations do you have? Make a list! Maybe you want to develop a new skill or find a way to earn even more income? The perk of being your own boss is that you can set standards for yourself and aim a little higher.

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3. Play the name game

With your business plan, goals, and offerings in place, it’s time to name your business. Don’t underestimate the impact your name will have. It’s the first thing your clients learn about you, so choose carefully!

Some freelancers use their own name as a brand. Since your name and reputation are on the line, this sends a message that clients can count on you to produce your best work. It also helps clients feel like they know you personally, establishing a strong bond. But when you’re starting out, using your name could make it tricky to establish what you do.

Either way, a solid name will help your freelance business take a step in the right direction. Your brand name should tell people what you do or make, but it should also be catchy and memorable. Don’t hesitate to get playful when you brainstorm. Despite Shakespeare’s famous question, there’s a whole lot in a name.

A good example of a creative brand name is GatherContent, a company that “helps teams organise and produce website content.” It’s easily pronounced, timeless, memorable, and most importantly, gives clients a pretty good idea what the company does.

4. Remember: market matters

Having a target market in mind is crucial to your successful launch. Ask yourself who needs and wants your product or skills. Prepare a marketing strategy that will attract clients in that market.

First, you’ll need to get inside your target market’s psyche. What appeals to them? What makes them purchase products? You can do this through extensive research, especially with other businesses similar to yours.

Give target clients several ways to get to know you and your brand. Make a website. Create and maintain social media accounts. Use your site and social media to introduce yourself. Show off what you offer with a portfolio or a gallery of your products.

Pay attention to the layout and design of your website: make sure it’s easy to navigate and aesthetically pleasing. Write or share articles relevant to your skill or products. Social media accounts can showcase the image you want your brand to project.

Interact with your clients and respond quickly to comments and messages. This tells clients they’re a priority. Take advantage of the way news circulates quickly on social media and use your accounts to network and gain clients.

5. Keep your costs under control

When you’re starting a freelance business, one of the first things to consider is your earning potential. Avoid getting overwhelmed with numbers and set a monthly income target. Your target should be realistic and attainable. Keep track of your finances down to the very last detail — have a budget.

An ideal way to keep your finances intact is to split your income three ways: personal, business, and emergency funds. (You might even want to create three separate bank accounts, one for each fund.) Make sure you stick to your allocated budget for each of these funds. Be rigid about splitting your personal and business funds, as this will make your tax deductions much easier to track. An emergency fund may not appear important, but remember that freelancing doesn’t guarantee a steady paycheck the way 9 to 5 does. There may be times when business is slow. Be prepared for setbacks.

Software can be especially helpful for managing finances, so check out the “Best finance and tax tools” section of our article “39 must-have tools and apps for freelance designers” for recommendations.

Lower your risk by planning your freelancing business before you take the leap

Getting started with a freelance business is definitely risky and will take time and effort. But once you get going, there will be nothing more fulfilling than seeing your hard work pay off.

If you have questions or more tips for future freelancers, share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

Nera Cruz

Nera Cruz is a technical writer and web merchandiser for various online marketplaces around the globe since 2011. She spends her free time selling her fashion products and gadgets on Facebook. You can also find her on Twitter @Nera_Cruz.

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