So, you want to start a freelance business.
Congratulations! You picked the perfect time. Besides the Great Resignation wave of 2021, not only is demand increasing for freelance workers, but 84% of freelancers say running their own business lets them live the lifestyle they want.
Rather than working for others, you’re creating your career path. Since 64% of freelancers experienced an improvement in health once diving into their freelance business, it’s no surprise you’re considering taking the leap. And you should.
Being a freelancer entails:
- More independence and flexibility
- Greater exposure and vast opportunity
- Complete control over who you collaborate with
- Unlimited earning potential
It could seem like a challenge to start from scratch. You might feel uncertain about where to start and how to get your new business off the ground. You’ve got the guts and the grit to visualize the prospect, but now you need the optimal tips and tools to start and run a successful freelance business.
Go big or go back to the 9-5. Let’s explore what you need to get your freelance business launched and booming.
Taking the Initiative
Start with an idea
The freelance industry has ample opportunities, with many popular specializations on the rise. Spend some time getting clear on your attributes and interests.
Consider what drives you most in the professional world and how the skills you’ve attained through your experience would suit you in branching out as an independent entity. Many freelancers used to have some 9 to 5 jobs before they developed a full set of skills which provoked them to start their own business. Just think of what you are good at.
Another advantage of starting a freelancing business is your ability to work in multiple domains. But when you’re first starting out, you want to lay a solid foundation for where your strong points are and how you can utilize them to catapult your new venture. We’ll talk more about this later.
Have a business mindset
While freelancing means that you’ve got the opportunity to work with various companies rather than being employed by one, shifting your mindset from freelancer to entrepreneur is crucial to your success. The key differences between the mindsets of a freelancer and an entrepreneur are as follows:
- work alone and sticks to this model
- trade time for money
- focus on growing own skills and expertise;
- build businesses they can run on their own
- create revenue generation streams
- Focus on systems and streamlining of business activities.
You’re not just doing a job but managing a business with 100% accountability. Becoming an entrepreneur is challenging yourself and accepting your failures as learning experiences.
There is a continuing necessity for development and building, requiring you to adapt to changes quickly and elevate your interpersonal skills when needed. Your work ethic will determine whether the risk is worth the reward.
Set measurable goals
Safeguarding your mental health is the top priority when stepping into a business owner’s mindset, avoiding the burnout that many face when the desire to succeed turns into overambition.
You want to stay determined, track your progress, and meet your expectations, but without a clear sense of direction, you’re going to overwhelm yourself.
Setting measurable goals that feel attainable is how you work smarter, not harder. We recommend setting OKRs at first since this methodology works great for startups and entrepreneurs.
Co-Founder of SoStocked, Chelsea Cohen, says, “You need to identify benchmarks to make sure your business progresses. It will also reinforce your confidence in being on the right path.”
Control the standard for the short and long-term goals you want to achieve. Make sure they are specific, feel realistic, and have a designated time frame for completion. Read all about SMART goals in this article outlining project management basics.
Attracting Your Ideal Clients
Find a profitable niche
We talked about generating the idea for where you see yourself fitting into the freelancing world based on your skills. But if you want to procure the right clients, you’ve got to narrow down your distinct sweet spot and where the market lands for it.
Take your time to find the industry and client who values the quality you provide. Choose the area of activity you are genuinely interested in and focus on becoming one of the best service providers in the narrow space.
For example, if you’re a freelance writer, consider the style and subject matter you feel most passionate about. Maybe you’ve got knowledge in finance or experience writing about alternate health; go deeper into where your proficiency could streamline into a niche.
Identify your target clients
To define your ideal client you must analyze the services you will offer, decide the benefits they provide, and determine who will gain the most support.
When considering who these people may be, keep core values, personality traits, and specific demographics (age, location, profession) in mind. You want to know their goals, fears, and desires so you can pinpoint their target needs.
Remember, you don’t want to work with just anyone, and you do have the power to ask yourself who you’d like to work with when making these decisions.
Conduct target market research. Assess where other freelance business owners with your same ideal clients are connecting, both off and online, and align with where your niche could fill those spaces.
Set strategic prices
Pricing your services for the first time can feel a bit intimidating. Do you want to work on an hourly rate, or do you want to be paid by project? If you’re a writer, will you charge by the word?
You want to remain in a competitor’s market, establishing a medium where your pricing feels most reasonable while also knowing your worth. If you have a benchmark goal, don’t assume you need to go below that rate simply because you want work. It will not benefit you in the long run.
Jeff Zhou, CEO of Fig Loans suggests pricing your work based on the value you deliver. “There is no such thing as a high price if you are confident about the value you deliver.”
Craft professional quotes which provide you with simplistic templates to format, send, and keep track of your estimates and statements.
Running a Successful Business
Market yourself effectively
Demonstrate authority in your field when connecting with your market. You can make efforts to maintain a business presence that allows you to stand out. Here are some ideas.
Jerry Han, the CMO of PrizeRebel, suggests: “Establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry. This can give you the credibility your business needs to stand out.”
Launch a website that showcases your work. You want a specific place that allocates your contact information, a bit about you, your portfolio, and relevant testimonials from people you’ve worked with.
Run a blog that effectively demonstrates well-researched, relevant industry material that amplifies your services and how you’re the prime person to execute them.
Post on social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to engage with your prospective clients and find new ways to relate to them and cater to their needs.
Consider time management for more opportunities
Project management is now an essential part of your responsibilities, and uncovering the methods that will optimize the time you have to work without overwhelm will help you prevent project failure.
Consider time tracking software, project planning software, and task management tools that will help you successfully organize and plan your time productively. Paymo is a task and project management platform that allows you to track your work, bill your clients, oversee your finances and files, and increase your productivity all in one place.
Speaking of sending invoices to your clients, read this complete invoicing guide to learn about the benefits of invoicing and which invoicing mistakes to avoid.
Maximizing your time with proper scheduling and prioritizing will provide you with more opportunities because you always know what needs your attention, how you’re going to take action, and the time you have to do it.
Cultivate a community of prospective clients and build a rapport with them. Whether in-person or virtually, look into where they spend their time so you can join the conversations.
Contribute to appropriate discussions online, chat on social media, and other forums like UpWork Community, Freelancer Community, WritersNet, etc., where people are talking about the same areas your freelance business is designed around.
In the age where freelancing is becoming the more appealing way to work, there are online networks for freelancers to connect with clients who best fit their business model like Fiverr, Toptal, Jooble, Flexjobs, etc.
It’s also necessary to build contacts with other people in your field. Fellow freelancers can be great modes of support along with another channel for references and referrals. Consider teaming up with a freelance copywriter to unite and conquer if you’re a web designer.
Growing the Business
Maintain relationships and boost reputation
Create a client communication system that will keep your existing clients close, maintaining a meaningful relationship with them that builds trust.
You want to develop mutual respect with the people you work with, so be authentic and nurture them with exceptional, consistent communication.
Know your value and set a positive tone where you’re actively listening to your network, asking for feedback, and managing the expectations you want them to have of you. Leverage your relationship by showing appreciation and keeping in touch.
The more a client feels like they can relate to you through your established bond, the more they’ll entrust their projects to you.
Automate everything you can
You cannot do it all, and even though being a freelance business owner means you’re the boss, it doesn’t mean that you can’t find operative ways to auto-generate some of your responsibilities where you can.
Roy Morejon, President, and Co-Founder of Eventys Partners, believes that “to grow your business, you need to ramp up your productivity. Unfortunately, attempting to handle all of your business obligations manually gets impossible at some stage.”
You might be a digital marketer who knows nothing about managing expenses or an IT expert who is totally lost on how to adjust their resource management accordingly. Simplify the experience with platforms that do the work for you to save time and focus on the job you want to be doing.
Consider hiring a consultant
“Not every entrepreneur knows how to recognize their shortcomings,” claims Mike Grossman, the CEO of GoodHire.
“Working with an experienced consultant in your industry will help you identify some of your challenges and provide you with strategic solutions to magnify your resources and opportunities.” They will help you craft the best practices and mentor you through whatever transformation your business is under.
For instance, you might want to incorporate your business and yet your strength isn’t legal compliance. Consult with business formation services such as Incfile or LegalZoom, which have been reviewed by SmallBusinessHQ, to get expert guidance.
A consultant’s level of knowledge is precisely targeted to the subject matter you want to strengthen your authority in, helping you be more proactive by making clear and concise points for better decision making.
Leaving an office career for being a freelancer or starting your own business is a tough decision that requires a great deal of calculation and assessment of one’s own capabilities. Most professionals are afraid to take the first step and spend a lot of time dealing with doubts.
Don’t be harsh on yourself. Give yourself the freedom to explore your options and make a plan that feels within reach and has the potential for broadening over time. Invest in your skillset to stay up to date on technology and trends in your field. Be patient and remain committed to your business.
Remain willing to change your course if you know it will benefit your long-term goals but keep your core values close. Always aim for quality, and you will definitely find the niche and dedicated clients. You run the show now. Do it your way.
First published on May 11, 2022.
Erika Rykun is a content strategist and producer who believes in the power of networking and quality writing. She’s an avid reader, writer, and runner.