Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Freelance Business
If you asked me a few years ago, I never would have believed that it was possible to start your own freelancing business, via the Internet, without shelling out a lot of money.
In a 2017 survey done by Upwork, it was found out that about 57.3 million people in the US are already freelancing and contribute an estimated $1.4 trillion to the economy. Millennials are leading the way for this workforce, with about 47% of them already joining the freelance economy.
In this guide, we will talk about the beginning steps to creating your own online freelance business and some awesome ideas to get you started!
Is a Freelancing Business Right for You?
There are many reasons why people opt to join the so-called gig economy these days: freedom, flexibility and earning extra money can be found at the top of the list.
However, there are still those who are afraid to leap because of the lack of benefits. The unpredictable income and the difficulty of finding work, especially at the start, are also the top reasons why people decide against it.
But, you never really know if you can make it unless you give it a try, right? If you’re ready to start a freelancing career from home, here are the steps that you should take in order to get the ball rolling.
Start With Your Why
Stephen Covey, in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, says to begin with the end in mind.
Why? Because you want to make sure that you have a clear vision of your desired destination. Knowing so will help you make the right choices every single day – every task, project or action you do should take you one step closer to your goal.
It also helps to have a mission statement and to have a why.
Why do you want to run a freelance business? Is it because you want to have more time with your family? Is it because you want to become your own boss? Is it because you want more flexibility in your schedule?
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Having a why – and making sure that you place it in an area where you constantly see it – helps get you through the tough times. Remember that entrepreneurship can be very tough and it has its highs and lows. Remembering your why will help you go through all the hardships and will keep you focused and determined, even if your current mindset tells you otherwise.
Choosing the Perfect Business
There is no one-size-fits-all formula when it comes to running a successful business. What works for one may not work for another – entrepreneurship requires a lot of experimentations and failures before one can achieve success.
How do you choose the right business for you? The best place to start is to find your skills and passion. Doing this will save you time training yourself and getting used to the new niche. This is not to say, of course, that you cannot try and experiment with other niches.
Another important thing to consider is to look through the profitable niches. Why do successful bloggers and business owners seem to all run the same business (running blogs about making money?) This is because a lot of other people are interested in these topics – and would be willing to spend money to learn more about making money.
If you can actually find a sweet spot between a niche that is profitable and one that you are skillful and passionate in, then that would be the best.
Taxes and Legalities
It takes a lot of research and work if you want to properly register yourself as a legal business in the United States. We won’t go through that in full detail because certain steps may vary depending on what state you are in.
However, before you start anything at all, you need to make sure to do this one thing: keep your personal and business money separate.
I’m quite sure you already have an existing personal savings account, so that’s all set. Now, the next thing that you need to do is to set up a business checking account. A checking account makes it easier for you to make payments for services plus keeping your accounts separate will make it easier to track income and expenses, which is particularly helpful if you want to keep track of your growth. Doing this also makes tax time a lot less stressful.
And speaking of taxes, you need to keep in mind that there are many different taxes you need to pay for: federal, state and sometimes, city taxes.
It is best to consult with an accountant for this one and get their help for setting up your accounting/bookkeeping software so you can input your cash flow there from day one, instead of scrambling through all your records come tax time. Also, make sure to set aside around 30 percent of your gross income for your tax dues.
Building Your Brand
Contrary to what many people think, you do not actually need a website to start your online business, but you can start one for free in just a few minutes. In fact, a lot of people who run successful virtual assistant businesses can do it without one (not even social media accounts) and can grow their business through referrals.
It is essential, however, to find a place where you can put in all your links to past works as well as customer testimonials. This way, you can direct potential clients to your online portfolio and find all your qualifications, certifications and awards, and references.
Once you are ready to invest a little more time and money, you can create your website and run your social media accounts and use it as your 24/7 salesperson.
Those who are just starting out with their online freelance businesses may find it difficult to find clients, especially when they have no prior experience. Among the most suggested places to find clients are job marketplaces such as Upwork, Freelancer.com, Hubstaff Talent, Craigslist and so on.
Keep in mind though that there could still be a lot of scammers in these platforms just waiting for their next victims. And, while a lot of people scorn the use of these platforms due to the high fees, it is still a great place to start building your experience and portfolio. Plus, if you are able to play your cards right, you might be able to land high-paying clients in these places.
Cold emailing and pitching is also another highly recommend method of finding clients. It does take great skill to create a pitch that catches attention and closes a sale so learn to tweak and figure out what works and what doesn’t in your pitching process.
If you have a network of family or friends who run online businesses, you can also reach out to them to see if they require your services. If they say no, then you could ask for referrals in their network – it wouldn’t take long before you land your first client!
There are many ways to determine your pricing. One common method is to figure out your annual income goal and then divide it by the number of hours you plan to work for the entire year.
Don’t forget to take into consideration things such as your insurances, taxes and other utilities and software you need to pay for in order to run your business. Also take into account other unbillable time such as those used for administrative tasks, invoicing and communication with clients.
Ultimately, your client will be paying for your skill and the results that you deliver, not the expenses that you need to pay for.
Doing Work and Managing Your Schedule
Now, for the most important part: doing and delivery your work.
Once you have a client sign your contract and pay your invoice (this depends on your arrangement), take the time to properly onboard your clients and ask for all their necessary details. Depending on the project, this might include login details to their website or social media accounts.
Be sure to keep an open communication with your clients and update them on the progress of your work. Some freelancers would rather avoid back-and-forth emails as this usually takes up a lot of time so you can use project management software such as Trello, Asana or Basecamp. You might also want to consider using online chatting platforms such as Slack or even Facebook Messenger.
Lastly, make sure to enter all necessary details in your calendar. Add in all important dates and make sure to place an internal deadline for yourself as well, so you can submit your finished tasks ahead of time.
Popular Freelance Business Niche Ideas
Hopefully, you enjoyed this beginners guide to starting a freelance business. Some of the most popular freelance businesses include writing, proofreading, transcription, virtual assistant. Below I’ve left links to some awesome courses that can help your freelance business get started on the right foot. The course below will teach you the whole process of starting a freelance business from scratch. Including getting legal, creating a website, finding high-paying clients, and providing great work! Make sure to check them out:
If a freelance business isn’t for you, make sure to check out these other ways to make money online!