Are you thinking of leaving your full-time job to start a freelance business? Here are a few tips I’ve learned that will help you when you take the leap.
helpful tips for newbie freelancers:
1. Read successful blogs
Seems like a strange suggestion if you’re not really into reading blogs but, trust me. The first thing any new business owner wants to do is jump right into their branding. I say hold up. You think you know how to start a business but before you start you need to take a look at other freelancers who are successful. I don’t mean I want you to copy them but you should take notes on why they are successful. You’ll quickly notice that successful freelancers like to blog about how they came to be successful. Those are some of my favorite blog posts, full of great info for newbies. My advice is to start your blog search on Pinterest. Search for business in your field. I promise you’ll find blogs to read in no time.
2. Choose your niche
Alright, you’re constantly reading blogs and gaining valuable advice. You’re super motivated and ready to start your freelance business. Now it’s time to choose your niche. You can’t sell to everyone and the sooner you realize that the better. You need to focus on a target market that will need/want your services. This is not the easiest aspect of starting a business but to be successful it must be done. Check out my past post: 3 Tips to Define Your Target Market. Once you’ve narrowed down your services and chosen a niche then the fun begins.
3. Choose a business name
Think long and hard about your business name. Here are some things to consider:
Is it something that can grow with you if your business expands?
Will it mean something personal and if so would you be comfortable explaining it if a customer asks?
If you use your name could it possibly change in the future?
Will your name resonate with your target audience?
Once you decide upon a name you’ll need to choose if you want to open your business as a sole-proprietor (DBA) or an LLC. Jaime from Spruce Rd. wrote a great post about deciding between a DBA or LLC. I highly suggest you check it out. Then when you’re ready you’ll need to register your business with either your county or state. Check your state's requirements.
4. Get an EIN number
What’s an EIN number? In short an Employer Identification Number (EIN) is also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number, and is used to identify a business entity. EINs must be used by business entities--corporations, partnerships, and limited liability companies. However, most sole-proprietors don't need to obtain an EIN and can use their Social Security numbers instead. But keep in mind, if you plan on freelancing for a company they will ask you for your EIN number to complete your 1099. You can apply for your EIN number for free at irs.gov.
5. Open a business bank account
Hands down one of the most important things you can do for your business. I’ll share a personal story. I didn’t think I needed to open a business account. I thought I was running my finances well. I’d send a client an invoice and they’d pay it via paypal or send me a personal check. Then one day a client wrote a check out to my business name. So I went to the bank and asked them if there was an easy way for me to cash the check. The answer was no. The only way to cash it was to open a business bank account. I then had to go back to the bank with my business paperwork and my EIN number and open up a business account. I was embarrassed. Luckily I was able to open up the account quickly and cash my customers check.
Don’t be foolish like me. Get a business bank account right away. Another positive about opening an account is the ability to track all your business expenses through one account and to set money aside for taxes. This was a big business step for me. Financially my freelance business is set up for success.
6. Brand your company
Now that all the legal paperwork is out of the way you can start branding your freelance business. Keep in mind that your branding needs to speak to your target audience. To get you started with the branding process take a look at my past post on How to Start the Branding Process and download my Branding Questionnaire. After answering only 6 questions I promise you’ll have business clarity and will be ready to create your branding.
Branding however is not just your logo. Successful branding is carried through your logo, print collateral, website and social media accounts. Be sure to do it right from the start. Branding is an investment but it is crucial in this digital age.
7. Start a blog
Yes, as an online service based freelance business you’ll need to start a blog. Blogging has grown my business where it is today. I wrote a post about blogging: Why Blogging is the Most Important Thing You Can Do For Your Business. Give it a read.
8. Create contracts and workflows
When you’re first starting out in a freelance business it’s important to have contracts and workflows. If a client asks you for an estimate or timeline can you quickly and easily send them that info? If they are ready to begin working with you do you have a contract ready for them to sign? Building a client base comes from good referrals. So you want to look professional and give your first few clients a great experience working with you. To help you get started take a look at my branding workflow printable. It’s what I use to keep track of all my branding projects. Feel free to customize it for your business. To access my workflow printable all you need to do is subscribe to my FREE resource library. My library contains helpful worksheets, printables and guides.
9. Grow your email list
This may seem like something you can put off until later. No, no, no! You need to start growing your email list from the moment you go full-time freelance. Why? Because email subscribers are more likely to become paying customers. If you’re writing a weekly blog then you already have the content to engage with your subscribers. Read more about growing your email list in my post: 7 Ways to Grow Your Email List.
10. Get social on social media
Perhaps you’re a social media introvert like I was. I stayed away from it because I never thought I had anything valuable to share. I was wrong again. My biggest site referrals come from social media platforms. Pinterest to be exact. To grow a freelance business you need people to visit your site. The more social you are on social media the faster your page views grow. Share your blog posts, share others posts and engage with influencers and followers. I promise you’ll see a huge return on your time and effort.
To be completely honest I didn’t do all these steps in this order. But if I knew then what I know now my freelance business would’ve taken off a lot faster. The amazing thing about freelancing and being your own boss is that you learn something new everyday. I’d like to think I have a good grasp on my freelance business now after 6 years but the truth is I find a new app or learn a new marketing technique weekly and wonder how I worked without it. Starting a full-time freelance business is no walk in the park. It takes a lot of time and patience. Emphasis on the patience. But with these steps you’ll be on the path to success.
Are you a newbie freelancer? Did you find this post helpful? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.