Millions of people are choosing to forego the traditional career route and are opting for a freelance business instead. Why are they choosing to do that? Because it provides for a more flexible lifestyle. There are fewer taxes to pay, lower employee-related expenses, no healthcare, less office space, and more. The practice of hiring freelancers in certain areas of business has also become more acceptable and attractive for business owners. It means that there are huge opportunities for anyone with useful skills to start their own business. It’s also something that can be started while you’re already working full time and eventually grow it into a sustainable self-employed career.
If you’d like to know how it’s done and maybe start your own freelance business here are some important steps you’ll need to take.
Are You Ready?
Before you do anything, you need to decide whether you’re ready to make such a big change in your life. After all, it has the potential to be life-changing. Take some time and evaluate yourself, as this is a good way to gauge how ready you are and whether you need to make any changes. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:
- Have you got the time to devote to your new business? There could be long hours involved.
- Are you able to keep yourself motivated? You’re not going to have a boss looking over your shoulder.
- Are the resources available? Workspace, software, financial stability are necessary.
- Will you be able to handle an inconsistent income? Freelancing is not as steady as working for one company.
While you’re looking at yourself, it might also be a good time to define your goals. Without them, you’re going to struggle to get where you want to go. Are you simply looking for a way to earn some extra income? Do you want to become a full-time freelancer and enjoy all the benefits of being your own boss? Is being a freelancer simply a stepping stone for something else? Ask any entrepreneur, and they’ll agree that being clear of your goals is vital for the success of your business.
Find a Profitable Niche
It’s very likely there are going to be plenty of competitors in your chosen area, many of which will happily charge lower rates than you because the cost of living where they live is much lower. This means that price is not something you need to worry about competing on. Instead, concentrate on finding a profitable niche for your freelance business. By doing this, you’re going to be looking for an industry and clients that values quality rather than price. This does mean you won’t be taking every job that comes your way.
If you’re wondering how to decide on a niche, think about areas that really interest you. For example, if you’re planning a freelance writing career, choose to write in an area that you’re passionate about, such as environmental issues, pet care, the beauty or the fashion industry. Choosing an area means you’ll be able to focus on becoming the best. When you’ve built your skills, you’re able to charge a premium for your service or product confidently.
What Type of Client do You Want to Attract?
To begin with, you’re going to have to go with your instincts, but as your business grows, you’ll be able to hone your target client profile. Start with a few basic assumptions about who you want to work with. After a period of time, you’ll get a better sense of which type of client you prefer to work with and aim your business at that market. You may find yourself turning away business, which can be hard to do in the beginning. However, narrowing your focus is going to help you achieve better results in the long run.
Build a Portfolio Website
How is a client going to know you’ve got what they want if you can’t show them? A powerful online presence is vital for anyone wanting to start a freelance career. Your portfolio website will be the first impression a client gets of you. They’ll be able to get a feel for your style, your work and previous clients you have worked for. Your website needs to clearly communicate the services or products you offer and who you’re aiming your business at. It’s also a way of selling yourself and why you’re the best person for the job. An effective website has to include:
- Contact information
- Your area of expertise and examples of your work
- Relevant skills, education, and accomplishments
- Testimonials from previous clients, co-workers, and former bosses
Remember to publish regular updates to the site, including new clients and sample work. This shows your evolution.
Choosing Your First Clients
Your first clients are important, both from a financial and portfolio-building standpoint. This makes choosing the right ones vital. To find the best ones consider whether a client is going to help you achieve your goals. Don’t fall into the trap of retaining too many clients at once. Two is a good rule of thumb, with the aim that they’re the ones most aligned with your ideal future client.
Learn How to Sell Yourself
This could well be the hardest lesson you have to learn, but it has to be the most beneficial. It doesn’t really matter how good you are at what you do. If you can’t communicate your strengths to any future clients, your skills are worthless. Work on your elevator pitch, because the first couple of minutes in any communication is crucial. Sell your strengths. Be prepared for any questions that might be raised. Use work samples and previous projects to demonstrate your expertise.
One last tip for those who are starting out while still in full-time employment is to remember your day job is your number one priority. You need to keep your job as it’s keeping you afloat and paying the bills while your freelance business is growing. Make sure any employment contracts or agreements aren’t being breached. Don’t work on your freelance business during working hours or use company resources, computers, or online tools within your freelance business.