You know you want to start a freelance business… but where do you even BEGIN? Today, I’m going to break down for you exactly how to start a freelance business.
UPDATE/SIDE NOTE in January 2018:
Recently, I received an email that asked the BIG question: “I’m just starting out with my business—what should I work on first?”
I’ve received variations on this question so many times over the years. The truth is, the answer is far too complex to answer in an email, or even a detailed blog post. That’s why I created Set Yourself Up For Freelancing Success: it outlines exactly what you need to do at every stage along the way, step-by-step.
I cannot stress enough how valuable that e-course is if you’re feeling overwhelmed or confused about the world of business. It is your complete one-stop shop for getting your business started and helping you to feel confident as you move forward as a freelancer!
Dozens of students have completed the e-course and done everything from start their brand-new business from scratch, to grow an existing business they were struggling with, to successfully quit their day job and go full-time with their side hustle. It can do that for you, too! Plus, I offer a one-week refund period, so you can essentially try it out risk-free to see what the fuss is about
Okay, you’re thinking. I’ll check out Set Yourself Up For Freelancing Success. But can you give me a taste of what I should work on when I’m just starting out?
Alright: if you are starting from absolute scratch as a small business owner, here’s what you should work on…
Consider this your step-by-step guide to starting a freelance business:
Step #1 for how to start a freelance business: Decide what kind of business you want to have
You need to know what kind of freelance business you want to have before you get started with it. Choose something that you have some experience and education in, and also something that you LOVE to do.
If you don’t enjoy your business, then no matter how good of an idea it is, you won’t be putting your all into it… and you won’t have nearly as much success as you COULD have. Choose a profitable small business idea that lights a spark.
Want some freelance business ideas? I’ve got you covered! Check out my article featuring 29 different types of freelance jobs.
Step #2 for how to start a freelance business: Identify your ideal client
If you don’t know who your ideal client is, then you won’t know how to market your business to them effectively, how to price your services the right way, or even what services you should provide.
It all begins with who you are serving. Building a successful freelance business is based on people and relationships, so it’s important that you are very clear on who your ideal client is. Who your ideal client is will factor into all other areas of your business, so if you want to build a successful business—and save yourself a ton of time and energy by streamlining your marketing—then identifying your ideal client will enable you to do just that.
By the way, you can learn all about how to identify your ideal client and PITCH them in the Pitching Clients 101 e-course.
Step #3 for how to start a freelance business: Choose what services you will offer with your business
Again, as with choosing what type of business to have, I strongly recommend that you choose services which feel right for YOU.
If you don’t enjoy the services you provide to clients, you aren’t going to be nearly as good at your job as you would if you were passionate about the services.
Keep in mind that just because every other virtual assistant out there offers Facebook group management, for example, doesn’t mean that YOU need to offer that as a service if you don’t enjoy doing that kind of thing. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box! Put together services and packages that fill you with excitement.
In addition to figuring out what services *speak* to you, it’s also important to consider what kinds of services your ideal clients most want and need. There should be a lot of overlap in there (and if there’s not any overlap, then that’s a sign you should probably return to the drawing board).
Wondering how to go about choosing just how “niche” your services need to be? The Do I Need a Niche? article will help you out.
Step #4 for how to start a freelance business: Create your business plan, marketing strategy, and pricing strategy
How much will you charge for your services? What kind of pricing method should you use? How will you set rates as a freelancer? Get a pricing strategy in place before you even begin marketing! It’s okay if your rates change with time (and in fact, they should), but starting out with an idea in mind for what your rates look like, how much you’re willing to negotiate, and factoring in things like rush jobs will help you to speak with clients confidently about pricing.
…Then, once you’re ready to begin marketing, you need to have some kind of actionable plan for how to do it. Will you market online or in-person? What social media platforms will you use? Think about where your ideal client hangs out and which platforms you prefer when you’re choosing the best ways to market your business.
At this stage, you’ll also want to set business goals and put together a business plan.
Your business plan “steers the ship” of your business, so it’s not something you’ll want to forget about. Refer to your business plan regularly—it will help you to stay on track.
We have modules in Set Yourself Up For Freelancing Success that go over in detail how to do each one of these.
Step #5 for how to start a freelance business: Put together your freelance services webpage
Having your own website to direct potential clients to will lend more legitimacy to your business, and it will give potential clients a chance to learn more about you and the services you offer.
On your freelance services webpage, be clear about the services you offer and why your potential client should hire YOU. Don’t forget to include your contact information! I also recommend that you list your prices on your website.
Wondering what else you should have on your freelance services webpage? Find out 10 things to include on your freelance services webpage.
Step #6 for how to start a freelance business: Set up your home office and create a structured daily schedule and plan of action
Once you start working from home full-time… where will you work? Do you have all the necessary office supplies? You need to have an office to do client work and behind-the-scenes tasks for your business! Use the ultimate home office checklist to set up your home office. Something else you may want to look into at this stage of the game is to figure out an accounting system that makes for a good fit for your business—one that I’m looking into at the moment (and which I’ve heard great things about!) as my business is growing is Quickbooks.
Then, create a structured daily schedule and a plan of action so you know exactly what to work on at which times of day, as well. Having a strategic plan of action is one of my favorite tools for setting yourself up for a successful freelance business.
Step #7 for how to start a freelance business: IMPLEMENT everything
Remember what I said in last week’s article about working full-time and running a small business on the side: planning without taking action is just as detrimental as taking action without planning!
What’s the point in having a business plan and a marketing strategy if you aren’t going to ACT on it?
Once you have all of your strategies and plans in place, now you need to implement them into your daily and weekly schedule.
Psst… this is why we also A) make a point of creating practical plans that are action-oriented, and B) spend some time putting together schedules for ourselves so we know exactly what to work on, when.
Take the leap. Start taking action on your business, every single day—even if you only spend 15 minutes/day working away on it! Every little step makes a big difference over time.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT HOW TO START A FREELANCE BUSINESS:
Question #1: What should I do if I don’t have a website, social media accounts, or any kind of brand yet?
First, DON’T PANIC! We all started from scratch. So don’t worry; you’re in good company! Every successful freelancer started out exactly where you are: from the very beginning.
When you’re starting out without any kind of brand, don’t actually worry about this until you’ve gone through the above Steps #1 — 4. Once you’ve chosen your business type and services offered, identified your ideal client, and created your business plan and marketing strategy, THEN you’ll be in the best position for knowing what types of social media accounts you need to have and how to design the right brand for you.
I recommend starting with a website (every business should have its own website!). I like WordPress.org, but you can also get a free site at WordPress.com. Many people love Squarespace, although personally I find it very difficult to navigate the backend of it (but I’m in the minority there, I think!).
When it comes to choosing social media platforms, choose just one or two. Choose one that you enjoy and that your ideal client uses. Set aside time to play with it and learn more about it. You can add more social media accounts down the road, but you’ll get overwhelmed quickly if you try to add too many all at once.
Question #2: I want to be able to market my business to multiple different audiences. Is that okay?
You can absolutely have several different types of clients! However, you will get MUCH better results by starting with ONE audience.
Once you’ve attracted them and worked with them and your business is established, then you can add the next audience. Start with one audience and go from there.
Question #3: But hoooooow do I choose which audience I should start with?
You’ll want to consider things like which audience you already have a connection with, how one audience can transition into the next, who can benefit the most from your services, etc.
Psst… we talk all about this topic in-depth inside Pitching Clients 101!
Question #4: I have too many ideas for different things I could offer clients — how do I choose which idea is the RIGHT one?
Following this 3-step process for discovering your unique *perfect* business idea will help you out
Question #5: Okay but what if all my ideas for what I could offer are really vague?
There are so many reasons for why you might have vague ideas, and there are a series of steps you can take to get past all that vagueness! It’s not something we can go over easily in one blog post.
We help you really tackle this problem and define your services across Modules 1, 2 & 3 in Set Yourself Up For Freelancing Success, so that’s probably going to be your best option.
Question #6: I don’t know if I can make money from my idea, though. What should I do?
Check out this free workbook. It shows you how you can turn your cool idea into a PROFITABLE one.
Question #7: I am COMPLETELY OVERWHELMED and even after reading all of this, I just feel as though I’m never going to get my business going. There are so many resources to look at. There’s so much to learn. How can I possibly make a go of this?!
HUGS. I know. Starting a business by yourself is tough!
If you’re still feeling as though there’s just too much to look at and learn right now, then that’s a sign you definitely could use Set Yourself Up For Freelancing Success in your life. It has literally changed lives for small business owners across the world, and it could do the same for you.
Or, for more support and hand-holding, join the Biz Bestie one-on-one program… which includes Set Yourself Up For Freelancing Success as part of it!
Question #8: I have the dream of my own business, but I’m nervous I don’t have the drive for it. What do I do?
Only you can know whether you have what it takes to start your own business.
I can tell you that it won’t be easy, but if you truly want this for your life, then you will find it is one of the most rewarding and wonderful steps you can take. There is something extraordinarily beautiful about waking up every morning, excited about going to work… and working on something that YOU created, and which is entirely yours. There’s nothing quite like it in the world.
Question #9: I’m really busy so I don’t know how to prioritize my business or find the time for it?
Here’s the tough love: all of us are super busy. All of us are strapped for time.
My business partner Dan was in the middle of the busiest season ever at his 9 to 5 job (which included working evenings and weekends), while simultaneously in the middle of buying his first house and moving into it, planning a wedding with his fiance, launching a podcast with me, and starting a brand-new business from scratch with me.
I have seen single parents find the time to create a side business from scratch, and people dealing with mental health issues who have worked on their business while trying to manage their health.
The truth is, we all have stuff going on in our lives. You have to decide whether or not you want to make your business a priority. If you do want it to be a priority, then you have to make time for it.
The best advice I can give, if you’ve decided to prioritize your business and make time for it, is to be STRATEGIC with how you use your time.
That’s why we have the free Begin Your Biz Challenge (where we share action steps you can take every day in just 15 minutes to move the needle forward in your business) and the free bootcamp on how to create a strategic plan of action.
That’s also why, in every single one of our online business courses, we focus on teaching you how to create actionable strategies that are exactly the right fit for your unique situation.
Question #10: I’m struggling with the taxes and legal side of my business! How do I deal with all of that?
Get yourself an amazing accountant! I cannot overstate how important having an amazing accountant is for your business, and how having a great relationship with them can transform your business. DO THAT NOW.
Question #11: What if I’m really good at creating stuff, but terrible at marketing?
The only reason why you think you’re terrible at marketing is because you’re choosing marketing techniques that you don’t enjoy.
But guess what? There are countless different ways to market yourself! In Set Yourself Up For Freelancing Success, we focus on non-sleazy marketing techniques that you’ll feel a lot more comfortable with (spoiler alert: they absolutely work for introverts).
Question #12: How am I going to get my very first client? It seems impossible!
Again, we’ve ALL been there. Every one of us had to get a first client before we got a second, third, fourth, fiftieth!
We talk a bunch in Set Yourself Up For Freelancing Success on marketing your business and finding clients in Modules 4 & 5. If you want immediate answers, here are two additional resources that will help you out:
- How to get your first clients: day-by-day breakdown
- How to get retainer clients: week-by-week marketing plan
Want some help as you’re going through each of these steps?
Join Set Yourself Up For Freelancing Success!
It’s helped dozens of students as they start their freelance businesses and to go from struggling to success. It can help you, too.