Freelance 101: How to Start Freelancing

The topic of today’s blog post is going to be Freelancing 101. As you may have guessed, this is somewhat of a basic type of blog posts, so intermediate and advanced freelancers this may be a little bit easy for you guys. For those of you who are just getting starting, or who are new to freelancing, maybe thinking about jumping in and starting a business, this will be the perfect material for you to read early on.

Specifically in this article I want to talk about three things that apply to starting a freelance business. I want to talk about creating a plan, a business plan, marketing plan, freelancing plan, whatever you want to call it. I want to talk about establishing your freelance business, both legally and in a few other ways. Finally, I want to talk about getting started, jumping in, doing things, and how you can make that happen sooner, and with better results.

I’ll go into each of these points in a little bit of detail, and if you guys have questions feel free to ask us in the comments, or shoot us an e-mail, and we’ll be happy to try to answer them. All right, let’s get down to business.

Let’s talk about phase one of starting a freelance business. As I mentioned earlier, I consider phase one to be the planning stage. This is where you’re going to want to consider things like what services do you offer, who’s your target market, who are your competitors and what are they offering. What’s your financial situation going to look like for the business, and for your personal life, if you’re going to have to take time off work, or leave your job to start your freelance business how’s that going to impact your personal finances.

You can consider things like do you want a website, do you want a market in person, just about anything you can think of. Especially, if it’s something that maybe you’re a little bit anxious about, or you’re unsure about. It pays to plan these things and get them down in writing before you actually make the jump and start working. I say that, and I want to emphasize that it doesn’t have to be extraordinarily detailed.

You see business plans coming out of schools like Wharton, and Harvard, and things like that, and they’re 20, 30, 40, 50 pages long. Your plan doesn’t have to be that way. Your plan can be as simple as a 5 page document, or less, a 1 page document with just a few bullet points on there. Personally, when I’m planning my businesses I like to use PowerPoint. I create a few slides with some headlines, a couple bullet points, and then maybe an Excel Spreadsheet I attach with some the numbers, and the calculations in there. Whatever works for you in terms of planning is going to be what you what you want to do.

Before we move on, I just want to look at a few of the major categories that you’ll want to think about and plan ahead. The first one is your own services. What skill do you have, what services do you anticipate providing, what services do you want to provide in your freelance business? If you think about it, and a lot of freelancers miss this early on, if you’re very successful in your business, you could end up doing these things for a really, really long time.

I know a lot of people want to get out there and have some success, but you have to think about, do you really want to be designing websites for the next 5, or 10, or 15 years? Do you really want to be writing for all of that time? Make sure you consider that as you’re starting and planning your business, because you don’t want to start selling every service under the sun. Because pretty soon you might end up trapped in doing some of things, and you don’t like them, and then you’re not going to quality work, and it’s going to end up poorly for anyone.

The other big category to consider is your target market. Who are you selling these services to? How are you going to find them, and get your message in front of them? It’s very important to know this market, because the better you know your market, the more successful your message and your marketing is going to be. The easier of a time you’ll have finding clients, and the more you’ll be able to please those clients. It’s very important to know who you want to market to, and why they want your services, and how you’re going to make them happy with your services, and all of those sorts of things.

Finally, the last little bit that I like to go into detail is your competitors. Who else out there is marketing the same services that you have? Who’s selling to your target market? What can you learn from that? How can you differentiate your own freelance business from them? In a world with thousands of designers out there on the web, you need to have some specialty, or some edge. You can’t just do everything, be a brand new freelancer, and expect to differentiate yourself and get clients based on that. It’s very difficult that way.

Whereas, on the other hand, if you focus on a specific niche, you work hard in that area, you become an expert at a specific topic, you’re much more likely to be very successful with that, and to get clients based on that.