Nowadays you can find various online freelance markets where companies can find professionals from all possible sectors ready to be hired for their projects. More and more business hires freelancers, not only for it is a simple way to find employees but it’s more profitable. That gives an incredible opportunity to people with the necessary skillset to start a freelancing business on the side, and probably grow that into a sustainable self-employed career. That’s exactly what I’ve done with my content marketing consultant business.
Advantages are multiple lower employee-related expenses, no healthcare, less operational charges. Therefore many companies are searching for freelance writers, designers, marketers, and web developers to be involved in their businesses projects. On the other side, freelancers can take advantage of so many great freelance jobs websites with endless job opportunities that are only getting better and better. However, it’s not too easy to be hired for a well-remunerated job without an impressive skillset because of huge competition from the side of freelancers.
A recent study by the University of Phoenix, polling 1,600 adults under the age of 30, found that 63% of people in their 20’s either owns their own business or want to in the near future. Of those who are not already entrepreneurs, 55% identified as wanting to be, one day.
So, how do those of us, regardless of age, who want to be fruitfully self-employed, go about getting started with our careers as entrepreneurs? Well, choosing to start a freelance business is one of the most feasible, realistic, and achievable side businesses in order to achieve the financial freedom you can start while keeping your day job (and the security that comes along with it).
We all have bills that need to be paid and expenses that don’t just magically go away overnight once we decide to chase our dreams. Choosing to become an entrepreneur comes with great responsibility.
I recommend reading this guide all the way through from top to bottom, but if you prefer to jump around, here’s a hyperlinked table of contents that’ll take you straight to each stage of how to start freelancing.
Want to be established as a successful freelancer in 2022? Pursue these advices!
- Determine Your Goals
- Find a Profitable Niche
- Identify Your Target Audience
- Provide Strategic Prices for Your Services
- Build a High-Quality Portfolio Website
- Provide Examples of your products and services (on Your Portfolio Site)
- Thoughtfully Choose Your First Clients
- Mention Potential Clients in Your Content
- Learn How to Represent Yourself in a Valuable Manner
- Develop Your Personal Discipline and Respect you Orders Deadlines
Like it or not, you’ll have to create a decent amount of free time in your schedule to build a self-employed business.
1. Determine Your Goals
If you want to achieve your main objective of being successfully self-employed you need to set precise and measurable intermediate goals and complete them.
• Is freelancing just a source of additional revenue on the side of your day-to-day work?
• Are you passionate about becoming a full-time freelancer to take profit from the benefits of having your own boss?
• Or do you want to practice freelancing as a stepping stone to ultimately achieve a completely different goal?
Regardless of what your ultimate goal is, you need to make it as clear as possible. All of the world’s top entrepreneurs agree with this when it comes to successfully starting a business.
Take your time to clarify why you are considering starting a freelance business at all. You want…
• Become a freelance writer?
• How about a freelance translator?
• Maybe a freelance developer?
Define the work rates you want to be hired for.
Make sure this decision is the right step towards achieving your main goal.
Only after you have precision about where you want freelancing to take you can you start maintaining your short-term goals and benchmarks that will help your freelance business become successful.
Firstly when you start your freelancer path it isn’t imperative to quit your regular job if you have one. Try to combine your side freelance activity with your real job and progressively grow it. One day when your freelance income will be able to cover your lifestyle expenses it will give you the liberty of choice to leave definitely your job and concentrate only on your freelance business.
2. Find a Profitable Niche
How will you begin your freelance journey? Let’s suppose you’re a graphic designer by trade, or you’ve at least been building your skills with Adobe Illustrator & Photoshop in your free time.
Undoubtedly, you will encounter a lot of competitors in your industry that’ll be willing to provide much lower rates than you, no matter what you do. People from countries with lower living costs that’ll always be willing to accept lesser-paid gigs than you. Forget the idea of trying to compete on price as a freelancer. It will ruin your freelancer career at the beginning, instead, try to raise the quality. Increase the quality of the services you want to be hired for and make them unbeatable in terms of quality.
“Successful freelancers compete on value, not price.”
Try to build a quality portfolio that reflects your abilities, if you seek to become an article writer then owning a blog with strong articles of yours can be a big advantage.
Once you’ve built your skillset to a level that you can confidently charge a premium for, and then you’re ready to start your freelance business and look for your ideal clients.
Once you’ve made yourself invaluable within your niche, you’ll find a platform by which you can expand your freelance business in any direction you’d like in the future.
3. Identify Your Target Audience
You are ready to progress in the niche you already chose, so what do you need next? Of course honest and cooperative customers.
As you’re just starting your freelance business, it’s fine to not be selective in terms of choosing clients. Make some initial suggestions about who you want to work with, target them first, and after working with a few of them, you’ll build a very clear sense of whether or not you want to continue pursuing similar clients.
This is a difficult decision to make at first because it means turning away a lot of business. However, the process of narrowing in on the target clients that you work best with will help you achieve much better results in the long run. Once you have a few clients who are willing to recommend you, the momentum will really pick up.
Reminding again our focus of competing on value, not price, everything you do in regard to starting your freelance business – especially when you have a very limited amount of free time – needs to point back to your ability to deliver the highest quality results for your clients.
To define the best type of target clients as you start a freelance business, ask yourself these three questions:
• For what businesses are my services use the most?
• Which businesses are able to pay the prices I’ll need to charge,
in order to get to my income goal?
• Can I find a way to connect with them on a personal level? Don’t be shy try to collaborate on a personal level
4. Provide Strategic Prices for Your Services
I’ve spoken a lot about setting the right prices for your freelance business before you get started. I even architected an infographic that walks you through the process of setting your freelance hourly rate.
From a pure numbers perspective, this freelance rate explorer from Bonsai is as good as it gets for determining what your expected hourly rate should be for your industry—in order to see if your rates will meet your income goals and expense levels. There are tons of great tools out there for double-checking that you’re charging enough to afford the lifestyle you want to live, but I recommend starting to determine your pricing strategy with a very different progression in mind.
Remember, you need to price yourself based on the value you deliver, not based on what your competitors are charging.
“Price yourself based on the value you deliver, not what your competitors are charging.”
Don’t allow anyone else to dictate the terms by which you define your value. That’s not what starting a freelancing business is about.
Digital marketing consultant Neil Patel chronicles many of the lessons he learned while running an SEO freelance business on his blog—even before he learned how to make money blogging in more passive ways. One of the most prominent lessons that stuck out to me, is that the more you charge, the fewer clients complain. Because he very astutely selected target clients that have big budgets, he knows that they’re much more willing to spend money—in order to make that money back through investing in your services.
Smaller clients, on the other hand, often don’t have as much money to play with, and thus can’t sustain much in terms of losses when projects don’t deliver big returns.
There’s no such thing as prices that are too high. Your prices may be too high (or too low) for the types of clients you’re targeting, but if you do your homework in deciding who to pitch your services to, you’ll be selling exactly what your clients need – for a price they can justify.
“There’s no such thing as prices that are too high if you deliver enough value.”
In my freelance business, I write well-researched, in-depth blog post ideas for my clients (just like I publish here, which was one of my original motivations to learn how to start a blog in the first place).
Most of my content is in the range of 1,500 – 2,500 words per piece and is designed to rank well in organic search results, which is extremely valuable for most businesses. Because my work extends beyond just writing a headline, crafting the article, and into strategic distribution and driving traffic after the content publishes, I add a lot more value for my clients than any other “writer” can bring to the table. For that extra value, my prices start at $500 per post (plus distribution) and sharply go up from there, based on other requirements and add-ons.
They’re going to hire someone to help with their projects, so it’s just a matter of showing them you’re the right person to help. Price becomes a secondary concern if they’re already convinced that you’re the best person for the job. It’s business and they’ll make it work, or it wasn’t meant to be.
Keep in mind that you won’t be the perfect person for every client, and remember that just showing off the fact that you know all the business slang and industry jargon within your niche isn’t a sign of authority.
5. Build a High-Quality Portfolio Website
What is the first thing that the clients can take an impression form about you? Undoubtedly it’s your portfolio, the more impressive it is more your chances are higher to end up with good orders.
As a starting point, let’s understand what the purpose of having a portfolio website is, in the first place. It’s often the first impression a potential client will have of you, your style, your work, and the past clients (or companies) you’ve worked with in your freelance business. You need to effectively communicate the services you offer, and who they’re for. Beyond that, you need to sell yourself on why you’re the best person for this type of work – for the clients you want to work with.
Your freelance portfolio needs to do the following, in order to be truly effective at selling your services:
- Transmit the specialty & display examples of your work.
- List your contact information & show off your personality.
- Highlight your relevant skills, education, and accomplishments.
- Display testimonials (even if they’re from coworkers or former bosses when you’re just getting started).
- Have regular updates that show your evolution, new clients, and updated sample work.
As you’re building your portfolio site, find other freelancers within your space and get some inspiration from them to help reveal how they’re positioning themselves, formulating their value propositions, and going about building their businesses. If you need more resources on building out your portfolio site, then check out these guides here on my blog:
- The best blogging courses that’ll point you in the right direction on how to make a website that’s compelling
- Top blogging tips and advice from expert bloggers
- How to write a blog post(and convincing sales pages) in order to convert readers into clients
- My most successful ways to drive traffic to your blog and nurture readers into prospects
Up next, you’ll want to showcase the best work on your portfolio site!
Provide Examples of your products and services (on Your Portfolio Site)
You want your website to serve as a destination to demonstrate your expertise.
With that in mind, one of the best ways to show you’re in the know within your space is by regularly publishing new content, images, or videos (depending upon the content medium you work in) that your target clients will be impressed with. Once you have an understanding of what your clients need, go out and create examples of that exact type of content – as if you had been hired to produce it – for your own website.
There’s no better way to sell your services than to already show your clients that you can create what they need. What’s more, is that it’ll make their projects that much easier when you have a library of related work to pull from for inspiration.
My website is a living example of this. When I set out to start a freelance business, I decided early on that at least once per month, I was going to make it a point to publish a very thorough 4,000+ word blog post on topics that fall under teaching my readers how to start and grow a profitable side business, the theme of everything on my site and something I have intimate experience with.
It’s no coincidence that I choose to work with clients that have a very similar target market, as those who I speak to on my personal blog here. All my potential clients need to do, is check out a few of my posts to see how much engagement they get, pick up on my conversation style, and get a feel for how I’d be able to work with them & their target audience.
7. Cleverly Choose Your First Clients
Because you have a very limited amount of time to source new clients (and actually do the work for them) as you start your freelance business, you need to get the most out of the clients you do bring on. Both from a financial and portfolio-building standpoint.
Your limited number of clients and correlating portfolio pieces will represent how you’re perceived by other potential clients moving forward.
That makes everyone you choose to work with or highlight on your website, a crucial decision – especially in the beginning. Obviously, you don’t want to overthink it and go into decision paralysis but spend a minute or two thinking through whether or not each potential client you’re considering, will help you get to where you want to go.
Bonus points if you’re extremely systematic about tracking your freelance client leads using a tool like one of my picks for the best CRMs for small businesses (and freelancers).
I typically only retain 2 clients for my freelance business at a time. It’s not for lack of work requests that come in, but rather because I’ve chosen to allocate my limited amount of freelance time to these two clients that are most aligned with the future clients I want to work with, as well.
Check out this post from Paul Jarvis on Lifehacker, about how to choose the right clients for your freelance business.
8. Mention Potential Clients in Your Content
Scouring the Internet for the best remote jobs won’t always net you instant results. And you’re going to have a hard time making a name for yourself within your niche if nobody knows you exist.
That’s why within every piece of content I create on my blog, I regularly mention the brands, companies, and individuals I see myself potentially working with one day. Even if I’m not quite ready to take on new clients, or I’m not even qualified to go after such huge deals yet, it’s never too early to start building goodwill and getting your name in front of the right people at your target companies.
Look ahead at the content you plan on creating for your website over the coming weeks, and keep a running list of the companies you want to feature whenever possible. Then, once you publish something that mentions them, take a few minutes to reach out and let them know about it.
As an aside, if you’re having trouble with your content planning efforts, you can grab my free blog planner bundle and turn things up a notch today.
I can’t emphasize enough how integral this step has been, in helping me start a freelance business and grow my personal brand so quickly.
Almost every time I do this, the person I email responds very quickly with thanks, they’ll usually share it through their company social channels, and they won’t forget it.
Most of the time, you’ll be leading with a cold email to someone you’ve never spoken to, but this push outside of your comfort zone is healthy.
Here are the essential elements of a meaningful cold email, and below is my personal template.
- Research the best point of contact to reach out to.
- Perfect your subject line for the recipient.
- Keep your ask short.
- Sell your strengths.
- Always include a call to action.
10. Develop Your Personal Discipline and Respect your Orders Deadlines
First of all, if your only reliable source of income is your regular job then don’t neglect it and always execute your work with the same commitment.
Treat your online workday with the same respect and discipline as your offline job.
- Breaching any contracts or agreements you’ve signed with your employer.
- Working on your freelance business during company time (seriously do NOT do this).
- Use company resources, computers, or paid for blogging tools within your freelance projects.
Now that you’ve got an understanding of how to start a freelance business, here’s why I believe everyone (especially millennials) should be freelancing on the side. It’s been one of the best business decisions I’ve ever made, and it’s been by far my most consistent side business to date.
I strongly recommend that anyone considering starting a freelance business or transitioning into being a consultant, begin first with freelancing on the side while still working full-time.