For a savvy entrepreneur or a talented professional, freelancing can be a lucrative and flexible opportunity. Assuming you have all the right things in place, you’ll have unlimited income potential, and a career path that affords you autonomy and adaptability—possibly doing something you already love.
But what are “all the right things” you need to get started? And how can you attain them?
Everything You Need to Start
No matter what industry you’re working in, or what your long-term goals for freelancing are, you’ll need at least the following things to get started:
- A personal brand. As a freelancer, you are your business. You’ll need to develop a strong, professional, personal brand to epitomize and characterize that business. Get a professional headshot, come up with some key characteristics that make you unique, and start injecting that central identity into everything you do.
- A target market. You can’t be profitable unless you know who you’re selling to. Your target niche will help you not only ensure that your products and services have ample demand, but will also help you avoid too much competition. Research your demographics, and pick an area of specialty that will give you the biggest, most relevant audience—while minimizing the amount of existing competition.
- A business plan. While you’re in your research phase, start assembling a business plan that dictates your short-term and long-term goals, your pricing and revenue strategy, and of course, a detailed SWOT analysis. If you need help getting started, the SBA has a helpful step-by-step guide.
- A website. Once you have a personal brand and a business plan in place, it’s time to start advertising what you’re offering by building a website. Free templates and website builders, like those from WordPress or Squarespace, can work here—but take caution to make sure your website stands out from the competition.
Support software. You’ll also need to invest in software that can help you manage and grow your business, from organizational tools to productivity platforms. For example, Spera offers client management, payment processing, and other types of software specifically for freelancers, so you can manage your business easier.
- A portfolio. The best way to land a new client is to show them what you’ve already accomplished. Even if you haven’t had a client yet, you likely have some work that you can show off. Include a page on your website for this work, to serve as a kind of resume to show future visitors.
- Your first client. Landing your first client can be tricky, since you won’t have much experience or many referrals to call upon, but it’s an important stride in establishing your business. Start networking at local events, or call up old contacts from other businesses. Word-of-mouth is one of the best ways to get an early lead.
- Social media profiles. Take some time to polish your social media profiles, or launch new ones specifically for your business. They’re ideal distribution outlets for your content and promotions, and will often be the first place people look when they hear of you for the first time. Start posting content and building an audience.
- A marketing strategy. If you want to grow, you’ll need some way to get the word out—a marketing and advertising campaign. If you’re looking for ideas on how to get started, Wordstream has an excellent guide on low-budgeting marketing strategies you should explore.
- A bigger network. A big network of contacts is important for freelancers, so you can find new clients, employees, partners, and other people to help your business grow. Reach out to new people on social media, and attend networking events in your city.
Tips for Expansion
As your business begins to grow, and you start to embrace freelancing as a new career, there are dozens of articles’ worth of strategies and tips you’ll need to follow. But if we had to boil them down to just a few, these are some of the most important:
- Establish a vision for the future. What’s your end goal? To make a sustainable full-time living? To sell the business? To have a relaxing side gig to keep you busy?
- Grow at a deliberate pace. Premature, accelerated growth is one of the biggest reasons why new businesses fail. When you expand, do so slowly and with a careful balance.
- Always prioritize quality over quantity. Never take on more work than you can execute to your highest standards. Quality is better than quantity.
The first few months of your freelancing career will be the most intimidating, but they’re also the most exciting. Use this time to explore your possibilities, and establish a foundation that will help you grow into whatever kind of business you want.