This is a great post, very useful tips. I recently returned to FT freelancing. I like #3, setting goals. What I’m having to learn is how to set goals of different durations. What do I want to accomplish this week? Where do I want to be in six months? This long-term project, how do I best pace it, setting deadlines within the project? I’m still a work in progress on that front.
8 Essential Steps to Starting Your Freelancing Biz
Posted February 14, 2011 in Getting Started
You’ll be diving into dark, strange waters and may be terrified about your future as well as that of your loved ones.
What if I told you, you can take eight simple steps that will bring you closer to your goal of freelancing? If you just completed one step every few days, or even every week, you’d soon find yourself ready to take the freelancing plunge.
Are you ready for the eight steps? Here they are:
1. Know Yourself
Make a list of all the strengths you have: your skills, knowledge and experience. It doesn’t matter if something doesn’t look marketable to you. Just make an inventory of everything you could possibly offer to the world.
Look at your work experience and formal training, but also consider your interests, hobbies and volunteer work. Look back at activities that particularly bring you joy. There might be a freelancing potential lurking there.
Take note of skills you’re good at and enjoy doing, which you feel may be in demand in the marketplace. However, don’t get attached to them yet. You’ll may have to tweak this list later on as you get more information.
2. Know Your Resources
The next step is to list all the material resources you already have at your disposal. This could include a new computer, software powerful enough to go pro with, tools and supplies.
But don’t forget your intangible resources, such as family and friends who are supportive, or a network you could tap for referrals. When the time comes, you’ll have to use these resources to keep you going.
3. Set Your Goals
What do you want to achieve with freelancing? I don’t mean just an income goal–although that is important. I also mean a lifestyle goal, such as having x hours a week free to devote to your art or your children or spouse. You may also have a creative goal, such as being able to finish that novel.
Don’t be lured into buying what other people think are worthwhile goals, such as making six figures a year, or working for only four hours a week. Those goals are fine, but they may not be YOUR goals.
Spend the time to get to the bottom of what you really want to accomplish through freelancing. This is important to know so you can keep yourself motivated even when you’re going through setbacks and difficulties in your freelancing.
4. Know Your Ideal Client
Now it’s time to decide who you’re going to work with. If you’re just starting out, it’s tempting to accept work from anybody with a pulse and a wallet who wants to hire you. Resist it!
Forcing yourself to work with people you don’t like on projects you don’t enjoy is a surefire way to drain your life of joy. You’ll burn yourself out and entertain thoughts of quitting.
Instead, create a clear idea of your Ideal Client. Think in terms of demographics (gender, age, geographic location, market/industry, income, etc). But also think of their psychographics (attitudes, beliefs, motivations, principles, etc.).
Once you have a clear idea of what kind of clients you’d like to work with, do some research to find out what your market wants, what problems they encounter, and what solutions they’ve tried before. It’s easy enough to do this online by looking at forums or blogs. But you can also do it by talking to people who fit the profile of your ideal client, or asking those who already work with your ideal client.
5. Examine the Landscape
At this point, you’re probably raring to go and launch your freelancing business. Before you do so, spend some time looking at the landscape to see what kind of competition you’re going to face.
Are there other people who offer similar services to what you’d like to offer, and to similar clients you’d like to target? It’s actually a good sign if there are. That means, they’re making a living doing that, so there’s money in it.
If there’s no competition whatsoever, it may mean there’s no demand for those services from those markets.
6. Craft Your Marketing Message and Brand
Now that you know what you have to offer (from the first step), what your ideal clients are looking for (from step 4), and what’s already available in the marketplace (from step 5), you’re ready to craft your marketing message and branding.
At its core, your marketing message is made up of:
- who you help
- what results you get for your clients
- how you help them get those results
Branding, on the other hand, is an image you want to project and be known for. It’s what will help you stand out among your competitors. Click here to learn more about branding.
While you’re at it, decide how you’re going to reach your market. If they’re local businesses, should you join your local chamber of commerce and network with other members? Or, is your target market active in online forums? Do they still use the yellow pages to find vendors? Are you better off sending direct mailers to your target companies?
7. Package Your Services and Rates
Now it’s time to decide what services you want to provide, and how much you want to charge for them. Ideally, you’ll have a list that meets all these criteria:
- You’re good at it.
- You enjoy doing it.
- People are willing to pay good money to have you do it for them.
Putting a dollar amount to each service may be much harder than making a list of services you’ll offer. Read this post for an overview of how to set your freelance rates.
8. Make a Business Plan
At this stage, you’re ready to put everything together into a–gasp–business plan. You can be quite informal about your business plan. However, if you’re planning to attract investors into your freelancing business (even if it is only your Uncle Jim), you’ll want a formal one. Check out Bplans.com for samples of business plans you can use as a model for your own.
You’ll find many different types of business plans, but the most basic one has the following parts:
- Executive Summary
- Market Analysis
- Company Description
- Organization and Management
- Marketing and Sales Strategies
- Service or Product Line
- Funding Request
- Financial Plan
The prospect of leaving a stable job–even one you don’t particularly enjoy–and striking out on your own as a freelancer can be a terrifying one. It’s enough to make you keep putting it off until you’re practically forced by circumstances.
However, if you really want to get started as a successful freelancer, follow these steps. In the end, you’ll have all the ingredients you need to begin promoting your services, attracting clients, and making money.
However, this is only the beginning. You’ll also need to set up systems for client management, financial management, professional development, and business growth. For your next steps, I highly recommend “The Unlimited Freelancer.”
What do you think? Are these eight essential steps doable? Do they make you feel you CAN become a freelancer? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Image by notsogoodphotography
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February 14th, 2011 at 8:41 am
Margot StendersFebruary 14th, 2011 at 9:35 am
Best post ever!
February 14th, 2011 at 10:13 am
Even if there looks to be no demand, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. Sometimes having no competition is also a good thing, since you may be the first to truly come up with the concept. Maybe you’re the only one who has come up with the solution to the problem. It can happen! :)
Thanks for sharing these awesome tips!
February 14th, 2011 at 11:39 am
Great post, Lexi!
I think it’s also important for new freelancers to be realistic about the fact that it’ll take time before they are making a solid income. Having a little money set aside so that you can pay the bills if you have a slow period, or starting off by freelancing part-time and keeping part-time job, can help to ease the financial stress when just starting out.
February 14th, 2011 at 7:07 pm
Absolutely great advice! :) Test it out first before going full fledged into it. Love it!
February 15th, 2011 at 10:34 am
@Lexi Very useful tips.
@8. Make a Business Plan I think this is very important to the success of the job. A business plan helps us to better route our project to success.
February 15th, 2011 at 4:19 pm
Great advices, i’m definitely writing down some of those on my desktop for daily motivation :)
February 15th, 2011 at 5:42 pm
I would add another essential step to starting your freelance design business is to save a lot of money. At least 6 months bare minimum wages.
If you don’t have a lot of clients you will need time to find them and bring them on board. Doing this will give you time. Being prudent and saving will help your bridge that gap between leaving your job and becoming your own graphic design boss/freelancer.
On a second note, I strongly agree with #8 … do the business plan! we did when we started our graphic design business. It has helped us so much. Our focus is strong and I believe because of that we know which clients to approach and which clients to leave alone. Our profitability has benefited when we’ve followed this part of our business and marketing plan. When we took on clients outside of our focus, they were always more time intensive and less willing to pay for what they got.
Steve FoggFebruary 15th, 2011 at 5:45 pm
I agree with the above tips, especially tip no. 8. Doing a business plan will give you a sharper focus and help you grow your business by only chasing after clients you know fit who you are as a graphic designer.
February 16th, 2011 at 5:35 am
Great tips, but sometimes you have to work for people you don’t enjoy because you have to pay your bills.
February 16th, 2011 at 9:58 am
Great and useful post. Thanks for sharing.
February 16th, 2011 at 4:42 pm
Yes I totally agree with all terms Specially #1 Before choose any task we should check out our skills. Thanks for such a beautiful thoughts.
February 19th, 2011 at 7:02 am
Really nice tips… But easier said then done nothing replaces perseverance
February 20th, 2011 at 3:37 pm
I really enjoyed this article. Very inspiring and motivating. Thanks for the post and breaking everything down!
February 21st, 2011 at 2:48 am
This is heartiest greeting from Anjellea Godwin. It is nice to meet you. Most of the tips are very much useful; there is no doubt about it. But it is looking quite lengthy. But I basically think that is not an error. I often find that the intention of the writer is always for some noble cause, safeguard their readers in one way or another.
February 3rd, 2012 at 8:48 am
wow, great 8 tipps – just printed that out!
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