8 Essential Steps to Starting Your Freelancing Biz

Steps to Start FreelancingGetting started in freelancing is pretty scary stuff. In all likelihood, you don’t know a lot of people who’ve done it before, which means you can’t get advice from people you trust.

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

Final Thoughts

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.”

Your Turn

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