Do you think that freelancing could be an excellent hedge against these harsh times? Have you done your homework adequately, and are you at last you’re ready to start your very own freelance business?
But, before you start there are a few important things to consider. You’ll need a skill or a product to market, you’ll need some basic equipment, and finally, you’ll need a plan.
What are you selling?
If you’re going to start your own freelance business, then you need to have something to sell. That something could be a skill such as programming, web design, or copywriting. Or, that something could be a product that you make or resell.
In order to decide what you should sell, take a look at your own skill set and match that up with what’s in demand. You can get an idea for what freelancing services are in demand by visiting any of the popular job boards (to get started, try this one).
Finding your specialty is one of the most important parts about freelancing, so take your time and make sure you get this part right.
Once you’ve identified something to sell, you’ll need to get the basic equipment. Most freelancers will have the following tools:
- Computer – While there are a few businesses (such as landscaping, pet grooming, or catering) that technically don’t require a computer, most freelancers do rely on a computer to find and produce work. Even if your business doesn’t require that you have a computer, you may wish to have one in order to correspond with clients and keep records.
- Printer – A printer is an excellent tool for producing customer correspondence as well account records (such as customer receipts).
- Telephone – Typically, it’s a good idea to set up a separate telephone number for your business. This allows you to segregate your business and personal calls and also prevents other family members from accidentally taking a business call.
- Internet connection – For many freelancers, the Internet is indispensable. It’s how they obtain and how they deliver their work. Even for a non-computer based businesses, an Internet connection provides another way to communicate with clients. I’d recommend skipping the dial-up connection and going straight to a high speed connection such a fiber optics or a cable modem.
- E-mail – E-mail provides a way for clients to reach you when you can’t be reached by phone. E-mail can also provide a permanent record of client “conversations.” Some services (such as copywriting, graphics, or software development) can even be delivered through e-mail.
- Website or blog – A web presence has become a necessary component of a freelance business. More and more, potential clients are searching the Internet for businesses that can provide the products or services that they need. For technical services, clients are more likely to use the Internet than the phone directory to find a vendor.
- Word processing software – A basic word processing package allows you to correspond with customers as well as create basic reports.
- Accounting software – You will need some means of keeping your accounting records straight. Accounting software can be as basic as a spreadsheet for a small business, or as elaborate as a custom bookkeeping system for a larger business.
After you get all of the basic equipment, you’ll have to get anything else that is required for your specific industry (like design software). You might also want to get some of these other tools when you get the chance:
- Letterhead – Professionally printed letterhead conveys a powerful message of legitimacy to customers and potential customers.
- Business cards – These should be distributed at every opportunity. You never know when you will meet someone who needs your product or service.
- Business bank account – Most accounting experts recommend that you keep business funds and personal funds separate.
- Phonebook listing – If you do a lot of local business, then you may wish to pay for a listing in your local business phone directory.
- Local advertising – Advertisements in local newspapers and magazines can be a great source of new business.
Create Your Plan
The final aspect of starting a freelancing career is to have a solid plan for your business and marketing. You can start to develop your plan by answering the following basic questions:
- What does my business provide to customers and why should they get it from me?
- What is my product or service worth?
- How will my business obtain customers?
- Do I have the passion and desire to stick with the business?
Once you get started freelancing you’ll want to revisit and amend this plan on a regular basis. Keeping up with your strategy and goals is an important part of success.
The Legal Details
Before getting your business up and running, be sure to check out the legal requirements for your area or profession. Local zoning and licensing requirements may apply, and you’ll probably want to look into some form of incorporation. It’s not usually as time consuming or expensive to handle the legalities as it first looks.
Once you’ve read and applied the concepts in this article — you have a specialty, you have your equipment, and you have a plan — then you’re probably read to make the jump and give freelancing a try. Best of Luck!
Are you thinking about starting a freelance business? If you are, make sure to post your thoughts or questions in the comments.
If you’ve been in business for a while, then why not chip in with your own advice for the beginning entrepreneur. What would you tell someone who is starting their own freelancing business (and why)?