Wondering how to start freelancing? You’re not alone! Get this: over 57 million Americans consider themselves freelancers. That’s a third of the American workforce! And 61% of them are doing it by choice. Let’s face it, with the growing popularity of remote work changing the way we all live and work, that number is likely to increase.
There are definite pros to freelancing. The flexibility to work anywhere, making your own schedules, and the ability to make more money per hour than you might at a regular job, are just a few.
But unsurprisingly, freelancing also comes with its share of challenges. By working freelance, you are essentially self-employed, meaning you are responsible for finding clients, managing your money, and marketing yourself.
Starting a freelance business can be extremely overwhelming, especially if you are doing it on your own. We’re here for you! We’re sharing our top tips for starting a successful freelance business.
1. Develop a freelance brand
Developing a brand is the practice of creating a name, symbol, or design that identifies your business and differentiates you from competitors. Commonly, it’s thought of as the colors, fonts, and logos you may use, but it also encompasses the way you describe yourself through your job title and bio.
In order to effectively brand yourself as a freelancer, you have to hone in specifically on what you do, the type of projects you want to take on, and which clients you want to attract.
Choose a business name
Many freelancers use their own name as their brand, but others may choose to come up with a business name. If your name is a common one, you might benefit from a creative business name that makes you stand out a bit more. This might protect you in the long run from having your name associated with your business ventures. But operating as a “sole proprietor” under your own name works too!
Write your bio
You’ll then want to write your freelancer bio, which should tell prospective clients all about who you are and what it’s like working with you.
Think of three or four adjectives that best describe you and your work, and refer back to them to guide you along (i.e. clear, creative, strong). You can then trim back your bio to use as a short bio on social media and as your “elevator pitch” when meeting new clients.
Design a logo
As a starting freelancer, having a logo will make your business look and feel more professional. When it comes time to create your logo, you’ll want to figure out which type of logo is best for you. Refer back to the same descriptive keywords you used in your bio to help guide you in designing your first logo.
Design your freelance logo now!
Check out this handy guide to learn more about developing your brand identity!
2. Set your rate
Setting a rate is one of the most challenging conundrums a new freelancer faces because no one can really tell you exactly what to charge. Plus, every industry (and line of work) has a different average rate.
Fortunately, this also means you can earn a lot more per hour than you would at a 9 to 5 job. According to a 2019 story by CNBC, freelance web developers, on average, charge $45 USD per hour. As do product designers and resume writers. SEM specialists and email automation consultants charge an average of $50 per hour.
But don’t let industry averages limit you. In a 2016 feature from Today Online, a former Google coder who had gone freelance revealed that he was charging $1,000 per hour! Know the value you bring to the table and set your rates accordingly.
Here’s how to start out in calculating what to charge as a freelancer:
Do your research
Start by doing some online research and seeing what other people are earning for the same type of work. Ask around in online groups or take a look at Upwork to see what people can earn (on the maximum end!).
Calculate your business costs
When setting your rate, be sure to consider the costs of doing business that would previously have been covered by an employer. Think about your internet costs, coworking space or home office, accounting software, computer costs, and even lunch breaks.
Think about packaging your services
Many freelancers prefer flat rates or packages over an hourly rate. This is because the more talented you become at your work, the faster you get. And you shouldn’t be earning less for working more efficiently! Plus, packaged services are more palatable for clients and will secure you with ongoing work over a longer period of time.
Most importantly, be confident! Avoid giving your rate on the spot or over the phone, and instead, suggest calling your client back with a proposal. This buys you time to sort out exactly what you plan to charge and prepare to send it to them with confidence.
3. Find clients
Perhaps one of the most commonly asked questions for new freelancers is this: “How do you find clients?” The truth is, there is no one way to find clients. Note: Clients likely will not come to you. Freelancing requires a scrappy mindset!
But here are some of the many ways freelancers find work:
- Online job boards: Check out sites like Indeed, Fiverr, or Upwork for freelance opportunities
- Online groups on sites like Facebook, Reddit, and MeetUp: Pop into some online groups, introduce yourself and describe what you do. Take a look at the opportunities being shared and throw your name in the hat!
- Promoting yourself on social media: Post on your personal social platforms that you are looking for clients. You never know who may stumble across your post or keep you in mind for the future.
- Networking and word-of-mouth: Ask your friends and family to spread the word in case they know someone who needs your services
- Cold-pitching: Reach out to brands and businesses directly. Don’t be shy! More on that below.
*Bonus! Some advice on cold-pitching…
Cold-pitching is a play on the phrase “cold-calling.” This is when you reach out to a business, brand, or publication and try to sell your services, even if they have never heard of you before.
Here are some quick tips for cold-pitching:
- Don’t ever go in blind. Learn what the client may need and make sure you are the best person to solve their problem
- If it is a client or publication that provides submission guidelines, read them and follow them correctly
- Keep your intro brief and include links to your website or portfolio to make their lives easier
- Be relaxed but confident in your tone of voice
- If you don’t hear back in a week, follow up! You can also try them on Linkedin and see if they are more likely to reply there. But after that, if you don’t hear back, move on.
4. Get your contracts and finances in order
Ah, the golden rule when starting to freelance: always have a contract!
As a freelancer, signing a contract is really important and can actually be as easy as an email communication or even written on a napkin!
If you have a lawyer handy, certainly ask them for advice. But you can find contract templates online or from other freelancers. Just make sure your contracts include these elements:
- Who are the people involved?
- What is the time frame the project should be completed and payment should be issued?
- Is the timeline reasonable? (If a client sends you a contract with an unreasonable time frame, be sure to negotiate.)
- What is the client asking the freelancer to do? (i.e. who owns the content, how many words or photos are included, etc.)
- And of course, how much are they going to pay you?
- After your contract is signed, work can begin!
From there, it’s up to you to make sure you are managing your finances. Find a good accounting software like Wave or Quickbooks to help you track projects, send invoices, and receive payments. The great thing about these programs is they can automatically invoice for you, so you aren’t left chasing clients around for overdue payments.
Some freelancers also prefer a spreadsheet to help them track spending and income. Spreadsheets allow you to get really custom with the pieces you are tracking and can come in handy around tax time. Look for the best template for you, which can be found online too.
Starting a new business endeavor can be really scary, and freelancing is no exception. But with the right preparation and organization, you can start your freelance business in a breeze! Just remember to be confident, trust yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.