Starting a freelancing business is an excellent way to avoid a traditional 9-to-5 office job. No more commutes, no more rigid schedules, and no more annoying colleagues – no wonder a freelance lifestyle is so desired! Yet for a complete beginner, freelancing success can quickly begin to feel elusive.
After the initial excitement of deciding to work for yourself, the realities of freelancing set in. You are suddenly in complete control of your destiny and each day needs to be mapped out if you’re to remain productive and meet your goals. And speaking of goals, as a newbie freelancer, it can be difficult to even know what you really want to achieve.
For many freelancers, the hardest part of getting started is knowing exactly what they want to do and for whom. Then there’s a whole plethora of decisions to make regarding finances, pricing, marketing, sales techniques, branding, lifestyle choices, and so much more. Freelancing success all depends on making the right decisions early on.
7 steps to freelancing success when first starting out
So what are the initial steps every new freelancer should carefully consider?
- Choose a specialism
The fastest way to gain traction as a new freelancer is to specialize. When you’re all things to all people, you blend into the background. It’s difficult for potential clients to take you seriously, especially those willing to pay good money for your services. This is even more the case when you’re new.
As a specialist, you automatically reduce your competition. You stand out from the crowd and this automatically increases your confidence. A subject specialism also enables you to work faster as there’s less research required for each new project. Specialists also earn more than generalists as they are considered experts.
- Determine your rates
When you first begin freelancing, you might be tempted to charge low so as to undercut your competitors. This is a big mistake. When a potential client sees your prices are low, they deem your expertise and ability to also be low. You’re therefore more likely to attract bad clients and small projects.
Even if you’re a complete beginner, it’s worth setting your rates within industry standard levels in your particular field. Consider how much you need to earn per annum, including for tax, pension, healthcare, childcare, and emergencies. You’ll then be able to work out how much you need to make every week and charge projects based on how long each task will take you.
- Create a portfolio
When you’re a newbie freelancer, there’s a bit of a chicken and egg scenario when it comes to people hiring you. Without some quality portfolio samples of your work, people are more hesitant about giving you a go. Yet without clients, you don’t have portfolio examples to show.
Unless that is, you create samples regardless. The examples of your talents you share in your portfolio don’t necessarily need to be from actual clients. You can share work you did from a previous job, or for family members, or even just something you created based on what you imagine you’d do for your ideal client. People simply want to see you have talent and the necessary skills.
- Build a website
Every well-paid and respected freelancer has a website. This is the first place potential clients go when they want to know more about you and your services. A strong bio and descriptions of your services, together with a portfolio, helps differentiate you from your competition and gets you noticed by the right people.
There are a number of easy-to-build and affordable website platforms you can use, including WordPress. Within an hour you can have a simple and effective online home from which to advertise your freelancing services. Once you’re earning, you can reinvest some of the money into good website design by a professional.
- Develop a brand
Part of standing out, especially when you’re new, is having a noticeable brand identity. This is what all the great businesses and successful people do. They get noticed. For a new freelancer, investing some cash in a good logo design can go a long way in making you look established and professional.
However, before you have a logo designed, as well as a website revamp, it’s important to figure out what you represent. What’s your identity? Who are your ideal clients? Developing a brand is all about being attractive and distinctive to a particular target market. It’s therefore essential to know your specialism, your particular services, and what you want to achieve before investing in a new look.
- Invest in the right tools
Freelancing is difficult when you’re first starting out. It’s a business and it’s never easy in the first few months. You need all the right tools and apps to help you work faster and smarter. You can literally double and treble your productivity with a few simple apps and integrations.
As a service provider, you also need tools related to payments. Free invoicing software is essential as are time tracking and project management tools (all of which we provide at Invoice Ninja). Using good quality invoicing software, for example, makes getting paid on time easier and also makes a good impression on clients.
- Cultivate a marketing plan
Marketing and selling can feel a little out of your comfort zone when you first begin freelancing. You might feel you’re being too pushy. However, good marketing is essential and the more proactive you are about finding clients, the more success you will achieve. Part of how successful you are in your marketing comes down to the points mentioned already, including specializing and developing a strong brand identity.
There are many ways to market your business including using social media, networking with peers, blogging, email prospecting, and approaching local businesses in your area. It’s important to always be marketing, even if you’re booked solid, as you never know when a lean time will arrive.
Setting the scene for freelancing success
Upon first inspection, freelancing can seem like an easy and liberating career choice. And it is, in many ways, but only when everything is planned well and intelligently enacted.
As you can see from the steps above, it’s vital to make the right choices in the very early stages of your freelance career. With hard work and intelligent planning early on, you can set the scene for a fulfilling lifestyle and a successful freelancing business, in the not too distant future.