Having multiple streams of income is vital these days, and one of the best ways to it is by building a freelance business. Chances are that most of you reading this have talents and skills that aren't being used but provide loads of value.
Whether it's through fixing cars for local customers in the evening, building websites for small startups on the weekend, or writing professional content for online businesses – you can likely monetize it! Here's how to start a freelance business from scratch.
8 Steps To Start A Freelance Business
Freelancing most often refers to doing one-off projects outside of your regular day job for extra money. The great thing about today's technology is your market can be nearly anyone in the world! Businesses and consumers all over the world are in need of skills that you have.
The question is, how do you take those skills and turn them into a money-making machine? That's where freelancing comes in. These 8 steps will show you how to start a freelance business that is wildly successful.
How do I know? Because I've done it! I follow these same steps when building my digital marketing freelance business that has provided me with thousands of extra dollars per month in income.
1. Begin With The End In Mind
What is your overall objective for building a freelance business? Your answer to this question will determine how you make every decision hereafter as your business grows. You might be building a freelance business for reasons such as:
- You want to make extra money to pay off debt
- You plan to build a business, but wish to start out freelancing first
- You're saving for a down payment on a home and need extra money
- You simply want extra income to save and invest for your future
- Your current job doesn't pay you as much as you would like
Understanding your end objective will help you make further decisions on your business in terms of how big you want to build it, how much time you will put into it, how you charge for your services, and how long you plan on providing your services.
2. Determine Your Freelance Services
Now that you know why you are in business to begin with, you need to explore what services you are going to offer. The best place to start is to ask yourself what you're good at, what you love doing, and where do you currently work. Chances are there are golden nuggets of skills and knowledge that you have within these areas that can be used to make some extra cash.
For me, I have loads of experience in money, banking, the stock market, and finance. I was able to start by taking my knowledge and writing about these topics for businesses in need. I used freelance websites such as Fiverr.com, Upwork.com, and Freelancer.com to market my services and began accepting jobs writing content about investing and personal finance topics.
You might be a WordPress wiz who can transform any WordPress website into a world-class digital storefront; you might be a marketing guru that can provide consulting services for local businesses wanting to get their name in front of more people; or, perhaps you have worked in construction for ages and have special skills that contractors are in need of.
3. Plan Your Finances From The Start
One of the biggest reasons that businesses fail is that they don't properly plan their finances from the start. Whether you plan to turn your freelance work into a full-time business or not, balancing out your bank account is an absolute requirement.
This simply means you need to account for operating expenses and even a little for business savings. This will vary for each freelancer depending on the services you provide. An example freelancer might have the following financial forecast:
- Income: $1,500
- Operating Expenses: $200
- Business Savings: 10% of income ($150)
This would mean you have $1,150 leftover each month to pay yourself ($1,500 (income) – $200 (expenses) – $150 (savings) = $1,150). I used 10% of your income for savings as an example – your savings amount might be as much as 20% or 30%, or as little as just 5% – you be the judge but be logical about how much you save.
4. Put Your Business Online
When you're searching for a professional to do some work for you, where do you start? A basic Google search most likely! If you're not online, your freelancing business will have a short lifespan. If you're doing digital work such as graphic design, writing, web development, or marketing, then an online presence is a requirement.
The primary objective of building an online presence is to establish yourself as an authority for the work you provide. It could be something as simple as a basic three-page website built on a free WordPress theme that has a homepage, an about me page, and a portfolio page.
You'll also want to build profiles on some of the popular freelance websites such as:
- Industry-specific apps such as Rover (for freelance dog-watchers, for example)
Having an online presence tee's you up for the next few steps that are vital in growing your freelance brand.
5. Get Your First Freelance Clients
How do you get your first clients? If you've built an engaging online presence, with user-friendly profiles and an engaging website, you're on the right track. The easiest way to get your first clients is to offer market-beating prices (don't worry, you can increase your prices as you grow). With this approach, you will likely break even or barely make money on your first few clients, but the goal is simply to get your first clients so you can build a reputation.
Your first clients are almost always going to come from local prospects, word of mouth, or jobs obtained from freelance websites like those mentioned in step four. Other options for finding your first clients are using job boards and narrowing your search results to include words such as freelance, contract work, part-time work, or flexible work.
There are also specific job boards geared towards attracting freelancers looking for gigs like you and me. Some of these job boards include:
These websites are perfect starting points for you to go and apply for relevant jobs. The goal of this step is to get your first few clients so you can start refining your processes, rates, and most importantly – get reviews.
6. Great Reviews Mean More Business
It may be slow starting at first. But if you've created profiles on all the relevant freelance websites, built a basic online presence, and regularly apply or bid on jobs, you will get your first client sooner or later. The first priority to building a strong reputation and driving a regular flow of repeat traffic is getting customer reviews.
The freelance platforms like Fiverr, Upwork and Freelancer all prompt buyers to review their experience with sellers (you), so this will come over time as you complete more orders. However, for work obtained through other platforms, local prospects or word of mouth, you'll want to simply ask them for a review on your website or via Google. In order to get Google reviews, you will have to build a Google My Business page so customers can begin reviewing your services.
The more reviews you get, the more potential to scale your freelance business you will have! Reviews are absolutely vital to your freelancing success.
7. Build Repeat Customers
Repeat customers are the bread and butter of having a steady stream of freelance income. Over time, you'll have a list of regular customers that come back to you over and over again. The goal here is to maintain those repeat customers.
How is this done? By treating your repeat customers and biggest buyers with the highest priority! Am I saying you provide sub-par service to low-paying, first-time customers? Absolutely not. I am saying that the customers that like your work and the customers that make you the most money should become the top priority. Naturally, you'll build a list of loyal buyers that never go anywhere else and that send you referrals of like-minded customers.
8. Continually Raise Your Prices
As mentioned in step five, you might be operating at a loss or making minimal profit in the beginning stages of building your freelance business. However, as you gain reviews, build a strong reputation, and get more quote requests from potential customers, you will want to gradually increase your prices.
Not only is this more profitable for you, but it filters your clients so that you only work with the ones that meet your ideal customer profile. Clients who nickel and dime you often come with a lot of extra work and headaches. But clients willing to pay top dollar for top skills will take your word as doctrine and stick with you for a long time to come.
Sooner or later, you'll have built a freelance business that you can maintain steady as-is for as long as you like, or grow into a full-time business that replaces your day job. The sky is the limit!