Whether you are stuck in a job you hate, looking to break into the job market, or want to experience the freedom of location independence, a freelance business can be a lucrative career that grows with you and can travel with you wherever you go. When you are your own boss, you alone are in charge of your success, and you’re free to work as hard or as little as you choose. Short on cash? Pull an 80-hour week. Want to play hooky from work and spend an afternoon at the beach on the first sunny day of the year? If you’re a freelancer, you can.
There are countless factors to consider when making decisions about your new freelancing career. Below, 10 things to consider before you join the ranks of self-employed entrepreneurs.
1. Choose something that you’re passionate about
Practically any skill or hobby can be turned into a freelance business. Some, such as writing, photography and graphic design have the option of location independence from Day 1, while others such as tutoring, guiding tours or dog-walking may take time to build up a steady stream of clientele every time you decide to relocate. Whatever you choose, make sure it is something that you love and something you can see yourself devoting 100% of your time to every day.
2. Create a stand-out name
There are thousands of people out there trying to make a name for themselves with their writing, designing, etc., each one striving to stand out against the competition. When considering whether to use your name, come up with a business name or some combination of the two, imagine you are a company that is branding itself. When people think of textile design or photography, you want your name to be synonymous with that particular trade. You want to be top-of-mind.
3. Scour the competition
When getting your business off the ground, it’s a good idea to take a look at the competition. There are hundreds of companies selling handmade cosmetics online— so, what makes your products different? In addition to seeing how you can fill a niche in the market, check their websites to see what’s working for them. How do they present the product to their customers; Do they use a playful or professional tone? How much do they charge? Is there something you would like to see on their site that’s not there? Learn from their shortcomings to make your business truly stand out.
4. Marketing is key
Customers will never find you (read: you will never make money) if you are invisible. Marketing is the key to getting and keeping a successful business. Nowadays, a website can be the most important marketing tool you’ll ever invest in, and having even a simple web presence can help connect you to thousands of potential customers. Word of mouth is also vital when you are a small business just starting out, so be sure to alert your social media networks, friends, family, the clerk at the grocery store and everyone else you can think of that you are now a freelancer and you’re open for business.
5. Be organized
You are your own boss, but you’re also your own secretary and accountant too. You’ll need to put systems in place for keeping track of clients, jobs, invoices, expenses and other logistics specific to your freelance business of choice. Chances are that initially you won’t be paying for outside assistance like a CPA to do your taxes, so keep organized records and be prepared to learn new things.
6. Keep up the workflow
You’ve done your research and seen that copywriters charge anywhere from $50 to $150 per hour. You may think that your services are worth $150 an hour, but you are a newcomer to the business. Until you have a portfolio of work and clients view you as an established presence in your chosen field, you likely won’t be earning top dollar. Why not start low, show clients what you’re made of, and work your way up to the big leagues? After all, a small income is better than no income at all.
7. Start out small
Yes, you want to sell your photos to National Geographic magazine, but so does every other budding photographer on the planet. Be prepared to start out small. Don’t underestimate your talent by any means, but competition is fierce in the freelance world, and if you’re willing to sell a photo for $50 to the local newspaper, it could be the foot in the door that you need to get your fledgling career to take flight.
8. Be prepared to multitask
One often under-looked aspect of freelancing is the amount of time you will spend on your chosen pursuit. For example: Say you choose to be a freelance writer. You will not spend all day blissfully cobbling together words for magazines or writing that novel. In actuality, you’ll spend about 30 percent of your time actually writing, and the rest of the week will be devoted to researching, marketing, invoicing, billing and other administrative tasks that you may have never given a second thought. Be prepared to juggle the work itself and all of these other necessary tasks.
9. Underpromise, overdeliver
When working with new clients, you want to make the best impression possible to ensure that they are repeat clients, and maybe even ones that will give you a referral. To do this, you must follow through on everything that you say you will do. Be prepared, don’t be late, do your research—do whatever it takes to make sure that they are 110% satisfied with you and your freelance business will have a strong foundation.
10. Know when to walk away
You need new clients, but do you really want to work with someone who wastes your time by being indecisive or a client who takes months to pay your invoice? Many freelancers don’t realize that you have a choice when taking on a client. It’s a two-way relationship, and you want to work with people who are mutually respectful. If you have a trouble client, let them go and focus your energy on replacing them with someone who is easier to work with. Those are the clients who will help launch your career.
There’s no doubt that getting a business up and running is a lot of work. But a few years from now when you’re working from your location independent “office” in Mexico or the Philippines, you’ll look back and realize that the sacrifice was well worth it.