How To Launch A Freelance Business In 3 Easy Steps
The etiology of the word “freelancer” comes from the novel by Sir Walter Scott Ivanhoe. They are two words that refer to medieval mercenaries who would fight for the nation that paid them most – mercenaries capturing a lance. Today, the word is used to describe a career free from long-term commitments, and much like its origin, many freelancers work for the highest bidder.
Freelancing as a career is growing. A Fiverr study reported that 73% of US workers plan to freelance in 2023 and 31% of full-time freelancers make more than $75,000 per year. In fact, Google hires more freelancers than permanent employees. As businesses tighten the reins to prepare for a possible recession, more and more freelancers are turning to freelancers to avoid the expense of hiring full-time employees — one employee typically costs between $1.25-$1, according to the Small Business Association, 4 times base salary.
But what is the most successful way to start a freelance business? Simply put, pick a niche, target it, and ask for reviews.
1. Find your niche.
Start with a list of 10 to 15 of your top skills – think of your soft skills and your hard skills. Soft skills include communication, problem solving and project management. Hard skills include tactical skills such as website design or programming. Potential clients will hire you for your skills, not your passions. If you’re an excellent copywriter but enjoy writing fiction, you might want to consider saving fiction writing for your free time; Choose copywriting as your niche. By the way, social media marketing is the most in-demand freelance marketing skill!
Once you have your list, narrow down your options by identifying the problems you’re solving. You will ultimately develop your marketing message from this step, so dive deep. Ask prospects what their pain points are, visit forums, and research Google Trends to identify issues your ideal customer is facing. For example, if one of your skills is website design (the most in-demand technical skill), find out exactly what challenge your ideal client is facing. Is it backend, design, SEO?
Research the competition in your niche. Learn if you need to optimize your niche to find work or stand out from the crowd. Competition is not a bad thing – it can mean there is an unmet need where you can make a difference.
Most importantly, you can change your mind, so don’t stress yourself out trying to find the perfect niche right away. Often your niche will continue to develop.
2. Spread the word.
Once you find your niche, spread the word. Leverage your customers’ pain points to develop your marketing message…that’s the problem you’re fixing. There are platforms where you can market your services like Upwork and Fiverr. While you might get some work by using these sites, you will get a lot more work and better pay if you pursue the jobs you want. The toughest freelance job you will get will be your first. After that it gets easier.
Start with your current or previous employer, especially if you’re one of the hundreds of thousands who have recently been laid off. Just because you’ve been handed a pink slip doesn’t mean your job is dead. And when you’ve done a great job, who better to fill that role than a freelancer?
Access your network. Let them know you can work as a freelancer. Remember your customers’ pain points. Send personal messages to your most trusted colleagues. Do not be shy. Ask for the job you want.
Be aware of who is hiring full-time employees on LinkedIn and reach out to the hiring manager who offers you as a freelance solution if they are interested.
broadcast on the web. You don’t need an elaborate website, but you do need a place to showcase your work and post client raves. Depending on your niche, you may also need an Instagram site or other appropriate social platform. And of course, don’t forget to update your LinkedIn profile.
3. Ask for reviews.
It can be difficult to ask someone for a review, but today our economy is powered by stars – and the more the merrier. Google My Business is a great place to get reviews online. It’s a multi-step process to signing up for a business profile on Google before you can ask for reviews. Google My Business is location-specific and requires an in-person store, but that doesn’t limit what other services you can offer. For example, a gym that offers in-person and virtual classes, or an IT company that meets customers in person and online, are both companies that meet Google’s guidelines. If you’re having trouble, here’s a great tutorial on getting started with Google My Business.
LinkedIn also offers several tools, including endorsements and recommendations. You can ask for recommendations from colleagues and reviews from customers. Ask permission to use reviews on your site. This is another place to post kudos.
The purpose of asking for reviews is to build trust with potential customers who don’t know you personally. If someone else can vouch for your work, others are more likely to do business with you.
Building a successful freelance business takes time and refinement. An underused technique is to send a follow-up survey to customers asking them to rate your service, tell you what they liked and didn’t like, and ask for suggestions for improvement. Most importantly, once you have a client, keep in touch! It’s much easier to keep an existing customer than it is to constantly market new prospects.
There are few final questions to consider. The IRS classifies freelancers as independent contractors, which means you need to be careful about how you handle your taxes. And in some areas you may need a business license. These are out of scope here in this article, but something to know about. Nonetheless, freelancing is an excellent option for earning extra income.
Believe it or now, you might be able to get back to work for the company that fired you for making more money than you made as an employee.