becoming freelancer

4 Tips for Becoming a Successful Freelancer

By Susan Payton

If you have skills and experience in design, writing, marketing, or accounting and want to start your own business, but maybe aren’t ready to go in 100%, becoming a freelancer is a good first step.

As a freelancer, you can moonlight outside of your 9-to-5 by taking on extra projects that will help you establish your name in the industry. There’s no risk, because you’re not (yet) quitting your job, and having the extra money is always a perk.

Here are four tips to get you started on the right foot.

1. Get a Game Plan

When you think about freelancing, do you consider it temporary or permanent? A means to an end, like saving for a big trip to France later in the year? Or a stepping stone to doing what you love full time? It’s important to get clear up front so that you know what direction to take your efforts.

To-Do Task: Write a few paragraphs describing your vision of your freelancing efforts. How many hours a week will you work? When and where will you work? What will your freelance business look like in a year? In five years? This can provide you guidance for how to launch your freelance business.

2. Know Your Worth

One of the biggest mistakes freelancers make is charging too little. Or too much. You’ll have to do some research to find out what others with your specialty charge, and you may need to charge less initially until you get some experience.

But after a few months, if you feel like you’re working far more than you’re being compensated, you’re likely charging too little.  Raise your rates slightly (15-20%), and when people start declining to work with you because of your rates, you shouldn’t raise them further.

To-Do Task: Make a list of the primary services you want to offer, then search other freelance websites or job boards to see what they charge.

3. Establish Channels for Work

If you work full-time, it can be hard to have the time to search for freelance gigs, so before you start working as a freelancer, establish those channels. Craigslist has classified ads for gigs for writers and designers, so that’s one place to start. Job boards like Guru and UpWork are also great because they cater to freelancers in different industries. There are other freelance job boards that cater to particular niches, like ProBlogger and Freelance Writing Gigs.

To-Do Task: Search for “freelance [niche] jobs” to find sites that connect freelancers like you to businesses and individuals looking for help, then sign up for their updates so you get the latest job listings. The early bird gets the gig!

4. Get Professional

Just because you want to be a part-time freelancer doesn’t mean you’re not a professional business owner, so act like it. You’ll need to invest a little in your fledgling company. Having a separate business bank account is one important step, as is investing in accounting software. You might even decide to set up your business with a different name than your own, which will require filing a Doing Business As (DBA) form with your Secretary of State department.

To-Do Task: Make a list of everything you need to get up and running, as well as the costs associated. This will be the bare bones of your freelance business’ budget.

Becoming a freelancer is a great first step if you want to become a full-time entrepreneur. But take the time to set up your business correctly!

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Susan Payton
Susan Payton is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, a marketing firm specializing in content writing and social media management. She's written three business books, including How to Get More Customers With Press Releases, and frequently blogs about small business and marketing on sites including Forbes, AllBusiness, The Marketing Eggspert Blog, and Tweak Your Biz. Follow her on Twitter @eggmarketing.

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