Be transparent with your employer
Before we get into the recommended steps to start freelancing, it’s important you take time to think about what impact this will have on your current employer.
You do not want your freelance work to interfere with your full-time job otherwise this is going to cause issues, and you might end up getting sacked.
Make sure there’s a clear line between the two and if you feel there is going to be a conflict of interest then it’s worth raising that before you start to build your freelance business. Especially if your employer’s clients could become your freelance clients.
Have good time management skills
Clear communication with the client about when you will be contactable and the deadline to deliver the work is critical to any freelance business.
Manage your time wisely and make sure it’s split into sourcing new clients, working on client projects and also chasing unpaid invoices.
Working as a part-time freelancer will be tricky which is why having a routine is important. While on the commute to and from work, make sure you use this time to source new clients, respond to enquiries, chase up invoices.
Most of the work will likely be done in the evening and weekend but make sure you leave plenty of time to relax, exercise and sleep, otherwise, you will burn out and be of no use to anyone if you are exhausted.
Package your skills into a service
Your new freelance business has to offer a skill that companies are willing to pay money for, and it’s important that you are super motivated to provide good service, otherwise, clients will not offer you future work.
Grab pad and pencil and sit down in a place where you can concentrate and write down the skills you have along with your hobbies and interests – think of things you’re passionate about. Then, go through the list and see if you can package it up to a service you can offer.
Let’s pretend – you love helping people, are a good teacher, and have years of work experience as a fitness instructor. You could work with entrepreneurs and teach them how to be healthy in business. This could be one-on-one in coaching calls, and emailing them personally created fitness routines.
Think about how you can package your skills into a service, super important.
Identify your niche
It’s important that your freelance business must be within a niche, and this cannot be stressed enough. The biggest mistake a lot of new freelancers make is trying to focus on everything because they want their first client.
When you’re established, sure, branch out into other niches, but to start, focus.
An easy example to give you is freelance writing – rather than writing about yoga, music, travel and technology, focus on one niche and become an expert in that area.
Let’s pretend you choose travel as your niche – my advice would be to go even deeper than that and be an expert on travel in India or another topic that you can write about.
Focus on the niche and be the go-to person, not just for companies who want you to write for them but also the media because this will help you gain attention. Think about what you are passionate about and experienced in so you will not have to do any research, which is time-consuming.
Try not to go into a niche that is saturated unless you can stand out.
Let’s pretend you are a graphic designer and you enjoy creating logos, but there are many people providing this service (you only have to look on Upwork and Fiverr to see this, much of it low standard) but if you have a unique design style, it’ll help you to attract potential clients attention.
When thinking about your niche, it’s worth bearing this in mind.
Your competition is global – people living in countries where the cost of living is considerably cheaper than your home country, so, this is why it’s important to focus on a niche that you can stand out in.
Create a profile of your perfect client
Now that you have assessed your skills, chosen your niche, the next step is to think about the profile of the perfect client.
Think about who they are, what type of business they are running, what are there struggles and challenges, what would their goals be, and how can you help them achieve those goals? Creating this profile will help you with your content strategy to attract this perfect client.
Create smart goals
So, you’ve discovered your skill and niche and packaged it up to a service that you can offer clients. The next task to think about your goals. What is the reason for you to freelance while working full-time?
Are you wanting to earn a specific amount from freelancing? Is your goal to quit your full-time job and work remotely while travelling? Having a clear goal will help keep you focused and motivated when the going gets tough.
Sit down and think where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Listen to people like Gary Vaynerchuk whose inspirational videos tell us to work hard but it is not the only reason why Gary is successful. Work 12,14,16 hours a day, but if you are not being smart about how you are working, you will fail.
Create a business mindset
The fact is, being a freelancer means you have to think like a business, even if you are starting part-time. There are tax and business laws to learn about, especially about personal liability, and being financially covered.
It’s important you spend time investigating the laws that could affect you before you start to build your freelance business.
You will need to think of your rate of pay, or, how much you will charge companies for specific service led packages. It’s a mindset change because you will be so used to taking instructions from managers but now you’re the boss of your freelance business and this comes with responsibilities.
This about how you will invoice clients, how you will manage your money and accounting?
Create a personal brand
The next step is to start your marketing journey by creating a personal brand. When a company searches the internet for your name, you want your website to appear, along with testimonials and a portfolio of your work.
This is important when you’re starting because you want to build trust and prove to potential clients that you are knowledgeable about the service that you are offering them. It doesn’t have to be a website, it could be your social profiles, a podcast or YouTube channel.
Just bear in mind that you have no control over third-party platforms so where possible it’s recommended that you create a website.
For example, some freelancers have generated clients off a Facebook page, but when the social network changed the algorithm people stopped finding their content.
The same applies to freelance job communities like Upwork. You hear it often, where people are banned or suspended from using the site and their freelance career is over because all of their time was spent on that platform.
This is one of the biggest mistakes that freelancers make – they have a fantastic website showcasing their skills, but end up using sites like Upwork searching for projects because they have not built a client base.
Networking is essential
All of the freelancing work that has come my way in the last four years has been through contacts who have been in my network for years.
It’s this network that is going to help you find work quickly and not have to rely on the likes of Upwork, where you will scrap for work alongside people who are working for a few dollars an hour.
Start building your network now.
Think about where your target clients are online – Twitter and LinkedIn are great places to network. Find potential clients and start to engage with them, answer and ask questions, build a relationship and make sure your bio has information about your freelance business, with a link to your portfolio.
Choose the right clients
Choosing the right clients is the tricky part of freelancing because initially, you’re likely to take on any work that comes your way to start to make money. This comes with experience – you will learn the signs that the client might not be the best fit for your freelance business.
My advice is to initially call them because you gather a lot of information about them and the business. Invoice 50% of the project cost before you start to work. Any client that argues that they do not want to pay, just walk away.
Just my opinion, but let’s say that comes from experience.
When you have a client approach you about working for them take the time to do your research. Have a look at their social profiles (you can tell a lot by just consuming someone’s content online) and search for their name and the business name in your favourite search engine to find any negative reviews.
Go with your gut instinct, and if during the initial conversation they start to show signs that they struggle to highlight what work they need, or, you just don’t feel comfortable working with them, then walk away because it’s not worth the stress.
Realise it’s hard work ahead
Hopefully reading this article will give you some ideas on the tasks required to start freelancing while working full-time. It’s going to be hard work, stressful but the rewards at the end will be worth it if you achieve your goals.
Pay your taxes
Paying your taxes is a completely different game when you’re a freelancer, and it’s your responsibility that they stay current all year long.
Taxes are going to depend on your local region, and there are plenty of informative government sites that will help you establish yourself as in independent contractor. Keep track of your earnings over the course of the year and pay taxes quarterly to avoid a big pay out at the end of the year.
Expenses you incur as part of business management are generally tax deductible, so save your receipts!
Keep a running list throughout the year of everything you’ve purchased to make your business work. Make sure you understand the taxes in your local region to see if there are other deductions which might be of benefit to you.
Getting paid as a freelancer
Getting paid can be a real bear as a freelancer. One way to offset this is to have a contract upfront which specifies terms and payment agreement.
The last thing you want to do is do the work and then have to chase a client for payment. Batch your invoicing to be beneficial for your schedule so that it doesn’t take too much time away from other revenue producing projects.
Being a freelancer ultimately means taking on a lot more responsibility than as a traditional employee. The plus side is that you have a lot more freedom and you’re more likely to achieve a beneficial work-life balance.
The downside is that you have to stay on top of your finances like never before. If you’re in love with the flexibility of being a freelancer, then the admin work doesn’t seem so tough.