It was January 2017, seven years since I left the corporate world to start my own online business. I remember feeling very anxious about my financial situation.
You see up to this point I had 100% self-funded my business and in all those years I have yet to see any profit.
I was going broke; my banks accounts were haemorrhaging money.
I was sleep deprived, stressed and depressed.
The simple fact was that I needed to make money today or eventually watch my dreams and life savings go up in flames.
At the time, my friends and love ones suggested to me that perhaps it was time to quit and go back to the corporate world.
I did seriously think about it, long and hard, but I knew in my heart that I didn’t want to!
Because it was my dream of building a successful online business and going back to the corporate world will most likely kill that dream.
Plus having already put in so much time towards it and losing so much along the way, I wanted it so badly to work.
I looked at various options, but the only viable option was to go back to web development and do some freelance work.
After making the decision, within two weeks I landed my first web development client and that is how I started my freelance business.
About this Guide
I created this guide for anyone who ever considered starting a freelancing business quickly from home and didn’t know where to start.
I share with you all the things that I have personally done to start and grow my freelance business.
Step One: Know your Why
Starting a freelancing business is not easy! Well for me it definitely hasn’t been, it felt more like a roller-coaster ride most of the time.
Throughout the years, I have had my fair share of shitty moments … shitty clients ;).
From having months of no work despite meeting with dozens of prospects, to clients who refuse to pay to clients disappearing halfway through a project.
I could have easily thrown in the towel. However during those moments, I just kept saying to myself, remember your why!
My WHY was simple. I do freelancing so that I can continue to live the laptop lifestyle and keep myself afloat until my “real business” makes money.
So every time I got knocked down, I would get back up, well … not always straight away but eventually I get back up.
Everyone has their own reasons, some of them could be
- To work from home so you can have more time with your family
- To earn some extra money
- To getting your feet wet
Find yours and use it as a motivator, band-aid or support tool for tough times.
Step Two: Decide on what you want to sell?
Once you know your why, it’s time to decide what you want to freelance in.
You could freelance as a copywriter, web designer, developer, translator, tutor or whatever skills you have and are in demand?
Once you have decided, make a list of all the different services you can do and clearly describe what they are and what you provide. The clearer you are on what you offer, the better it is when it comes to selling to your prospects.
Step Three: Figure out what you want to charge
Next is to decide how much money you want to make. What to charge is a very subjective as it depends on many factors like your experience, what you are selling, market rate, your sales skills and many other things.
In the end, I recommend to charge what you think you are worth and it is profitable for you.
Here are some other suggestions:
- Choose a pricing model that you want to use which could be per project, per hour, subscription or a combination.
- Remember when you are calculating your pricing make sure you account for things like taxes, insurance, meetings and any expenses.
- You can also build in flexibility into your pricing. A good way is to decide a minimum price and then mark it up by certain percentage. So when it comes to negotiation you have room to move and you won’t feel you are compromising.
Step Four: Decide on your work hours
This is one my favourite reasons for starting a freelance business; you get to choose your work hours. That’s right; you’re not restricted to rat race hours.
Apart from meetings and calls with clients you can work anytime you want.
With that said, I do highly recommend that you do create a schedule for yourself as it will help your productivity.
Things to consider when creating your schedule
- Consider which days you want to work, whether it is one day or two days, every day or whatever. I currently run my freelance business 4 days a week.
- Next decide on the number hours you want to work and between what time. This helps keep a separation between your personal and work time.
- Another thing is, you may want to decide on when you are contactable by clients. I like to schedule meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday so that the other days I am free to work on my projects and client work.
Make sure you communicate your schedule and how you would like to be contacted by your clients, otherwise you will have them contacting you at all hours of the day and even on weekends! Yes, I had this happen before.
Step Five: Have a Contract
Make sure you have a contract.
Like Judge Judy would say, if it is not in the contract it is not applicable!
This helps prevent the dreaded scope creep. You can be flexible, but if you feel that the client is abusing your generosity you can always refer to the contract and just say it is outside the scope and it will need to be quoted for. All the times that I had to use it, I found that all my clients were very respectful to this and immediately got the picture.
Here’s a list of things that I include in my contracts.
- Payment Terms
- Terms and Conditions
There are probably many more things you can include but for me I like to keep it real simple.
Note I am not a lawyer, if you need more details on your rights or legal advice about what to put in your contract, please find an adviser or solicitor.
Step Six: Getting Paid
Next is to decide on the payment method on how you want to get paid?
There are many different ways to get paid
I personally like to use EFT because my bank charges zero fees. However for my recurring type services I like to use Paypal as I have it automated. One less thing to worry!
Make sure you set it up beforehand as some of them may take some time to get up and running.
I always request an upfront deposit of 30%-50% before starting any projects. I found it helps reduce the risk of non-paying clients.
Step Seven: Finding Clients
When starting out, I highly recommend to try tapping into your own network first before trying any of the methods listed below. I found that it to be the easiest and fastest way of finding clients.
Mega list of places to find clients:
Always be looking for clients. You will find the lead time to a sale can go from one week to a few months.
Step Eight: Pitch & Closing the Deal
Once you have found a potential client, it is time to make your pitch and sell your services.
I am no expert at this, but “sales” is a necessary skill you need to learn. If you have never done any sales I highly recommend learning this as soon as you can.
To get you started, here is a list of things that I have done which has helped me get better clients and to sell more
- Meetings – For meetings whether it’s on the phone, in person or some other way, always come prepare with an agenda as it ensures that the meeting runs on time and smoothly.
- Always prepare a list of questions to ask the client to ensure you have all the information for your proposal
- Follow up – Often you will find that clients will need to be followed up multiple times before they are ready to commit.
- Some prospects will disappear into the sunset and never be seen again. Get over it fast and focus on the people who deserve your time.
- Filter – In the beginning you may not want to do this, but later on you will want to filter clients before you begin. I like to send them a quick questionnaire to see if they are a right fit. Otherwise you will get a lot of “twas” – time wasting assholes.
- Always tell the client the “next steps”, for example, once I have sent my proposal I always say to them “To get started simply make the deposit and on confirmation I will begin.”
Step Nine: Do the work
Now that you have closed the client, time to do the work, deliver it and get paid.
Step Ten: Testimonials and Referrals
On completion of the project, I love to thank my client and ask them for a testimonial to use as a reference in my marketing materials. Most are kind enough to give you one.
Lastly I also like to ask my clients for referrals.
That’s it, Congratulations.
That is how you can start a freelance business.