More and more people are waking up to the fact that the 9 to 5 work day is dated and no longer the most efficient way of working. Millennials these days don’t want to be sat on our asses for 8 hours a day. Most of us can do the work in half the time, and spend the rest of the day twiddling in our chairs looking busy. Believe me, I’ve been there.
We all want more freedom in our lifestyle; we know ourselves best. If that means starting work at midnight and finishing at 4am works best for us, then so be it. Since taking my copywriting career freelance this year, it’s become crystal clear to me that freelancing is the ideal way to create that freedom (and extra money!) in your life.
So here we go. I’m going to show you how to go about starting a freelance business.
I’ve been working as a freelance copywriter and virtual assistant since the beginning of 2017. I’m a newbie by anyone’s standards, but who better to tell you exactly how to get started than someone who’s been in that very position just months previously? It also helps that I’m a virtual assistance for a site that’s all about connecting other freelance professionals with jobs around the world – so I’ve come into contact with a lot of advice, tips and evidence that show just how much freelancing can change your life!
Why is starting a freelance business a good idea?
If you’re still asking yourself this question, freelancing allows you to:
- Work whatever hours you want
- Choose where you work
- Scale your services to clients who genuinely interest you
- Work on projects you love
It can be a full-time job or a part-time side hustle; that choice is yours. You can earn £100 a week or £1,000 a week – how hard you work, the hours put in, and the results you get are entirely down to you.
Of course, there are downsides to freelancing. It’s isolating. You need to be incredibly motivated. Discipline is essential. Sick pay, holiday and employee benefits don’t exist anymore. Taxes are your joy to handle (don’t ask me about them, because I barely understand what I’m doing with them myself!).
However, I firmly believe the benefits outweigh the disadvantages, and that anyone who has the drive to launch a freelance business and the skills to successfully sell their own services, can. I know how overwhelming it can feel to launch a freelance career. It’s not the norm, but it is possible and you don’t need to be an expert in your field to succeed. Here’s a few tips to help you when starting a freelance business.
Know what you’re selling
When starting a freelance business, don’t just be available as “a freelancer”. No one makes money by selling themselves as a writer, web designer, marketer, programmer and more. You may be adept at all of those things, but you need to choose one to specialise in first.
A lot of advice says to go niche – very niche. However, to get started, just pick a specialism. Copywriting, web design, programming – whatever you have skills in and an interest in, run with it.
Get a website
Every business should have a website, and be blogging about their services. Having all the social media channels for your freelance services is great, but having a website dedicated to your business (even if it’s just a yourname.com domain listing what you do) is better. Check out my step-by-step guide to setting up a website of your own in just 10 minutes.
List your site in all your social media channels, and create several optimised pages to increase your chances of being picked up on search engines. Adding your niche and location in the page title can be great ways of being listed at the top for certain searches.
Your website pages could include:
- About Me
- Services (broken down into several pages if necessary)
- Contact Page
Build a Portfolio
When I first started looking at freelancing (way back, when I was still working full-time at the same time), I thought I’d fallen into a trap. I had a lot of copywriting experience from working at a marketing agency for almost 2 years, but because we were essentially ghost writing, I couldn’t publicise the work I’d done online.
The articles and sales pages I’d written belonged to the business that paid for them, or at the very least the agency I worked for. Putting links to these sites on my website called in some serious questions and wasn’t an option for me.
If you’re in a similar situation to me, do what I did: create a PDF portfolio that you can send privately to clients. While it’s not online, I can still privately show potential clients the projects I’ve worked on in the past. I’ve continued with this portfolio by adding further freelance work I’ve since taken on, and the result is pretty impressive! If you’d like to take a look to use as an example, drop me an email.
Alternatively, you’re more likely to be in the situation where you have little to no prior experience at all, and thus no portfolio to speak of. Start offering your services to friends and family immediately, for free if you have to. Do these projects to the very best of your ability, and you’ll soon have a great – if small – portfolio to send to clients. Clients love to see proof of your skills and experience, so having something to show for yourself is better than nothing.
Start a Blog
Your blog can be the perfect place to build your portfolio, especially if you’re a copywriter. If you’re a web designer, illustrator, graphic designer, or something else, blogging can still be a great way to promote your freelance business.
Blog about your field if you want to – how to be a better copywriter, how to create perfect illustrations etc. This can be a great way to make connections in your field. Alternatively, like me, you can use your blog to highlight your writing experience without actually talking about your work.
I wanted to start a blog independently of my freelance business, which is why I don’t solely write about copywriting on here (besides, I feel like I’ve got better things to offer to other topics!). However, I still use this site as an example of my skills and to promote myself professionally. I was contacted out of the blue with a copywriting job offer directly though this site in less than 2 months. Make your blog great, and people will want you to make theirs look great too.
To get your blog started, check out my guide to get your blog up and running in less than 10 minutes. You can even receive a unique domain name for free when you purchase hosting! Bluehost is one of the easiest hosting providers in my opinion, with an easy one-click download for WordPress allowing you to get started within minutes. Get started on your blog today.
Many people turn their nose up at job boards like Upwork and Freelancer.com. While these can be saturated in job postings wanting to pay $0.01 per word or less (yes, really), there are also real, genuinely great clients on there willing to pay a higher premium for a quality freelance professional.
Spend the time sifting through job posting and applying to any that you feel you’d be a great match for. Don’t undersell yourself and accept clearly poor paying jobs from the start, but be realistic about your experience at the same time.
I actually landed my first few paying clients via Upwork. I’m still happily working for them today. Check out my post on how to successfully get great clients via Upwork with no experience necessary.
Once you’ve landed your first client, keep the ball rolling! Keep applying for jobs, keep networking, and keep marketing yourself via your blog and social media.
Are you looking to become a freelancer? Don’t hold back – follow the tips listed here and get started on your lifestyle change today…