The Complete Guide to Freelance Business Ideas

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Every employee dreams of setting their own hours and building a business for themselves. But business ideas are hard to come by, that is, if you can find the capital to fund the project. What if you could use your existing skills, knowledge, and experience to go to work for yourself? A freelance business may be the ticket to becoming your own boss. 

Why Coming Up With a Solid Freelance Business Idea Is So Important

When most people think about earning a living, they either think about full-time employment or building a huge company as an entrepreneur. But there is a middle ground. A freelance business allows you to offer services, usually to multiple clients at once, for prices of your choosing. There are many advantages if you can implement your freelance business idea successfully.

The first significant advantage of a freelance business is its flexibility. Freelancers typically set their own hours and can work from anywhere. This flexibility allows you to work when you’re most productive and cultivate a great work-life balance. And since you decide what clients to take on, you can even run a successful freelance business on the side if you are already employed or have another business.

Secondly, a freelance business is easier on you compared to full-time employment. This is especially true once you hit your stride and get a steady stream of clients. You won’t have to deal with the struggle of traditional employment, including office politics, long commutes, disagreements with coworkers or managers, and parking. You can work from a home office for the most part with only the occasional site visit if the client wants it or the project requires it.

Additionally, there is the potential to turn your freelance business into a prized asset. You may be able to sell your successful business down the road. In the meantime, the company can be a great source of income and a vehicle for building a reputation. A freelance business is also scalable, allowing you to hire employees, take on more clients, and diversify to new services and sectors.

For example, if you are a good writer or editor, you can offer writing and editing services to clients in any industry. It is free for you to add or remove an offering on your website. You can expand by outsourcing some of the writing and editing to other freelancers or employees you hire and manage. And you can easily offer related services like an online course on blogging or consulting services for other aspiring freelancers without changing your business structure.

Lastly, a freelance business is a great way to earn exposure. You’ll be working with different clients, taking on diverse assignments, and visiting various work sites. This business also offers excellent networking opportunities with business owners and industry leaders. As a bonus, you have the freedom to choose who you work with and take on projects that you are passionate about or are meaningful to you.

Quick Tips To Improve Your Chances of Starting a Successful Freelance Business Today

A freelance business offers the freedom that many traditional 9-5 employees crave. But this freedom also comes with specific responsibilities. For one, you will need strong time management and organization skills to deliver projects on time. In addition, making this transition can be difficult if you aren’t used to working independently with no oversight. As the freelancer, meeting deadlines and getting things right is your responsibility.

A project management tool like Trello can help you track your projects and manage your time effectively. Trello allows you to organize your projects and break them down into manageable tasks. Within each card, you can track progress, attach files and images, collaborate with team members or clients, and assign deadlines. You can do all this on a simple, easy-to-use, drag-and-drop, and visually appealing interface.

Trello landing page

One of the best things about a freelance business is its low barriers to entry. You only need a marketable skill and a client to get started. Below are some quick tips to help you get started on your freelancing journey today.

1. Decide if Freelancing Is For You

On the surface, a freelance business sounds attractive. You get to set your own hours, decide your workload, choose who to work with, and work from anywhere with WiFi. But there are no guarantees in this business. It will take some time to build a client base, especially in the beginning. Work can also be irregular, and there is always the risk of not getting paid.

In short, a freelance business requires a special kind of motivation and dedication. You need to be all in if you have any chance of being successful and earning a good living. You’ll also need certain soft skills to be a successful freelancer, including:

  • Time management skills
  • Decision making
  • Negotiation skills
  • Self-confidence
  • Business management
  • Sales skills
  • Communication skills
  • Marketing and outreach skills

Also, don’t forget your hard skills like writing or programming, depending on your type of services.

Make sure to research freelancing to see if it’s the right choice for you and something you want to put the work into.

2. Explore Your Options

The good news is that there are nearly infinite in-demand skills for a competent freelancer. If you have a hard skill, chances are someone is willing to pay you for it. Consider the industries you have previously worked in, your hobbies, the skills you put in your resume, and the topics you like to learn about in your free time.

You can start with a broad service offering and narrow down your niche as you gain experience. This strategy will allow you to gain real-world experience on what you can do well, what you enjoy doing, what’s in demand, and where you can make the most money.

Some of the most in-demand and fastest-growing freelance services include:

  • User experience design
  • Content marketing, including SEO, writing, and editing
  • Shopify and other ecommerce store development
  • Animation
  • Photography
  • Social media marketing
  • Virtual assistant
  • Data mining
  • Voice talent
  • Java development
  • Android development
  • iOS development

Don’t let this list limit you. There are numerous opportunities to carve a niche for yourself based on your skills, interests, and expertise. Just be sure to do some research to guarantee that there is a market for your services.

3. Define What You Want To Get From Your Business

Earning a good living is a great goal. But it is not enough to see you through the ebbs and flows of your business. First, analyze your reasons for getting into the freelance industry. It might be to be your own boss, the flexible schedule, or the opportunity to pursue your passion. Your strong reasons may be the motivation you need to persevere when the going gets tough.

Secondly, consider how much time and effort you are willing to spend on your business. Will this be a part-time or full-time gig? Do you intend to keep your day job?

Finally, set measurable goals for your business. Your goals will help you charter your path and guide your business decisions. Set SMART short-term and long-term goals. Examples of short-term goals include setting up your website and getting a set number of clients in the first three months.

Your long-term goals may include hitting your annual revenue target within the first three years of business. Be sure to set realistic goals. You can consult with established freelancers in your industry to gain perspective on your goals.

4. Identify Your Target Clients

Naturally, you’ll need to decide who to sell your services to. Having an ideal client base in mind will help you in all aspects of your business, including marketing, pricing, and service delivery. A buyer persona is a handy tool for this step.

A buyer persona is a fictional depiction of your ideal client. The persona should include things like age, location, background information, education, interests, job title, demographic data, language, challenges, spending power, and patterns.

A detailed buyer persona will help you to understand your business from the customer’s perspective. Additionally, a buyer persona is instrumental in creating targeted social ads when marketing your business.

Creating a buyer persona is part of overall market research. In addition to a target client, you also want to research your competitors to see their pricing, business model, and how you can set yourself apart from them to sell your services.

5. Take Advantage of Project Management Software

As a freelancer, you’ll likely be taking on multiple projects at a time. So, you’ll need to find a way to juggle multiple clients and commitments. Project management software like Trello makes it easier to keep a handle on your projects and clients.

For example, the Trello board lets you create cards to keep track of all your project information. You can create cards for To Do, Doing, and Done or adjust the column titles to fit your workflow. For example,  you could have each column be a specific client with the tasks and projects listed in the cards within the column. This simple visual system lets you keep track of your progress and commitments at a glance.

Kanban style board in Trello

You can also invite members to your project boards when collaborating with clients. Additionally, each card allows you to add descriptions, members, due dates, attachments, comments, and checklists. This way, you can ensure that your clients are always in the loop.

Trello integrates with other apps that you might need to complement your workflow, including Jira, Slack, and Google Drive. Trello pricing plans include:

  • Free version: Free forever. Unlimited cards and boards, one power-up per board, and unlimited storage (10 MB per file).
  • Business Class: $10 per month. Unlimited cards and boards, unlimited power-ups, dashboard, timeline, and workflow views, and unlimited storage (250 MB per file).
  • Enterprise: Starting at $17.50 per month. Everything in Business Class plus multi-board guests, attachment permissions, unlimited automated command runs, and more.

The free version may be enough for many freelancers, and you can upgrade later for more features. If Trello isn’t the exact tool for your needs, check out our guide to the top five project management tools on the market.

Long-Term Strategies for Running a Successful Freelance Business

Some strategies for a successful freelance business take a longer time to implement or see results. These strategies are useful once you get your business up and running.

Book Your First Client As Soon as Possible

Many people put off booking their first client out of fear. You may think that you need to gain more experience or learn more skills before launching your business. While knowledge and skills play a crucial role in business, the most valuable lessons come while on the job. Putting off launching your business indefinitely may cause you to abandon the business altogether.

You can get started with basic level skills as long as you do not misrepresent yourself to clients. However, you may need to start small. Prioritize gaining experience over landing a big paycheck. This doesn’t mean working for free. Lower-paying jobs can be a great way to build a portfolio and earn a reputation in your industry. You will get more prominent clients with bigger budgets as you become more skilled and experienced.

Finally, start with the problems you know how to solve with your existing skills. Use this as the selling point for getting your first client. You can rely on your network of family, friends, acquaintances, and old colleagues to gain your first clients.

Price Your Services Accordingly

One of the most challenging parts of starting a freelance business is pricing your services. Many people are uncomfortable talking about money. But you are in business to solve people’s problems. As such, you should expect to be compensated accordingly.

There are various ways to price your services. For example, you may choose to charge a monthly retainer, an hourly rate, by project, or on commission. But you might want to first think about your pricing as an hourly rate to make the process easier.

You can start by researching the average pay of an employee in your role. Websites like Glassdoor and PayScale are perfect for finding this information. As a freelancer, you will need to charge a little higher than the average amount. Your clients won’t be paying benefits or taxes for your services, so they expect to pay a little more for freelancers. Take the total salary you want to make for the year and break it down by month, week, day, and hour. You want to find out how much you need to charge hourly to earn the salary you want to make. 

Remember that you won’t be able to charge for every hour you work. Just billable client hours. So, factor that into your calculation. Some hours every week will be spent on admin tasks for your business, such as invoicing, updating your website, organizing, accounting, and marketing.

Another great pricing strategy is to offer different pricing options or packages. These pricing options should be based on value. For example, your first package may offer simple, standard solutions with no extra features, such as developing a website for a client. Then, the second package may offer some customization options with additional benefits, like upgraded site functionality and website hosting. Finally, a third package may offer unrestricted value and a premium, tailor-made solution, such as custom website architecture and creation, ongoing site maintenance, website hosting, and a custom domain name.

Offering different pre-set packages gives your clients more control over how much they want to spend. You’ll also benefit from working with clients with different budgets rather than turning down paying clients with lower budgets.

Build a High-Quality Portfolio Website

Your work will be your most effective marketing tool. Therefore, a powerful online presence will help show clients your work, your style, and previous clients you’ve worked with. In addition, content management systems such as Wix and WordPress have made it incredibly easy to build a professional website. You don’t even need coding or web design experience to set up a professional website.

Plus, a service like Wix also delivers managed security and optimization, so their team of experts will handle all the necessary actions to make your website safe and always available for visitors.

Several factors make a successful portfolio website. Firstly, the website should display examples of your work and communicate your specialty to potential clients. Secondly, the website should highlight your accomplishments, relevant skills, and education.

Other critical elements to include in your portfolio website are:

  • Your contact information
  • All service offerings
  • Client testimonials

Research successful freelancers in your field and check their websites. Find out what you like about their website, especially how they formulate their value proposition and present their services. Your competitors can be a great source of inspiration for your portfolio website.

Be sure to publish new content regularly, including images and videos. Regularly updating your website demonstrates that you are well versed in your industry and stay abreast of new developments in your space. It also assists with SEO and search engine rankings.

Focus on Your Day Job

This advice may sound counter-intuitive, but it is actually critical advice. The harsh reality is that a freelance business isn’t sustainable for most people, at least initially. You may be tempted to quit your day job to focus on your business. But, as most people learn the hard way, you need a reliable source of income while building your client pipeline and business.

Remember, your full-time employment is your number one priority. You’ll need to be careful about the jobs you choose so you don’t breach any agreements or contracts you have with your employer. Review your non-compete agreement if you have one, just to make sure that you don’t get into legal trouble.

Similarly, avoid mixing your freelance work with your day job. Do not work on your freelance business during company time or use the company’s resources for client projects. At the very least, make sure you have at least six months’ expenses saved up before jumping into freelancing full-time. Better yet, wait until your freelance business income matches or surpasses your employment income before making the switch.

Build The Business

There is a lot more in a freelance business than taking client work. You most likely won’t need to register your business when starting. This is especially true if you’ll be operating under your legal name. But think about setting up a formal business structure once you get into the swing of things.

Consider forming a limited liability company (LLC) to protect your personal assets. An LLC ensures that your assets and finances are protected in case you get sued. Additionally, you’ll want to separate your personal finances from your business income. Finally, consider opening a dedicated business account to further protect yourself from liability.

Using a service like ZenBusiness, you can set up an LLC very quickly and help you handle things like Annual Reports and staying compliant with state regulations.

ZenBusiness landing page for LLC services

You’ll also need to consider other business functions like accounting, marketing, sales, and customer service. Creating a full-fledged business will help increase your credibility and show you are a professional. This way, it will be easier to charge more for your services and work with high-end clients.

The big takeaway here is to treat your freelance busines as a business. Don’t just think of it as a side-gig, but create a real business that will grow with time and allow you to make good money.

Next Steps

The best thing to do after starting your freelance business is to build your network. Friends and family may need your services or can help to spread the word about your business. Leverage your close relationships to drum up business. Starting close to home can be surprisingly productive for your business.

You’ll also need to commit to building connections. Freelancers rely heavily on word-of-mouth. Networking can take a backseat if you don’t make it a priority. To this end, set aside time each day or week specifically for building connections, either online or offline. Keep a close eye on what works and what doesn’t work to refine your strategy further.

Finally, put yourself out there. Join shared interest groups on social media, offer assistance where possible, and regularly attend local events and trade shows. While networking may not get you direct business leads, you’ll gain more industry knowledge. Your networks can also connect you to clients or industry leaders.

Finally, we have a few more posts from our daily Eggsperts worth reading. These posts will help you on the path to creating a successful freelance business:

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