3 Steps to Starting Your First Freelance Business

by / ⠀Blog Career Advice / August 16, 2022
man on computer freelancing clipart

I’m not going to sugarcoat it, sell you rainbows and unicorns, or tell you that becoming an entrepreneur will make you instantly rich.

And I’m definitely not going to tell you that it’s easy.  Starting your own business is HARD. The biggest component to success is a high risk tolerance.

I have repeatedly struggled to find my footing, pay bills, and get everything set up before finally finding a workable formula.

The business itself is easy to create.

It’s the cultivation of the business that takes time and energy. No matter how great your idea is, it will not flower by itself. You have to nurture it.

And that’s the problem. Nurturing takes TIME. Lots and lots of time, attention, care and energy.

My goal is to help you harness digital power to make yourself money with as little effort as possible. Create products, share value with people, make income. But it’s not always a linear process, is it?

So how do you make a relatively smooth transition from corporate employee to automated/digitized entrepreneur without going destitute?

You have to start with the middle road: freelancing

The bottom line is this — you need time to set up your business. Most corporate jobs have schedules that don’t really allow for the type of time you need to build content, products, relationships, and skills.

The word “freelancing” may sound scary — but the concept is pretty simple.

All you have to do is find skills that you already have, then find people who will pay you for those skills. Before you know it, you’re in business.

Here’s how it works.

Step #1: Take an inventory of your skills

What are you currently doing that someone is already paying you for?

Could that same service you’re providing a large company be offered to individual clients?

The reality is, if you currently have (or have ever had) a job, you’ve already proven that you can provide a service that people will pay money for.

For instance:

  • If you’re an administrative assistant, there’s a good chance your organizational skills will be useful to clients.
  • If you’re a web developer, you can definitely help people build projects on the side.
  • If you’re an accountant, you can help clients with their taxes, or small businesses with their accounts.

These are just a few ideas to get your brain working.

If you’re still having trouble coming up with ideas, I’m running a free class on Thursday to help.

Step #2: Determine what people are paying for the services you provide

It’s easy to get caught up on pricing. In the beginning, nobody knows what they should charge!

Remember: the true value of your services isn’t how much a company pays you directly (your salary/hourly rate) — it’s how much they charge other people for you to deliver those services.

The cost to the end user is your true value.

Consider this scenario:

You’re a paralegal that gets paid $30/hour to do pre-litigation work and settle cases.

How much do you think the clients are paying the firm for your work?

I’d guess the firm probably bills clients at least $150/hour for you to handle this work on their behalf.

So now you know your time is worth at least $150/hour.

That means the firm is taking $120 from you as a “finder’s fee!”

Hmm…seems pretty steep, don’t you think?

Couldn’t you take those exact same skills and make money by yourself?

One way that comes to mind is divorce filings.

The divorce process is expensive (it can cost hundreds or even thousands to file), but in reality, most paralegals know how to do this work.

Maybe you could open up an “express” business to offer this very specific service for a better rate.

There’s clearly a never-ending market for it!!

(And God, are people willing to pay!)

Step #3: Find clients (hint: they are everywhere)

When you’re first starting off, the two easiest methods for finding clients are partnerships and freelance job boards.

How to find partnerships

Forming partnerships with people who need your services, and already work with your ideal customer, is literally the fastest way to get an instant flood of clients.

The key is to offer other businesses massive value in return for their partnership.

Provide a service that really makes the other business look great to their customers, and they will reward you with a mountain of referrals.

It’s all about the win-win.

For example:

  • If you’re a personal trainer, you can partner with local apartment complexes who have gyms to host classes for residents.
  • If you’re a web developer, you can partner with graphic designers to help their clients build websites.
  • If you’re an algebra tutor, you can partner with local schools and after-school programs to help their students.

The possibilities are endless — but you have to be willing to think outside of the box to see make some of these connections work.

How to use freelance job boards

There are dozens of websites out there that are specifically designed to help freelancers find work and get paid.

The most popular is UpworkHere’s a quick guide on Upwork Connects.

Sites like these are fantastic starting points. You shouldn’t think of them as “forever” solutions to finding clients and growing your business — but they do provide some powerful advantages for the beginning freelancer:

  • They help you become comfortable with the idea of selling your services, tweaking your offer and understanding what clients are looking for.
  • They help you refine your pitch.
  • They build confidence by helping you get over the fear of rejection — and the initial feeling of success, even if you only book a few small jobs.

Get out there and get started!

These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to starting a freelance business!

Anybody can do it. What’s holding YOU back?

Related Post: Best Ways to Earn Money as a Professional Freelance Entrepreneur

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