Knowing when and where to start when it comes to freelancing or beginning your own business (even if it feels small and insignificant in the beginning) can be extremely challenging. Maybe you’re faced with an internal dialogue of “is this actually practical” or “would anyone actually buy my product or services?” Maybe others are asking you the same questions, too.
If you’re feeling a tug to start freelancing or take the first steps towards growing a business, that is something that shouldn’t be ignored. Even if it begins as a “side hustle” you put your energy into outside of work, it’s a place to start.
When you’re ready to take that first step but aren’t quite sure where to start, try looking into these 5 important areas of business and devise a plan for your future.
1. Surround yourself with like-minded business owners or freelancers.
This one may be my favorite place to start. When you know what direction you want to go with your career, surround yourself with others who are in similar positions, and graciously take any advice they’re willing to share. By learning from their mistakes and figuring out what paths others took, you can outline how you want to approach your business with insider advice from the “pros.” Never underestimate the hard work and dedication it takes to grow a business from the ground up. If you can also get these people to advocate for you when you’re ready to take on clients or partner with you on referrals that complement their business, this can be a gamechanger.
2. Create a business plan.
A business plan is a key aspect of your business. What products or services are you wanting to sell? What is included in each? How much does each product or service cost? What audience are you looking to work with or sell to? How can you speak to them? What tone of voice represents your brand? And the list goes on. If you sit down and reflect upon these questions, you may find your business plan evolving or changing from your initial vision, and that’s okay. Figure out a plan. Execute the plan. And continually revise the plan to fit with your business’s goals.
3. Research taxes and freelance income requirements.
This was one no one ever gave me much warning of but 1099 forms and filing taxes will probably never be the same for me. Understand that untaxed freelance income gets paid back when you file taxes. Understand that it’s your responsibility to track business write-offs and tax deductibles. The entire billing process for clients is another aspect you will likely have to take under your business duties. Learn how to write an invoice, how to track expenses, and how to bill clients in a way that creates steady cash flow to meet your needs. Do your research and understand what comes with the territory of freelancing.
4. Outline your business deliverables.
What deliverables will a future client receive from you if they purchase your good or service? Is it a physical tangible like a shirt or mug? Is it a digital asset like a design or website? How do you measure these deliverables to make sure you’re on track for success? How transparent do you plan to be with clients- will they have access to a set of analytics, a monthly report, a tool to track benchmarks? If you aren’t clear in your deliverables and what expectations should be, things can quickly spiral. Not only can things be miscommunicated but your services or products may be taken as something which they are not- leaving you to close that gap.
5. Offer your services or products to family and friends as a test run.
When you’ve got an idea of the direction you want to go, practice, practice practice! Offer your services to the people closest to you- for free to start up a portfolio and get a feel for how things work, but for a cost eventually. If you always offer your services for free, you undervalue the work that you offer.
Once you get your footing, devise a plan for attracting the types of customers you want to work with. Have you freelanced before or had other struggles with running your own business?