Becoming a Freelancer | Tips for Getting Started

Jul 8, 2015

When it comes to transitioning into life as a freelancer or business owner, I’ll give you one good guess as to what the toughest part is. Spoiler alert: it’s getting started.

Yes, getting all of your ducks in a row in order to launch your new venture into the world is definitely one of the most challenging pieces of doing your own thing for a career. It’s easy to feel like there are way too many first steps to take before actually working. And, let’s face it, you really just want to skip ahead and get to the work that you love.

But, unfortunately, there are some not so fun parts that come with entrepreneurship — and they aren’t really things that many business owners talk about too often. So, today I’m giving you some insight into the down and dirty, behind-the-scenes sorts of things that needed to happen in order to get my business/freelance career started.

No, my friends, life isn’t always the glamorous snapshot you see presented here. Please sense my sarcasm.


1. Find a resource/mentor.

I don’t even know if I have the words to tell you how important it is that you have someone to turn to that can help guide you through the process. You’re going to have questions — you need someone who can answer them.

I’m very fortunate, as both of my parents are small business owners. They’ve helped me every step of the way. Whether I have a question about taxes or client contracts, they’ve been able to hold my hand through this entire scary exciting process.

If you already know somebody who is perfectly qualified to help you, then great! If not, start networking. Search for local professionals on LinkedIn. Join a local association. Just find someone who wants to see you succeed. You won’t believe how much they’ll help you.

2. Set up an accounting system.

Let me just tell you — I have a newfound appreciation for accountants. I had no idea how much went into managing the financial side of a business. It’s a lot of work.

Before getting in too deep, you need to figure out how you’ll keep track of your business finances. Not only do you need to keep a watchful eye on your invoices, you should also be tracking business-related expenses. You can write these off come tax time, and they can really help to save you some money! Everything from postage and mileage to office supplies and your home Internet bill — these things really add up!

I use QuickBooks to manage all of my finances. But, don’t feel like you need to get something fancy right away. Even setting up an Excel spreadsheet will do the trick. You just want to make sure you start tracking from the get go to save yourself from piles of work down the road.

3. Get your domain name and email address.

Before starting my business, I wasn’t totally convinced I would really need a website. After all, I’m a writer — not a web designer. Believe me when I tell you that you absolutely, definitely, positively need a website.

You can disagree with me if you wish. But, I firmly believe that having an online presence for your business is absolutely crucial. For me, it’s great to have a place online where a bunch of my writing samples can live, and it’s super easy to send out in pitch emails.

Plus, I think a website really helps you to look a little more legitimate. People can visit your site to learn more about you and your background, find out more about your product or services, get in touch with you, and even find you out of the blue (which saves you some work!).

So, now that you’re convinced you need a website, how do you get one? First things first, you need to settle on a domain name. I purchased mine through GoDaddy, but there are tons of options out there. You may have to search a little to find a name that’s still available. After that, I wanted a professional email address associated with my site. I set that up through Google. There are some great instructions for doing that right here.

 -Don't be afraid to go out on a limb,

4. Develop a business plan.

Even typing the words “business plan” felt so stuffy and formal to me. Anyway, call it what you want, but determining a vision for your business is key.

What is your mission? What sorts of services or products you offer? What’s your pricing structure? What kind of brand identity will you maintain? How much money do you need to make each month to break even?

Reading those questions might make you start to sweat a little. But, it’s important that you sit down and piece together at least a basic business plan. Not only will it help you keep things cohesive and organized in the future, but will also ensure that you’re setting yourself up for success right off the bat. So, take the time to do it. It’s worth it. Scout’s honor.

5. Put together some sales materials.

To make your business successful, you need to market it — and, in order to do that, you need materials. Now’s the time to build your website, order business cards, polish up your resume or portfolio, update your LinkedIn profile, and create a one-page sales sheet to leave with potential clients.

Of course, you may not need to do all of those things. But, make sure that you get your hands on some materials that will help you promote you and your business! Heck, you can even get some branded pens like what they have at the bank. Who doesn’t love a free pen?!

6. Utilize your network.

Now that you’ve laid the groundwork, it’s time to get out there and get to work! Obviously, finding clients or people that are interested in what you have to offer is another tough part — I could write a whole separate post about that.

But, one of the first things you can do is reach out to your existing network. Post something about your business launch on your social media accounts. Send out emails to professional acquaintances you already have. Let everybody know what you’re doing — even the cashier at Target and the person next to you at the hair salon. Have no shame.

Or, if you’re like me, your crazy mother will take care of this part for you and send out an email to everybody she has ever known on the face of the planet. Thanks, mom.

7. Stay organized.

Organization is so important for running a successful business. Am I saying that every one of these things is “so important”? Probably. And, they all are. But, staying organized is extra important, ok?

Really, there’s a lot you need to keep track of when you run a business. You need to hang on to receipts, contracts, and other important documents. You need to keep track of a variety of different deadlines and dates. You need to manage relationships with multiple clients at a time — and oftentimes multiple email accounts. You need to keep an eye on your aging invoices and billable hours. You need to keep your desk from looking like a landfill. It’s a lot to manage.

My advice? Sit down and find a method for keeping everything organized early on. Get a monthly accordion folder for your receipts. Get a huge planner that has room for all of your notes. Set a date every month when you clean up your office and your computer files. Learn the ins and outs of your accounting system so you have a great handle on your finances. It will make things go much smoother in the long run, trust me.

I know that crossing all of these tips off your list before actually launching your business is frustrating, especially when you wish you could just snap your fingers and get to the work you love. But, it’s all a necessary evil when it comes to being an independent boss lady.

So, heed my advice and take the time to do it all now. You can thank me later.

Until next time!