Starting Your Freelance Business: The Fundamentals

Sep 26, 2016

Let’s face it—starting your own freelance business is stressful. There are so many different little things and moving parts you need to take care of before you ever even get to the point where you’re actively marketing your stuff to potential clients or customers.

Admittedly, when I was starting my own business just a couple of years ago, I was pretty uninformed about all of the groundwork I’d need to have done before I’d actually be able to get to the things I liked. Of course, I knew there were fundamentals I needed to take care of—but, I never really gave much thought to just how time-consuming those fundamentals could be.

So, today, I’m dedicating an entire post to those basic things you’re going to need to take care of before you ever get to the actual fun parts of your freelance business. No, the basics aren’t exactly the most exciting part of doing your own thing—but, they’re undeniably necessary!

When should you take care of these things?

Looking back on starting my own business, there’s one big thing I wish I had done: Taken care of these fundamentals while I was still employed full-time.

Why? Well, as I said before, these nuts and bolts are time-consuming. But, it’s not billable time. So, you’re spending hours taking care of these important pieces, without even a dollar to show for it.

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In hindsight, I wish I would’ve handled all of these things while I was still receiving a steady paycheck from my full-time employment. That way, when I actually jumped ship, I would’ve been able to get started right away with client work—rather than needing to spend all sorts of times getting these basics taken care of.

So, consider this your freelancing motto: The sooner you can get these fundamentals taken care of, the better.

What fundamentals do you need to address?

Alright, so you know that you’ll want to get your freelancing foundation laid sooner rather than later. But, now you’re left with one big question: What basic things do you need to take care of?

Here are the fundamentals you’ll want to have handled before you really get rolling with your business:

1. Business Entity

First things first, you’ll want to establish yourself as a legal business. Personally, I created an LLC (which is a popular option for many freelancers, as it’s pretty much the simplest way to go).

Forming an LLC was a process that seemed completely overwhelming and intimidating to me at first. But, honestly, this process couldn’t be much simpler. Google “form an LLC” along with your state name, and you’ll find a website where you can take care of the entire process online. It only took me a few minutes to get this done.

So, I promise, it’s not as complicated as you think it is!

2. Website

Here’s something that can be a little more time consuming than forming your business entity: Building your business website. You’re going to need that when you start pitching your services to new clients. So, it’s better to get the whole thing polished up ahead of time—so you’re ready whenever any potential opportunities pop up.

While you’re at it, you’ll also want to look into creating a professional email address for yourself. If you can set one up using your domain name, that’s ideal. But, regardless of what way you decide to go, just make sure you get an email address that you can use for all of your business-related correspondence. It not only makes you look more professional, but also makes it easier for you to keep track of all of your business emails.

Freelance Business Fundamentals

3. Accounting System

The word “accounting” alone is likely enough to make any freelancer groan. However, being able to keep adequate track of your income and expenses is absolutely crucial (just wait until tax time rolls around, and you’ll quickly see what I mean).

Luckily, there are so many different options out there for freelancers to manage their own accounting. Personally, I use QuickBooks Online and have been incredibly happy with it. But, do some research to find a system that works best for you. Getting that situated right off the bat will save you a lot of headaches (and time spent entering old information) down the line.

4. Bank Accounts

While you’re sorting out your accounting, you’ll also want to open a bank account specifically for your business. All of your business income should be deposited in this account, and your business-related expenses should come out of here as well.

I went to my bank and opened a business checking account, and then also got some business checks and a debit card right away too. Be forewarned that many banks require a minimum balance or a certain number of direct deposits per month to avoid a fee for a business account. Do your research—and even shop around at some different banks—to find the option that suits you best.

Keeping everything in one account might seem like an unnecessary detail. But, trust me, it’s another one of those things that’ll make tax time a lot easier—and it also helps to make your business that much more “official”.

5. Business Cards

Admittedly, I didn’t get any business cards until several months after I started my business. But, looking back, I wish I had taken care of it much sooner.

Once you have your website and email address sorted out, go ahead and order a pack for yourself (Moo is my favorite, and has some really cute options!). That way, you’ll be able to leave them with people you meet—which is an effective way to start promoting your new business and land some of your first clients.

6. General Organization

Here’s the final piece I recommend taking care of before actively seeking any clients: General organization of your business.

For me, this included things like determining how I’d keep my client files organized, figuring out where I’d store my receipts and any other tax information, and creating folders for various emails.

Of course, specifically how you’d like to organize is a personal decision. But, I highly recommend taking the time to get this all sorted out so that you have a dedicated system in place once you get started. It’ll save you from creating a big mess you’ll have to untangle later!

Ready to handle all of those fundamentals that are necessary for getting your freelance business off the ground? What piece are you going to start with?