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10 steps to starting a successful freelance business

Manasa Reddigari

If starting your own freelance business is one of your goals, there are some things you must do to experience success. Don't be intimidated by the process of setting up a freelance business. It's pretty simple!

Here are some tasks you should accomplish when you're starting out.

1. Make a plan

The first thing you need to do is plan out your business. If you don't establish goals or define any details, you're going to struggle a lot. So rather than getting stuck and giving up, start planning right off the bat. Here are some things you should include in your business plan:

  • Your business name
  • Your specialty
  • Who your clients are and how your business will help them
  • How you'll find clients
  • What marketing you'll utilize
  • How much you'll charge
  • The type of expenses you're expecting to have

If you're wondering how to start a freelance business, start there. Creating a solid foundation will make everything else so much easier. Once you've completed that checklist, you're ready to move on.

2. Do some research

It is crucial to understand your competitors and potential customers when starting your business. Find out who else is in your industry. From there, identify what your competitors are doing insufficiently so you can fill the gap with your own business.

3. Establish a website

You'll most likely rely on the internet a lot. Secure a domain name for your business and start building your website. There are plenty of services out there that can help you create a website, including WordPress and Squarespace. Once you have a website, you can display your best work for potential clients to view.

4. Expand your online presence

Don't forget about social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn may be invaluable for your freelance work. Try to make your social media handles the same as your domain name. Once you create your accounts, start posting updates on your projects and useful information related to your services to gain a following of your target audience.

You should also set up an account with some free email marketing software such as MailChimp. Build your email list early so you have access to a loyal base of clients and potential customers. Email marketing is one of the best ways to keep people engaged and grow your business.

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5. Make your website look good, hire a graphic designer (if necessary)

Unless you're a graphic designer yourself, you may need to hire a web designer to establish your brand online. A good logo and website layout will be key to attracting new customers. If you don't have a logo or simply use a basic website template, people may not take you seriously enough to do business with you. People will judge your website and social media profiles as an indication of how professional your business is.

6. Tackle tax and legal obligations head-on

One thing that may be intimidating to you is the fact that you'll need to learn about your legal, tax, and contractual obligations as your own boss. While nobody loves doing paperwork, it's nothing you have to dread! According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, here are some steps to take when opening up your freelance business:

  • Get any necessary licenses or permits from your local government
  • If you're naming your business something other than your personal name, fill out a "Doing Business As" form with your local government
  • Prepare to make estimated tax payments each quarter
  • Fill out IRS Form W-9 whenever you get a new client

Take care of these regulatory and legal responsibilities sooner rather than later will save you headaches and roadblocks later on.

7. Separate your finances

If you mix your personal and business expenses, your accounting and taxes will be disorganized and frustrating. One of the most effective ways to separate your professional and personal finances is by setting up a bank account for your business. In order to do this, you'll need to get an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS.

8. Make a budget

You'll need some sort of investment to start your business, even if it's just from your own pocket. Now is a great time to figure out how much it will cost to set up your freelance business and what your ongoing expenses may look like.

9. Spread the word

You want as many people as possible to know that you're starting a new freelance business. Tap into your existing personal and professional networks to inform them about your new venture. Ask them for any referrals or advice.

10. Create buzz about your launch

It helps to open up shop with a bang. Plan a fun launch event to get everyone excited about your freelance business. You can send out a flashy email, go live on Facebook, or even host a local party. When people are excited about your business to launch, they'll be more likely to become customers.

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