When I first started freelancing a bit over a year ago, my friends told me I was "so lucky" to be able to just sit at home and do nothing all day. They had this idea in their heads that I was just lounging around, watching Netflix, and writing something every now and then.
I may have been working for content mills at first, but I was working. I was working hard, and I was working ALL. THE. TIME.
When I realized content mills are best avoided, and that I need to get credit for my work in order to get new (and better-paying!) clients, I followed these steps in order to start a freelance business from my home.
Apparently, a lot of people think it’s super easy to just quit their job and immediately start making tons of money working from home. Some of this seems to be pushed by those major health/weight loss companies that get distributors to sell their wraps and supplements via Instagram and Facebook. Their distributors are constantly posting about how easy it is to make money this way, and that being your own boss (and quitting the 9 -5) will automatically solve all of your problems.
In reality, freelancing is tough. Being your own boss is hard.
I mean, the dress code is pretty great, but it’s really not as easy as people seem to think it is. One day, I will be clicking through floods of emails from prospective clients, signing contracts with new clients, accepting work from previous clients, and getting all sorts of shares on social media. The next day, I will be guzzling a dozen cups of coffee and try my hardest to not bash my head against the wall in frustration. Or just give up for the day and go curl up in bed with a good book or some Netflix.
This is just the nature of freelancing.
Now, while I’m not saying you can build a freelance business in just a couple of hours and immediately start earning $90,000 per year, I am saying there are some things you can do to make it easier to start a freelance business from home.
You may not become internet famous. You may not be able to strut into your office with “Damn It’s Good To Be A Gangsta” playing as you tell your boss you’re never coming back. But, there are things you can do that will set up your freelance business for long-term success.
How do you start a freelance business from home?
Know Your Major End Goal
I know you’re probably tired of the whole “you have to set goals” speech that everyone always spits out, but it’s far more true and helpful than you might think. It’s truly important to have a major end goal that is the foundation for your business.
For example, your end goal might be to make at least $50,000 per year by being a freelance writer. You may want to just make an extra $1,000 per month for some play money. You may want to get a featured piece in PC Gamer. Or you may want to be able to quit your job and start selling your art full-time.
Whatever your major end goal is, you need to give it some life. Put it to paper, say it aloud, and post your goal somewhere in your home where you will be able to see it all the time. Otherwise, your goal is just an idea. A goal needs action to make it happen.
Set Little Goals
Now that you’ve got the One Goal to rule them all, you need a goal to find them, bring them all, and bind them. In other words, you need to set little goals that support and drive your business toward your end goal.
So, let’s say your One Goal was to make $50,000 per year as a freelance writer. The first thing you need to do is figure out how much you need to make per month – roughly $4,170. Okay. Now, you need to figure out how many clients you need. Now, figure out what types of writing services you provide, how many of those you are able to complete per month, and how much you should charge for each one. (Rates are different for each writer, as everyone has different needs, skills, and knowledge.)
Next, you need to figure how to meet that goal of x number of w, y, and z services per month.
“To sell 10 ghostwritten blog posts, 10 credited blog posts, and 9 small trade publication articles, I need to find at least ___ clients. Ummmm....How??"
I'm so glad you asked!
Step 1: Show off your work
Smaller goal 1: Create a website and build a portfolio
It’s going to be hard to find clients if they don’t know how good you are at your job.
This means you need to create a portfolio of work, preferably as part of a website where clients can check out who you are, what you do, and why they should hire you. If they don't know what you do, or well you do it, how are they supposed to hire you?
Step 2: Find clients
Smaller goal 2: Find and research clients
When you’re first starting out as a freelancer, you probably won’t have a whole lot of clients knocking on your virtual door. Or sending a virtual carrier pigeon. Or…well… You get the idea – You may not have clients stopping by your website right away.
This means you have to go out and find clients for your freelance business.
First, you need to figure out who your ideal client is. Typically, the best clients come from trade publications or companies. Solopreneurs, tiny startups, or small businesses may not have the budget to pay you very much. As such, you would need to write even more pieces in order to meet your monthly financial goal.
You also definitely want to avoid working for content mills as much as possible. More likely that not, working for a content mill will set you back quite a bit in time and energy, probably won’t give you any clips for your portfolio, and will definitely not pay you what you are worth.
Now that you’ve figured out what your ideal client is, you can either hone down your niche, or go out hunting for your clients. Let’s say you go with the latter.
- Research the habits of your ideal client. Where do they hang out online? Are there any specific hashtags that cater to your ideal client (Ex: #marketingautomation)? Any LinkedIn or Facebook groups they may be part of?
- Connect with your client on social media. Pop in and say “hi”, or share some of their content.
- Make a list of brands and companies you want to work with.
- Search for your ideal client (e.g. “marketing automation software companies” on Google. Browse around several different websites, and figure out how you can improve their content or offer your services. Maybe the content is lackluster, maybe they haven’t updated their blog in quite a bit, or maybe their content is riddled with spelling errors and completely confusing.
Step 3: Contact Clients
Smaller goal 3: Get in touch with clients
Send out a letter of introduction via email to each brand you have on your list. Let them know how you found them, who you are, and what you can help them with. Get specific with this, and show that you have done your homework. Include a link to your portfolio/website.
Step 4: Contact Leads
Smaller goal 4: Contact at least 7 leads per day
Keep doing this until you have the minimum number of clients you need to meet your goals.
To build a freelance business, you need to be constantly marketing yourself, working, and honing your skills. It’s great to just make up a goal of emailing 7 leads per day, but you need to actually follow through on that. You want to build a strong foundation for your business, not a hastily slapped-together one that is likely to crumble under pressure.
Keep Working Toward Your Goal
People used to say it took 21 days to get a habit to stick. Recent studies have shown that it’s actually closer to 66 days, and sometimes even longer than that. Either way, you have to stick to what you start in order to succeed.
The first month of your freelancing business is vital because it serves as the foundation for your entire business. You will need to push yourself to not give up, and to keep focused on your goals. You have to be doing something every single day to work toward your goal. This can be something small, like, “update my LinkedIn profile,” or “reach out to that business owner on Twitter.”
At first, you may not notice how big of strides you are making. You may feel discouraged. However, if you do something every day that works toward your big end goal, you will build a strong foundation for your freelance business – one that will last for the long-term.
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What steps would you take for starting a freelance business from home? Let me know in the comments below!