The gig economy is becoming bigger and more important than ever. It was expected that 43% of the U.S. workforce would be a part of the gig economy by 2020. Now, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, that number is undoubtedly larger. Some people may have lost their full-time jobs. Others started looking for new ways to earn a stable income during the pandemic.
Whatever the case, freelancing and contracting are here to stay. While there are many benefits to having your own freelance business, there are also a few things to keep in mind before you get started.
It’s exciting to be your own boss. You control your working hours, you don’t have to put up with the pressures of working under someone else, and the amount of money you can make is virtually limitless if you can get the right clients.
But, there are also plenty of risks and potential downsides to working as a freelancer. For example, you have to pay for your own insurance and there are no “employment benefits” or retirement plans like there might be with a more traditional full-time job.
So, how can you make sure you’re on the “right” side of freelancing? How can you build a successful career out of something that may have been once viewed as a side hustle? Let’s look at a few essentials you’ll need to get your business off the ground. Working remotely requires productivity, and these essentials will help you to stay on top of things from the start.
1. A Clear Goal and Business Plan
When you start a freelance business, it’s just that – a business. You have to think of yourself as a brand in order to get ahead. No small business would ever get started without a solid plan in place. If you’ve never created a business plan before, it should include:
- An executive summary
- A description of your business
- Market analysis
- What you are offering
- How you will be funded
- Financial projections
Even if no one else sees your business plan as a freelancer, it can help you to stay focused and organized as you get started. Speaking of which, another thing you should define is your goals. Something drew you into becoming a freelancer. So, what do you want to achieve? Do you want to hit a certain financial goal? Have a certain number of clients? Be financially independent doing something you love?
Having a large goal in place and smaller goals that can help you work toward it will help you to stay motivated and inspired. It will give you something to work toward on days when you’re feeling like you can’t get ahead.
2. A Target Audience
Before you get started as a full-time freelancer, think about what you’re really bringing to the table. With so many people in the gig economy, one way to boost your success is by making sure you are offering something that isn’t already being done by someone else. What is your niche?
Granted, it can be hard to find something that someone isn’t already dabbling in. But, as long as you can provide a neat perspective to that niche, you can stand out. Once you know what you’re offering and why it’s different from your competition, you can start focusing on your target audience.
Who is your service for? Who do you want to reach? When you hone in on a target audience, you will waste less time looking for clients who might not be interested in what you’re offering.
3. The Right Office Space
One of the biggest problems freelancers face when working from home is getting distracted. While working remotely can be beneficial and help you to stay relaxed, it’s important not to allow yourself to get too relaxed.
Have a separate office space that you strictly use for work in your home. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a whole room. A desk in a corner or just a separate space from distractions will work. Make sure you choose a space with as much natural lighting as possible. Try to avoid setting up near the television, or in a “busy” area of your home where family members will be walking around all day.
You’ll also want to make sure you have the right equipment to help you stay productive. If you plan on working with clients via video chat platforms like Zoom or Skype, a strong WiFi connection is required. If you want to call clients or be easily accessible by phone, you might want to consider a separate mobile plan just for your business.
Thankfully, you can find inexpensive mobile plans fairly easily that won’t drain your business account before you can even build it up. There are several MVNO (mobile virtual network operators) that can fulfill your needs for a basic phone plan. But, should you choose Voxi or Giffgaff? Don’t be afraid to do your research on both.
4. A Pricing Guide
As a freelancer, you’re going to have to be firm on your pricing upfront. That can be difficult to gauge when you’re just getting started, which is why you should have a basic pricing guide in place before you ever work with a client. You want to be as transparent as possible with your clients so they will know what to expect when you send them an invoice.
Don’t make the mistake of asking the client what they’re comfortable paying. Chances are, they will always give you a lower amount than what they were truly expecting. If the prices you set seem too high for a client, they can look elsewhere. But, remember that you are charging based on your skill level and the amount of time you’ll put in.
For example, if you are a freelance writer, setting your prices too low could actually be dangerous. Some clients could see it as a sign that you don’t think your writing is worth much. In the end, you could be doing a lot of work for low-quality clients and not getting paid what you truly deserve.
Take a look at what other freelancers in your niche are charging for their services. How do you compare?
5. Your Own Website/Portfolio
Remember, you are your own business. What does every business have to have in order to remain relevant?
Think about the first thing you do when you’re looking for a business in your area. Chances are, you’ll do some research online. People will do the same with your services. So, it’s important to have a quality website with a portfolio of your work, and some basic knowledge of SEO, so that site will actually be seen.
Additionally, you’ll want to be able to share your portfolio as often as possible on your social media sites, through networking platforms, etc. Your digital portfolio should have the best samples of your work with as much of a variety as possible. Whether you’re a photographer, writer, designer, or videographer, having pieces that you’re proud of and ones that reflect who you really are will draw people in.
You don’t need to have a lot of design or web knowledge in order to create a great site. Many website hosts now offer “drag and drop” options and templates you can use to put together a professional-looking site in minutes.
6. A Routine
We already talked about the importance of having an “office space” for your work each day. But, another essential is the development of a routine.
You might be tempted to work whenever you’d like, but that will cause you to burn out very quickly, and you may even end up resenting your line of work. For example, if you put off a project until late one Saturday night, you’re going to hate having to stay home and work on it while you’re friends go out and have fun.
Creating a routine can help. Try to wake up at the same time each morning and go to bed at the same time each night. Go through whatever morning routine makes you feel awake and comfortable, and then sit down in your office and have designated work hours.
Once those hours are up, you’re done working for the day. Enjoy some alone time, hang out with family or friends, or simply do something for yourself. Achieving a healthy work-life balance is important. Finding it as a freelancer isn’t always as easy as people think.
Now is a better time than ever to dip your toe in the water of the gig economy. No matter what your skills or talents might be, there is undoubtedly a way to put them to good work, whether you want a bit of extra income each month or you want to make freelancing your full-time job. Keep these essential tips in mind as you get started, and you’ll run into fewer roadblocks along the way. When you do choose to prepare yourself for the ups and downs of freelancing before you start, you will find it much more enjoyable because you know exactly what to expect.