Dreaming of leaving the 9-to-5 behind and becoming a freelancer? It’s not a pipe dream at all.
Many careers lend well to freelancing and with the online tools that are available today, it’s becoming much easier to reach customers around the globe.
Freelancing isn’t for everyone though. Leaving the security of a regular paycheck and the predictability of your office job can be scary.
But if you’re reading this, then most likely you’re seriously considering taking the leap, so let’s dive into the steps to make it happen.
Step 1: Identify a service you could offer
What skills do you have that could translate nicely into a freelancing career? For example, if you are an accountant, could you transition into becoming a freelance bookkeeper?
Look at the skills you are using in your current, or past jobs, and leverage them into a marketable service. You might even have a passion or hobby that could translate well into a freelance career.
Here are some ideas for popular online freelancing services:
- Graphic design
- Virtual assistant (this alone could be broken down into many niche services)
- Consulting (marketing, financial, SEO, etc)
- Web Design
- Community and/or Affiliate Manager (for online businesses)
- Speaking coordinator (working for speakers)
- Webinar Producer
- Podcast Producer
- Social Media Manager
That is a small sampling of online freelancing services you could offer. But don’t limit yourself if working online is not your passion.
If sitting on the computer all day isn’t your thing, here are more ideas for freelancing that don’t require all day at the computer:
- Home organizer
- Pet Sitting/ Dog Walking
- Interior Painting
- Loan Signing Agent
- Event coordinator
- Wedding planner
- Personal assistant
Whether you are an executive assistant, an accountant, decorator or a communications specialist, chances are you could create a freelance career using skills you are already have.
If you want to offer a service that you don’t already know how to do, then use this time to learn new skills through online courses or local workshops.
Step 2: Determine your ideal client
Once you’ve determine what service you want to provide, it’s time to figure out who you want to serve.
When I started my virtual assistant business, I had no idea who my ideal client was, but by using my connections, I was able to get clients that were online coaches who needed help with their online presence. They became my ideal client.
You may not know yet who you want to serve, but having an idea will make marketing yourself much easier. Your niche could be a certain industry (doctors, hair stylist, coaches, etc), or a certain type of person (busy moms, working parents, stressed pet parents, etc).
Step 3: Determine your offerings
Now it’s time to figure out your offerings. I love this part :).
Decide what services you want to offer and then package them into 1, 2 or more offerings that will appeal to your customers. You may need to do a little research here to figure out what people want. Look at other people offering similar services. How are they packaging their offerings?
Step 4: Set your prices
Setting your prices can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be. Figure out what the going rate is for your services and go from there.
The key is not to under value your services. You don’t need to be the cheapest in town – and you probably won’t attract the right client if you are.
You may want to offer some first time deals to get new customers in the door, or even a pro bono project here and there to get testimonials, but don’t low ball yourself in the long term.
Step 5: Set a timeline
Yay, you’ve come this far, now it’s time to set some goals for your big exit from the 9-to-5.
Goals are great because they can help you take action toward your freelancing goal. Your goals are personal to you. Start with a big goal, and then break that goal down into bite size chunks. Here is an example:
Main Goal: Quit my job and be working as a full-time freelancer within 12 months
Bite-size goals that support main goal:
- Create a website by X date.
- Get my first client within 30 days.
- Reach out to 10 potential clients every week.
- Make $1,000 per month freelancing with 6 months
Your goals should work for you. Just be sure to break down your main goal so you can see and feel the progress you are making towards it! One big goal is often hard to achieve without the roadmap provided by smaller goals.
Step 6: Get your process in place
Getting your workflows and processes in place takes a bit of time. But once you get your first freelance client, you’ll want to refine this and make sure your process is good for you and for your clients.
By process, I mean having agreements/contracts in place, business identity set up (any state business licenses or insurance you may need) establishing workflows and systems for actually doing the work, and setting boundaries.
After a few freelance projects, you should be able to refine this much better!
Step 7: Gather your marketing materials
You’ll want a few marketing tools to help you present yourself in the best possible manner. A nice website, a social media presence and possibly business cards, will be necessities depending on your services and customers.
Don’t get hung up on this though. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars and months getting a website made. Sign up for Squarespace or WordPress and put up a simple website showcasing your work and services.
Depending on your industry, you may want to get some business cards, especially if you plan to attend networking events. You can order affordable business cards at Vistaprints.com.
Step 8: Start networking
Networking is the best way to get clients! Start telling everyone you know about your new services. Offer a referral gift to anyone who sends you a new client. This is important! You’ll want to show gratitude for those who are helping you grow your dream business!
Join networking groups that are appropriate. Not all networking groups and events are created equal and your time is precious, especially when balancing a full-time job with a side freelancing career.
I recommend starting your networking efforts with people you know such as friends, family, acquaintances, past co-workers, neighbors, teachers, etc.
Step 9: Exit gracefully
When you are ready to leave your 9-to-5, my biggest advice is this…never, ever, ever burn bridges.
I don’t care how much you may hate your job, don’t give your boss the middle finger and walk out the door. You never know who your potential clients will be! I’ve left a few jobs and ended up freelancing for the company after I left.
Your employer could very well be your first client. Either way, leave gracefully and give ample notice. If they are a good company, they will respect and support you for going out on your own.
Step 10: Always be marketing
The life of a freelancer can be tough because it’s often feast or famine in the beginning. You’re either too busy with client work to do any marketing, or you have no clients and are frantically trying to find some.
Create a marketing system to help you stay consistent in your communications with prospective clients (monthly or quarterly “check-in’s”) and on social media if that is a medium that you will use.
Word of mouth is the best way to get new clients, so take good care of your existing clients and deliver exceptional service and you will have more feast than famine!
GOOD LUCK!!! I’d love to hear about your freelancing business! Please drop me a note or share in the comments.