Read Part 1: How to Start Freelancing and Succeed as a Freelancer
5. Set clear directions for your business.
Freelancing is just like starting a business: you need to have a roadmap to help chart your course to success. Think of it as similar to the process of writing a business plan.
You need to find a need in the marketplace, determine how you will fulfill that need in order to plan the products and services that you need to offer. You need to think what you want to be, what you represent and how others should see you. You need think how you can bring money to the business — and to your pockets as soon as possible.
While some businesses can be started on a shoestring budget as long as creativity is abundant, it is important to make the determination whether you have the resources to support yourself while you’re still getting your feet wet in freelancing and trying to find clients.
Resist the urge to accept anything and everything that comes your way – they may pay the bills, but they may not help you in building the type of business that you want. Plus, when the right opportunity or project comes along, you may find yourself too busy to do anything at all.
6. Prepare to wear many hats
Being an employee is DIFFERENT from being an entrepreneur. Many things that you’ve ignored before while you focus on your own area of responsibilities as an employee will have to be learned and done.
You may focus too much on the technical side of your occupation ensuring that you deliver high quality products that your clients expect. However, don’t forget the management aspects of being a freelancer, and that involves billing, collection, record keeping, tax paying, even marketing your services to other clients.
If you used to work as a programmer and now plans to jumpstart a solo programming freelance career, doing the programming work is just a small part of the tasks you need to do. You will need to plan the strategies of your business, sell your service, and do the administrative and backend work, and many more.
The worse part of being a solo entrepreneur is that you only have YOU to do everything.
Don’t you wish that assignments and new contracts will conveniently fall on your lap without you lifting a single finger? Alas, that is mostly pipe dream. For majority of freelancers, you need to market yourself to potential clients. And marketing is never easy.
You need to find the companies who are looking for the services you provide and learn about them as much as you can — what is their contract hiring process, who is the decision maker, what are they looking for, etc. Be prepared to do a lot of cold calling and responding to requests for proposals.
Spend time knowing a contact in the organization, even inviting them for lunch. Use the web to market your services by creating a website. Create brochures, flyers and lots of business cards.
Attend seminars, conferences and other events where your target market congregates and get to know key people. Research freelance networking organizations, where you can develop new contacts and even work together with other freelancers. Personal networking is an important marketing arsenal for freelancers.
8. Get your home ready for your new business.
Now that you’re going to work from home, you need to get your home ready for your business. More importantly, you need to get your mindset ready that you are now working from home.
Find a dedicated corner or room in your house where you can focus and do your work. This is especially important if you have a busy household with kids running around, and you need peace and quiet to be able to talk to clients over the phone.
But more than the physical setting up of your new home office, the mental shift from the change of working in a 9-to-5 corporate office to home office will take some getting used to. You will need to set your work hours, discipline yourself to focus, and adjust the patterns of working from home based on your preferences as well as the schedule of your family. For example, if you have kids who go to school, then try to do all the work you need during the day at the time when they are in school or when they go to sleep at night.
You will also need to adjust to the solitude of working from home. If you are used to the water cooler chats and lunches with co-workers, find other ways you can socialize during the day. Meet with clients, attend networking events, or even just go to your local Starbucks and work while enjoying your coffee and watching people pass by.
Wherever you plan to work, keep in mind that clients expect professionalism. They may not be amused to be constantly talking to you on the phone while your kids scream in the background, or hearing you over the traffic noise outside of your favorite Starbucks.
9. Learn to organize the logistics of managing and running a business
As a new business owner, a significant part of your success lies in how well you manage your day and your business.
You don’t wake up and work in your computer just to pass away the time. You need to have a purpose and mission. You may not need to put on a corporate suit, but you need to sit down and plan each day to make sure that you making this new business venture work.
The challenge is learning how to manage multiple tasks from your multiple hats throughout the day. You are the business owner, the bookkeeper, the marketer, the website owner, the janitor and other roles all rolled into one. Dedicate a certain percentage during the day to administrative and marketing tasks, or hire professionals to help you manage these tasks.
There are a number of things to consider to ensure the smooth flow and operation of your freelance business. Determine the best system for managing your emails. Make sure you separate your business resources from personal resources. Think of taxes constantly in terms of keeping all your receipts handy. Find the best system for tracking your time and billing it to customers. Research the easiest invoicing system for you.
Check out if the government agencies such as the Small Business Development Centers (SCDC) offer classes or lectures on how to run a business.
10. Find a supportive network.
Make a list of people who may be able to help you from your family, potential advisers to investors.
Your family may help you with the resources you need, medical insurance (if you have a spouse who’s also working), or even the emotional support you need as you start a new phase of your life.
Your advisers can help you develop and fine-tune your strategies, while sharing with you the wisdom they have gained about the business.
Also, check if there are any freelancing or consulting networks or communities that you can join in. They can help you in terms of advice and knowledge, and even client referrals. Some of them may be in your neighborhood, or check if there’s anything online that you can join in, talk about the business and exchange ideas.
Read Part 1: How to Start Freelancing and Succeed as a Freelancer
Check out the slideshow How to Build a Successful Freelance Business