5 Steps to Starting a Freelance Business While Working Full-Time

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Before you start your freelance business, you need to get very clear on why you want to start freelancing in the first place. Once you have your bigger picture goals in mind, how you utilize your limited amount of time will greatly determine your level of success with freelancing.

1. Define Your Goals.

Without clearly defined, easily measurable goals, you’re going to have a very difficult time getting to where you want to go.

  • Is freelancing a path to just earning extra income on the side of your day job?
  • Do you eventually want to become a full-time freelancer because of the lifestyle benefits of being your own boss?
  • Or, are you looking to use freelancing as a stepping stone to eventually achieving a different goal entirely?

Regardless of what your ultimate goal is, you need to make it abundantly clear. This is something that all of the world’s top entrepreneurs agree upon when it comes to successfully starting a business.

Take the time to understand why you’re considering starting a freelance business—do you want to become a freelance writer? Freelance designer? Freelance developer? Make sure this decision is the right move in your progression toward achieving your bigger picture goals.

Only after you have the clarity around where you want freelancing to take you, can you start backing into your shorter-term goals and benchmarks that’ll help your freelance business become a success.

2. Identify Your Target Clients.

Just as important as finding a profitable niche, is attracting the right types of clients for your freelance business.

As you’re just starting your freelance business, it’s fine to take a bit more of a shotgun approach to landing a few clients. Make some initial assumptions about who you want to work with, target them first, and after working with a few of them, you’ll develop a very clear sense of whether or not you want to continue pursuing similar clients.

Since starting my freelance business, I’ve honed my target client profile over time to matching only two very specific types of businesses. High-growth tech startups and business influencers with well-established personal brands.

The primary reasons I’ve narrowed down the focus of my freelance business this far, is because I work best these types of (very similar) clients, and they both run in similar circles that lead to frequent referrals. I’m building my reputation within my niche.

To determine the best type of target clients as you start a freelance business, ask yourself these three questions:

  • Which businesses will find my services useful?
  • Which businesses can afford to pay the prices I’ll need to charge, in order to get to my income goal?
  • Who are the decision makers within these businesses, and what can I learn about their demographics & interests? Can I find a way to connect with them on a personal level?
  • When you have all of this information, you’ll be well-positioned to craft a cold email that cuts straight to the core of what these clients need from you—you’ll be able to connect with them and offer immediate value.

With my target clients, smaller startup teams and founders with personal brands, they can instantly relate to me because of my own personal affinity to startups—and will naturally pick up with my style of content marketing strategy. Because my portfolio work is directly applicable to what they do, they also start out with much more confidence that I’ll be able to drive similar results for their business, too.

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3. Build a High-Quality Portfolio Website.

Because I’m such a huge advocate of creating a powerful online presence to support starting a freelance business, I brought in an expert, Laurence Bradford, to share all of the essential elements to building a freelance portfolio that wins you high-value clients.

As a starting point, let’s understand what the purpose of having a portfolio website is, in the first place. It’s often the first impression a potential client will have of you, your style, your work, and the past clients (or companies) you’ve worked with in your freelance business. You need to effectively communicate the services you offer, and who they’re for. Beyond that, you need to sell yourself on why you’re the best person for this type of work – for the clients you want to work with.

Your freelance portfolio needs to do the following, in order to be truly effective at selling your services:

  • Communicate your specialty & display examples of your work.
  • List your contact information & show off your personality.
  • Highlight your relevant skills, education, and accomplishments.
  • Display testimonials (even if they’re from coworkers or former bosses when you’re just getting started).
  • Have regular updates that show your evolution, new clients, and updated sample work.

As you’re developing your portfolio site, find other freelancers within your space and get some inspiration from them to help uncover how they’re positioning themselves, formulating their value propositions, and going about building their businesses. If you need more resources on building out your portfolio site, then check out this list of the best blogging courses that’ll point you in the right direction.

 4. Create Examples of What You Can Deliver (on Your Portfolio Site).

You want your website to serve as a destination to demonstrate your expertise.

With that in mind, one of the best ways to show you’re in the know within your space, is by regularly publishing new content, images, or videos (depending upon the content medium you work in) that your target clients will be impressed with. Once you have an understanding of what your clients need, go out and create examples of that exact type of content – as if you had been hired to produce it – for your own website.

There’s no better way to sell your services, than to already show your clients that you can create what they need. What’s more, is that it’ll make their projects that much easier when you have a library of related work to pull from for inspiration.

My website is a living example of this. When I set out to start a freelance business, I decided early on that at least once per month, I was going to make it a point to publish a very thorough 4,000+ word blog post on topics that fall under teaching my readers how to start and grow a profitable side business, the theme of everything on my site and something I have intimate experience with.

It’s no coincidence that I choose to work with clients that have a very similar target market, as those who I speak to on my personal blog here. All my potential clients need to do, is check out a couple of my posts to see how much engagement they get, pick up on my conversation style, and get a feel for how I’d be able to work with them & their audience.

If you’re a web designer, your portfolio site should be very meticulously curated since everything about it, is a representation of what you’ll be able to build for your clients. If you’re a writer like me, then your blog posts need to speak to the quality of work you’ll create for everyone you work with. For designers, the same thing goes – make sure the images you feature on your site are representative of the style you want to create for your future clients.

5. Learn How to Pitch Yourself.

If you want to start freelancing, you need to know how to pitch yourself—it’s an asset that’ll be worth it’s weight in gold for years to come.

No matter how skilled you are at your craft, if you want to turn your skills into starting a freelance business, you need to be able to communicate those strengths and convert your conversations into paying clients.

My entire course on Winning Freelance Clients is dedicated to the topic of how to find, convince, and convert new clients for your freelance business—by using carefully strategized proposals and reach out tactics. And on top of that, we talk a bit about how to drive traffic to your website that stands a chance of converting into paying clients.

Here are the basics of crafting an effective freelance proposal that lands you clients:

  • Make a strong entrance with an elevator pitch email that already provides immense value & shows you’ve done your homework.
  • Sell your strengths.
  • Anticipate and answer any questions that may come up.
  • Lean on relevant work samples and past projects to demonstrate your expertise.
  • Use a visually appealing layout for your proposal.

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