Steps for Success: Freelance Business Startup Tips

Steps for Success: Freelance Business Startup Tips

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Steps for Success

A freelance business is one of the most profitable and exciting ways to earn a living. Mostly because you get to work on your own terms while doing something you love.

Learn and apply the best methods to increase profits and ensure results.

I will help you brainstorm for ideas, find a profitable niche, apply the best marketing strategies, land your first client, and pick the best accounting tools for success.

Let’s get started!

Problem/Solution Brainstorming

Running your own business is exciting. However, it comes with its challenges, obstacles, and disappointments. Therefore, if you want to withstand any challenges that come your way, get over disappointments, and keep improving your business, you have to engage in a business that you are satisfied with. The kind that will inspire you to keep going when you feel like throwing in the towel.

The best way to achieve that is by brainstorming ideas. Find a problem you would like to solve and start from there.

Let your mind wander. Don’t restrict yourself to one solution. Come up with different solutions that you can turn into a product or service that people want and need. If you do that, there is no limit to how far you can go.

Steps to an effective brainstorming session:

 #1     Define Your Purpose

Define your purpose and know why you want to start a freelance business. Is it to make extra money on the side? Do you want more flexibility? Or you want to effectively solve an existing problem that has bothered you for years? If you outline your ultimate goal, you will increase your chances to succeed. This is because goals give you focus, guide you in the right direction, help you to work effectively, and to stay on track when distractions come. So, what is your business purpose?

#2      List Your Best Ideas

After defining your purpose, come up with an exhaustive list of ideas. Don’t restrict yourself to what you feel is the best idea. Come up with as many ideas as you like and explore different avenues. The best way to handle this is to look at your skills, interests, level of expertise, and most importantly your dreams or aspirations. Meaning, even if you don’t have experience in ABC, but wish you could give it a try, add it to your list anyway.

After writing as many thoughts as possible, select your best ideas and set them aside. Consider your level of interest, flexibility, resources, available time etc.

#3      Do Your Research

Research your top 5 ideas and find out important information such as demand, profits, as well as how long it will take you to master a certain skill. Is your service or product on demand? Are people interested in what you have to offer? If so, how are you going to stand apart from the competition?

#4      Define Your Unique Value Proposition

Know your value proposition. What can you offer your audience that the competition isn’t? How will you cater to your target market and ensure business growth? Get people invested in what you are doing by offering unique value or simply improving where the competition lacks. This is the best way to make your mark and grow your audience and brand.

Set aside an hour a day for effective planning and don’t rush the process. It can take up to 3 or more days to come up with the best ideas and conduct enough research on each one of them. So, take your time.

After filtering your ideas and determining your value proposition, move on to the next step.

Finding a Profitable Niche

Aim to find a niche that not only solves an existing problem, but has high demand, high profit margins, and allows you to effectively meet your goals. Consider these points to ensure you choose a profitable niche:

#1      Skill Level

Identify your skills and match them to your top 5 ideas. Do you have what it takes to meet your goals or turn your idea into a business? Consider your skill level and select your best idea based on what you are good at and fast-track the process to finding a profitable niche.

This is not the only route you can take. You can also consider your passions and interests without limiting yourself.

This means you can still pick ABC and turn it into a profitable business even if you are not an expert at it. You can make it work.

Here’s how; figure out the most effective ways to develop that particular skill. Enroll in free courses or sign up for paid online classes if needed.

Consider the learning curve. For instance, do you have enough time to master that skill? And how much time are you willing to spend cultivating it?

After setting aside your top 2 or 3 ideas and evaluating your proficiency, consider your market.

#2      Demand

Is your new business venture something that people are willing to pay for? If yes, who is your target market? Do some market research. Go online and find out how many people are interested in your services or products. Do a quick Google search for certain services that you offer. For example, graphic design, copywriting, programming, etc. Go to freelance websites and look for that specific service. Find out how others are charging, how much they have earned during the years, and how well they market their services.

You can also do some local research. Target local businesses, friends, or colleagues. Market to them and see if it’s something they would spend money on. 

#3      Time

Find out how long it will take you to turn your idea into a lucrative business. If you can’t decide between two promising ideas, consider the time frame. Which one is more time-consuming? How long will it take to get it off the ground and can you afford to wait that long? Choose the one you prefer. Go with one that will takes less time and still gives you a nice profit, if you are torn between the 9-5 grind, personal relationships, and making your startup work. Pick the one that requires a lot of research, resources, but with even greater returns if you have enough time on your hands.

#4      The Competition

The next step is to identify your competitors. Who are they and what sets them apart? Study and observe their methods. Learn from them, improve on their shortcomings, and define what sets you apart.

If there is too much competition as well as brand loyalty, and you realize you won’t make it work, choose the next idea on your list. However, bear in mind that too much competition is an indication that you have a profitable niche. You just have to position yourself right and offer something valuable that the competition isn’t or won’t provide.

#5      Profit

Finally, decide on your ROI (return on investment). What are your expected profits? How much time, energy, and resources are you willing to invest in the business? Is it worth it? If so, you have found your niche. Go to the next step.

Do your research, identify your target audience, know your competition, calculate revenue projections, develop your idea, and take your business online.

Start Marketing Your New Business

You have found your profitable niche. It’s now time to develop it and show it off to the world. The development process is straight-forward. You just have to perfect your skills, use the right tools, reach the right audience, and raise brand awareness.

You want people to know that you are in business. You want your target audience to prefer your services or products to the competitors. You want to capture their attention, retain it, and keep them coming back. The best way to accomplish that is by having an effective marketing strategy in place.

6 tips for An Effective Marketing Strategy

#1      Identify Your Ideal Demographic

Identify your ideal customers and put most of your marketing efforts into turning them into lifelong clients. Who is your target audience? You can classify them based on age, gender, skill level, or education level. Advertise mostly to them, and once you recognize who your loyal or returning ones are, build meaningful relationships with them. Find out their pain points, challenges, goals and appeal to them.

#2      Create Your Website

Every worthwhile business has a professional website. So, create one. Hire a designer on freelancing webites like Upwork or set one up on your own. Use a Content Management System like WordPress or Wix to get it up and running in no time. Buy a domain name and pick the best web hosting company for your needs. Increase traffic to your site by optimizing it for SEO (search engine optimization).

#3      Create Your Google Business Page

Create your Google Business Listing for free so your business will appear in local searches., Optimize your profile. Include working hours, your business name, and a description to help potential clients better understand your brand. Upload professional posts, share upcoming events, interesting promotions, discounts, and so on. A google business profile will help you to promote your business, grow your audience, and boost sales. So, prioritize it. Don’t forget to register your business on the other major search engines as well.

#4      Begin Networking

Use social networks to form meaningful relations with your prospective clients, raise brand awareness, build authority, and grow your business. Choose the best social media platforms for your brand. Open a Facebook page, an Instagram business account, a Twitter account, and a LinkedIn page. You can also start a YouTube channel if you prefer videos.

Form relationships with your followers. Engage with them. Respond to comments and questions. Join relevant groups and participate in them. Leave useful comments on posts and when you find something interesting, hit ‘Like.’ That is how you encourage people to share, follow, and like your content.

#5      Start Blogging

People love and prefer what they can relate to. So, tell your brand story. Avoid posting too much promotional content. Offer information that your audience will find useful. Start a blog or YouTube channel that’s dedicated to giving invaluable advice. Share helpful resources, updates, as well as the latest trends within your niche. This will help you build trust, authority, and make it easier for prospects to engage in business with you.

#6      Invest In Marketing Tools

Take your marketing efforts a step further and use free or premium marketing tools. They will help you to manage your social media profiles, meet your SEO goals, track site performance, automate most of your work, and accelerate results.

Some of your must-have tools are: Mailchimp, Hootsuite, Hotjar, SEMrush, Google Analytics, and Zendesk.

Your marketing strategy is something you have to constantly work to improve. You may not see desired results overnight or receive positive feedback from prospects. Nonetheless, keep at it. Be patient because, eventually, you will get there. 

Let’s move on to the most exciting part of any business venture; getting your first client.

Getting Your 1st Client

All your efforts must eventually come down to one thing; getting that first paycheck. That’s the purpose of starting a business. Use the following tips to ensure that happens:

#1      Build Your Online Portfolio

Create an online portfolio and showcase your skills and past work. Give your audience the confidence and assurance that you know what you are doing. Add some of your finest work to inspire action. Proof of your work or capabilities is the secret to attracting people to your business and converting followers to customers.

Create a portfolio webpage on your website and add it to all your social media channels. Mention it on your blog or YouTube video. Refer prospects to it. Simply ask them to go to your website and check out your work. Make sure you optimize it for SEO to attract a bigger audience.

#2     Build Authority

Be the go-to-person for specific services or products. Build authority around your niche to capture people’s attention and turn visitors into loyal followers. Offer helpful advice on your blog or channel. Share interesting resources that your audience will find useful. It could be industry advice, latest trends, comparison articles, and so on. Boost engagement by diversifying your content. For example, share eBooks, use quizzes, infographics, cheat sheets, how-to guides, and short tutorials.

Show your followers that you are an expert in your field. Build trust and encourage them to want to do business with you.

#3      Reach Out

Incorporate email marketing into your strategy. Know your audience’s present needs. Send out emails. Run a short survey and ask your followers to complete it. Find out what their challenges are. Gather the information you collect and offer a practical solution.

Use word of mouth. Reach out to your existing contacts such as your friends, family, and workmates and advertise your services. Ask them to refer their friends to your business as well.

#4      Offer Practical Solutions

Offer practical solutions to a common problem and ensure success. Get people talking. Give them a reason to try out your product/service and market it to their audience. Figure out how the competition solves the existing problem. Know their weak points or what the client isn’t pleased with and make improvements.

#5      Get Your Pricing Right

Next, take care of pricing. Avoid overpricing because you are just starting out, but don’t undervalue yourself either. Set the ideal price. One that will satisfy your client and also keep you in business. Know how much fellow freelancers are paid for certain services. Consider their experience as well.

Come up with an effective pricing strategy. Use bundling. Divide your offer into different parts or offer related services to your main service. For example, if you are a web designer, offer web hosting, email hosting, site maintenance, and SEO services. Price your services separately. You can have as many packages as you like. For instance, a design package, a hosting package, and SEO services package. 

#6      Join Freelance Websites

Once everything is in place, join freelance websites and advertise your services. Complete your profile. Add relevant skills and a URL to your portfolio webpage and start bidding for work. When you get your first client, give it all you have. Do such a great job that every client you get turns into a recurring customer. If you deliver on your promises, your work will speak for itself and your client will be more than willing to advertise your business via word of mouth.

#7      Be Active In Your Community

Join business communities and be an active member. Get involved in events, discussions, and so forth. Approach existing businesses that you are interested in and find out how your product or service can help them. Get into partnerships with them and ensure your work stands out once you get approved.

#8      Ask For Customer Reviews

Use customer reviews to attract more people and grow your business. Ask happy clients to leave reviews on your blog, social media pages, as well as your Google Business Profile page. Add testimonials on your website as well.

Congratulations on getting your first client. Now, let’s look at the equally important aspect of your business; bookkeeping.

Use Good Accounting Software

Successful businesses take their accounting seriously. You have to keep track of your finances. Know where the money is going, where it’s coming from, and the best ways to manage it.

Countless startups fail within a few years not because the owners don’t have enough skill but because of financial mismanagement. So, you can hire an accountant. But that can be costly since you are only starting and have other financial obligations to take care of.

The best route is to use accounting software. There are tons of great financial tools you can use to minimize the load, track your finances, and ensure your money doesn’t go down the drain. Knowing which ones to use can be daunting.

Here are some suggestions:

#1 Quick Books

#2 Wave

#3 FreshBooks

#4 Zoho Books

#5 Sage 50Cloud

#6 Xero

#7 ZipBooks

#8 OneUp

Your choice will depend on your budget, business needs, and goals. Use the right tool that offers all the features you are looking for, gives you the flexibility you need, and easily takes care of most of the administrative work.

I wish you all the best in your new business venture!

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