Have you thought about breaking out on your own as a freelancer? Taking the leap into the world of freelancing isn’t an easy choice. There are many different things to consider, such as figuring out living expenses and staying on top of billing. However, freelancing is also one of the most rewarding things you can do, because you’ll build a business that is yours alone and finally have the freedom you’ve always wanted.
Around 34 percent of the workforce in the United States does freelance work and contributes about $715 billion to the economy every year. By 2027, experts predict over half the workforce will freelance or work remotely. Now is a great time to start your own freelance design business as more and more people jump on the trend.
There are 10 things to consider if you want to be a freelance designer and establish a client book in the next six months.
1. Establish an Emergency Fund
Before you quit your day job, establish an emergency fund and enough savings to cover your expenses during the first six months in business. It can take a while to start seeing a profit, even with a business that doesn’t require a lot of overhead to start. The last thing you want to do is quit a stable job only to discover you have to take whatever you can find to pay your bills.
2. Start Side Gigs
If you want to test the freelance waters in your area, put the word out that you’re now doing freelance design work in your spare time. This allows you to gain experience, build your portfolio and begin to make connections. You could conceivably begin your freelance career with a handful of clients already on the books, and all it will cost you is some of your spare time.
3. Learn to Communicate
Communication can be a real issue, especially with design work. Start practicing your skills well before you open your business. Take a Dale Carnegie course or a communication class at a local community college. Read articles about how to speak clearly and effectively. You’ll also need to consider the best ways to communicate upon first contact, such as automated responses on social media.
4. Create a Budget
When you freelance, your income is variable, which makes it hard to create a budget and stick to it. However, you can still create a budget for your baseline expenses, so you know exactly how much you need to bring in to keep a roof over your head and food in your fridge. Then, as your income increases or you have a particularly good month freelancing, you simply allocate the additional funds into other areas, such as savings, vacation fund or building your business through promotions.
5. Network With Others
The statistics on networking face-to-face are staggering. Nearly 100 percent of people surveyed said face-to-face meetings are necessary to keep a business relationship going strong. Take the time to network with your clients. Drop by their office or hold a virtual meeting to see how you can help them. This keeps you in the forefront and may also result in referrals.
6. Go Above and Beyond
When you do get those first few clients, underpromise and overdeliver. This means you should go above and beyond for them. Give them something extra they didn’t pay for. Really cultivate these first relationships. Once they are thrilled with the finished product, explain that you’re trying to grow your client base and ask them to refer you to other business owners they know.
7. Be Present in the Community
Let’s face it: There is a lot of competition in the freelance world. You aren’t just competing with other freelancers, but also with agencies and companies all over the world who do freelance design work. In order to secure those relationships locally, you need to be a presence in your community. Rent a booth at local festivals, sponsor a Little League team and attend community events.
8. Get Clients to Pay
A serious problem for freelancers is getting clients to pay for work completed. Cash flow becomes a problem quickly when they don’t pay in a timely manner. There are a couple of things you can do to alleviate this issue. First, require 50 percent payment upfront, 25 percent upon the halfway point of the project and the remaining 25 percent on completion. Invest in a good invoicing system that sends out notices and reminders for you.
Finally, every couple of months during the first year, look at who is paying you in a timely manner and choose which clients to keep and which to replace. After the first year, you can do this on an annual basis.
9. Send Out Queries Every Week
If you want to get new gigs, you have to go after them. Commit to making five to 10 new contacts every week during the first six months. While many will ignore your efforts, you will gain new clients here and there by making this contact. You can either send out letters, stop in local businesses, or bid on jobs via online gig sites. Freelancing is a numbers game, so put in the numbers to get the results.
10. Go After the Big Guys
Don’t be afraid to go after big contracts. Yes, you’re more likely to get the smaller business contracts at first, but you never know when that big corporation might need someone with your skills and price range. Don’t be afraid to touch base with the bigger companies out there. The worst thing that can happen is that they will say no thank you or they will ignore your efforts. You can survive that and keep trying.
Six Months to Success
Of course, there is no way you will reach success in a mere six months. What you can accomplish, however, is the start of a solid business with a list of clients that will keep you afloat as you continue to build your business and your skills. Freelancing takes years to attain the level you’d like to reach. If you’re doing what you love and have enough to survive that first year, though, then it is all worth it in the end.