Tips for starting out as a Freelancer or self-employed business owner
Posted on 6th December 2018 by Phil Ainley MCIM
Starting out on your own and then maintaining your self-employed business as your main income is tough. It takes hard work and dedication and it will take you out of your comfort zone on a daily basis. If you get your foundations in place before you begin, there is no reason why you cannot achieve success.
We have put together a few handy pointers that may help you on your way if you are looking to go freelance.
1. Ask yourself, what am I good at?
Write down, in detail, exactly what it is you are good at and what services you are going to offer to your prospective clients. Do your skills match up to what you intend to offer?
Many workers who dream of working for themselves in a freelance capacity aim to offer services that are beyond what they can provide.
This happens because they think about the services their current employer offers and aim to replicate them because they may have been involved in each of their employer’s services.
If you do this, you are in danger of disappointing clients and garnering a poor reputation which will be damaging to your freelance aspirations.
Concentrate on your core skills and deliver them to an outstanding level. You can always look to add extra services once you are established.
From this you should be able to develop your USP (Unique Selling Proposition). In short, what makes you different from your competition.
2. Create a water-tight business plan.
Point 1 will help you with your business plan. There are lots of business plan templates that you can download for free online. You can use these as your starting point, but it is recommended to talk with a business expert to finalise your plan before taking the plunge and registering your business with Companies House.
An accountant can help you finalise your business plan and discuss projections for your outgoings and incomings, both in the short-term and the long-term.
This is vital before you start out. It will give you an idea of exactly how much business you will need to bring in to enjoy a comfortable standard of living.
It will also help to dictate how you can bring your required level of business in.
3. Think very carefully about marketing.
There are many different forms of marketing. Some work better for one business sector than for another, so you will need to research marketing channels, how you can use them to your advantage and how much they are going to cost you.
Too often people start their freelance careers thinking that social media on its own will bring in enough business for them to thrive. Sadly, this isn’t always the case.
You will find you may need a number of different marketing channels working for you to ensure you win enough work.
Examples of different marketing types include:
Digital advertising – Pay Per Click advertising on Google, Bing, Facebook, Linkedin and other digital platforms is very popular. It can also be very expensive, so be careful. Talk to a number of different digital marketers and get their ideas and quotes together before you take the plunge with PPC.
Print advertising – Long live print! It was once thought that print advertising was dead due to the rapid rise of digital, but what goes around usually comes around. Print advertising is very much alive and well and is experiencing a renaissance in localised publications.
Print ads tend to lend themselves to creativity and can be more eye-catching than the regurgitated adverts that are prevalent online.
They are also a lot cheaper than they were 20 years ago, which makes them a more attractive proposition to small businesses than expensive pay-per-click advertising.
Exhibitions – Exhibitions come in all shapes and sizes. Some are locally focused and relatively inexpensive, others have a national and international feel and can cost thousands of pounds to be an exhibitor.
Be prepared to spend some money on a popup stand and some flyers at the very least so people get to know and recognise your brand.
With any form of marketing it is important that you have a set goal and exhibitions are no different. Ask yourself, what do I want to achieve?
If it’s gaining more business, then how are you going to achieve that?
Simple tactics include; a sign up to my e-newsletter book, a business card drop (usually with a spot prize awarded to a random card drawn from the pot), a lead generation form which delegates can fill in and leave with you explaining what part of your services they are interested in.
Market Trading – Makers markets and craft fairs have become very popular in recent years and tend to work well for freelance craftspeople and food traders among others.
Optimisation for Search Engines – This can take time before you see any positive results, but it can work very well as part of a long-term marketing strategy.
Registering your freelance business on Google My Business is a great place to start. It’s free and enables you to regularly upload photos and updates about your business at your convenience.
A really well optimised website can sell your products and services while you’re asleep and you could wake up the new enquiries each morning.
Referral Marketing – This is one of the world’s oldest forms of gaining new business and repeat business. Referrals come from nurturing strong relationships and delivering outstanding quality work that your contacts want to shout about to their contacts.
There are hundreds of referral marketing groups that you can join for face to face meetings or online referring. Some are free, while others charge a membership fee and recurring monthly subs.
Developing relationships in referral marketing groups takes time, so you may have to wait a few months before your peers feel comfortable enough to refer your services to their contacts.
Great referral marketing is reciprocal and you will be required to refer their services too. Therefore, you will need to spend some time to get to know your fellow business peers and their businesses.
Note: Referrals are not a given and each one you receive should be treated like it is a priceless gift, no matter how small the job may be.
Keep the 7P’s in mind at all times
Whichever marketing channels you choose, keep the 7 P’s of Marketing at the forefront of all your marketing plans and activities:
- Physical Evidence
4. Create a strong, simple and easily recognisable brand
Invest in the skills of a graphic designer to design a strong yet simple logo that people can recognise easily. Most businesses should invest in a mobile responsive website that is optimised for key search terms relevant to their business.
This will help you to be found by potential new clients searching for your services online.
For a few hundred pounds you can be up and running in a short space of time.
5. Make sure you are covered.
It is surprising how many people start out in business without business insurance. Technical-based professions such as IT, marketing, design, architecture, engineering etc, where business finances are at stake, are obvious candidates for needing insurance against anything that might go wrong.
Even if you are starting a small craft-based venture such as; cake baking, hand-made woollen dolls, clothing repairs, you should still consider insuring your business.
You’ve got your business plan and projections finalised, your brand image is sorted, your website and social media is live… now the hard work begins.
Once you’ve laid strong foundations to your business you can actively sell your products and services. This takes organisation, time management and strict budget control, but we will look at that in another article soon.
Good luck with your venture!
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