In this post, I will walk you through the steps you need to take to launch a successful freelance business this year.
By the way, I teach an online course on how to Become Your Own Boss, which would be extremely helpful as you start on this journey. Live classes begin on January 31, and I’d love to see you there!
Without further ado, here are the 23 steps to launching a freelance business in 2023.
1. Decide What Kind of Freelance Business You Want
Freelance businesses tend to be service businesses, like writing, accounting, web design, coaching, or social media marketing. Knowing your skillset can guide you in deciding what kind of business you want to start.
2. Research the Industry
When starting any business, you need to do market research to understand the market and your competitors and figure out who your ideal target customers are by talking to people and listening to social media conversations. Look for any gaps in what others provide so that you can fill that unmet need that isn’t being addressed elsewhere.
3. Focus on a Specific Niche Customer
Who do you want to work with in your business? Who will you specialize in serving? No one is looking for a graphic designer. They are looking for a graphic designer specializing in learning materials or logos. You need to niche in a specific service or solution for a particular customer.
4. Name Your Business
The best way to be taken seriously as a freelancer is to have a professional business name and a great website that looks good and loads quickly from any device. Once you select a few names, check to see if the URL is available. Fortunately, domain names are pretty reasonably priced. Consider the name you want for your business and maybe a secondary site with keywords that identify your specialty, like SmallBizLady.com, PhiladelphiaSEOExpert.com, Huntsvilleflorist.com, or StLouishandyman.com.
5. Incorporate Your Business
To truly benefit from having a business, you need to incorporate that business as an LLC or S-Corporation. There are tax advantages to each, so check with your lawyer or accountant about what would be appropriate for you. Never use your social security number to run your business. You open yourself up to personal liability if something ever goes wrong with a client.
6. Register Your Business Name
Verify the availability of your desired name, then apply for Registration of Fictitious Name with your state’s corporation bureau. Announce the business name registration in two newspapers. Incorporate the business if you wish to have exclusive ownership of the name.
7. Secure an EIN Number
An Employee Identification Number (EIN) is a unique nine-digit number that identifies your business for tax purposes. It is meant for business-related items only. You’ll need an EIN to open a business bank account, apply for business licenses, and file your tax returns as a business owner. It’s simple and easy to get it from www.IRS.gov.
8. Build a Website
Your website is your #1 sales tool. The best way to be taken seriously as a freelancer is to have a professional website that features a portfolio of your work. People will judge your website as an indicator of your professionalism, so don’t skimp on it. Hire a professional web designer to help you build your website. Also, keep in mind that it should be updated every 12 to 18 months with your latest work and testimonials.
9. Build a Strong Lead Magnet
You need to build a list of prospects as soon as possible so you can use email marketing to keep your name in front of them. The best way to do this is to create an irresistible free offer on your website that will entice those interested in your services to download your resource. (Hint: Give away your best stuff.) Lead magnets can be a checklist, a mini course, a video series, an eBook, an exclusive podcast interview, etc. Make sure it solves an issue for your target customer.
10. Apply for Business Licenses
You may not realize it, but freelancers are required to have business licenses like any other business. Not getting the appropriate ones could cause you to pay more taxes and penalty fees down the road, so look into what licenses or permits your city, county, and state require you to have as a business owner.
11. Open a Business Bank Account
You need a separate bank account for your business. Mixing business and personal expenses makes taxes and accounting much harder, so set up an independent business checking account and a money market account. (You never want to keep all your funds in your checking account.) Keep in mind that your business and personal bank should not be at the same bank.
Every good business, freelance or otherwise, should start with a business plan. Your business plan should outline your overall business operations, including the services you’ll offer, competitors, details on your target customer, how you’ll drive sales, and deliver your products or services. You need a detailed marketing plan with sales goals. Take the time to develop sales projections and an initial budget so that you’ll have an idea if you are making money or running an expensive hobby.
13. Create Your Budget
Starting a business requires some initial investment, so now’s a good time to outline those costs, as well as ongoing expenses you will have. Make sure you include marketing dollars to promote your business each month. Don’t forget to include paying yourself as an expense. Even if you can’t afford to pay yourself at first, you need to keep a record of what your company owes you.
14. Set Up Profiles on Freelance Sites
One of the best ways to find freelance gigs is through freelance websites like Freelancer, UpWork, and Fiverr. Creating profiles on sites that cater to people looking for your services will give you a leg up on finding new customers once you’re ready to launch.
15. Build Your Social Media Brand
You need to lay the groundwork for your marketing efforts. Create social media profiles on the sites you believe your target audience spends time on. Publish content regularly so prospects will have ample opportunities to see your expertise in action. Engage with those who like and share your content.
16. Develop a Content Strategy
A content strategy helps you define your marketing goals and set priorities. It allows you to plan your content and ensures that all your marketing efforts are goal driven.
17. Use Email Marketing
Learn email marketing, so you’re comfortable using it once you have an email subscriber list. Email marketing allows you to build relationships with leads, customers, and past customers. It’s your opportunity to speak directly to them in their inboxes.
18. Reach Out to Your Network
Your network is your net worth as you start in business. Leverage your personal and professional networks to start putting the word out about your new freelance business. Let them know that you’ll be launching soon and that you would appreciate any referrals for business that they might provide.
19. Consider Bartering
You’ll likely run your freelance business lean until business picks up, so brainstorm how to network with other freelancers to barter your services. For example, if you don’t know how to do your own graphic designs, you could offer your accounting services in exchange for marketing help.
20. Plan Your Online Promotions
As a new business, you’ll need to prove yourself to attract new customers. You’ll need to learn how to sell and market online. Consider offering deep discount promotions to new customers, like “50% off your first two design projects” or “40% off of the first month of services.” This can incentivize people to try you out. After that, it’s up to you to wow them and turn them into a repeat customer.
21. Plan Your Launch
It’s important to create a buzz around the launch of your freelance business. You could hold a kickoff reception locally or leverage social media heavily. Offer killer freebies and giveaways online for the first month you are open for business. Go Live on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, or TikTok. If you are targeting local customers, you might want to launch a direct mail campaign. Don’t just do one thing – do a few things to get the word out. Just plan ahead for whatever the launch campaign will entail.
22. Get Others to Talk About the Launch
The more exciting your freelance business launch is, the more others will be happy to spread the word. Ask your network in real life and online to tell others about your business. The more people know about it, the bigger the net will become. Wide nets catch customers.
23. Celebrate Your New Status as a Freelance Business
You’ve put in the hard work, and now you’re ready to tell the world about your freelance business. Keep in mind that there are no overnight successes. You’ll have to work hard over time to build a following, but once you’ve proven your skills, your customers will come back to you again and again. Best of luck with your new business!
Do you have any suggestions to add? What else do you need to know about being a successful freelancer?