How You Start to a Freelance Business in 2023
How You Start to a Freelance Business in 2023
Have a skill that you want to grow into a business? Great! This course will take you from thinking about starting your own freelance business to doing it. It’s not based on an idealistic scenario, but on my own experience running such a business for over five years – going through the good times when I had to hire five people in a week, and the good times I had to fire in a week Bad time for two really bad people. Nice guy. Plus, it covers what tools to use, how to manage projects, and how to deals with difficult clients—but most importantly, it covers how to acquire clients.
Hiring freelancers has not only become more acceptable but also more attractive to many businesses. This creates a unique opportunity for someone with useful skills to start freelancing on the side and eventually grow it into a sustainable career as self-employed. That’s exactly what I do with my content marketing consultancy business.
Fewer taxes lower employee-related expenses, no healthcare, less office space, and more. These are just a few of the reasons why many companies turn to freelance writers, designers, marketers, and developers to help grow their businesses. Plus, for freelancers, with so many great freelance job sites popping up today to fill that need, the opportunities are only going to get better.
A recent University of Phoenix survey of 1,600 adults under the age of 30 found that 63 percent of 20-somethings either own their businesses or expect to do so shortly. Of those who are not yet entrepreneurs, 55% want to be one someday.
So, how do those of us who want to be self-employed with income, no matter our age, start our entrepreneurial careers? Choosing to start freelancing, then, is one of the most viable, realistic, and attainable side hustles you can start while maintaining your day job (and the sense of security that comes with it).
We all have bills and expenses that need to be paid, and once we decide to chase our dreams, those expenses don’t magically disappear overnight. Choosing to be an entrepreneur comes with a huge responsibility.
I recommend reading this guide from cover to cover, but if you like to jump around, here is a hyperlinked table of contents that will take you straight to each stage of how to start freelancing.
10 Steps to Freelancing While Working Full-Time in 2023
Define your goals
Find a profitable niche market
Identify your target customers
Set strategic prices for your services
Build a high-quality portfolio website
Create examples you can deliver (on your portfolio site)
Choose Your First Clients Thoughtfully
Mention potential customers in your content
Learn how to sell yourself
Don’t Confuse Your Day Work Priorities with Freelancing
But first! Why I started freelancing while keeping my day job
I grew my freelance income to well over six figures before quitting my day job in 2016.
I live in Los Angeles, which happens to have one of the highest average rent costs in the US. So it was never going to be a viable option for me to immediately quit my day job to pursue my passion for working for myself. That’s why I chose to seriously start a business on the side and build my brand as a content marketer – while still having my day job to pay the bills.
Since my ultimate goal is to work full-time and create more in-depth content and courses for my blog and online community (my blogging goals), I knew it would be okay if I could transition to a profitable freelance lifestyle first Adding to my savings and ultimately giving me the flexibility to spend more time on courses and the content you need to fully confirm my ideas in the short term.
In that sense, I consider starting a freelance job to is a necessary intermediate step in my return to paid self-employment this time around. This strategic progression is backed by the journeys many top entrepreneurs have taken—you can learn more with my picks for the best business books for entrepreneurs and top online business courses.
Freeing up more of my time, which I wholeheartedly consider my most valuable resource, means I’m able to grow my passive income business much faster than if I could just squeeze time into my day job. Freelancing is more flexible. While it comes with different sources of stress than your typical day job, it is (for me) much less stressful than a traditional 40-50 hour work week. Even if that jobs are far away.
Like it or not, you have to allow a fair amount of time in your schedule to start freelancing (and grow it).
Since I didn’t want to go into debt or seek outside funding to start my freelancing, I chose to start freelancing while maintaining my day job, in my time before and after work
Weekend. That means a lot of short-term sacrifices for “fun” during the week and weekends – but in the long run, it’s well worth it.
Also, that experience taught me how much effort it takes to start freelancing and continue to deliver high-quality results to clients while signing new contracts. Striking the balance between “doing” freelancing and “doing” freelancing is not easy, especially when you’re still learning how to manage the opportunities that present themselves to you.
Fast forward a bit. in an average month today, I now make a solid income of $20,000 – $30,000/month (often more) – now from my freelance clients, online course sales, and other passive blogging A mix of income resources here – they all go a long way toward funding my future business ventures.
No doubt, it can be difficult to keep up with how you’re doing at the office and still find time to put in meaningful work on your freelance projects.
But when you’re running your own freelance business full-time and reaping the lifestyle benefits of being on the go and self-employed, the extra time is well worth it now.
Especially if, like me, freelancing is a way for you to gets closer to your self-employed dream career.
10 Steps to Freelancing While Working Full-Time in 2023
Before you start freelancing, you first need to be very clear about why you want to start freelancing. Once you have a bigger purpose in mind, how you spend your limited time will greatly determine how successful you are at freelancing.
1. Define your goals
Without clearly defined, easily measurable goals, it will be difficult to get where you want to go.
Is freelancing a way to earn extra income outside of your day job?
Did you eventually want to become a full-time freelancer because of the benefits of being your boss?
Or, do you want to use freelancing as a stepping stone to eventually achieve a different goal entirely?
Whatever your end goal is, you need to articulate it. This is the consensus of all top entrepreneurs in the world when they start a business successfully.
Take a moment to understand why you are thinking of starting freelancing in the first place. Do you want to
Become a freelance writer?
How about a freelance designer?
Maybe a freelance developer?
Make sure this decision is the right step toward your larger goal.
Only after you have clarity on where your freelancing is going can you start going back to short-term goals and benchmarks to help your freelancing succeed.
On the Millo blog, April Greer shares one of my favorite articles on the importance of setting goals in your freelance work, and how setting meaningful goals can propel you forward.
Let’s say your larger goal is to become a fully self-employed freelancer. You’ll set your hours, decide who to work with, and call the shots in your business. Now, how do you get there?
You know you need to get your freelance income to a sustainable, healthy level so you can finally quit your day job without worrying about where your next paycheck will come from. Since I used to quit my day job when I started my phone case business way too early (and ended up moving in with my parents for a few months), my rule is that my current income from a side hustle has to be at least as much as before considering quitting my job My side hustle – Before full time, 75% of my paycheck work.
Starting with your freelance income goals, based on your living expenses, risk tolerance, and realistic expectations of how long your savings will last you, you now have a rough idea of how many clients you will need (and what you will have to charge them) before you can leave your day job and become a full-time freelancer.
Personally, one of the main goals of freelancing is to free up more time for me. to live. To spend more of my free time doing things like hiking – as a result of this, I now have a hiking blog called Hike with Ryan. I’ve been writing about topics like my favorite Yosemite trails, thoughtful gifts for hikers, reviews of the best hiking boots, the right time of year to visit Yosemite, and more.
2. Find a profitable niche market
Let’s say you’re a graphic designer by trade, or at least you’ve been developing your skills using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop in your free time.
No matter what you do, many competitors in your industry are willing to charge significantly lower rates than you. There are people with a lower cost of living all over the world
Always be willing to take a job that pays less than you. Immediately get over the thought of trying to compete on price as a freelancer.
Working from home on a freelance basis isn’t worth putting someone else in the lurch, especially when Fiverr, Upwork, or other freelance job sites already offer countless options for low-cost freelancers. Side note: I recommend never listing your services on either of these sites unless you need to (after trying everything in this post first).
By taking the time to find a profitable niche for your freelance work (like you would choose a niche to blog about if you chose to start a blog), you are actively finding industries and clients that value quality Types. When you’re in a competitive environment where quality is at the core, you’re revolutionizing the way you sell services. You’ll be competing on value, not price.
Rather than accepting any freewheeling graphic design project, choose to focus on info graphic design for a startup blog, or write an e book for an enterprise tech company. Pick an area that you’re interested in and focus on being the best designer in that narrow space — that’s how you’ll find the right side hustle. Once your skills have reached a level where you can confidently charge extra, then you can start your freelance work and find your ideal clients.
Once you’ve made yourself invaluable in your niche, you’ll have a platform through which you can expand your freelance business in any direction you like in the future. Instead of stressing about how to get from step 0 to step 100, become a freelancer one small step at a time. Progress leads to more progress with your side hustle.
3. Identify your target customers
Just as important as finding a profitable niche is finding the right type of clients for your freelance work.
When you’re just starting your freelance business, it’s best to take more of a shotgun approach to getting some 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 have a pretty good idea of whether you want to keep going after similar clients.
Over time since starting my freelance career, I’ve honed my target client profile to match only two very specific types of businesses. High-growth tech startup and business influencer with a well-established personal brand.
The main reason I’ve narrowed my freelance business focus so far is that I’m best at dealing with these types of (very similar) clients, and they all operate in similar circles, resulting in frequent referrals. I’m building my reputation in my niche.
It was a difficult decision at first because it meant giving up a lot of business. However, narrowing down who you are best at working with will help you achieve better results in the long run. Once you have several clients who are willing to defend you,
Momentum will pick up. It was a huge hit for Caroline Beaton when she started her freelancing career.
Back to our focus on competing on value, not price, everything you do in starting freelancing – especially when you have very limited free time – needs to be re-pointed to your ability to bring the highest quality results for your clients. One of my freedom icons, Paul Jarvis, eloquently said, “Make your customers so happy and successful that they become your sales force.”
Your goal is to establish your authority and ultimately be seen as the go-to resource for a particular type of client. If done well, you can achieve real organic business growth.
By appealing to a narrow (well-chosen) niche market well, your target customers will have a very fast path to deciding that you are the best person to help them with their project. Best of all, it’s the avenue to charge extra without anyone paying attention to the first price you throw.
To determine the best type of clients to target when starting freelancing, ask yourself these three questions:
Which businesses would find my services useful?
Which businesses can afford to pay the prices I need to charge to meet my revenue goals?
Who are the decision-makers in these businesses, and what can I learn from their demographics and interests? Can I find the way to connect with them on a personal level?
When you have all of this information in hand, you can craft a cold email that hits the heart of what these customers want from you – and you’ll be able to connect with them and provide rapid value.
My target audience, smaller start-up teams and founders with personal brands can relate to me right away due to my affinity for startups – and naturally, embrace my blogging strategy and content marketing strategic style. Because my portfolio work is directly applicable to what they do, they also start with more confidence that I can bring similar results to their business.
4. Set a strategic price for your services
I’ve talked a lot about setting the right price for your freelance work before you start. I even designed an info graphic to walk you through the process of setting up your freelance hourly rate.
From a pure numbers standpoint, this freelance rate explorer from Bonsai is great at identifying expected hourly rates in your industry – so you can see if your rates match your income goals and spending levels. There are a lot of great tools out there that can be used to double-check that you’re charging enough to afford the lifestyle you want, but I recommend starting with determining your pricing strategy with a very different process in mind.
Remember, you need to price yourself based on the value you provide, not what your competitors charge.
Don’t let anyone else dictate the terms on which you define value. That’s not what starting a freelance job is about.
Digital marketing consultant Neil Patel documents on his blog the many lessons he learned while running an SEO freelance business—even before he learned how to make money blogging more passively. One of the most important lessons for me is that the more you charge, the fewer customers will complain. Because he’s very shrewd in choosing target customers with big budgets who he knows are more willing to spend money — to earn money back by investing in your services.
Smaller clients, on the other hand, usually don’t have as much money to play with, so they can’t afford to lose much when a project doesn’t pay off big.
There’s no such thing as overpriced. Your prices may be too high (or too low) for the type of customer you’re targeting, but if you do your homework when deciding who to market your services to, you’ll be selling what your customers want at a reasonable price that they can justify.
In my freelancing, I write well-researched, in-depth blog post ideas for my clients (like the one I posted here, which was one of my motivations for learning how to start blogging in the first place).
Most of my content is in the 1,500 – 2,500 word range each and is designed to rank high in organic search results, which is great value for most businesses. Because my job is not just writing headlines and producing articles, but also strategically distributing and driving traffic after content is published, I add more value to my clients than any other “writer” can ever bring. For that extra value, my prices start at $500 per post (plus distribution) and go up substantially from there based on other requirements and add-ons.
Don’t charge too much more than you’re worth, but never underestimate what you’re doing for your client.
They’ll hire people to help with their projects, so just show them you’re the right one. If they’re already convinced that you’re the best person for the job, price becomes a secondary issue. Its business, and they’ll make it work, or it wasn’t meant to be.
Remember that you won’t be perfect for every client, and remember that simply showing off that you know all the business slang and industry jargon in your niche isn’t a sign of authority.