How to Start a Freelance Business

header freelance business

If you find the idea of becoming a freelancer a little terrifying, that’s okay! We’ve all been there, but there are plenty of reasons to take the plunge and start a freelance business of your own.

Author Arnold J. Toynbee captured the essence of freelancing when he wrote, “The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play.” 

Freelancers get to make money and enjoy what they’re doing—talk about a win!

But below the surface, it gets a little more complicated. Freelancing means delivering the goods day in day out. And that means freelancers can’t afford to make excuses or chill out while waiting for inspiration to strike. 

Freelancers need strategies to help earn enough to keep the lights on and the fire burning when we choose to chase our dreams. 

This post will guide you through those strategies and provide you with lots of tips and tools to help you live yours.  

Before we dive in, if you want to learn how to start a small business, you can read about it here

Find Your Niche

Now, you might think you know your niche if you’re, let’s say, starting a freelance photography or jewelry business.

But that’s actually your market, not your niche. Your niche is a micro-market within your industry. 

It might sound counter-intuitive, but the smaller your audience, the bigger the paycheck. That’s because you’ll become the go-to authority by focusing on one specific area within the marketplace. 

For example: A photographer could focus on weddings, corporate photography, or provide culinary images to a site like Canva. 

A jeweler could make one-of-a-kind belt buckles using serpentine, turquoise, or kyanite. 

But there are other considerations other than money when choosing your niche, such as passion.

What work you enjoy most

Chinese philosopher Confucius said, “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Work satisfaction is essential to your happiness. After all, if you get stuck in a niche you hate working in, you could resent what you set out to accomplish. 

So, before you choose your niche, ask yourself: What type of freelance work do I want to do for the rest of my career? 

But while Confucius wasn’t wrong, paying the bills is just as important as passion! Meaning, you may have to be flexible when starting your freelance businesses.

It’s okay to begin in one niche and then move to another, as long as there’s a connection between them you can carry forward, such as clients, testimonials, and, of course, samples of your work. 

For example, I’m a writer (surprise, surprise!).

My niche is business start-ups and all things related, but that’s not where I began. My first 300+ posts were about marketing small to medium side-hustles, but you can see the connection, right?

My starting point allowed me to move into a more lucrative one–putting me in an ideal position to land my ideal clients.

Let’s talk about your lucrative niche next:

Which freelance niches are growing?

The first niche you enter has to be one that’ll pay you enough to stay in business. And once you’re earning, you can branch out into other areas where you’d prefer to work.

Now’s the time to research which freelance niches are growing and which are declining.

Here are 5 niche-finding tools to help you:

1. Google Trends: Find out how your chosen niche is performing, including popularity statistics, keywords, search volumes, and how it compares to other niches within your market.   

2. Trend websites: Consumer trend-tracking websites–like BuzzSumo or even Reddit–are excellent for discovering hot topics in your niche and new opportunities. 

3. AnswerThePublic Keyword Tool: Use this tool to see which industry-specific questions people are asking, enabling you to identify your target clients and later engage with them by providing helpful answers.  

4. Facebook Audience Insights: Gain a deep understanding of your target clients’ demographics, interests, and needs using Facebook’s audience insights.

5. RSS subscriptions: Discover what content your competitors create, then provide popular and helpful information to your target audience to build your online presence. 

Branding Your Business

You might think it’s a little early to talk about branding, but with 59 million freelancers in the U.S. alone, running a successful freelance business requires branding.

Personal branding is an impression or perception you create to promote yourself. It combines your experience, skills, and the personality you want to portray to your target clients–using carefully-chosen design elements that package your business in a unique and engaging way. 

How to create your personal branding

Successful freelancers create brands based on their professional style, niche, and the clients they want to attract, using design elements such as color, typeface, and visual imagery. 

Let’s start with style. 

Define your visual identity with a particular style

Every successful freelancer uses a style that enables them to stand out, get noticed, and remain remembered by their target audience.

Choose a style that defines you and your service; it could be playful, professional, sleek, creative, or minimalistic, then use that style throughout your entire branding strategy.

Use a unified theme

Your branding must be consistent to create awareness within your niche.

Pick colors and fonts that reflect your personality and service, then use them everywhere, including your logo, social accounts, website, blog, and any printed branded material.

And keep it simple! For example, many top freelancers use one vibrant color that becomes their identity. 

Sell your story

One of the most significant advantages of being a freelancer is you. You’re unique and so is your story, and your website’s “About” page is where you tell it.

Now’s an opportunity to tell your story and connect with people. Show your passion, explain why you’re a freelancer, what your goals are, what services you provide, and how you’ll help them. 

We buy into people, not brands, and authenticity is the best way to sell yourself. 

Need some branding advice? No worries, we can help you design a niche-oriented personal brand in no time. 

Package Your Skills Into a Value-Filled Service Offering 

Clients pay for value, not time spent. 

If you’re charging a flat rate or project fee, clients aren’t concerned with how many hours you work; what they want is the value you provide.

To land top-paying clients who value your time, promote your solution to their needs and ensure they see the value you provide them.

To understand how to show your value, consider: 

Design your service to answer those questions and leave prospective clients in no doubt that the value you bring is worth every dollar you charge. 

But remember, price yourself based on the value you deliver to your clients, not what your competitors charge (although that should be a consideration as well). 

Now, you need a pricing strategy:

Determine Your Pricing

Setting a pricing strategy is always difficult for new freelancers. Charge too much and you won’t attract clients; charge too little and you won’t earn your value. 

Fortunately, your niche often determines your choice of pricing strategy. You can review your competitors to see the approximate price points.

Once you find the ideal pricing strategy, research your industry pricing average on websites such as PayScale, Glassdoor, Clippings, and Payoneer.

There are 3 ways to charge clients:

1. Hourly rate: Charge for every hour you work.

2. Flat fee: Charge an agreed price regardless of the number of hours you worked.

3. Project quotes: These vary per project and enable you to add profit to your hours worked. 

Pricing at first isn’t an exact science, and finding a rate that reflects your services and value takes time. 

I agree with this quote by renowned blogger Bryan Robinson: “Price becomes a secondary concern if a client’s already convinced you’re perfect for the job.”

But let’s get real for a minute: How do you sell your value when you’re new and haven’t landed your first client?

Give them something to buy into!

Show Them What You’re Capable of

Before you pitch clients, give them a reason to hire you by creating examples of your work.

Come up with examples relative to your target clients, as this shows you can deliver what they require, and you’re an authority in your niche.

It’s okay that you weren’t paid and have no testimonials backing them up. The whole purpose is to show your skills.

How to gain credibility

If you want to increase your credibility, give your samples away to important causes and charities relative to your niche, and ask for testimonials. Or, post them on YouTube and other established websites to gain comments and likes. 

Every sample you create provides you with a catalog of inspirational projects, useful for when you do land paying clients. 

Now, show your samples to the world!

Create an Engaging Online Presence

The more places clients can find you and see samples of your work, the more gigs you’ll land. You’re going to need a portfolio website and social media presence to make that happen. 

Build a high-quality portfolio website

A well-structured website that’s easy to navigate and filled with examples of your work shows clients you’re legitimate and professional. 

Choose a website template that suits your style, then select a single color (max 2) for either your logo, header, or background, and infuse it with your personal branding.

All you require is an easy-to-use website that showcases your services, portfolio, price list, and contact details. 

Blog about it

Creating a blog filled with attention-grabbing, industry-related content is a great way to attract viewers to your website and convert them into paying clients. 

Remember to update it regularly as it reinforces your credibility and shows you are active within your niche and an expert in your field.

Get on social media

And, of course, you’ll need to establish a solid social media presence. 

Choose platforms that your target clients use and suit your niche. You can find those using a website like Pew Research, which provides audience demographics. 

Once you know where your clients are, write a cohesive profile using your visual branding to tie them all together. 

Focus on engaging users and build a following—likes and comments help increase your credibility.

Once you have your samples, website, and social media presence ready, it’s time to identify your target clients and begin promoting yourself.

Identify and Seek Those Who Need Your Skills

One skill you must master as a freelancer is the art of self-promotion.  

Freelancers have to be strong-willed to succeed, and that means not sitting back and waiting for clients to find you, but being proactive and seeking them out. 

First, identify your target clients–those who need your skills–and pay the rate you need to achieve your financial targets. 

To identify your target clients, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Which businesses/individuals need my services?

2. What businesses/individuals can afford to pay my rates? 

3. Who decides which freelancer to employ? 

4. What are their demographics and interests?

5. How can I engage their interest and contact them? 

When you gain this information, you can write a well-crafted email highlighting the benefits and value you provide and send it to the appropriate contact.

Don’t like the idea of cold calling?

If cold emailing is giving you cold feet (pun intended), you can use your social media channels to connect more personally.  

First, compile the content, visuals, or videos you created when building your portfolio, then drip-feed them on your social accounts. 

Next, find your target clients and begin liking and sharing their content. Odds are they’ll look at who’s sharing, and if they want what you’re offering, you could land a profitable gig. 

While this strategy takes time, it’s worthwhile.  

Use Business Tools to Your Advantage

Your time is precious, and using useful online tools that help run your freelance business can maximize it. 

Fortunately, the marketplace responds to your needs, providing handy tools that you can use to run your businesses effectively.

Tools to supercharge your freelance hustle:

Play the Long Game

Keeping clients is easier than landing new ones. When you go above and beyond to provide value and solve their problems, they’ll keep coming back to you.   

View every project you undertake as a stepping stone in your freelance journey, be patient and keep your eye on the end goal, focus on productivity, and always keep moving forward. 

And remember, you’re starting your freelance business intending to stay in business, and when you build client relationships at every opportunity and are consistently professional, the results will come. 

What Are You Waiting For?

Entrepreneur and founder of Zebra Advertisement, Rocco Baldasarre perfectly captured the essence of freelancing: 

“I didn’t want an unsatisfying career, and I didn’t want to commit to one place–either location or company–I wanted to make my own decisions.”

Working on your terms, not commuting to an office, and living your passion are all benefits of being a freelancer.

So go ahead and turn your passion into your career!

This portion of our website is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. All statements, opinions, recommendations, and conclusions are solely the expression of the author and provided on an as-is basis. Accordingly, Tailor Brands is not responsible for the information as well as has not been evaluated the accuracy and/or completeness of the information.

Terry is a serial entrepreneur with over 25 years of experience building businesses across multiple industries – construction, real estate, e-commerce, hotelier, and now digital media. When not working, Terry likes to kick back and relax with family, explore Taoism’s mysteries, or savor the taste of fine Italian red wine.