It should come as no surprise that going freelance essentially means starting a business. As you wouldn’t open shop without scoping out the basics, you shouldn’t dive into your new freelance career without doing some research on how to start freelancing. Planning is key. To win business and stay sane throughout the first months as a freelancer, you need a robust freelance career plan. We’ve got a few hard-won lessons lined up in this post—get ready to take some notes!
How to create a plan for your freelancing career
The idea of quitting your job and starting your own freelance business can be startling. From a changing financial setup to things like figuring out how much to charge and finding regular work, there are many questions to wade through at the beginning. The best way to quieten down the rising anxiety? Start planning.
3 months before setting up a freelance business
As soon as you commit to the idea of going freelance full-time and start working up the courage to quit your job, begin contemplating the following questions:
Reviewing your current contract: it’s important to understand any clauses in your current employment contract, such as those concerning working for competitors or around poaching clients, in case this affects your plans.
Your notice period at work: handing in your notice is one thing, but what does your contract say about the notice period? And, if needed, can you negotiate to get it reduced?
Your start date as a freelancer: this may seem like overkill but putting your start date into the calendar will make everything more real and exciting!
Your rainy-day budget: you’re starting a business, so finances should be front of mind. The best time to start saving and budgeting for a rainy day is while you’re still getting your monthly paycheck. The more you save, the less you’ll worry later.
2 months before setting up a freelance business
Is there a way to find out how much money you need to start freelancing? Absolutely!
Calculate your monthly expenses: this is one of the most important steps in preparing to go freelance. Analyze and really evaluate your monthly expenses to know how much money you need to make every month to live comfortably. It’s also important to consider other costs, such as your holiday and pensions funds, sick day cover, freelancer insurance and a technology back-up fund (e.g. in case your laptop burns out) to get a full picture of your monthly spending.
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Do your market research: figuring out your freelance rates well in advance will give you enough time to think through and establish other aspects of the business, such as your niche and your ideal customer profile. The easiest way to find out the market’s going rate for your services is to ask fellow freelancers – simply join an online group or attend a local meetup and chat with other freelancers in your field.
Start sprucing up your personal brand: as a freelancer, you’ll be relying heavily on your personal branding and client referrals. Make sure you get your personal website, LinkedIn profile and your portfolio up and running in their best possible version before the official start. Take the time to really fine-tune your messaging and USPs to make the most of it during your first month of freelancing.
3 weeks before kick-starting your freelance career
No one has that perfect formula for how to start freelancing. But if you look closely, you’ll notice some tips and tricks crop up in nearly every freelancer interview.
Leverage your personal network: you’re getting closer to the official kick-start and it’s time to let the world know! Amplify your reach by asking your closest friends, colleagues, and family members to spread the news for you. Don’t be shy about joining relevant online groups, forums and freelance marketplaces to promote your services – all it takes is one client to get the ball rolling!
Get your paperwork & workstation ready: think about the legal status of your business and get it registered. Sort out things like the freelancer insurance, business bank account, freelance contract and invoicing software. What seems like a pile of admin work will actually accelerate your successful start.
4. Start date!
Besides patting yourself on the back for a job well done, you should also tick off these tasks to really propel your freelance business forward.
Negotiate a monthly retainer: when you finally land your first few clients, focus on negotiating a long-term partnership and securing a monthly retainer fee. Taking on one-off projects can be an option to patch your financial leaks or get you started, but it’s not a sustainable strategy.
Start collecting feedback and testimonials: one happy client can be a better lead generation source than a Google ad! Get into the habit of discussing the opportunity to obtain testimonials as soon as the project is nearing the end, or you can even include that in your freelance contract.
Schedule some me-time: there’s no hiding from the fact that the start of your freelance career will be hectic and tiring. Try to squeeze in some thinking and reflecting time to ensure you stay in line with your long-term goals and catch a break—burnout is not an option for freelance professionals!
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Setting up freelance practice can seem daunting. Thankfully, N26’s free bank account for freelancers and the self-employed makes it easier, letting you earn 0.1% cashback on all purchases you make, and enjoy free card payments worldwide. The best part? It only takes a few minutes to set up.
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