Starting A Freelance Business
Starting a freelance business is one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. After spending some time building my savings and portfolio, I’m kicking my freelancing business into high gear.
This week, I’m wrapping up my contract writing gig, where I’ve been gaining additional experience with content marketing. I’ve still been freelancing, but not nearly as much as I was prior to starting this job in May. Though it was cool having a steady paycheck and a dedicated office, I’m eager to return to reporting and writing.
Starting my freelance business has been a long time coming. For nearly two years, I’ve been building up both my copywriting and reporting portfolio. Now, after diligent saving, learning, and planning, I’m ready to take the plunge in the full-time freelancing. (I’ll still be looking for jobs, not only for me but also for my loyal newsletter readers.)
If you’re looking to take the plunge into full-time freelancing, here’s how you can prepare:
Save up for emergencies.
The conventional wisdom dictates that you need to have enough cash to cover 6 to 12 months worth of expenses. This is the ideal thing to do, but that’s not always an option to people. Whether you’re working full-time, part-time or freelancing, you should always be saving a crap ton of money just because you never know what could happen. You may be laid off, the company may fold, or you might want to take time off to work on a creative project. Whatever the case may be, save money just in case s*** happens. That way, you’ll be free to focus on your business.
Get a business name and account.
I once had a Chicago client whose company was based in New York. The higher-ups at the company required for all their writers in New York, Chicago and elsewhere have a business name. Since this was one of my best clients, I started the business name process right away, which it took at least a few weeks to do. You don’t always need a business name, but it’s helpful for certain clients. What you absolutely need is a separate business bank account. (Here’s a NerdWallet post to help you find the best account based on where you live.) Having a business bank account saves you so much time and effort during tax time. Thank me later.
I’ve been freelancing since early 2015, and it’s still scary to me. So I can imagine just how scary it could be when you’re just starting out. My advice is to ease into it. Pitch a few stories to publications and get a feel for who you like to work with, what they pay, etc. The more you pitch and negotiate, the easier it’ll be to transition into part-time or full-time freelancing.
Create a (rough) business plan.
Calculate your monthly expenses. How much do you spend on rent, utilities, food, etc.? Which publications do you plan to target? Make a list of publications you want to write for, and don’t be afraid to dream big. (My first national piece was in The New York Times. Anything is possible.) Work through how you plan to market yourself and whether you have multiple streams of income. (Blogging, content marketing clients, social media management clients, etc.) How will you support yourself? Remember, a business plan is an amendable document. It changes as circumstances change for your business, but it’ll also keep you from freaking out and going in all different directions.
Have a support system.
Build your team. Get your parents, therapist, close friends, industry confidants and whoever else helps you focus. Find the people you can go to for help, and lean on them when you’re feeling scared, anxious, or even triumphant. Surround yourself with people who uplift you and keep you grounded. It’s also good to have operational support like an accountant, a lawyer or an insurance agent as needed. Their expertise will be invaluable in your greatest time of need.
Six years ago, I packed up most of my belongings and came to Chicago without knowing anyone or anything about the city. Now, I have a college degree, my own apartment, and bylines in publications I never dreamed of being published in.
I wouldn’t call myself a risk taker, but I do know when it’s time for a change. I’m longing for flexibility, greater earnings, and more ambitious reporting projects. I’ll be documenting some of my experiences here, so sign up for my newsletter to never miss a post. Wish me luck!
What risks have you taken? How did it work out for you? Tell me in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Yes, your email will actually make it to me).