After a year of freelancing, I feel like I can share a few basic steps you can do to start working as a freelancer. And of course, those can be done stress-free and even while keeping your best mood. Here is my short guide how to start freelancing just in five steps!
Let’s start with the question:
What do you offer?
The most of you know that they want to have a business and some of you even know what kind of business this should be, but here I am asking you to specify your business idea.
You can sell products or services, or both. Usually, people start providing services because this involves less cost upfront. But if you are a craftsman/woman it feels probably more natural to you to offer products.
Goods or services—the first step is to specify what you will do. That means to explain in one sentence what your business does.
An example for products could be: I do high-quality bookbinding on a modest budget to help small businesses to stand out from the mass.
An example of a service could be: I help companies to develop their working spaces to improve their productivity and their bottom line. (The last one is a draft for Carta Nova by the way).
As you can see the formula is simple: you do something that helps other people. There are three basic needs where people are always happy about support: money, health and relationships. Decide on something that can be broken down to help for one of those three areas, and you would be on the right way.
Chose a name
It could be your name or a make-up one. Whatever you decide, keep in mind that it should be:
– Understandable and easy to spell – when you call somewhere and say your company name for the first time, the person on the other side should be able to pick it up straight way. If you live in a foreign country and you’d like to practice your business there, think about their country language, talk to some native speaker. Ask them to pronounce your company name, ask them how they feel when they hear it. You will get a valuable feedback that you can use for your research.
Last point here:
– The name should give a rough idea what your business is about.
A lot of companies use a tag line. That’s the short description of the business that goes with the name. It helps to make it clearer what your business is all about, and this is useful at the beginning.
Once you have decided what you would offer and the name of your business, you would need a way to communicate with your clients. So you need a business email, and even if it sounds trivial I will spend a few thought on this:
Create a business email
This step relates to the website design and set up. But because designing website occasionally takes more time than expected in this short guide I’ll show you how to start without a complete internet site. Your email address for freelancing has to include your business name. You have two options to do this:
1. To set up a business email address with Gmail.
2. To chose a host for your future website, register the domain name and use the email account that goes with the website. This option takes a little bit longer than the Gmail solution (2-3 days), so it depends on how fast you’d like to move ahead.
If you go to Gmail and don’t want to spend money from day one, just set up a Gmail account with a name like YOUCOMPANYNAME@gmail.com
Gmail also offers branded accounts; prices start from £3.3/month or 4€/month in Europe. In that case, your email should look similar to this: hello@YOURCOMPANYNAME.COM.
Once you have the account, set up a signature that includes:
– your name
– you company name
– a phone number
– Your blog or website address, or online platform where people can see your work. We will talk about this in a minute.
– The city where you live.
Don’t write your address here, just mention the area or postcode. The last one is perfect for UK residence and gives an excellent idea where you are based. Otherwise city and country are enough.
Recently I read somewhere: “A good portfolio is the well presented one.” I can’t emphasise enough how important is to have an excellent presentation of your work. That doesn’t mean spending ages doing this. A good portfolio is not a complicated one; it is the one that presents your work in the most understandable and beautiful way. But let stick to the plan:
In case it is not clear – a portfolio is a collection of your works. All your works. If you show all of them is another story but you need a file with all of your works.
A portfolio can consist of photos of your building, or plans of them, a screenshot of a website you designed, or an image of the food you cooked, or just a nice graph of the financial analysis you’ve done. Anyway, if you want to be seen nowadays you have to show your work, and you have to do in online. More inspiration why this is important you can learn from Austin Kleon’s book “Show your work”.
For an excellent web presentation, you would need images in a good resolution and short, significant text describing the work. The following rules will help you for best results:
– Use JPG format for sketches, photos or visualisations.
In Photoshop, under File, there is the option Save for The Web which optimises the size of your images. Make a few test and then stick to one setting that you use for all pictures.
–Use PNG format for vector graphics. That includes icons, graphs, and even CAD plans.
Every graphic software offers this format option, but also Powerpoint and even Microsoft Word can export to PNG.
– Try to keep at least the width of all images the same, even better the width and the height.
– Don’t worry about the dpi for now. The most portfolio relevant platforms nowadays can deal with a dpi of 300, and this is more than enough.
And one general rule at the end: where ever you produced the content for your portfolio stick to this software to get the final file format you’d need for the web presentation. If you have photos stay on Photoshop if you use Powerpoint, export from here the final files. Otherwise, you overcomplicate the work, and the images lose quality through all of the transfers and exports/imports between programmes.
Once, you’ve got the pictures and the describing text; you’d need a platform to present your work.
I can highly recommend behance.net from Adobe. It is free, easy to use and you can get a lot of inspiration from other creatives. And you can easily transfer your profile to a website, and easily here means three clicks – Adobe does the whole work for you which is an amazing benefit. For the website your need to pay, but in the price of $9.99, you get access to Photoshop and Lightroom. I am not paid by Adobe for saying this; I am just impressed and jealous that I discovered it too late and couldn’t use it for myself.
Another recommendation would be Tumblr.
Tumblr is one of the oldest blog platforms mostly for visual content. You can set it up as a website and from my personal experiences I can say that it is a very friendly community. The site offers plenty of templates and editing options, and it is very popular among creatives.
Also popular among artist is dribble. The trouble here is that you need to apply to get access to it and this can take time. However, feel free to try it, and if you get there, please invite me 🙂
A website that offers fast and an easy solution is Issuu. Here you can upload complete PDFs which is great if you don’t have a lot of time. If you have, for example, a beautiful layout portfolio as a PDF and you need a fast online solution, head towards Issuu, create an account and upload the PDF. Sorted!
Whatever you chose, don’t forget to the paste the URL of your online portfolio into your email signature!
And now you are ready to go and look for clients!
Ok, this is probably the main question everyone who wants to freelance have, and it’s a tricky one too. There is no prove formula for this, but there are some easily actionable steps you can take now to land up your first clients:
– Tell all of your friends and your family that you are starting a freelance business now and you would be happy to help them where ever they could need your expertise. Explain in a short email what is your expertise (see No. 1 in this post) and say thank you for their support. Keep it short and sweet and don’t get lost in the details.
– Add to each of your social media profiles a brief note about your freelance services. Don’t forget the link to your portfolio.
– Sign up for some freelance online platforms. I can recommend peopleperhour, and I would be careful using upwork. Why? Upwork is more international, and you would compete with people from India offering their services for $4 per hour. I don’t know about you, but I can’t afford it to work for $4, and I believe no one in Europe or North Amerika can. Peopleperhour is UK based company and the most freelancer there are UK or Europe based.
You can also browse for jobs on Behance. For freelance jobs in the German-speaking countries, your can use www.freelancer.de and www.dasauge.de.
Sign in, set up a profile with your business name and spend some time browsing around to see what people in your industry are charging and how their profiles look like. It is a good way to find out more about price rates and of course the competition.
Some of those websites will suggest you to authorised, and I’d recommend you to do this. Write a short profile text and chose an image of you that shows your face, add your portfolio URL, upload the most relevant pictures of your work, the same you use for the portfolio and hit available for jobs!
Congratulations! Your services are on the market now, and you are ready for your first freelance work!
You’ve done a great job, and now you can lay back and relax for a while. It will take probably a few days or probably two weeks till you get your first job and this is ok. You will need this rest, and I will recommend you to enjoy it! The load of freelance work will come. Soon.
And I will see you back soon too!