Well, the world suddenly turned weird. What was normal only a few months ago, now feels like a distant memory from a long-lost life. Out of the blue, working from home became the norm. The job you thought was secure suddenly became uncertain. Reduced pay or redundancy may be on the cards.
After the initial panic settled, realisation set in that difficult times are as much an opportunity as they are a challenge. COVID-19 gave you the chance to dabble into working from home, and you decided that you want to take the plunge and flaunt your freelancing skills.
With a couple of email addresses in your back pocket, you’re ready to crack that first assignment. But it doesn’t take long until you realise that work does not simply land in your lap.
The good news is that there are some simple steps to working from home as a freelancer.
It all starts with the realisation that a lot of planning happens between wanting to become a good freelancer and actually being a successful freelancer. The right skills and the experience for a freelancing career are an excellent place to start, but a solid business plan creates the ultimate roadmap that will point the way to success.
So it’s time to reflect on the steps you need to take to launch your working from home career as a freelancer.
1. Where is it you want to go?
The importance of this question should not be underestimated. Knowing who you are and what you want holds a treasure chest of information.
There is not one single reason why people start a freelance career. Some people long for a more balanced lifestyle; some want to avoid the daily commute, some want to top up their income with a job on the side, some people dream about life without a boss and some people have been watching vloggers living the glamourous nomadic lifestyle sponsored by a freelance career.
Whatever your goals are, you need to make sure that your expectations are realistic. Strangely enough, it’s COVID-19 that provided us with that opportunity.
Life in lockdown gave us a reality check. It has taught us that the life of a freelancer is about more than lounging around in track pants and jandals. Freelancing is hard work, and it’s definitely not all roses. But now that you had a taste of working from home, some of us may genuinely realise that freelance work is providing them with a way of life that suits them to a T.
Figuring out what it is you want out of your freelancing career is an essential determining factor of your business goals. It’s these goals that will guide your short- and long-term business plan.
2. Find your ideal client
Who you want to sell to is another piece in the puzzle in defining what you stand for as a business. What your clients do, how old they are, how they behave and what their needs are, gives you a clear insight in
- The services you should offer to meet your customers’ needs
- How and where you should approach your clients
- Your branding
- Your sales pitch
It may be attractive to think the opportunities of working internationally are endless, but the world is a crowded place, and competition is fierce. People in other parts of the world sometimes have much lower costs of living. As a result, being a small fish in a big pond doesn’t translate in quality clients lining up, rather it’s a race to the bottom where there are no winners.
Rather than targeting the global market, many experienced and successful freelancers will recommend keeping it local. Kiwis trust Kiwis and local connections are priceless. This is especially true in a post-lockdown world where there is a growing awareness of the level of exceptional Kiwi talent and skill available.
By taking the time to find a profitable niche for your freelance business, you’re actively seeking the clients that resonate with you, your work and your values. In choosing to compete on quality rather than on price, you’ll completely change how you sell your services. The result is a profitable business that pays the bills.
3. Set the price
Setting the price is always a hard one because many people actively avoid conversations about the price. But no matter how you look at it, the numbers need to add up, and the bills will need to be paid.
It’s well worth doing some research on competition to get a good feel on the dollars. But probably most importantly, price setting goes back to choosing your target audience wisely: who will value what you do and will pay a fair price for what you offer?
4. Put yourself out there
Ask any real estate person in New Zealand, and they will all tell you without a fault that you can’t sell a secret. It’s an insight that is equally transferable to any other industry.
These days, a website is a business card. Your company website tells people who you are. It should also tell a potential client what services you offer and why you’re the best person for this type of work. A portfolio website showing off your skills and personality is always a good idea.
Take part in forums where clients go to look for answers. It will establish you as an authority in your field.
Start by setting up your Needed account. Create a LinkedIn account too and get active on Social Media to engage with your audience and create interest. You don’t need to do it all; you just need to do it well and commit to regular activity.
5. Create a business plan
As a one-man-band working from home, it may be tempting to skip the business plan.
We’ll be short: Don’t.
A good business plan gives you focus and will help you define the journey you are going. It will provide you with insight into where the market says you can make a difference. It will also tell you what you need to rethink and adjust to find success. And it will stop you from going around in circles, making the same mistakes again and again.
6. Keep the taxman happy and other admin
To many of us, this isn’t the fun part of having your own business. Unfortunately, there is no getting away from it and making it part of your daily or weekly routine is a good strategy.
In general, you will need to do the following:
- Register your business,
- Work out the day-to-day side of accounting,
- Check IRD and ACC,
- Register web domains,
- Create a business bank account,
- Set the Terms and Conditions for your business
7. Remember, you’re on a journey
So with all of that said and done, it’s important to remember that starting a freelance business is not about having all the answers. A lot of it will be trial and error. You will need to start out with some assumptions on who your target audience and what your niche is. As things move along, you re-adjust and narrow down your focus. Use your business plan as a guideline and go back to it regularly.
Keep putting out the consistent, high-quality work via Needed. Over time, you will build a reputation, and the word-of-mouth referrals for your dream “work from home” job will start coming in.
Needed is all about recognising the fine freelance talent and skill available in our beautiful country. It’s about the future we create for all of us when Kiwis support Kiwis.