Freelance careers offer a lot of flexibility that a traditional 9-5 can’t beat. Self-employed workers can set their own hours, choose their clients, and set rates that make sense for their expertise and lifestyle.
The opportunity for better pay and fewer working hours has helped the freelance industry boom, but there’s a lot of responsibility in running your own business — even if you’re the only employee.
Freelancers are entirely responsible for their personal brand and marketing, project management, and of course, their personal benefits. That means there’s no one building leads for your, and there’s no 401(k) match for your retirement.
If you’re new to freelancing, or just looking to better organize your business, here are our tips for building your business in 2022.
Build a Business Budget
You may have a personal budget that considers your business expenses and income, but have you really considered how to fund your business long-term? A business budget can help you scale your career as you get more notable clients, increase your costs, or hire employees or consultants to help you out.
Your first step is to separate the business’ earnings from your own. The money your client pays you is the business’ income, which you take a certain percentage of as a salary. If you’re charging your client to cover your salary without considering the business overhead, you’re undercharging for your services.
Once you shift your mindset, actually sit down to create a budget. Start by determining your salary based on your lifestyle expenses. Then calculate how much money your work generates each month. This can vary month-to-month, so go at least three months back for an accurate picture.
At this point, you have a good idea of the business’ monthly income, as well as your personal needs. Now start to think about all of your business expenses. Do you pay for your website domain? Do you have an accountant or invoicing software? How often do you expect you’ll need a new computer?
Add up all of these business expenses, including vehicle costs, subscription services, and marketing investments. Some of these may not be monthly expenses, so estimate how much you spend a year on your business. Then you can average that for each month.
Now you can compare your business expenses, including your pay, and your business’ monthly income. Continue to track your expenses to see how much you should really be charging your clients and ensure you’re getting what you’re worth.
It’s a good idea to charge more than you need for your regular expenses so that you have some extra money in case of an emergency, or to re-invest in your business’ growth. This can help you survive the feast vs. famine fluctuations of client contracts.
Invest Time In Networking
Everyone has heard the value of networking time and time again, but it’s pushed because it’s true. Networking is one of the best ways to grow your career and secure high-quality clients.
You shouldn’t limit yourself to prospective clients. Get to know other local freelancers across industries, too. These budding relationships will also boost your reputation, and the best clients are earned through recommendations.
Online groups are a great place to start. If you’re not already posting regularly on LinkedIn, today’s as good a day as any to build your content strategy. Online Facebook groups are also a great way to chat with people outside of your current circle and learn a thing or two about the local industry, too.
Of course, in-person relationships will be hugely valuable. See if there are any relevant associations you can join to attend meet-ups or workshops. All of these career resources are likely to offer mentorship programs to help you really bond with someone else and learn from their experiences.
Once you’ve built these connections, nurture them with weekly or monthly messages and interact with their posts. A greeting over private message or a quick “thanks for sharing” on their latest post is an easy way to show you care.
Showcase Your Expertise
Connecting on a human level is a good way to meet new people and grow your circle, while proving your value will help you actually land clients. If you have a website and portfolio, you’re already off to a nice start.
The key is helping people find your work and proving your expertise through thought leadership. Add a blog to your website to post about industry trends you’ve identified, personal case studies, or your favorite best practices. A little SEO insight can help get your opinions to the people looking for experts.
Once the content is created, it’s easy to share across your social media pages and groups. Not only are you giving back to your freelance community, but you’re positioning yourself as an expert that knows their value and can deliver.
Eventually, you can start considering partnering with other content creators to write guest posts, appear on their podcast, or lead a webinar. Through these professional endeavors, you’re meeting new contacts and potential clients as an expert right out of the gate. And you have your connections to vouch for you — they’ve already invited you to share your insights!
Creating a plan of action to help fund and grow your business to its fullest potential provides security for you and your personal needs. If your personal brand has a great reputation, growth-informed budget, and proven value, you’ll earn better clients and secure them at higher rates.
Then you have the resources you need to fund your lifestyle, invest in retirement and health care, and continue to enjoy the flexibility of freelancing with the security of a growing business.