Like many self-employed people, I fell into freelancing. I stumbled through marketing to former colleagues, taking whatever interesting projects came my way, and trying to figure out how to scope them out and charge the right price. While this worked for the short run, I couldn’t see how I would make a sustainable living out of it over the long-term.
Looking back, I could have used a business plan. I know the thought of a business plan is daunting. Maybe it brings up thoughts about a long document that is time-consuming to write. This type of traditional business plan is less relevant for freelancers. As a freelancer, you can create a simple plan by jotting down the answers to a handful of questions about who you are and what you do.
Why You Are Freelancing?
Take a deep look at what is motivating you. Think about your experiences and how they connect with the work you are interested in doing as a freelancer. Consider whether there were any turning points that led you to work as a freelancer.
What Services Will You Offer?
Define what kind of work you want to do as a freelancer. Write out the types of services you plan to offer. For each service offering, identify which industries you will focus on, what types of projects you think you will enjoy working on, what value you will provide to potential clients, how you would prefer to interact with clients, and what the terms of your client engagements will be.
Who Is Your Ideal Client?
Start by clearly defining the problem that your specific service offering is trying to solve. Then, identify the individual or organization who has that problem and with whom you are interested in working. Create a persona for this idealized client, detailing their demographics, motivations, goals, challenges, purchasing behavior, expectations, shared values, and the other qualities you would enjoy working with.
What Value Do You Provide Your Clients?
This is your value proposition. It is the statement of the unique benefits you deliver to the client through your service offering. Look back at the needs of your ideal client and identify how your service offering matches up.
How Will You Find Potential Clients?
Identify where your ideal client goes to find out about services like yours. Think about how you can first use your own network of family, friends, and former colleagues for referrals. Then, look at the events and social media channels your potential clients use to find services. Also, consider whether you could benefit from developing a content strategy, such as blogging, podcasting, or online videos.
How Will You Onboard Clients?
Outline the steps that you will need to go through to turn a lead into a paying client – what conversations you need to have with them to understand their needs, and how you will scope out a proposal, negotiate terms, and come to an agreement with them. Defining your sales process early on will help you find the right clients and be more efficient in onboarding them.
What Are Your Costs?
Create a monthly budget to look at all your costs – living expenses, business expenses, self-employed taxes, and debt payments. Also, plan to develop a cushion of savings for when your freelancer income is irregular. For more details on budgeting, check out our previous blog post on creating a self-employed budget.
How Will You Make Money?
This is how you will price your services. For tips on pricing, check out our previous blog post on how to set your freelancer rates. As you determine pricing, consider if you will have different prices for each service offering. Then, calculate how many clients you will have to work with each month to cover all your expenses.
By creating a simple plan for your freelancer business, you will have a lens to make decisions about which clients to work with, what projects to take on, and how thrive as a freelancer.
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