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The Knowledge Freelancers Need to Know to Build a Business

Nov 23, 2020
(updated: Dec 1, 2022)
Max 5 min read

No one ever tells you that freelancing is really about five jobs in one. Not only are you a freelancer writer (for the sake of example), you’re also a marketer, financial accountant, project manager, and business developer. It’s a full-blown business—all run by you.

Building your successful freelance business is a viable option for anyone with a niche skillset and the willingness to learn how to run a one-person business. I’ll walk you through all the important business knowledge everyone should know before embarking on their freelance journey.

8 Things About Business All Prospective Freelancers Should Know

Soft Skills Are Just as Important as Hard Skills

Your hard skills will get you work—programming, graphic design, web design, etc. But don’t underestimate the soft skills. Your soft skills are how you build important client relationships and create healthy working environments. Some of those important soft skills today include:

  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Adaptability
  • Creativity
  • Communication
  • Collaboration

You Can’t Be Afraid to Market Yourself

Way too often we’re stoked about the prospect of getting to do the work we love but hate the idea of having to publicly market ourselves and our services. But I won’t sugarcoat the marketing part; freelancers wear many hats, and yes, marketing is one of them.

A full-time freelancer is also owns a business. Your business is sustained by the continued influx of new clients. Strong client bases Are the result of effective marketing. Here are some things you can do to market your freelance work:

  • Leverage social media for visibility
  • Create and share digital business cards and/or a portfolio of your work
  • Send cold emails to people you think could benefit from your services
  • Leverage connections you already know for introductions to potential clients
  • Ensure your colleagues, friends, and family know you freelance in the event that word-of-mouth generates a new client lead

Becoming an Expert in Project Management isn’t Negotiable

Without a proper project management system in place, you risk missing deadlines or lowering your quality of work due to unplanned project volume. Management is the centerpiece of a business, and you can lean on a range of tools to help you stay on track. Try Trello as an option to visually track progress on projects and consider using Slack for an effective team communication tool.

Better Time Management Means Better Pay

Time is a form of currency in any business—this is how people often get paid. Even if you’re paid on a per project basis, you need to track the time you spend on those projects to ensure you’re being paid an appropriate amount for your work. Indy is a brilliant, free tool for effortless time tracking to help you along your projects.

Cloud-Based Storage Systems Are Your Best Friend

You never expect your hard drive to crash until the day it does. Protect yourself. Work on cloud-based platforms like Google Drive to ensure your documents are with you anytime and anywhere. Spilling coffee on your computer is bad enough without losing all of your precious freelance work in the process.

Many Skills Can Be Learned for Free

When you start freelancing you may get overwhelmed by all there is to learn when it comes to running your business. But don’t waste your money on knowledge sitting on the Internet for free.

I had no prior experience in web design, but I wanted to build my own website. I used this YouTube video to build an entire WordPress website from scratch. Online courses that teach the exact same thing cost around $600. Learning is a never-ending part of freelancing. But be smart about it.

Referrals Are Critical

A happy client is your best advocate. After building a successful relationship with your client, don’t be afraid to ask if they know others who could also benefit from your services. Chances are, they do. And a quick referral from someone who just benefitted from your expertise saves you a whole bunch of time and money when trying to find work.

Business Plans Are Elastic

Things don’t always go as planned—especially in this fast-paced digital world. It’s hugely important to set goals as a freelancer, but don’t marry them. Many experts even argue that long-term business plans are dead.

I wouldn’t call it dead. But it has definitely evolved. And as a freelancer, you must make sure you evolve accordingly. Make both short-term goals and long-term goals, accept that uncertainty is a part of today’s business, and keep up to date with tech trends as much as possible.

Business Acumen for the Modern Freelancer

Today’s business world moves quickly, and prospective clients typically aren’t going out of their way to find you. A proactive, agile approach will allow you to build a strong client base and a long-term freelance career. I suggest periodically revisiting these eight tips to ensure that you don’t lose yourself in your technical function and forget to focus on your business ecosystem.

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