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Marketing Yourself as a Freelancer – a Marketing Plan Guide

Hey, we are on air again. You’ve made it through the business plan (or at least you started) and the learning platforms and now you wonder how you will market yourself. I’ve met many aspiring or new freelancers and small business owners and the marketing part is the thing, which gives them nightmares.

“For the life of me I cannot figure out this dang marketing thing”.

“I feel overwhelmed”.

“I don’t know where to start”.

“There are so many social media platforms, which ones should I choose? I cannot be on ALL of them”?!?

Sounds familiar? Yep, there are things to be considered,

BUT

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Becoming a Freelancer – A 35-step Business Plan Guide

So, the B-day arrived. As in Business Plan, Step-By-Step Guide Big Day :). It’s where the magic starts. It is all the ingredients you need to throw in your business, so you can serve a delicious meal (or a service, or a product).

Are you ready? Yes? Good! You did your homework and now you know your WHY and your WHAT (as in what you want to do), right? Remember our Plan, Prepare, Cook, Serve steps? Then time to roll up our sleeves, there is a lot to be covered. 35 steps to be exact.

We’ve talked about the first two steps of our step-by-step business plan yesterday. Now it’s time for step number 3.

(I will add step number 1 and 2 as well for your reference. If you have already done them jump straight to step number 3).

  1. Your Why

and

  1. Your skills and strengths.

Examples:

  1. Your WHY will be your motivator, so you need to know why you want to become a freelancer. Write it down. For example:

-To make more money

-To have more freedom

-To be able to take care of your kids/family/parents, etc

-To escape the rat race (this was a huge motivator for me).

-Something else (I would LOVE to hear your reasons for it, it inspires me J).

-All of the above plus 10 more different things. Only you know your reasons.

  1. Determine your skills and strengths:

-You are a good writer/artist/photographer/linguist/web designer (Or you don’t have the skills, but you would like to learn how to do something: Read this blog post on where and how to start.)

-You are good at talking to people/you are a good listener/you have a creative mind/you are a good storyteller, etc.

-You have a degree in web design/translations/literature/business administration, etc.

-Your computer skills: you know such and such programs…etc

The list can be quite long. Take the time to think it through. What your friends say about you? What do they think you are great at? What inspires you? Which are the things you can talk about for hours? Jewelry? Healthy living? Fitness? Books?

  1. Now you take a long and hard look at your list and REMOVE everything you dislike doing. After all, the idea is to do something you like, right?!

I will tell you why I think it is not OK to offer services you dislike, however profitable they are.

No, it is not even because you’ll feel miserable (although it is essential). It’s psychological.

I have a degree in finance. While I was good at what I did, I was never excellent to the point to be my very best in it. I still have strong interest in everything Finance and Economics related, but I love working with words better than working with numbers and in much shorter time than with finance, I achieved better results. Not only that, when you add passion to what you do, you kind of “infect” your potential clients and you have better chances at winning them.

So, you scratched off the things you don’t want to do.

It is time for the next step:

  1. Create a list of services you want to provide. Think of it in a sense – does somebody need my services? Will my services solve somebody’s problems? Who my potential clients might be? Where to find them? Which social media platforms are they using?

Here are a few examples:

You love taking photos or playing with Photoshop? People need visuals every day and some don’t have the time or desire to create them. Here is a service you can offer – create visuals for busy small business owners. Or…why not open an ETSY store and offer wallpapers, thank you cards, wall decors…

Languages are your strength?

-Translations, editing, proofreading, localization services, interpreting … there are many things you can offer.

Want to be a VA?

-The list is as long as the train ride from Sofia to the North Pole (almost ???? ). You can offer admin services; you can offer creating landing pages; newsletters; make Word Press websites and maintain them afterwards, data research; minute taking… I can write until tomorrow.

Now, I know you want to offer as many services as you can, but I strongly believe that it is better if you become really good at one, two or three things, than be a Jack or Jill of all trades, but master of none. In time, as you learn on the go you can add more services, but don’t start with so many, just because somebody else offers 10 or 15. Don’t be scared to specialize.

For example, in translations, you cannot possibly be equally good at translating technical, legal and medical texts. What’s more is that you will not be taken seriously.

  1. Now, after you have determined your services, it is time to talk numbers. Don’t know what to charge? First you have to determine what you NEED to earn. Do a spreadsheet with your numbers: electricity bills, food, internet, car, loans…include eeeverything. Don’t forget that now, that you want to run a business, you will have business related costs as well.

Here are a few things you need to take into account:

While I am all for using free versions of programs, that is not always possible.

If you are a translator, it is very likely you will have to pay for a CAT tool or two. You will have to advertise yourself, or pay for memberships. You might have to print out papers, so account for that too.

If you are a creative, you might have to buy the necessary tools and programs, so you can create logos, visuals, etc.

  1. Figuring out rates: Now that you have some pretty clear idea on expenses, do research on what others in your field charge. Look at as many pages as you can of people, offering the same or similar services.

Again – make a spreadsheet. If you are going to be 100% virtual, it doesn’t matter much where in the world these people are, so don’t just look in your own country.

A piece of advice: Do not undervalue yourself. Don’t start cheap. Learn to appreciate the time and effort you put into what you offer. Keep in mind, that you not only have to do the tasks, but to set aside time for doing your admin work, advertising, writing blog posts, etc. In the beginning you have to guestimate how long it will take you, but if you want to spend 40 hours a week in your business, at least 10 of them, if not more, will be spent on admin, advertising, etc.

  1. Something fun: setting up your home office. The bare minimum is having a reliable computer or a laptop, a smart phone/tablet, a printer, steady (and preferably fast) internet connection. You also need a flash drive, possibly a headset with microphone. If you don’t have a desk, you should at least have a table and a comfortable chair, if you are going to spend many hours on a computer.
  2. Software. You need to figure out the programs you need to start your business. For help and ideas, refer to our blog post: 21 Essential Tools and Apps We Use In Our Business
  3. Now, time to think of a business name. Take your time, but also set a deadline. Check out whether the name is available. If you are going to make a website with the same name, check out whether it is available as well. The last thing you need is to have a business name, similar to somebody else’s, especially, if they are popular.
  4. Think about what kind of business structure you are going to have. Check out the requirements for registering your business. Think about whether you want to be an LLC, a Sole-Proprietor, or, maybe you can just register as a freelancer.
  5. Figure out the taxes you have to pay, depending on your business structure. Again – figuring out your expenses is an important part in figuring out your rates.
  6. f your business requires licensing or special permits, now is the time to get them. When we opened our company, we hired a lawyer to deal with all the papers. It did cost us money, but an amateurish mistake might have cost us more, so we decided to trust the professionals do it. In some countries opening a company might not be so complicated, so it is up to you.
  7. Ask around about an accountant or a bookkeeper and/or insurance agent. Different countries – different rules. Compare services and prices. Having my books in order helps me sleep better at night too.
  8. Open a bank account. Read about different banks and their options. Fees and services differ. Make sure your bank offers online banking (most banks do nowadays). If you are a digital nomad, this is quite important. Don’t forget, that depending on your company and the rules in your country, you cannot use your company money to pay for private stuff like dresses and vet bills. Check it out with your accountant, so there are no surprises.
  9. Set up online payment options. PayPal, Skrill, whatever works for you and in your country.
  10. Draw a Contract: There are many free ones you can find online and tailor to your needs, but if you have an attorney, my advice is to make them look at your contract. It should be fool proof and detailed.

When you offer services try to be as detailed as possible what is included/not included in them.

  1. Now after you have a better idea at what your expenses are/will be, go over your rates again and adjust them accordingly.
  2. Make a folder with all the documents you need to send to clients: a welcome letter; a contract; invoices; refund policy; how you like to be paid.
  3. Now it is time to purchase a domain name. It can either be your business name; your personal name; something, related to the services you offer or whatever you think might work for your business. Look around, compare options and prices and then buy. A few places are GoDaddy.com, Register.com, Namecheap.com, HostGator, Domain.com…
  4. Web hosting. Some of the above places offer domain hosting as well. Deals vary; prices vary as well, so take your time, read reviews and look for the best option for you. I, personally, use GoDaddy, but am planning to switch to Blue Host. Another good option I know is Host Gator.
  5. Time to think of a slogan. This is a long topic, but try to keep it simple and don’t use more than 3-4 words. Research says, 3-4 words slogans preform best. Avoid using slogans like “Just Do It”. It works for big names, might not work for you.
  6. Create a logo. You are just starting, so don’t spend a lot of time and money on it in the beginning. You can always rebrand at a later point.
  7. Website. Don’t create something overly complicated. Make it simple. Make it user friendly. Make it in a way, that it is easy to read and navigate the pages. Think of website colors. As a minmum, you should have Services page (you can name it differently), an About page and Contact page.

In the About page, instead of focusing on features, focus on what problems you solve. Let me elaborate. Instead of saying that you use so and so hair products, explain how these hair products help women with dull or dry hair (for example). Your About page is not exactly about you. It is about the client and what solutions you can offer to their problems.

-Include a few fun facts about yourself. Humanize your page, make it look approachable.

  1. Add a nice, professonal photo of yourself. Have the same photo and colors throughout all your social media channels, the website and your blog. Consistency helps to be taken seriously.
  2. Setup your email address. yourname@gmail.com is not professional enough. Instead, opt in for something like contact@businessname.com or info@businessname.com.
  3. Set up your social media profiles. You don’t have to be active on all of them, but at least set them up, so you know nobody will take your business name at a later point. The least you have to do is Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+. There are over 200 social media platforms, so you can’t and shouldn’t be on all of them, but some other popular ones are Pinterest, Snapchat, Instagram… Again, it depends on what you do and where your audience is likely to hang out.
  4. Create a Facebook business page. If you are uncertain how to do that, or don’t have the time/desire to deal with your social media presence, contact us, that’s what we do (in several languages ???? ).
  5. Create your Elevator Pitch. Don’t know what an Elevator Pitch is? It is a short and persuasive sales pitch, used to describe what you offer and how somebody would benefit from it.
  6. Set up your business goals for 3, 6, 9, 12 months. Be realistic and be detailed. Your goals are what will make you move forward. Take this task seriously.
  7. Create a draft of your marketing plan. Have no clue what to do? The next blog post will be about marketing plans, how to create them, what to include in them and what to skip.
  8. Time to put that introvert behavior away. What do I mean? I mean networking. Join groups in Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn. Make yourself visible. Make yourself valuable. Offer free tips. Participate in conversations. Do not, I repeat DO NOT try to sell your services or products right from the start. Let people get to know you first, the rest will come naturally. Remember, if you do things the right way, you will find clients, followers and friends in these groups.
  9. Register your business on local pages. Participate in local events. You never know where you will find a customer.
  10. Blogging. Start a blog. Offer free advice. This way you will be seen as an expert in your area, you will drive traffic to your website and it is a free way to advertise yourself. Share your blog posts on your social media channels for more visibility.
  11. Join some professional organizations and gathering places. Not only you will be able to exchange ideas with your peers, but chances are, you will find clients there as well.
  12. Celebrate. Lean to appreciate yourself and all the hard work you have done so far.

There, you are ready to start. Of course, there are many more things that can be included, but this is detailed and comprehensive enough to get you started.

You have a lot on your plate, now it’s time for action.

If you like this guide, share it with people, who might benefit from it. If you have questions – don’t be afraid to ask. If you have comments or suggestions, don’t be afraid to comment.

 

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