The beauty and challenge of pursuing a freelance career is that you’re the captain of your own destiny. With the freedom this lifestyle affords can come doubts when it comes to where your business is headed next. As you progress in your career as an independent, it’s important to keep in mind that although you might be operating solo, you can still evolve and scale your business.
The first step is treating your business as just that—a business. If you’re looking for where to start, browse these five proven tips for novice freelancers.
1. Brand your business with a logo
As a freelancer, you have full control over how you position your skills and talent in the market. Naming your company and strong brand positioning statement are critical steps that separate you as a business versus an individual. Consider this non-billable work as an investment in the future of your company. Once you have that down, it’s time to create a logo.
You might be wondering, “How much is this going to cost me?” After all expensive branding agencies exist for a reason. The great news for you is that as a freelancer, you’re no doubt flexible, nimble, and scrappy. All you need to do is take a few strategic shortcuts.
Logojoy is a design startup that uses AI to create custom logos. By capturing some key information about your business, Logojoy will supply you with multiple iterations of a brand identity. From there, you can provide feedback on things like color and spacing. Once the image is final, the company will email you a zip file with a variety of assets that can be used for print or web. All of this costs under $100. If you’re looking for something a little more custom, consider partnering with a Fiverr Pro freelancer. Whether you know exactly what you want, or need a designer to help you decide the design and direction, we have the resources for you.
Once you have your name and logo, it’s time to use it! In your email signature, on your website, in decks, and on invoices (AND CO from Fiverr lets you customize for free!) Think of this as a way of building your reputation and ensuring great first impressions as you engage with potential clients. The small act of using a logo will communicate your professionalism and pave the way for stronger partnerships down the road. Get started with these free invoice templates.
2. Create an LLC
One of the fundamental benefits of starting a Limited Liability Company (LLC) as a freelancer is the legal structure that inherently follows and that serves to separate your personal assets from those pertinent to your business. As a sole-proprietor or self-employed freelancer, you bare full responsibility for each and every action of the business, so it’s important to shield and separate the personal side of you from the business side of you.
Making this distinction is especially critical for freelancers who have partners, employees, subcontractors working within their business—the greater the number of people on the team, the greater the potential for risk.
Setting up an LLC also allows you to build credibility, which can be a make or break factor in the eyes of potential clients when it comes to choosing a partner. One way this can be achieved is through branding and other marketing efforts, the visibility of which can be strengthened when supported by those three simple letters.
Take note that not all freelancers will find it necessary or ideal to create an LLC, so it’s important to arm yourself with the key information and make a decision that’s best for you. LLC owners, for example, must take on additional paperwork and file an annual report, on top of paying additional filing fees that vary by state.
Dive in deeper by browsing the Fiverr Elevate course on LLCs, created in partnership with Stellar Formation. In just a few minutes, you’ll learn how an LLC can help protect your intellectual property (IP) and best practices for establishing clear roles and ownership amongst team members. Oh, and not to mention you can also save some serious money on Stellar if you’re a Fiverr member.
3. Use an accounting software
A necessary skill to master upon going freelance is managing your own finances. Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be stressful or time-consuming thanks to the help of software solutions that help you create invoices on the fly and easily track the ins and outs of your business from your smartphone or laptop.
When selecting an app, an important thing to look for is the ability to seamlessly create and track invoices. AND CO’s tool, for example, will alert you when a client has viewed your invoice and when it’s time to pay up helping you facilitate the follow-up process. You also have the flexibility to choose whether you invoice in milestones or set up recurring invoices based on a week or month-long project.
AND CO’s platform also syncs with your bank account and includes an expense reporting section making it easier for you to ignore work-related expenses and ease the burden of your annual tax filing. Further, with flexible payment options, clients are able to accept payments directly through the invoice with one simple click of a button. The app also syncs with Stripe and PayPal. With the flow made virtually instantaneous with minimal steps, you get paid quicker.
Finally, AND CO offers a complete business reporting interface that allows you to see a snapshot of your freelance business whenever you want. This said, you can understand your cash flow at all times, including invoice and expense overviews, and be provided important financial alerts to keep you operating smoothly and guide your planning for the future—no surprises!
4. Go hunting
As head of your business, you’re in charge of new business and keeping a healthy pipeline of relationships and prospective customers is imperative to maintaining financial stability. Why? Because you may have a lot of work at the moment, but in the freelance world you never know when you may need more.
To be proactive and ensure a consistent flow of projects, make it a routine to scan freelance or remote job boards for new gigs. As a best practice, aim to set aside a certain number of hours each week to dedicate to this and block these into your schedule with the rest of your projects, that way you can’t push it off. A few remote job boards you may consider include Jobspresso, We Work Remotely, and Remote Ok. Of course, if you’re remote and looking to hunt for exciting new gigs around the world, you could also simply browse Fiverr or sign up for a Fiverr Pro account.
Yet another useful source is AngelList, a popular database of startups. On this site, you can search jobs by selecting “Remote OK” as well as filter by open contract roles. Pro-tip: Look for companies hiring full-time positions in your sweet spot, and then offer to do the work in a fractional or part-time capacity. Startups are notoriously flexible when it comes to hiring talent, and you might be just the person they need as they find a full-time candidate. They might also decide that having a freelancer is effective at filling the role, and keep you on as a steady retainer. Win!
5. Save for the future
Whether you’re a freelancer or work for a company, no job has guaranteed security 24/7. Accepting this reality is an important first step towards building a financial safety net for yourself so you’re prepared for unexpected expenses that come in your path.
One of the ways to achieve is creating a short-term savings plan (AKA a rainy day fund). A best practice here is to integrate the practice of micro-saving into your daily routine. This can be as simple as using a service like Wealth Simple, another Fiverr Elevate partner, which will automatically round up your purchases and slot the difference into a seperate account. You could also consider setting up automated monthly payments. As a rule of thumb, strive to devote half of any extra, unsuspected income to your most important personal needs, and drop the other half into a savings account.
Now let’s talk about your future a bit further out: retirement. Saving for retirement is a well-documented challenge for freelancers. Without formal 401K programs (many “corporate” jobs include a match), freelancers can push off long-term savings, which can add up to a great amount of lost wealth 10, 20, and 30 years out. Why?
Two words: Compounding interest. As you invest over time, the interest on what you save increases at an exponential rate. The earlier you save in your career, the more compounding interest works in your favor. Understanding this and starting early and being diligent when it comes to your retirement savings can translate into tens of thousands of extra dollars when your retirement time comes.
Image via The Motley Fool
For information on how to differentiate between the different retirement plans out there, such as traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, and SEP IRas, and understanding what these mean in terms of your tax incentives, check out these four brief videos from Fiverr Elevate.
Whether you’re looking to boost the branding of your business, enhance your financial acumen, or scale your client base, or a combination of all three—we hope these insights guide you in the right direction and gear you for success today and in the years to come. Happy freelancing!