Freelancing skills

20+ important steps in establishing a full-fledged freelancing setup


Know this: Solve problems people need solved and you'll find the money making kind of businesses very quickly.


Let's start with passion about stuff that matters.

- Anon.


The two main ways how you can work for yourself:

- Start your own company, or

- Freelance: Write for others, design for others, code for others...and all this time, doing that something extra for the others - your clients.


What to freelance out: The list of possible freelancing careers depends on your special talents as well as the available opportunities in the market.


It is quite possible that you work as a freelancer and do it through a company.


Of course, many freelancers just make do with what they have and what and how the opportunity presents itself.

Most probably, you will sue this freelancing checklist to see what else could be done.

Remember also that this is a starting list, new things happen all the time.


Vet yourself: Do you offer something clients need? Is it a crowded market? How do you plan to differentiate?


Motivate yourself: Working for yourself is liberating at first, but without the support structure of an office and the safety of a regular salary cheque, you must find ways to motivate yourself to work, put the hours in, day after day, and there are no off days when you are freelancing - Build routines into your day to keep yourself on track, meet others for coffee to stave off isolation, and start thinking of yourself as a business owner, not an employee.


There's nothing more motivating than knowing that if you do not complete your work you will not get paid.

- Anon.


Prepare a Business Plan: Not a detailed one, but a single page document outlining your uniqueness, earning potential, target customer base, annual/biannual business target figures (no. of new clients, service rates, total business size should at least equal your last salary), competitors, etc. Be realistic about what you need to earn to make self-employment sustainable.


Create a Workspace: The problem with a home based office is how to keep the noises and distraction out and how to motivate yourself to put the hours in. You can break the loneliness by taking breaks and meeting people outside.


Choose a Legal Structure: Like most freelancers, you can make things simple and save money by working as a sole proprietors, but if you need protection against personal liability issues (especially in businesses where safety and quality issues often result in lawsuits) you may want to form limited liability companies or S-corporations.


Pick a Name for your service: Is it going to be your name? Or are you going to pick a distinct name, something that defines what your service is all about, or something that you may later expand into a corporation?


Get Insurance: Health Insurance for yourself and your family and insurance for your workplace: For example, start with a freelancers insurance. Keep yourself protected at all times, no matter what your working conditions may be.


Set Your Prices: Before you do that, look at your competition and prevalent market prices. Do you price on the hour? On project basis?


Get An Online Presence: Your website/blog, email id, membership, account for quick tips and updates for your clients,


Get basic visibility: Business Cards (a must in situations necessitating a real-world face to face negotiation and prospecting. Classifieds (Online/offline), Newspaper Inserts etc.


Build Your Network: By Being useful to other people who may then pay back in kind. Let everyone know you are trying to freelance.


Handling payments: Bank account, Online payments (stripe, Paypal, square, etc), as well as online wallets and escrow systems. Each method comes with its own terms and conditions.


Financing: How will finance your personal and family expenses? From your savings? From a Credit Card? How will you finance costs of doing business? That includes registration, new bank accounts, promotion etc.


Sell Your Service: The #1 rule of selling services is to 'sell hope'. For your first paying job, you may get in touch with people you have worked with before - past employers, colleagues, etc.


Ask for a little first, then build on that. Sales people sometimes call this the '˜foot-in-the-door' technique.

- Anon.


Get Paid: Accepting payments is a start. You also need to make invoices (easiest way: Google 'template for service invoice'). Bill your clients promptly, and be diligent about collecting payments. Follow up unpaid invoices. Freelancers often find it tough getting bad clients pay up.


Manage Your Finances: Use desktop accounting software, or use an accountant.


Pay Taxes: Now that you don't have the regular tax payment formalities as a salaried professional, you must establish a tax payment record as a freelancing concern to build a credit history. Research online or use a tax expert to know about the deductions.


Build Your Brand: What is your USP? Spread your USP everywhere. A logo, slogan/tag line is a start. Please read the 'Personal Branding' gudie for more on this.


Looking for a work should be your full time job: There is nothing part-time about freelancing, if you come to think of it. List your freelancing services online -,,,, etc. Plan ahead - expansion ideas, employees, a full fledged services firm. But all that in due time. Work at it every day.


Develop a thick skin: There will be disappointments, disagreements, Criticisms - it is all for good. This is better than a business degree.


Build up additional skills (and some soft skills too): Learn some more skills that your clients have been talking to you about. Why go to others when you can do that too? Go elsewhere only when others can do it better than you, and that is all you should want for the client, right?


Learn the important soft skill/people skills. Learn how to write better emails to clients (written communication), how to persuade clients (negotiation), how to work an event (networking), how to create a proposal (presentation, written communication), among other things.


Related reads:

How to Start a Small Business at Home

Check out the 'table of contents' for quick guides to most of these skills.

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