Freelance Work: Planning to Go it Alone
Updated: Sep 27
Whether you know them as solopreneurs, independent contractors, or freelancers, these workers all have one thing in common: control.
Freelancers get to decide with whom they work, what types of projects they take, and set their rates. This level of business autonomy is attractive to new market entrants, myself included. No more micromanagement, nightmare clients, or unsatisfying projects? And I have control over my paycheck? Great!
Well, not so fast.
Breaking into freelance work isn't easy, not when so many talented and established freelancers operate in various industries. Planning is key. Here are some tips for planning your "how" when starting your freelance journey.
Shift your mindset.
One evening after our kiddo went to bed, I was chatting with my partner and lamenting my lack of marketing prowess as I wondered where and how I would reach my potential clients. My partner, ever the practical one (a Virgo—need I say more?), carefully nudged me in the right direction when he said, "You are the boss now. It's up to you."
I needed a mindset shift.
A freelancer is not an employee. Rather, a freelancer is an entire C-Suite. When trekking out into the work wilderness, the freelancer must learn a cross-functional and adaptable skillset to carry forward a whole business.
I couldn't focus on doing the work. First, I had to find the work, and that required a rudimentary understanding of marketing, among other things, which I needed to learn. That leads me to tip number two.
Develop your brand.
When I sat down to create my brand book, I floated several ideas to my partner. His facial expressions said without words what I was thinking: none of these designs look like me. When my clients hire my freelance services, they are hiring me. And they need to know what they're getting.
So I started over.
Taking the (inescapably necessary) time to research my target clients and how established freelancers in my industry put forth their brands helped me develop a strategy that made sense and was sustainable.
Your brand is what potential clients will perceive about you and your business. It includes both what is within your control and beyond your control. Be consistent in your brand development approach to avoid confusing your potential clients or causing yourself some headaches later.
Create a website.
Creating an appropriate brand-forward website from scratch is akin to learning a new language for those without coding backgrounds or with limited web development experience (any elder Millenials here?).
Your website is your blank page. Filling it requires knowledge of the tools and resources available, no matter your comfort level with technology. The freelancers I look up to all have fantastically easy-to-use websites that started as blank pages requiring color, shape, and style.
Thankfully, several web-creation template platforms are available to assist new freelancers who may feel debilitated by technology. Each comes with possibilities, benefits, and limitations and requires a slightly different approach to tackling that website. Find a website builder that makes sense for your comfort level and skillset.
Develop an administrative strategy.
Separate from freelance work, the administration is a huge component of a successful freelance business. However, performing business-related tasks can quickly become an afterthought without an ongoing maintenance plan, especially during busy periods when it's hard to find the time.
After speaking with my partner (he is a solid sounding board), I structured my workdays to include one hour dedicated to business and brand maintenance rather than work.
Maintaining a repeatable and sustainable schedule of tasks means I spend less time worrying about what needs to get done and more time doing it. It also means I break up my workday and avoid slumps—a happy accident.