Starting a Freelance Business: The Road-Tested Checklist for Indys, by Indys

Written by Angela Tague on November 3, 2017

It’s time: You’re ready to share your service, talent or product with the world. But how do you turn it into a viable business? First, take a deep breath. Exhale. I was once in your position and quickly became overwhelmed with balancing the technical side of starting a freelance business with wanting to give my full attention to the creative process. The answer? Just tackle one task at a time.

Here on the IndyLife blog, we’re all independent contractors. We’re walkin’ the walk and talkin’ the talk — and we love to share our honest experiences. So sit back, bookmark this checklist (you’ll want to come back) and get ready to be inspired. You’re about to take the next step toward making your small business a reality.

Launch and Organize Your Business

Making the leap to the freelance lifestyle is a mind-bending, question-inducing decision. But once you’re fully onboard with giving your dream a go, you’ll need to create a solid foundation to launch your business. To get started, make sure you learn about preparing a business plan, receiving payments, filing the necessary paperwork, saving for the future and obtaining health care coverage.

Create a Business Plan

If you’re anything like me, all major changes and decisions in your life come with a plan. Well, so should your business. Read Josh Hoffman’s article, A Strategic Business Plan Is the Wind in Your Sails, to learn what exactly should go into your business plan — and why this is such a critical first step in your launch.

Once you have the right plan in place, you can check out 7 Ways to Find Freelance Gigs and Get Your Business Started by Erin Ollila.

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Explore Payment Services

Before you snag your first customer, you need to learn how to receive payments as an independent contractor. Elizabeth Wellington explains what to expect from clients, which online payment services to explore and how to manage incoming funds in her article, Freelance Payment Options: How to Pick the Best One for You.

Plan for Your Future

Don’t forget to save for yourself. As a business of one, you no longer have an employer-backed retirement account. Nicola Brown walks you through your long-term savings options in her article, Benefits of a Solo 401k for Freelancers.

Get Health Insurance

If you’re leaving an employer to start your own business, but don’t have health coverage through a spouse or other program, you have a variety of options to explore. Check out my article, Short-Term Health Insurance for New Freelancers, to learn how you can get the coverage you need as you get your business off the ground.

Manage Your Paperwork

Beyond doing what you do best, you still have to keep your paperwork in tip-top shape — which means financial management is in your future. Liz Alton shares her process for choosing and implementing an accounting method in Bookkeeping Tips for Freelancers: 5 Ways to Save Money for Your Business.

Grow and Balance Your Life

Once you have the basics in place and momentum starts to build, you’ll want to encourage continued growth in your business. Sometimes, success snowballs. That’s when you should evaluate how you’re dividing your energy and attention between your personal life and your business.

Learn to Network

It sounds easy: Meeting new people is how you get more work. But in practice, it can feel a little awkward. Have you asked your satisfied clients for names of colleagues who could also use your expertise? Bethany Johnson helps you build confidence to make the ask in her article, Stop Feeling Weird: Referral Program Tips From the Pros.

Focus on Project Completion

If you want to grow, you have to do the work. Leaving clients in the dark about your progress or setbacks is just not good customer service. Check out Tom Bentley’s article, Meeting Deadlines Is the Mainstay of Your Business, to learn how making promises and delivering on those in a timely manner is critical to the growth of your freelance business.

Need some further guidance wrapping your head around your new schedule as a freelancer? Check out my article, Grasping the Small Business Mindset.

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Establish an Internet Identity

For many freelancers, the front door of their business is actually the home page of their website. So, just like you’d care for the curb appeal of a brick-and-mortar store, make sure your website design is on point. Need help figuring it all out? Tim Beyers explains what you should showcase on your digital marketplace in his article, Website Redesign 101: Spotlighting Services and Aesthetic.

Recognize Growth Opportunities

Your sales are up, and you’re constantly getting compliments from clients about your stellar service. So much so that you’re starting to get a little overwhelmed with work. It’s time to decide: Do you need extra help to juggle it all? Is it time to hire an employee to balance out your days? Check out Erin Ollila’s Time to Level Up Your Business: 9 Cues to Give You the Push You Need for a helpful checklist that will help you make this important decision.

For more information on how to tackle bigger projects, check out Liz Alton’s How to Scale Your Business When You Worry About Quality Over Quantity.

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Keep Life in Perspective

Finding the right balance between running your business and enjoying your family time, and building relationships and tending to your health requires effort — big time. The same goes for holding down a full-time job while launching your small business on the side. If you want to add a little balance to your life, look no further: Christine Warner shares former agency marketer Maria Walley’s inspiring story and tips in Freelance With a Full-Time Job: Maria Walley’s Balancing Act.

Starting a freelance business is a process. Tackle one task at a time and never, ever stop learning. As a full-time freelancer of over eight years, I make time each week to read about industry trends, attend helpful webinars and network with my inspiring and helpful colleagues. You don’t have to feel overwhelmed when you’re starting a freelance business — especially if you keep all of these things in mind. You’ve got this!

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