Taking the leap from conventional employment to freelancing can be scary; I know it was for me. 

With no boss or HR department to consult, where does a freelancer go with the seemingly endless questions that arise about everything from customer service to taxes to work/life balance?

Two resources have made all the difference for me:

  1. Meeting other freelancers and talking with them regularly
  2. Reading The Freelancer’s Bible by Sara Horowitz

In this article, the first of several in a series, I’ll share the biggest lessons taken both from my first few years of full-time freelancing and from Horowitz’s bible (as you’ll see, it truly lives up to the name).

How Do I Start Freelancing?

Assuming you already have a general idea of the type of work you’d like to do (be it writing, graphic design, or even lock-smithing), Horowitz recommends taking time to consider how your professional skills and personality traits and can help or hinder your practice.

Start by making a list with two columns: one for the skills you would prefer to offer, and one for other skills that you have but don’t wish to focus on. Ideally, the first list will be the basis for your business, with the second list available to revisit in the future, should you need to adjust or expand the services you offer.

Next, make another, similar list, this time focusing on your personality. Make one column for the traits you already have and another for the traits you wish to develop.

Combining your best skills with your best personality traits, it should become clearer exactly what you have to offer potential clients, and why you are uniquely suited to offer it. This information could also be the basis of a formal business plan, should you want to go that route.

How Do I Get Clients?

Once your “value offer” has been established, it’s time to get to offering it. 

First, you’ll have to figure out who your potential clients are, whether by internet search, networking events, or the tried and true method of chatting with friends and colleagues. 

After identifying prospects and tactfully reaching out to them, it’s time to implement what Horowitz calls the “trifecta”: 

  • Show empathy in analyzing the clients’ needs
  • Skillfully match your skills to those needs
  • Distill your pitch to be as simple as possible

What Should I Charge?

Unfortunately, there are no hard-and-fast rules for setting prices. Every freelancer must figure out what makes sense for their unique business, and this process takes time. Thankfully, resources are out there to help along the way.

First, it’s important to note that different projects may call for different price structures, including:

  • Hourly rate
  • Quantity-based (i.e. per article, per page, etc.)
  • Project fee
  • Minimum amount (for small projects that wouldn’t be cost-effective otherwise)

Determining an hourly rate is a great place to start, because it can be used as a basis for determining other pricing options.

So what’s a fair hourly rate? It depends on your experience level, field of work, and geographic region. If you have freelancer friends or colleagues with whom you share one or more of these qualifiers, ask them. Otherwise, get a ballpark range online with tools like Bonsai’s “Freelance Rates Explorer.” 

Ultimately, the final decision about your hourly rate is up to you. For that, Horowitz offers a general equation:

(Annual salary + expenses + profit) / annual billable work hours = basic hourly rate

What do all of these terms mean? Horowitz defines them this way:

  • Salary: How much you want to make
  • Expenses: Things like overhead, taxes, or insurance
  • Profit: A 10-20% add-on to your desired salary

Once you’ve come up with a tentative hourly rate, test it out! Don’t be shy about quoting for what you’re worth; it’s better to charge new clients high than try to raise the rates later on. If your proposals are declined, respectfully ask why. Don’t assume it has to do with price unless they say so.

I’ve laid the groundwork, so what’s next?

You’ve determined what you want to do, why you’re the right person to do it, how you’ll get hired, and what you’ll charge. Congratulations, you’re now a freelancer!

What comes next is managing and improving your business. Future posts will help you do just that, with topics including:

  • Building a “portfolio” of clients
  • Managing client relationships
  • Marketing yourself
  • Tending the shop

What is Hoan Marketing?

Freelancing is near and dear to me. Since 2016, I have offered web designsocial media, and email marketing services through my business, Hoan Marketing.

Serving Milwaukee, Wisconsin and beyond, Hoan Marketing empowers nonprofit organizations and social entrepreneurs to stand out online. Does Hoan sound like a good fit for your online ambitions?

To schedule your free 30-minute consultation, fill out the contact form or call me at (414) 909-0626‬.