Guest Blogger: Lucy Reed
Sure, you could spend days or weeks reading books and taking classes on how to start your own business. But you need money now and you’re ready to break out into the world of entrepreneurship. Keep reading as we offer a few quick tips on how to get started.
Know Your Capabilities
Your first priority is to know what you are capable of and be realistic in what you offer your potential customers. For instance, if you’re a graphic designer, don’t promise to build your customers a website just because they assume that web and graphic design are the same thing. You will also need to outline your unique goals, like whether you want to earn extra income to supplement your full-time job or if you want to become a freelancer in order to sustain a balance between work and home.
While as a freelancer, you are ultimately responsible for everything you do, there’s no shame in asking for help and utilizing services that allow you to focus on your area of expertise. Consult with your local business networking groups, such as those listed here by Forbes, or SCORE chapter to get advice from people in your industry.
Make it Easy for Your Customers
When you work in an office, you have the luxury of pushing your responsibilities off onto someone else if you’re going to be away or otherwise unavailable. That all stops the minute you become self-employed. As the sole point of contact, you must make yourself available for your clients at their whim. You will also need to make accessing – and paying for – your services convenient. A free invoicing app like Square Point of Sale can help, and many even offer the capability of helping with inventory management and accounts receivable.
No great cities are built in a day and no great business continues to operate without evolution. Yours is no different. If you want to maintain a successful freelance business, you will need to continually refine your services. Be customer-centric by asking for feedback. GetFeedback.com explains that the key to creating happy customers starts with listening to their wants and needs.
Self-marketing is one of the most intimidating aspects of small business ownership, especially when you have to tout yourself as an individual. But market you must. In today’s tech-heavy world of business, the best way to do this is online. Smart Company stresses that failure to create an online presence could mean you’re missing out on moneymaking opportunities. Partner with a web development firm that understands your needs and doesn’t try to upsell you on services you don’t.
Make it Legal
While there’s nothing stopping you from collecting payments as an individual, if you plan on your gig-based business being your primary source of income, it’s a good idea to register for an Employer Identification Number in order to keep your personal and professional identities separate. Upwork, one of the nation’s leading freelance work platforms, also recommends establishing a separate bank account and obtaining a business license.
Pay Your Taxes
When you’re an entrepreneur – and as a freelancer you are an entrepreneur – you’re responsible for self-employment taxes. When you work, your employer pays half of your federal taxes, which equals approximately 15.3 percent of your gross income. Since you’ve already established a separate bank account, make sure to put aside at the very least this amount of money each time you collect a payment. Failure to do so could result in a hefty tax bill at the end of the year and, potentially, fees and fines for not paying your taxes on time.
Getting started as a freelancer really isn’t difficult. However, you must avoid getting in over your head and run your business in a way that makes your customers want to come back for more. Never settle for good enough and don’t forget to slip Uncle Sam his share.