As a freelancer, it’s up to you to get your business organized, noticed by the right people, and protected should any, erm, situation ever arise from a legal standpoint.
It’s smart to do the five things on this list ahead of time, too — so your attention isn’t divided between getting clients and figuring out how to get organized or how to recover from a legal blunder you could’ve avoided. That way, once you’re up and running, you don’t need to spend time fixing problems! You can focus your valuable energy on growing your business — instead of rescuing it!
#1: Make a useful website for your target customer.
Say you’re a virtual assistant. If your ideal customer is a frazzled blogger or solopreneur who needs help managing the little things, then you need to make that the focus of the website. If you’re a proofreader, you need your website to attract the proofreading client which you are seeking. Speak to your ideal client!
The core of any successful business is that it meets a need for your customers. This has to extend to your website!
Your target customer already knows they’re in need of help — so give them some! Use your website and/or blog to communicate simple tips for frazzled bloggers. Don’t ask them to pay for this free advice — let it work for you. The more value you can provide via your blog (without working for them for free), the more likely you are to impress that client with your expertise and authority on the subject. It’s called authority blogging!
When you’re creating your website, you will hit some roadblocks. When you do, take a step back and think about what your ideal clients would want to see or learn from you.
BONUS: Check out our step-by-step guide to setting up your freelance website (and how to get your domain for free) for tips on creating your pages.
#2: Don’t underestimate the power of business cards.
They’re not old school! Business cards are your in-person vehicle for getting people to your website. If you attend trade shows, business meetings, or are just visiting with someone whom you identify as a potential client, having your business cards on hand could be the difference between gaining that client or letting them slip away.
You don’t need to spend a ton of valuable time having your business cards created and then having to pick them up! Simply create them online and have them delivered to your house using a company such as Deluxe Business Services.
If you really want to get your name out there locally, don’t be afraid to drive around and drop the cards off at relevant businesses to market yourself and your services. Don’t forget the entrances to many big box stores where you can tack a few business cards to the cork boards and walls.
#3: Keep Your Business Finances Separate and Organized
Any CPA worth their weight will tell you to open up a separate bank account for business finances. Then you can connect that account with cloud accounting software.
Don’t get caught up in using spreadsheets for your business invoices and expenses. Using spreadsheets for your business accounting is inefficient. Instead, keep your business finances organized by using a service like FreshBooks — you can connect your bank account and have your expenses automatically imported into your books. You can also attach a photo of each receipt using the iPhone or iPad app.
FreshBooks can send professional invoices to your clients so they can pay you for your services with just a few clicks. It can also help you keep all of your business finances separate from your personal finances easily. This will save a tremendous amount of time and headache during tax season.
#4: Crisis-Proof Your Computer
What would you do if your computer was stolen? Or you spilled coffee and ruined the hard drive? Accidentally opened the wrong link from your friend whose email was hacked with a virus? Any and all of your hard work could be lost in the abyss of the internet… forever.
Not if you use cloud storage for all your files!
Dropbox is a simple online “cloud” storage site that allows you to upload your files from anywhere and to share them with anyone. You can save files from one device and then access them from any other device, which is especially helpful if you need to go out of town or are away for the day.
Carbonite is another helpful (and potentially lifesaving!) tool you can use to back up your personal or business data. It will automatically protect your freelance business by backing up any of your files — from your work documents to your personal photos — and continuously keep them safe from hackers and other computer malfunctions.
If viruses or internet security is your concern (and it should be!), AVG Technologies can help keep your computer clean and running smoothly and efficiently. Protect your PC, Mac, tablet, or mobile device from malicious attacks and be alerted to spyware and viruses before you click on those email links. And Mac users — don’t learn the hard way like me: Macs can absolutely be infected with spyware!
#5: Consider Getting Incorporated to Protect Your Freelance Business
Incorporating as an LLC is cheap and quick, and it limits your liability in case someone tries to sue you (which, unfortunately is all too common these days). You may think that your business is safe from legal action, but in the sue-happy world we live in, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Lawyers can be difficult to get in touch with and very expensive, so you may be interested in looking into other options such as LegalZoom. LegalZoom is very affordable and helps to make what can make for complicated legal processes easier and more understandable. LLC creation starts at only $149 and will help you protect your assets from your business liabilities. IncFile is another great option to look into. They can help you create an LLC, S-Corp, C-Corp, or a Non-Profit for as low as $49. They can also act as the registered agent for your business entity which will help you save time and limit how much of your personal information is available to third parties.
To Sum It Up…
The freelance world can be a lonely place — but it’s even lonelier if you don’t know what you’re doing and you screw something up because of it. Here’s a recap of the checklist:
Task 1: Get your website together! View our step-by-step tutorial here.
Task 2: Order business cards. No excuses on this one — with online design and delivery, you don’t even need to leave your house.
Task 3: Keep your finances separate and organized.
What do YOU do to build and protect your freelance business? Add it to the checklist by leaving a comment below!