Freelancing can feel a lot like running a business even though it’s not quite the same. For one, working solo and not employing people yields a lot less paperwork. But many people who freelance for different companies for years eventually get the itch to take a scary leap of faith and switch from selling just themselves to something bigger. As with any major life decision, it’s easy to be at a loss over how to get started or what to prioritize. Last week, freelance model and business consultant Sinead Bovell came into our New York City office to share the 5 steps she believes every freelancer needs to take to start their own business.
1. Know yourself. If you want to start a business but don’t know what to do yet or you want to rebrand yourself, think of what you do in your downtime. What do you already spend time on? What do you naturally gravitate to? You’ll be happier building a business around interests that you enjoy investing your time in.
2. Be competitive. Once you’ve worked out what type of career you want to pursue, figure out your competitive advantage. Ask yourself questions like, “What can you communicate to the world that no one else can?” “What is your angle?” “What is the unique position that you can compete from?” To work on this one, think about all the things you have to offer (even if they don’t seem relevant to your business), the people you are connected to through your network, and your cultural and educational experiences. For example, if you are a social media marketer and have many international connections, you could start a business that targets organizations that are interested in getting their message across to multiple countries.
3. Know your target market. You should always know who your perfect customer or client is. Don’t build/design/produce ‘for everyone’, even if eventually most people could come to use your product/service. Pick a lane that is narrow in the beginning and focus on getting your target customer through the door. Visualize the demographics of your target market, such as their gender, age, location, interests, price point etc. For more tips on how to define your target market, click here.
4. Be creative when it comes to seeking funding. If you think that you’ll need funding to support your business, crowdfunding through platforms like Go Fund Me and Indiegogo let you ask friends, family, and your wider network for help in supporting you. If what you are doing is unique, innovative, and solving big problems, take a look at government grants that might be available to you as many of them have funding that support innovation.
5. Build a strong team around you. Who is on your team is just as important as your business idea itself. Surround yourself by people who can contribute and add real value to your company. Whether it’s a mentor who can advise you, freelancer friends who can connect you to their network, or actual business partners that you build your business with, having other people to help you work through ideas and get things done is vital to your success. In the end, execution is everything.