business-colleaguesIf starting a freelance business is on your 2017 New Year’s Goals list, you’ll need to get a few things in place. In this post, I will walk you through the steps you need to take to launch a successful freelance business this year. By the way, I wrote the book Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months about how to start a business that could be helpful as well. Here’s the 17 Steps to launching a freelance business.

Step 1: Decide What Kind of Freelance Business You Want

Freelance businesses tend to be service businesses, like writing, accounting, web design, or programming. Knowing your skillset can guide you in the right direction to deciding what you want to specialize in.

Step 2: Research the Industry

When starting any business, you need to do market research to understand who your customers are, as well as your competitors. Find gaps in what others provide so that you can fill a need that isn’t addressed elsewhere.

Step 3: Buy a Web Domain Name

The best way to be taken seriously as a freelancer is to have your own website. Fortunately, domain names are pretty reasonably priced. Consider the name you want for your site: maybe your name or keywords that identify your specialty, like

Step 4: Hire a Web Designer

People will be judging your website as an indicator of how professional you are, so don’t skimp out it.  Getting a professional web designer to help you with the look and feel of your site.

Step 5: Apply for Business Licenses

You may not realize that freelancers are required to have business licenses like any other business, but they are. Not getting the appropriate ones could cause you to pay penalty fees down the road, so look into what licenses or permits your city, county, and state require you as a freelancer to have.

Step 6: Get an Employer Identification Number

While it’s not required for freelancers, having an Employer Identification Number, or EIN, can be helpful as you launch your freelance business. It’s simple and easy to get it from You need to use either your EIN or social security number for important business documents (as well as to open a business bank account), having an EIN keeps you from making your social security number vulnerable.

Step 7: Open a Business Bank Account

It’s a really smart idea to have a separate bank account for your business. Mixing business and personal expenses just makes taxes and accounting a lot harder, so set up a separate checking account. Keep in mind, your business bank and your personal bank should not be at the same bank.

Step 8: Write a Plan

Every good business, freelance or otherwise, starts with a plan. Your business plan should outline your overall business idea, including the services you’ll offer and who is your target customer. And your marketing plan should set up your sales goals for how you’ll reach your customers through various marketing channels.  Also take the time to develop sales projections so you’ll know if you are making money or running an expensive hobby.

Step 9: Create Your Budgets

Starting a business, even if you’re not selling products, requires some initial investment, so now’s a good time to outline those costs, as well as ongoing expenses you will have. Make sure you include money to market your business each month. Don’t forget to include paying yourself as an expense!

Step 10: Set Up Profiles on Freelancer Boards

One of the best ways to find freelance gigs is through freelance job boards like UpWork. Creating profiles on sites that cater to people looking for the types of services you offer will give you a leg up on finding new business once you’re ready to launch.

Step 11: Get Your Marketing Engine Revved Up

Before you even launch your business, you need to lay the groundwork for your marketing efforts. Create social media profiles on the channels you believe your audience spends time on. Publish several blog posts so readers will have ample content to explore. Get to know email marketing software so you’re comfortable using it once you have an email subscriber list.

Step 12: Reach Out to Your Network

Your personal and professional network is a great place to start in putting the word out about your new freelance career. Let them know that you’ll be launching soon, and that you would appreciate any referrals for business that they might provide.

Step 13: Consider Partnerships

You’ll likely run your freelance business lean until business picks up, so brainstorm how you could network with other freelancers and partner to get larger pieces of business. Also you can  barter your services for others that you need. For example, if you don’t have time to do your own social media management, you could offer your accounting services in exchange for marketing help.

Step 14: Plan Your Promotions

If you don’t have a long history in your field, you’ll need to prove yourself to attract new business. Consider offering promotions to new customers, like “buy 10 blog articles and get 2 free” or “25% off of the first month of services.” This can incentivize people to try you out. After that, it’s up to you to wow them with your abilities.

Step 15: Plan Your Launch

It’s important to create a buzz around the launch of your freelance business. You could hold a party locally, shoot a Facebook Live video, create flyers, a direct mail campaign or offer killer freebies on Opening Day. Just plan ahead for whatever the launch will entail.

Step 16: Get Others to Talk About the Launch

The more interesting and exciting your freelance business launch is, the more others will be happy to spread the word. Ask your network, both in real life and online, to tell others about it, including the date and any times for special events. The more people know about it, the bigger the success it will be.

Step 17: Celebrate Your New Status as a Freelancer

It’s launch time! You’ve put in the hard work, and now you’re ready to tell the world about your freelance business. Keep in mind that you’ll have to continue to work hard over time, but once you’ve proven your skills, your customers will come back to you again and again with more work. Best of luck in your new business.

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