A 10-Step Process to Start a Successful Freelance Career

As many freelancers eventually realize, going into business for yourself means you actually take on two separate (very different) full-time businesses. How’s that for a surprise when you originally thought that you could blissfully code away and somehow the money would start rolling in? Starting a successful freelance career is promising but the path is not that easy if you are not prepared well.

Enjoying freelancing is one thing but making a complete living out of it is a different story. You have to go through a number of stages to make a successful freelance career. This is actually what happens on your path to freelance success:

You dream

It starts with the fantasy of going freelance. First, you dream of the time when you can shed your cubicle life and work from home in your fuzzy slippers and think that somehow, eventually, the money will start coming in.

You dive in

You actually shed your old job, set yourself up as a freelancer, and code like no one has ever coded before—both in duration and depth—sure that your new app will somehow equal the success of Angry Birds and you will be lauded in social media circles while visions of IPOs dance in your head.

Your work piles up

The money isn’t rolling in as expected—or at all—and you have to drag yourself to the keyboard each morning because your initial surge of enthusiasm for the freelance life has suddenly come face to face with reality. Bummer.

You have a light-bulb moment

Hopefully, this happens sooner rather than later. You realize that as a freelancer you have actually taken on two businesses—the business of doing what you want to do (blogging, coding, writing, photographing, etc) and the business of running a business. Two separate and completely different things. Yikes.

You scramble

You try to recall every obscure fact you learned in Business 101 in college. You realize that the one intro to business class you took a decade ago is absolutely no help in your current situation. You try not to panic.

You regroup

You put your blogging/writing/coding work on hold for a bit and realize you need to quickly get grasp some solid business skills. Terms like marketing, financials, cash flow, P & L statements, corporate structures, social media campaigns, and the like suddenly become a part of your vocabulary.

You seek help

Fortunately, the internet is awash in business advice and resources. Planning a marketing campaign is as simple as hitting up Google. Your local SBA offers free evening classes in your community where you can learn some business skills and network with like-minded individuals. All is not lost.

You get organized

Now that you know you have two separate and equally important businesses to run, you find yourself much more organized. Mornings are dedicated to the business of running your emerging empire. Afternoons are dedicated to coding, writing, and the like. You learn to focus, prioritize, and become productive.

You transform into a business person

No longer are you an obscure freelance blogger. You are now CEO of You, Inc. and you treat your business appropriately, namely by making sure that you are as active in marketing your services as you are in productively working. You learn how to set your rates competitively, as well as find clients and make sales. You learn how to work with clients of all types and position your freelance business in the marketplace.

You triumph!

You integrate the two parts of your business successfully. Now the world will be graced by your unique freelance services and your bank account will be graced with cold, hard cash. Congratulations!

It’s an exhausting and emotional journey, but well worth the effort for a successful freelance career. What challenges are you facing now on your path to freelance success?


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