People have been asking me lately what it’s like to get into freelancing and how they could do it. Here’s my advice and tips for taking your own plunge.
Have at least 3-6 months of cash on hand because you may not have any customers at first or that project that was going well may suddenly come to a halt.
Not sure where your money is going? You better find out how much you’re spending because Freelance income is very lumpy. You’re not getting a steady paycheck any more.
I personally like Personal Capital since it aggregates all your financial accounts into one place and does various financial analysis like keeping track of your expenses, income, and your net worth.
Have Customers At the Outset
If possible, have paying customers before you quit your day job so you have some income still while growing your book of business.
Personally, I didn’t have any customers when I officially started in the beginning of August. However, I had a few leads that eventually became customers the first couple weeks in business. Looking back, that was rather risky but I had financial reserves and I knew I could find a job quick if I had to so it was worth doing it, for me.
Follow Your Passion Do What’s Valuable
Besides my family, my passions in life are technology, helping others, building things, and learning new things. Doing Salesforce tech consulting lets me accomplish all those passions and I get paid to do it. It also happens to provide great value to my clients since they get the software, training and other work needs to make their business better.
Note: I originally had “Follow Your Passion” but striked that out because it didn’t seem as accurate. The “To find work you love, don’t follow your passion” TedX video conveys my feelings about this better than I can. As Benjamin Todd puts it, I’ve mastered something through achievement and it provides me meaning aka purpose.
How To Find Customers?
Most people that knew me before I got started have asked me how do you find customers. So far, my two primary sources are My Network and Recruiters.
Letting people I know that I went into business for myself has brought in business. For you, this could be former employers, family, friends, people in volunteering organizations, clubs, or even gaming clans, guilds, and so forth. If these people can’t be customers, they may know someone who potentially could be so they may give you some leads of people to talk to.
When these people help me out, I’m always on the look out to bring them business or help out in some other way too.
Finding good, qualified Salesforce professionals is hard. There’s a real shortage so it’s a pretty lucrative field, at this time. Thankfully, there are various recruiting firms out there that help consultants match up with clients and vice-versa. They get a take but the money, and more importantly, the connections you make are worth it.
One recruiter I’ve worked with lately, TJ, is outstanding. I told him what I have to offer, what work I’m looking to do and only brought things by me that matched my criteria. That’s better than many other recruiters who just throw every potential job at you even though it’s not a good fit.
- Job Boards – Look at various job boards such as Monster, CareerBuilder, Dice, etc and apply to contracting / consulting listings. You could try applying to full-time listings too but only as a consultant but recommend the former first since this may not be as easy and I suspect many hiring managers will simply pass you over.
- Advertising / Marketing – Try advertising your services and/or products. This could be social media ads, an email campaign, tv commercials, radio commercials, signs, and other advertising forms.
Personally, I haven’t pursued either one really. My biggest “marketing” activity is posting the occasional tweet or LinkedIn message to a Metillium blog post.
If you have other ways to find clients, please share them in the comments below.
Have a Website
Almost every business today has a website and so should you.
It shows the world and potential customers who you are and what you’re offering. It also shows that you’re credible. For example, I primarily share out Salesforce and Microsoft blog posts to share out what I’ve learned but it also shows people that I’m credible and have skills that can help them.
Note: This website doesn’t look like a traditional “business” website and it’s on my to-do list to revamp it a bit but it’ll be a while.
Structuring Your Business
There are many ways to structure your business such as a Sole Proprietor, LLC, S-Corp and others. Many people pursue the LLC or S-Corp formation for liability protection and/or potential tax benefits. There are many considerations to this and recommend talking to a lawyer first.
The good thing is that if you decide to incorporate as an LLC or S-Corp, it’s fairly easy to do but a lot of paperwork. You could do this yourself but recommend paying a few hundred bucks to have someone do it for you.
Besides paying myself, health insurance is my biggest expense. In western NY, family bronze to gold plans are $800 – $1,600 per month for individual plans. That’s roughly $10,000 – $20,000 annually, which is insane, and that’s just for premiums. You may have to pay out-of-pocket up to your deductible too depending on the plan you have. Thankfully, depending on your income, you may be eligible for subsidies and pay a lower monthly premium.
Bottom line, explore what your health insurance options are.
I also recommend looking into liability insurance so that insurance can pay out for any law suits that are brought against you. It only takes one mistake that could potentially cost you your business and potentially your personal assets.
Remember It’s About People
For consulting in particular, remember it’s all about people so always be courteous, on-time, polite, and always do a great job. These things usually lead to more business in the future by allowing people to refer you to other potential business.
Also, don’t forget to reciprocate. If someone brought you a lead or business, help them out somehow too. For example, even though I may not be hiring, if other people I know that are good are looking, I’ll ask around to see if someone may be hiring and if so, forward the job seeker the potential employer’s information.
Have a Good Team
No one can do everything themselves so outsource what you’re not good at or don’t want to do so you can focus on what you’re good at and want to do.
For example, even though I know accounting, I outsource that to a CPA firm referred to by a colleague and absolutely love my accountant. If you’re in Western NY, I can’t recommend enough, Dan Matteo at the RDHB CPA Firm in Pittsford.
Let us know in the comments what tips you have for getting started in freelance and what you think of the tips here.