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A Checklist for Launching Your Freelance Business

So you’ve decided to launch your freelance business. Congrats! You’re joining millions (yes, millions) of people who’ve chosen to work for themselves.

This tried and true path can offer flexibility, independence, and financial security — but there are some key steps you should take at the beginning to increase your odds of succeeding long-term. We put together this handy freelance business launch checklist to help get you on the right path. 

Freelance Business Launch Checklist:

  1. Form your LLC – Protect yourself from liability and increase your legitimacy by registering your business as a Limited Liability Corporation, or LLC. This helps safeguard your personal assets in the event a client relationship goes wrong, and it shows potential clients that you’re a serious, reputable operation.

2. Get your EIN – After forming your LLC, you can request an Employer Identification Number from the IRS so you don’t have to use your social security number to get paid. Each time you do work for a client, you’ll provide your EIN number.

3. Set up a business bank account – No commingling funds! Having a dedicated business checking account makes taxes so much easier — trust us. You’ll have all your income and expenses logged in one place. Many accountants and tax platforms can also automatically sync to business bank accounts for easy reporting.

4. Outline your elevator pitch – What are you offering? Who do you want to do business with? Answering these basic questions helps you get clear on your strategy, and developing a quick, digestible pitch will serve you whenever you get asked the question, “So, what do you do?” Casual conversations often lead to new clientele, and having a polished pitch at the ready is just good practice.

5. Define your pricing – What are you charging for your services? What does your fee structure look like? The next question after “What do you do?” is often “How much do you charge?” Defining your rates and your rate structure (hourly, project fee, retainer, etc) is another key step in preparing to pitch to potential clients.

6. Put together your proposal template – Grab that elevator pitch and pricing and combine them into your proposal template, which you can use over and over, tweaking based on the project. You can easily get started with one of Harlow’s six professionally designed and easy-to-use proposal templates, created by expert freelancers

6. Outline your contract and terms – What are your payment terms, late fees, and non-negotiables? Developing a solid, legally fit contract template is arguably one of the most important steps for new freelancers. Your contract is your source of truth for all projects. It’s the foundation you can refer back to if clients make unreasonable asks, miss payments, or otherwise take advantage of you. It sets expectations from the get-go. Sounds daunting? It’s okay, if you’re a Harlow user, we have a great contract you can use, put together by a legal expert who knows what you need covered. 

7. Curate your portfolio – Your portfolio will look different based on your industry and niche, but it might contain social posts, visual assets, articles, photographs — whatever it is that captures the quality of the work that you do. Portfolios don’t have to contain freelance work — they can also include work you produced or helped with as a full-time employee or contractor.

8. Put together your promotion strategy – How do you plan to get your first couple clients? Outlining your approach gives you a tangible strategy to commit to. Document the specific channels you’ll leverage (e.g. social media, job boards, word-of-mouth referrals) and the specific tactics you’ll use to maximize your reach (e.g. posting on social twice a week, creating profiles on three gig sites, telling one person about your work every day). Committing to this promotional work can help you build steady momentum and gain visibility quickly.

9. Start networking with other freelancers – There are bound to be ups and downs during your freelance journey. Having people around you who truly understand the challenges makes all the difference. Freelance pals can help keep you motivated and inspired, and empathize when you’re having a tough go of it. Plus, having friends who freelance means you may get some referrals for the gigs they’re not interested in or qualified for — you never know who will send a client your way.

Taking these steps at the start of your freelance journey will save you an immeasurable amount of stress later on and set you up for the kind of freedom and success you’ve been dreaming about. Every freelancer’s path is unique, but if you talk to the most seasoned solopreneurs, they’ll all echo similar advice: Take care of the foundation now. You’ll thank yourself later. Each little step you take is like a vote for creating a more abundant future. Your confidence will increase as you go, and soon you’ll look back with gratitude for how much effort you put into creating the life you want for yourself.

If you need support and resources along the way, Harlow is here to help. Our intuitive freelance tools can help you build a foolproof business foundation, onboard new clients, manage your day-to-day tasks, and get paid. Sign up for a free trial to get started today, and check out the dozens of freelance resources we’ve created for new solopreneurs like you.

About the AuthorAndrea Wildt is co-founder of Harlow and previously a martech & demand gen freelancer. She is an avid scuba diver and lives in San Francisco with her dog, baby, and partner.

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