Freelancer 101: Your Ultimate Guide to Launching Your Freelance Business

Freelancer 101: Your Ultimate Guide to Launching Your Freelance Business

If you’ve landed here because you’re on the brink of launching your own freelance business, congrats! And welcome to the cool kids club. We’re fun, promise. You’re joining an eclectic population of dreamers and doers who have opted out of traditional work structures to run their lives a bit more creatively.

Freelancing is on the rise—and for good reason. This lifestyle offers flexible schedules, remote working, greater autonomy, and loads of opportunities to try new things and learn as you go. Plus, most freelancers make better money than they did at their previous jobs. So all in all, it’s a pretty great move. *high-five*

But… we know it can be intimidating to get started. You’re running a business, after all, and that comes with a whole new set of responsibilities, like sourcing clients, managing expenses, and filing your quarterly taxes (don’t forget). In order to help you breeze through the early stages, we put together this freelancer 101 guide, which walks you through the six basic steps to launching a successful freelance business.

Chapter 1: How to Build Your Network

Our first piece of wisdom: Don’t do everything yourself. Look to the people who can help you get where you want to go. Building a juicy network of peers can lead you to tons of professional opportunities you otherwise wouldn’t have found. And since the best clients come from referrals, tapping into your network is a great place to start when you’re trying to find clients.

Get Started.

Chapter 2: How to Figure Out Your Pricing

Before you land a client or even schedule a call with a prospect, it’s important to know your numbers. What is your hourly rate? Do you charge a flat project fee? How about a retainer? And when and how do you collect payment? Answering all these questions before you talk to your clients is key if you want to make enough to cover your expenses and live comfortably.

Let’s do it.

Chapter 3: How to Land Your First Client

It’s the burning question for most new freelancers: How do you find and attract the right clients? The trick is to get very clear about what you’re selling first. Once you have a complete picture of your offering, it’s a whole lot easier to figure out who needs exactly that—and where you can find them. Hopefully you’ve already done a bit of this work while figuring out your pricing model. If not, now is the time.

Here we go!

Chapter 4: How to Create a Proposal

On to the nitty-gritty. Once you’ve landed a potential client, it’s time to close the deal. For freelancers, that means creating a badass proposal that outlines the project scope and continues to sell the client on your services. This step-by-step guide will help you nail the landing and get one step further to a signed contract.

Dive in.

Chapter 5: How to Create and Invoice a Client

You’re off to the races doing great work for your client. Now, you gotta get paid. Here we walk you through the essential elements of a good invoice and share a professional Google Docs invoice template that you can copy and use to make your life a whole lot easier.

Get to it.

Chapter 6: How to Track Business Expenses

Finally, we’re onto finances. Keeping track of what you’re spending your hard-earned money on is a huge, important part of successful freelancing. The better your books, the easier your life will be when it’s time to pay taxes or to chart your business’s performance. Get on it early—you’ll thank yourself later.

Become a pro.

31 Best Apps for Freelancers to Manage and Grow Their Business

31 Best Apps for Freelancers to Manage and Grow Their Business

Having the right tool for the job is important for the success of any project. You (hopefully) wouldn’t try drilling a hole in the wall with a wrench. But sometimes we forget to apply that same scrutiny to the digital tools we use every day. Just like physical tools, the apps we use make a huge difference in our day-to-day work lives. Whether you’re creating an Instagram post, an invoice, or trying to destress between meetings, there’s probably a great app out there to support you.

We know searching for apps and comparing functionality can be a headache, though. So below, we’ve compiled a foolproof list of the best apps for freelancers, from mindfulness apps to help you prepare or unwind from your workday to document management apps to keep you organized.

Having the right tool for the job is important for the success of any project.

Mental Health and Wellness Apps

Calm

Calm is our go-to app for soothing meditations to end the day. In addition to a great library full of meditations organized by theme, they also have Sleep Stories, which are narrated by celebrities and other folks with straight-up snooze-inducing voices. That would usually be an insult but, in this case, it’s a huge compliment.

Headspace

If you’re looking for help committing to daily meditations, Headspace might be the app for you. It has a guided program to help you deepen your practice. The app also offers a wide range of meditations with varying lengths. If you just have a few minutes between client calls, you can easily sneak in a 3-minute meditation. We also love the interface—it’s clean and clear, just like you want your brain to feel after a focused session.

CHANI

Into astrology? Honestly, even if you’re not, the CHANI app is worth a trial run. It distills your birth chart into consumable language, shares beautiful, customized horoscopes, and sends cute push notifications alerting you of the current energies. A productive way to take a break and get to know and understand yourself better.

Communication Apps

Slack

Most of us know this one, right? Slack is a leader in team communication. It revolutionized this industry years back, and has continued to expand its functionality and integrations. If you need a great app to connect with co-creators, coworkers, clients, or whoever else, give it a try. You can create a workspace for free and customize it to make it your own.

Twist

Need help focusing? Yeah, us too. Twist is a great choice for distraction-free communication. Its biggest selling point is that it consolidates your communication apps, so you don’t have to hop around between your email inbox and your chat apps and get lost Googling photos of cheetahs and their emotional support dogs in between. (But actually, go look that up.)

Voxer

Voice notes are great when you want to find that happy medium between texting and calling. If you’re looking for a secure option for real-time voice communication, Voxer is the app for you. Like a Walkie Talkie for teams, it allows you to listen to messages as people speak or save them for later. Plus, it’s compatible with iPhone, Android, and the web for platform-agnostic comms.

Grammarly

If you’re a freelancer, chances are you don’t have a copyeditor on standby to point out when your em dash is misplaced. Luckily, you do have Grammarly. This free online tool points out spelling and grammar errors and offers suggestions to improve your writing, like simplifying your language or shortening your sentences. It’s saved us from many embarrassing moments.

Hemingway Editor

Similar to Grammarly, the aptly named Hemingway App helps you up your writing game, color-coding misspellings, hard-to-read sections, weakening phrases, and more. It also gives your writing a readability score and an associated grade level. We like its simplicity and pretty colors.

Mixmax

Need help finding your email flow? With scheduling, tracking, and automation features, Mixmax is the crowned queen of email management. It helps you increase productivity by cutting down on keystrokes and manual tasks. You can even embed polls, surveys, and booking tools into your emails to spiff them out.

Accounting & Bookkeeping

Bench

Managing finances can be overwhelming for any small business owner, but especially so for freelancers. Luckily, we have Bench—the answer to our expense anxiety. Bench is an all-in-one bookkeeping service to help you stay on top of your finances. You even get access to a dedicated bookkeeper who can answer your trickiest questions.

Truebill

If you’re as subscription-happy as we are, you might find yourself scouring your business credit card statement confused about where that $3.99 recurring charge came from. Truebill adds transparency to your spending, tracking credit card charges, flagging new subscriptions, and alerting you of upcoming charges so you can keep on top of what you’re paying for. Managing dollars going out of your business is important!

Learning & Education

Coursera

Want to brush up your design skills? Or learn more about customer marketing? Coursera offers skill-building courses from over 200 top universities around the world. You can even earn a certificate or a degree online with this powerful learning system. So when you’re ready to expand your service offerings or build a new skillset, scope their wide array of classes.

Udemy

Like Coursera, Udemy offers tons of engaging courses designed to enhance your skill set. The courses are led by experts in their respective fields, and there are over 155,000 to choose from, so you will literally never run out of options for new paths to explore.

Creative & Social Media

Canva

We love Canva. It makes designing visual content easy and fun. Whether you’re creating a social media post or a pitch presentation, its intuitive interface and powerful features will help you make something truly stunning. Our favorite part: They have a library of amazing templates to choose from, so you never have to start from scratch. Oh, and they have a free version!

InVision

The name says it all. InVision helps you turn your imagination into reality. Its powerful product design platform is built for creators of all kinds. You can create a wireframe for your client’s website, product mockups for your next Rad Idea™, brand moodboards to visualize a vibe, and so much more.

Note-Taking

Notion

We tried to resist the craze but it’s time to admit: We’re in love with Notion. Calling it a note-taking app is reductive. It’s, like, so much more than that. This code-free, drag-and-drop platform allows you to create amazing documents and dashboards to organize your thoughts, plan your projects, and streamline your brain.

Evernote

Evernote is the OG of the digital notebook world. It’s a fantastic companion for busybodies, creatives, and entrepreneurs (did I just say ‘freelancer’ in three words?) who want to capture their notes in one clean place and plan their next moves seamlessly. The app can even clip web pages, scan documents, and sync to your calendar for easy task scheduling.

Bear

Whether you’re a blogger, freelance writer, novelist, or poet, Bear can help you make the most of each burst of inspiration. The writing app is specifically designed for masters of prose, with markup features, focus mode, customizable typography, and more. Find your creative flow with this beautiful app.

Community

Workfrom

Do you miss the social aspect of the office? Or do you just want the perfect cafe with great wifi and free refills for an afternoon of work? Workfrom can help with both. This virtual work community crowdsources the best coworking spots from freelancers just like you. Plus, they have an awesome, thriving Slack community for freelancers to chat, connect, and collaborate.

Holisticism

Holisticism is an amazing hub for the spiritually minded entrepreneur seeking connection. (Did we just write a personal ad?) This magical community offers free workshops and engaging content, and periodically opens its doors for new members to join the North Node—a sub-community that helps spiritual creatives and entrepreneurs learn and grow together.

Password Management

LassPass

What would we do without LastPass? Answer: Spend an hour a day resetting passwords. This handy password management app stores your passwords, generates secure ones, and allows you to access them across devices. You can even share passwords with your co-creators, family members, or clients to make for easy collaboration.

1Password

Geared toward businesses, 1Password is an enhanced security system for password storage, data protection, credit card protection, and more. It makes remote work easy for teams who share software and logins, and it allows for seamless form fills.

Calendar Management

Calendly

If you’re looking for a great scheduling tool that integrates with your calendar and automates meeting communications, look no further than Calendly. This easy-to-use appointment tool makes setting up client calls simple. Their free plan is awesome for basic scheduling needs.

Google Calendar

This one needs no introduction. Google Calendar has it all. It integrates with just about every calendar-friendly app out there (and, of course, every Google app), allowing you to schedule meetings quickly, customize your reminder settings, and share calendars with people who need to know what you’re up to.

Document Management

Dropbox

Dropbox is the giant of the document management space. It’s great for creators and businesses that have a whole lot of files to organize. It’s compatible with Android and iOS, so you can access your documents on the go from anywhere. And its collaboration features allow you to comment on files easily so you can simplify your workflow.

Google Drive

If you’re already a Google power user, Google Drive might be the answer to your document storage needs. Offering documents, spreadsheets, slides, and forms—and 15 GB of free storage—this system allows you to both create and organize all your files in one place. It’s easy to share and collaborate with other Google users too.

Contracts & Paperwork

LegalZoom

Advice is a few clicks away with LegalZoom, the go-to app for people seeking legal help for their businesses. They work with a network of independent attorneys and match you with someone who can meet your specific needs. Whether you’re forming your business, drafting an agreement, or facing a legal challenge, they’re here for you.

Termly

Need help creating your privacy policy or adhering to compliance laws? Termly is an all-in-one solution for freelancers who want to stay above board but don’t know where to start when it comes to drafting legally binding language. Their interface makes it easy—you just plug in your info and generate a custom policy that you can copy/paste or embed onto your website.

Payments

PayPal

PayPal makes paying and receiving money simple and secure. It integrates with many other platforms and services, so you can easily accept payments from clients.

Stripe

The go-to for online businesses, Stripe is a low-cost payment processing platform that allows you to accept payments and send payouts. Their business management system also makes it easy to track your sales and income, generate reports, and get a full picture into your business’s finances.

Business Management

Harlow

Do you need an all-in-one system to streamline your day-to-day operations and get paid? We’ve got you. Harlow helps freelancers understand their priorities, get a full view into their clients and projects, and get paid for the amazing work they do. And best of all, it can all be done from one clean, centralized hub. Sign up today to give us a test drive.