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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 nine 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.

Keep reading.

Chapter 2: How to Structure Your Business

Sole Proprietorship, Single Member LLC, or S-Corp. Did those words send a shudder down your spine? You’re not alone. It can be tricky to understand how and why you should structure your biz a certain way. We walk you through the options in layman’s terms.

Get started.

Chapter 3: 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 4: 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 5: 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 6: How to Create a Contract

We recommend you never start working without a contract in place. A contract protects you from liability, outlines payment terms, defines confidentiality, and more. Here we walk you through how to create a contract and what it should include.

Learn more.

Chapter 7: 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 8: 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.

Start tracking.

Chapter 9: How to Streamline Project Management

Trust us when we say that it’s very difficult to run a freelance business if you’re not organized. Don’t wait until the chaos gets out of control. Follow these key steps to make sure your project management and business is streamlined from the get-go.

Become a pro.

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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