Setting up a freelance business is one of the best ways to put your skills to work in an environment completely under your control. Whether you start your own business as a part-time enterprise or as the primary way to make a living, it helps to know the steps to successfully launch a new venture.
Finances & Taxes
Before you start up your business, open business banking accounts separate from your personal accounts. After you register your business with the appropriate state agency, open a business checking account and apply for a business credit card. With small business credit cards from American Express, you can select from among a dozen different cards, depending on your needs. Whether you want to earn travel rewards, have the freedom to maintain a balance interest-free for 60 days or get cash back based on your purchases, you’ll probably be able to find the card with the features your new business needs most.
Though the IRS doesn’t require separate bank accounts for individual proprietorships, you’ll benefit from taking time to create different accounts for business expenses. You’ll have tax advantages and the ability to analyze your business performance more accurately. You will also have the ability to clearly see your personal financial status, independent of your business. Keep this in mind, too; if business and family finances are linked, it’s tougher to get a business loan. Lenders are reluctant to extend credit to an enterprise that seems to be just a hobby.
Hire a good CPA who can advise you on paying estimated quarterly taxes and keep track of and explain 1099s, the equivalent of a W-2 from an employer, from your clients.
Recordkeeping is an essential function of a successful business. Keeping track of billable hours and total time spent on tasks is easier through any of a number of software programs available. Harvest is an example of a time-tracking tool that also can create online invoices. Chrometa is another time-management tool.
The next step is generating business. The best way to attract new clients is by networking. Make the most of your social media presence —through Linkedin primarily — but also through Facebook and Twitter, along with others you regularly visit, such as Tumblr.
This isn’t the time to be shy. Let everyone connected to you online know that you’ve hung out a shingle. Face-to-face networking is critical, too. Attend every networking event you can where professionals gather who may need your services.
Don’t forget business cards. It sounds counter intuitive in the digital age, but executives actually keep business cards, especially those that pertain to their business. Also create a website and include an online portfolio of your best work.
Become a recognized leader through blogging about topics related to your expertise and try to get speaking engagements, even at small meetings, suggests Freelanceswitch.com. To further position yourself as an expert in your field, volunteer to write a guest column in your local newspaper about a subject related to your new business.
Before you know it, you’ll have more work than you think you can handle. Too much work is the best problem you can have.
Francis Miller is a freelance writer from Washington D.C., he follows current events like it’s his full time job.