The Business Side of Freelancing:

The 3 Keys to Running a Successful Freelance Business

When you decide to become a full-time, self-employed freelancer, your success will depend on much more than just your abilities as a writer, designer, photographer or other service provider. You also need to learn how to run a business.

In fact, this is probably the most important factor in freelancing success, if you ask me. And it’s the biggest reason why some freelancers fail. Sure, you’re great at writing, or designing, or photography, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to have a successful freelance business.

Change Your Mindset

The first thing that many new freelancers need to do is change their mindset. Freelance writers, designers and photographers work in the creative services industry, so we tend to have a creative mindset. This is what makes what we do fun and it’s why we got into our field in the first place.

But to run a successful freelance business, you have to switch from a creative mindset to a business mindset. I’m not suggesting you abandon creativity altogether, but I am suggesting you view your creativity through the lens of your business. Or in other words, think about how you can use your creativity and productivity to produce writing, design or photography that clients are willing to pay — and preferably pay handsomely — for.

Pricing Your Work … and Getting Paid

Speaking of pay, setting rates is something many new freelancers are uncomfortable with. But it’s obviously important if you expect to make a living as a freelancer. I could write a separate blog or series of blogs about how to set your freelance rates. (Click here for a recent blog on project vs. hourly pricing.)

For now, I’ll just share my main philosophy when pricing projects: The price should be based on what the job is worth to the client. This is the opposite of the mindset of most freelancers when pricing work, which is how much time will the job take me? Sure, you need to factor your time estimate into your price — but make this the minimum amount you charge. You can often charge much more than this if you are highly skilled and work in a specialty niche where your skills are in high demand.

Of course, it doesn’t matter what you charge if you don’t get paid. So you need to establish solid guidelines for billing and collections. Many freelancers require an upfront deposit of up to 50 percent and payment of the balance due within 30 days of project completion. I do this for all new clients. For existing clients who have proven to be reliable payers, I invoice the full amount upon project completion, due usually in 15 to 30 days.

Marketing Your Freelance Business

Marketing is another critical aspect of running a successful freelance business. This is another topic I could write about extensively, but for now I’ll just discuss what works for me: my website, blog and e-newsletter.

I search engine optimized my website for some keywords and phrases related to my particular niche: financial and business writing. This has resulted in a pretty steady stream of leads from prospects who need this type of content creation. I also write a blog and publish my blog content as an e-newsletter that I send out monthly to an email list I built myself.

Social media marketing is also effective for many freelancers. I’m not an expert at this so I’ll let others talk about it in more detail. Traditional marketing channels like direct mail can get pretty expensive so I’d say that a website/SEO, blogging, e-newsletters and social media are the main marketing vehicles for most freelancers.

Focus on These 3 Things

These are what I consider to be the three most important components to running a successful freelance business: Adopting a business mindset, pricing your work profitably and getting paid, and marketing your business. Master these three things and you’ll be well on your way to freelancing success.

Authored by Don Sadler
Don Sadler hung out his shingle as a full-time freelance writer in 2009 after working for several custom publishing companies over the previous 24 years. Visit www.donsadlerwriter.com or contact him at don@donsadlerwriter.com.