Going Freelance: 21 Things to Know (Part 1)

Ryan RahlfJanuary 1st, 2017

Whether you've already gone freelance or are considering making the switch, there's a lot you need to know and do in order to succeed. You already know how to do your job and produce great work, but here are 21 things you need to know about running your own business.

Let's be honest, there are a lot more than 21 things you should know about running your own business but you've got to start somewhere. I'm going to talk about the things that took me blood sweat tears and time to learn on my own. I want to give you a massive head start on getting control of your business, income, and lifestyle through freelancing. If you're not a web designer or developer like me don't worry, these will apply to you as well.

There's four areas where you can make a serious impact on your business right away: your website, getting leads, happiness, and the money. This part covers Your Website.

Your Website

Buy Your Website

You read that right: "buy" your website. Get a template. Use another designer’s work to represent yourself. To a web designer that probably sounds blasphemous, but when you’re launching your new business you need to be thinking like a business owner.

As a designer, you think that you should show off by creating a custom, unique, beautiful design for your own website. You want to spend a month pouring over every detail of your site to create something the world has never seen before. The truth is that this would be a massive waste of your time. Creating a website that lives up to your high standards is a big undertaking and all it’s going to do right now is pull your attention away from other critical tasks for your business.

The truth is that designing your own website from scratch would be a massive waste of your time.

All you need when you’re starting out is a moderately attractive website where you can convince potential customers that you’re a real business and they should hire you. You can do that with a $17 template and an afternoon of writing content. The important part at this stage isn't the design of your site, it's what your site has to say.

Talk About the Customer

Your website's job is to turn leads into customers, and this is done through the content on the screen. Absolutely the largest mistake that companies of any industry make on their website is only talking about themselves. You aren't selling a product or a widget that you need to describe in stunning detail. Hell, you're not even selling your services. You're selling a solution to a problem. If you want to connect with a lead, start by talking about them.

A lead is on your website to figure out if you can help them solve their business problem. It's much more effective to talk about the problem they’re having than to talk about things that don’t apply to them, like your education or how clean your HTML is. If you want to land that lead, you need to focus on the customer’s needs. If your great design skills are going to help them get customers, talk about how good websites get customers and bad ones don’t. Take the time to find and reference the research that matters to the customer as if that were your job...because it is. (Hint: you’ll probably find some of that info in other articles in this blog.)

Only Show Your Best

If you’re an old agency pro finally going freelance you’ve probably got a library of work to put in your portfolio, but if you’re just starting out you’ll need to think a bit about what you want to show on your website. Things like your school art portfolio or a photo of your degree aren’t going to impress people into hiring you. If your body of work consists of logos you designed for your friend's bands leave the portfolio off your website for now. It’s better to have no portfolio than a bad portfolio. You’ll get work to show off soon enough.

Start with a Case Study

Once you've completed work for your first client, you can use the results of that work as a case study on your website.  A single case study of an actual job is going to be more powerful than a portfolio full of work that’s unrelated to your business.This approach is going to be an effective way to land more clients through your website, but it does mean that you need to get your first client first. Let's talk about that.

What Comes Next?

Continue on to Part 2, Getting Leads.

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