The 9-Step Plan to Legally Start Your Freelance Business

Starting your own freelance business can seem like an overwhelming challenge if you’ve never done it before. Luckily, plenty of other entrepreneurs have done this, and you can benefit through the wisdom they gleaned from their successes and their business mistakes. This guide on how to start a freelance business will help you with everything from finding and validating your money-making idea to figuring out your shipping strategy to finally launching your product or service. Here are the 9 steps you need to take in order to legally start your freelance business.

Step 1) Create Your Own Company

It’s surprisingly easy to register a company as an independent contractor. In most countries, you can create your own limited liability company (LLC) or limited liability partnership (LLP), by filing simple paperwork and paying small fees. Once set up, you needn’t adhere to all of the formalities that larger companies must follow. For example, you don’t have to create separate corporate documents like annual reports, budgets and minutes of board meetings.

Step 2) Get a Legal Work Visa

The first step in starting a freelance business is getting your legal work visa. Depending on where you live, these visas might not be easy to obtain—or even necessary. To find out if you need one, speak with a local immigration attorney; they’ll guide you through your options and help you determine whether or not getting a visa is necessary. Getting a visa will also depend on how much money you make and how many hours you plan on working, so keep that in mind before pursuing one of these options.

Step 3) Find Clients

Starting a freelance business has nothing to do with having an idea or being creative. Starting a freelance business is all about getting your services out there and letting people know you exist. So, when starting out as a freelancer, one of your first priorities should be marketing yourself and connecting with potential clients. As part of our step-by-step guide on how to start a freelance business, we’ll walk you through what steps you need to take in order to secure new clients for your freelance writing career.

Step 4) Set Up an Online Profile/Portfolio

The easiest and fastest way to get started is by creating a profile/portfolio site (like LinkedIn, Behance, or Dribbble) so that potential clients can find you. The advantage of having an online presence for your freelance business is that it helps establish credibility and makes you more professional in front of clients.

Step 5) Formalize your freelance contract

Don’t skip over contract formalities—it can save you loads of time and heartache in the long run. If you’re working on a project with someone or have hired a team, draw up a contract that includes payment details, due dates, and what happens if you need to fire an employee or subcontractor. Depending on how your freelance business is structured (LLC? Sole proprietorship?), there may be state laws that require certain contracts for new hires.

Step 6) Establish Procedures

Before you begin taking on freelance projects, it’s important to draft a detailed set of business procedures. Writing these will allow you establish a clear process for managing each aspect of your business. You’ll want to cover topics such as client communications, product development/production and invoicing, among others. These procedures can also help shield you from liability and provide an easy way for clients or other freelancers to get in touch with someone who can address any questions they may have about your services.

Step 7) Develop Emergency Procedures

Even with a business plan in place, you’ll want to create emergency procedures in case things go south. If you know who your potential clients are and how much work they usually give you per month, you’ll be able to determine how quickly and easily it is for you to find another job.

Step 8) Maintain Communication with Clients & Teammates

If you work in a coworking space, chances are good that it has at least some sort of messaging or chat app for you to stay in touch with your coworkers. Make sure everyone knows how to use them, so everyone is on equal footing when it comes time to troubleshoot a project problem or brainstorm a new one. If you’re just starting out as an independent contractor, find out what kind of communication systems your clients prefer—and take those preferences into account when building your team.

Step 9) Review Often and Improve Constantly

It’s important not only to get your business started, but also to ensure that it’s headed in a productive direction. That means doing some research on legal considerations for freelance businesses, then setting up your business properly, and always reviewing how you can improve it as time goes on. If you do these things with regularity, you’ll always be in good shape!

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