out there. But I kept giving myself the same excuses. Don’t have the time to migrate all my contacts into it. My Dropbox folder works fine. I can search for whatever I need, and the reminder/snooze email feature in Gmail works fine for my business.
It wasn’t until I realized that a client invoice was three months overdue that I accepted I couldn’t go on doing business this way. Because guess what? The problem wasn’t that the client hadn’t paid—the problem was that I’d forgotten to invoice the client.
That did it. I signed up for Dubsado, a CRM and accounting software. I now send proposals with pricing, contract, and invoice in one go. As soon as the client signs and pays the invoice, a questionnaire is emailed to them requesting all the information I need from them. Once I have that, they get access to a client portal where we upload all the files needed for the project. Sounds awesome, right? Here is one of the proposals sent from my CRM:
With a day job taking most of your time, you need to automate as much of your freelance business as you can. So take the time to invest in a client and project management tool from the beginning.
Landing Your First Client
Now that you’ve got your bases covered and are ready to start freelancing, it’s time to get your first client. You’re probably tempted to research ways to market your freelance business, and there’s no denying the importance of marketing.
But when looking for your first clients, focus on tactics that give you more control. Take actions that will pay off in the short term, like:
Telling your personal network – A lot of freelancers avoid telling their friends and family what they’re up to until their freelance business is doing well. That’s a mistake. These are the people who are rooting for you. And no, I’m not saying you ask them for work. Instead ask them to refer you to anyone in their circles who might need your services.
A simple email telling them about your new business, the services you offer, and the people you can help (your prospective clients) is enough. Include your details in the email and simply ask them to forward them to anyone they think would be a good fit.
Cold outreach – If this phrase gives you cold shivers, you aren’t alone. Cold emailing intimidates most freelancers. You’re emailing a business pitching them your services—that feels icky, right? But as a freelancer, selling your services is a must-have skill.
Sending cold emails implies that you send an email out of the blue offering your freelance services. But that’s not going to convert well.
Instead, take the time to research the companies you’re reaching out to. Read their blogs, sign up for their newsletters, and follow their social media accounts. Want to take it a step further? Look up their employees on LinkedIn and connect with them. Interact with them and get on their radars.
This way, when you do reach out to them and talk about how you can help solve their problems, you won’t be a stranger. And even if the person you’re contacting isn’t the decision maker, the chances of their referring you to them grow exponentially.
What’s the worst that can happen? They might say no. But what if they say yes and hire you?
Offering to pick up overflow work from other freelancers – Most freelancers build their networks to outsource work to other freelancers and refer projects and clients they either outgrow, don’t have the bandwidth to take on, or aren’t interested in taking.
Reach out to freelancers in your niche and ask them if they have any overflow work they’re looking to subcontract or pass on. Ideally, the freelancers you reach out to would be familiar with you, but it’s not a hard and fast rule.
Include samples of your work if you have them. If you don’t, ask them to take a chance on you.
When I decided to start writing email sequences for clients, I reached out an email copywriter and asked her if she’d be willing to take a chance on me. I outlined the kind of writing I did have experience with, linked to a few samples, and told her that I worked hard and never made the same mistake twice.
I went on to write several email sequences for her. She gave me a chance when I needed it, and now she knows she can depend on me. I make sure I always have her back, even if it means moving a big project to accommodate her tight deadline.
For a more in-depth guide on landing clients, check out this guide. It focuses on consulting businesses, but the strategies apply to anyone who wants to run a service-based business.
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The Truth About Going From a Day Job to Freelancing
Learning to become a freelancer while working a day job isn’t easy or fun or fast. To be honest, it requires a lot of sacrifice, hard work, and long hours.
There will be times when you want to give up, and that’s when your big “why,” the reason you freelance, will come to your rescue.
There will be times when you feel like you’re not moving forward, but a quick look at the deadlines you set for your business will assure you that you’re on track.
There will be times when you want to hand in your resignation and just focus on your business full-time. But you won’t, because the math you did will tell you this isn’t the right time.
All that research and planning will make running a freelance business easy, efficient, and hassle-free. You may be working evenings and weekends, but you’ll know that it’s not in vain. That soon, you’ll be able to hand in your notice and work on your freelance business full time.
And every time you feel like maybe this path isn’t for you, that maybe a day job is the right job, come back to this post and look up all the freelancers featured in this post.
They did it. So will you.
Have you been dreaming about breaking out on your own? Of living life on your terms doing work you love? Comment below and tell us what’s holding you back