The five step beginner’s guide to freelancing

Five steps to set the perfect foundation and become a freelancing boss

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Image of a freelancing female smiling at the camera for the blog five steps to set the perfect foundations and become a freelancing boss

Merriam-Webster may have dubbed ‘Pandemic’ a ‘Word of the Year’, but ‘pivot’ is definitely up there. And nothing has pivoted more significantly than the way we work – and from where! From freelancing in our pyjamas to consulting from our couch, there are now unlimited options for budding entrepreneurs to make their way in the new era of 9-to-5, or is it 5-9 now? Either way, just one question remains: “how the heck do I even get started as a freelancer?”

Fear not, ladies! We’ve answered that question with this five step beginner’s guide to freelancing that every new freelancer needs to follow to set their foundations for success and truly let their light shine! 

Step 1: Own your ‘why’ 

Get crystal clear on why you want to freelance.

As a freelancer, you should view your purpose as being more crucial to your success than a coffee mug the size of your head (and believe us, that’s pretty darn important!). Because while skipping the backend details and diving head-first into launching your business can be tempting, clarifying your ‘why’ ensures you’ll have a guiding light as you grow your freelancing brand. Set your intention for your new venture by asking questions such as:

  • Why do I want to freelance?
  • What do I want to achieve by freelancing? 
  • What does the dream freelance life look like to me? 

Whether it’s the freedom, the excitement, the diversity of the work or simply the fact you can rock up to the couch-turned-office at 10 am wearing fluffy socks without being judged, determine why freelancing lights your fire. 

This is also a great time to set some initial goals, too – check out our best advice for this right here. Perhaps it’s to secure your first client in the first month you’ve launched, or make a quarter of your previous income by the end of the financial year (time to make all the money, honey). As a freelancer, adopting a long-term vision and setting clear milestones gives you those super-important key goals to work towards, keeping you on target for your big, bold, beautiful picture. 

Step 2: Nail your ‘what’

Get clear on what you’ll do and who you’ll help. 

Seasoned full-timer wanting to spread your wings and embrace the freelance life? Student by day, graphic designer by night? Whatever your existing work-style looks like when you make the shift to freelancing you’ve got to get clear on two things: your product or service suite and who you’ll offer it to. 

And believe us, now is the time to get pickier than you would be with a Tinder match! 

Because saying ‘yes’ to every job when you’re starting out is a great way to build a portfolio, but niching down to your key skills and passions ensures you’ll build a sustainable freelancing business doing what you actually love with #noregrets. 

So what does that look like? Essentially, it’s about defining your offerings (having 3-5 core packages is a good starting point) and determining who needs them. Maybe you’re passionate about ethically-oriented SMEs or love the non-profit sector. Whatever your passion, as a freelancer, you decide what you do and who you do it for, so get brainstorming!

Step 3: Sort the nitty-gritty

Don’t skip on the important stuff.

Girl. We get it. The shiny logo and sparkly website beckon, but before that comes the administrative stuff – which doesn’t have to be as boring as it sounds! Without selecting crucial aspects of your business such as a structure, name, and accounting system from the outset, cracks will begin to show later into your freelancing journey. Instead, take the time now to set off on the right foot by getting your legals and financials in order.

This can include things like:

Once you’ve confirmed these elements, this will flow into what and how you’ll charge. Day rate, hourly rate, per-project, oh my! With countless pricing strategies to choose from, the priority here is to avoid undercutting yourself. A good place to start is taking a reasonable hourly rate, adding 10% GST (if applicable) and 9.5% for superannuation. And girl, if you want to save yourself some major headaches come June 30? Be sure to start tracking your expenses from the outset! From set-up to marketing, keep a diary of all the investments you make so you can enjoy a stress-free tax time.  Yeah – you can thank us later

Step 4: Find your flair

What makes you special? It’s time to share it.

With the ‘boring’ aspects of freelancing out of the way, it’s time to differentiate yourself. Of course, this can include your business name, logo, and letterheads, but more importantly, your mission, tone of voice, and customer service. These visual and strategic guidelines set a consistent, clear foundation for all your marketing and communication, and help you shine bright like a diamond with a recognisable brand. 

The best way to get started? Is by determining your Unique Selling Proposition – or your elevator pitch. To find this, begin by researching the market landscape, familiarising yourself with competitors, and identifying your strengths. Then ask yourself, “why you and not them?”. Package that answer into a sentence or two, and just like glitter, spread that stuff everywhere!

Step 5: Set your launch

Why? Owned. Nitty-gritty? Sorted. Flair? Found. All that’s left is the launch.

For a beginner freelancer, setting up a website and official social media account gives you that uber-professional appearance and online presence while allowing you to still showcase your special sauce. There are plenty of options for user-friendly, DIY-able websites that give you that “OMG-did-she-work-with-a-fancy-web-designer?” look without the ouch of the pricetag. 

Oh, and while you’ve likely already got an Instagram and/or Facebook account, be sure to separate the fun from the freelance with a business account that’s uniquely yours.  And as with anything, consider your strategy behind this, like your goal for the platform, what you’ll post and how often.  

As they say, the freelance grind ‘don’t’ stop! But you know what also doesn’t? The upskilling grind. Never stop learning, growing and investing in your development as a freelancer. We already know you’re amazing at what you do, but once launched, ongoing business development through upskilling, networking, and building community helps you increase your worth, continue to deliver your unique value, and own the new world of work. 

From getting clear on your purpose from the get-go to launching with an oh-so-professional online presence, following this expert five step beginner’s guide to freelancing ensures you’ll set the perfect foundation for your freelancing journey. It’s time to shine bright, gems! 

For the go-to checklist on nailing your freelance life from the beginning, download Freelancing Gems’ FREE  ‘How to Start a New Business checklist’ here. 

About the author

Sarah is a freelance writer currently in her final year of a Public Relations and Communications degree. When she’s not buried in a textbook or deep in SEO research, she’s searching for the best iced long black (with a dash of pouring cream), climbing a mountain or laying by the beach with the latest edition of Vogue in hand.