In 2019, 35% of the U.S. workforce was freelance. In the coming years, freelancing is only expected to grow.1 While some people freelance in addition to holding full-time or part-time jobs, an increasing number of freelancers are full-time. Whether you do social media, web design, or you’re a freelance writer, there are many ways you can start our own business and enter a freelancing career. If you’re interested in freelancing, it’s probably for the same reasons as millions of other Americans: flexibility and the perks of being your own boss.
But if you’ve never freelanced before, you might not be sure how to build your client base. Don’t worry—we’ve got you covered. All you have to do is:
- Find your niche
- Build a website
- Network and job search
- Set up a legal business
- Get insurance
Are you ready to start making your own hours and building your future with a freelance career? This is your guide on how to become a freelancer and start your own business.
Find your niche
So you want to be a successful freelancer. What kind? The most popular industries for freelancers are:
Arts & design – Photographers, graphic designers, videographers, writers and editors, marketers, and illustrators can all have lucrative freelance careers.
Entertainment – Musicians, DJs, speakers, storytellers, and actors are often freelancers.
Construction – Contractors, handymen, carpenters, and other skilled construction and repair professionals can build flexibility into their schedules with freelance work.
Computers & technology – Freelance web developers, programmers, and cyber security specialists are in high demand.
You may already know which industry you’re interested in, and what kind of role you’d like. But as a freelancer, you need to specialize.
Say you want to be a freelance photographer. What kind of photographer? Do you specialize in portraiture, or in real estate photography? The two require different equipment and different skill sets. To show you’re a capable real estate photographer, you need a website and portfolio that shows off your skills photographing buildings.
Say you want to be a web developer. Do you focus on front-end, back-end development, or full-stack development? If you’re a client-side developer, you’ll need to know different languages than a server-end specialist. Likewise, you should focus your website and pitch prep on UX principles.
As you can see, it’s important to have a strong sense of your skills and interests in your chosen field when starting a freelance business. Ask yourself:
What skills and experience do you have in your chosen field? What makes your approach unique? Which of your skills are most marketable? What kind of potential client are you passionate about working with?
Once you’ve found your niche, you’re ready to start marketing yourself and building your website.
Build a website
Your brainstorming has prepared you to write the text for your website. Worried about the design? These days, it’s easy to build a website without any tech knowledge. Use a website builder like:
Many of these builders provide free plans, and all of them make it easy to select a template and customize it with your own text and images. Start with the following pages:
- Your professional bio & resume
- A list of your services & rates
- Your contact information
Depending on your freelance field, you can also add a blog, portfolio, and client testimonials. However, when you’re just getting started, keep it simple. The main goal is to have a place where potential customers can get to know you and your freelance offerings.
Once you have your website up and running, start spreading the word.
Set up a legal, professional business
Once you start billing, it’s important to have a plan for managing your profits. No, we don’t mean hiding the money under your mattress! Instead, consider the following steps:
- Decide on a business structure. You can file your taxes as usual, reporting any freelance income, but consider forming a legal business entity like an LLC to protect yourself from liability.
- Make a plan for bookkeeping. Be prepared to keep track of your income, as well as any business expenses. Otherwise, tax season will be a headache.
- Create contracts. It’s important that you and your clients are on the same page when it comes to your services. What happens in the event of nonpayment or if a freelance job becomes way more complicated than you budgeted for? Your contract should lay out your terms so you never do work you aren’t paid for.
All of these steps can help to create a healthy business. But what happens if you make an error on the job? For that, you need insurance.
Get business insurance
Insurance helps protect small business owners from risk. As a freelancer, you’re a small business owner. That means you take on liability related to your field of work. If you damage a client’s property or injure someone while doing your freelance job, you could be liable.
If you work remotely, you may not be concerned about bodily injury or property damage. But what happens if you’re accused of copyright infringement or libel? Or if a client sues you for failure to complete work as described in your contract? In cases like these, you’d be responsible for expensive attorney fees—unless you have insurance.
Depending on your line of business, you may need one or both of the following policies:
General liability insurance to protect you against client and third-party claims of personal injury, advertising injury, bodily injury, and property damage.
Professional liability insurance to protect you against claims of errors and negligence related to your work that result in a financial loss to a client.
As a freelancer, you’re your own boss. That means you’re responsible for your own errors and accidents, too. Be prepared with freelancer insurance.
When you’re just starting out, you may not feel like you need a yearly insurance policy. After all, your first gig might only last for an hour!
That’s why we’ve created on-demand business insurance.
What is on-demand insurance? With Thimble, you can take out a policy by the hour, day, or month. Get insured for a single evening, or for your first month-long contract. Either way, pay only when you’re working.
Want to say “yes” to a last-minute job? With Thimble, it takes less than 60 seconds to get insurance. Just select “Get a Quote” or download the Thimble app. Enter a few details about your business, and receive an instant quote. If it looks good, purchase with a click, receive your Certificate of Insurance, and start freelancing with confidence.
The perks of being a freelancer
As a freelancer, you have the freedom to say “yes” or “no.” To take a vacation when you want to, and to add extra work when you need it. Get started by:
- Finding your niche
- Creating a website
- Looking for jobs in your field
- Setting up a legal business
- Protecting your business with insurance
Of course, building up your business takes time. Freelance life is all about flexibility, so stay limber. Try out new opportunities, look for networking events, and above all, be prepared for wherever your business takes you. With a little hard work, you’ll soon be on the up and up.