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How to become a freelancer

A short guide to becoming your own boss

Being in charge of your time and working from anywhere in the world - it’s the dream. But before you reach for your passport, there are a few practical things you should consider:

  • You need to create a brief business plan
  • How will you make your services discoverable aka self-promotion
  • What is your optimal business setup

Create a brief business plan

It’s good to have a plan in place to make starting your freelance career go smoothly. Here are 3 tips for creating a freelance business plan.

Think about what services you will be offering

What core services will you be offering to clients, and how much will you hope to charge? Are you using skills from your current or a previous job? This article may help you work out what to charge. If your market is overcrowded, can you develop your own niche within it? For example, instead of being an all-round web designer, can you position yourself as a landing page design expert?

Research your competitors

While you’re not trying to copy them, it’s always good to have a rough idea of your competition. A good place to find competitors is on freelancing websites, such as Upwork and Freelancer.com (keep reading for a list of 10 freelance sites). Try to get an overview of what services are offered, how yours could be better and how you could stand out.

Keep your ideal customer in mind

Defining what your ideal customer looks like and knowing what makes them tick will help you to produce much more effective and personal marketing material. You might already have customers you can turn to from previous work you’ve done.

Things to include in your research:

  • Professional and personal details:
    Who are they, what are they responsible for within the business? What are their age, income, habits, family, living situation?
  • Problems:
    What problems and pains do they face on a daily basis?
  • Where do they hang out?
    In a marketing sense, where do your potential customers like to spend their time online - are they found on LinkedIn, or Instagram, do they read or do they shop online etc?

Make your business visible

Now that you know who you’ll be targeting, it’s time to start marketing your freelance business.

Make good use of freelancing websites

A lot of freelancers start their journey on freelancing websites, giving them an instant platform to promote and sell their services to prospective customers. These are some of the most popular freelancing websites out there.

Logos of the most popular freelancing websites out there.

Also, make sure your freelancing profile stands out from the competition.

  • Learn from the best:
    how do the most popular freelancers describe what they do?
  • Where possible, display portfolio examples of similar work.
  • List relevant qualifications, skills and awards.
  • Try to offer added bonuses in addition to the regular service. For example, more features, faster turnaround time etc.

Talk to people

Setting up a profile on freelancing sites is a good start but you should also spend time to reach out to actual people who might be interested in your skills.

  • Tell friends or colleagues that you’re starting out as a freelancer. Explain what you’re offering, and if they know of anyone who needs help.
  • Contact agencies and businesses which offer your freelance services. Let them know what you can do, include samples and ask them to keep you in mind for any freelance overflow work.
  • Test cold emails - it’s effective when done properly. The success of your email will depend on your targeting (use tools such as LinkedIn and Hunter.io to find emails and contacts), and how relevant your email copy is.
Man and woman discussing outdoors Man working with laptop in jungle Man and woman laughing while working Team of people smiling and laughing

Find your optimal setup

Working alone can be challenging, and you need to figure out what works best for you - will you work from home, a cafe, a coworking space? Or even go travelling around the world and work remotely. They’re all options you can consider. And more importantly, what tools will you be using to optimise your work?

The admin challenges

There are a few things you might be managing by yourself for the first time, including tracking your working hours, maintaining communication with all your customers, invoicing, dealing with business expenses, and the list can go on. Do some research around what tools are out there to help you and what the costs are - what are must-haves when you’re starting out and what can wait until later?

Accounting - is help a necessity?

If you’re an accounting whizz, you might not require the help of an accountant or even an invoicing tool to make sure your company finances are in order. But this isn’t the case for most specialist freelancers, so you might consider looking into online accounting services, or maybe you already know an accountant who can help you out. And on top of this, you’ll likely need a specialised business bank account, so you’re not relying on your personal account.

Or maybe you’d like to outsource all of the things related to company setup, accounting and business banking to make your life easier?

Fortunately, Xolo offers to take care of everything on the business management side. We’ll register your company, we’ll do your accounting, we’ll manage your expenses and we’ll prepare your annual and business tax reports. You can focus on finding and serving your customers full time. Even better, you can do that anywhere in the world where you have an internet connection.

Xolo - we take care of the boring bits of freelancing

Xolo helps you to focus on finding customers and keeping them happy. How? By taking care of starting and running your business.

Learn more about Xolo

What you get
with Xolo Leap

Xolo is your bank account, your accountant, your company and your best friend in business. Taking care of the hard stuff, so you don’t have to.

Your own EU business
Run your EU business from anywhere in the world on desktop or mobile with 10x less admin time.
Sell smoothly and get paid
Invoice customers or sell through marketplaces like Upwork, Apple App store and Google Play, and get paid via Stripe, PayPal or Paddle
Automated accounting
Taxes and annual reports done for you. We'll notify you if there's anything to pay.
Integrated banking
See and manage your company's money live. And coming soon, pay in person with your Xolo MasterCard®.
Intuitive invoicing​
You can send branded invoices directly from your dashboard, and there's no limit.
Compliance within Estonia and EU
A personal accountant assigned to assist and answer your questions.