3 Steps for Getting Over Your Fears of Starting a Freelance Business

Selling your skills directly to customers instead of an employer is scary, until you remember you are already paid for what you know how to do.

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By Daniel DiPiazza

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So you want to start a business, but you have no idea where to start. Many beginning entrepreneurs have faced the same dilemma.

The answer: start with freelancing.

The word "freelancing" may sound scary but the concept is pretty simple. All you have to do is find skills that you already have, then find people who will pay you for those skills. Before you know it, you're in business.

Here's how it works.

1. Take an inventory of your skills.

What are you currently doing that someone is already paying you for? Could that same service you're providing a large company be offered to individual clients?

The reality is, if you currently have (or have ever had) a job, you've already proven that you can provide a service that people will pay money for.

For instance:

  • If you're an administrative assistant, there's a good chance your organizational skills will be useful to clients.
  • If you're a web developer, you can definitely help people build projects on the side.
  • If you're an accountant, you can help clients with their taxes, or small businesses with their accounts.

These are just a few ideas to get your brain working but you can get the help you need thinking of more.

Related: The Freelance Economy Is Booming. But Is It Good Business?

2: Determine what people are paying for the services you provide.

It's easy to get caught up on pricing. In the beginning, nobody knows what they should charge!

Remember: the true value of your services isn't how much a company pays you directly (your salary/hourly rate), it's how much they charge other people for you to deliver those services. The cost to the end user is your true value.

Consider this scenario:

You're a paralegal who gets paid $30/hour to do pre-litigation work and settle cases. How much do you think the clients are paying the firm for your work? I'd guess the firm probably bills clients at least $150/hour for you to handle this work on their behalf.

So now you know your time is worth at least $150/hour. That means the firm is taking $120 from you as a "finder's fee!"

Hmm…seems pretty steep, don't you think? Couldn't you take those exact same skills and make money by yourself?

One way that comes to mind is divorce filings. The divorce process is expensive. It can cost hundreds or even thousands to file, but in reality most paralegals know how to do this work. Maybe you could open up an "express" business to offer this very specific service for a better rate.

There's clearly a never-ending market for it and are people willing to pay!

Related: How Much Should I Charge Clients?

3: Find clients (hint: they are everywhere).

When you're first starting off, the two easiest methods for finding clients are partnerships and freelance job boards. Forming partnerships with people who need your services, and already work with your ideal customer, is the fastest way to get an instant flood of clients. The key is to offer other businesses massive value in return for their partnership.

Provide a service that really makes the other business look great to their customers, and they will reward you with a mountain of referrals. It's all about the win-win. For example:

  • If you're a personal trainer, you can partner with local apartment complexes with gyms to host classes for residents.
  • If you're a web developer, you can partner with graphic designers to help their clients build websites.
  • If you're an algebra tutor, you can partner with local schools and after-school programs to help their students.

The possibilities are endless, but you have to be willing to think outside of the box to see make some of these connections work.

How to use freelance job boards.

There are dozens of websites out there that are specifically designed to help freelancers find work and get paid. The most popular are Elance and oDesk.

Sites like these are fantastic starting points. You shouldn't think of them as "forever" solutions to finding clients and growing your business, but they do provide some powerful advantages for the beginning freelancer:

  • They help you become comfortable with the idea of selling your services, tweaking your offer and understanding what clients are looking for.
  • They help you refine your pitch.
  • They build confidence by helping you get over the fear of rejection by enjoying the initial feeling of success, even if you only book a few small jobs.

Get out there and get started! These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to starting a freelance business!

Anybody can do it. What's holding you back?

Related: Starting a Business? When to Scrimp vs. Splurge.

Daniel DiPiazza

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer


Daniel DiPiazza is the founder of Alpha Mentorship and the director of the Profit Paradigm accelerator for agency owners.

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