This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.
When you think of a “business plan” what comes to mind?
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably haunted by visions of 40-60 page documents that take hundreds of hours to complete.
In business school this is the traditional business plan model I was taught. But for the freelancer in the digital age, these monster documents have become less relevant.
Still, it’s a good idea to do a bit of planning before you start working with clients. After all, how will you get to your destination if you don’t know where you’re going?
But don’t worry. You don’t need to create a monster document. You can create a simple two-page business plan for your freelancing business by considering these questions.
What Problem Do You Solve?
Freelancers can do many different things. You can be a freelance artist, a freelance consultant, a freelance writer, designer, producer, filmmaker, wedding planner, photographer - the possibilities are endless.
When people ask us what we do, as freelancers we tend to just say that we are “freelance ____ (insert noun here)”.
But in your business plan, rather than defining what you do, drill down on exactly what problem you solve.
When you flip the “what do you do?” question (I design websites) to “what problem do you solve?” (I help busy eCommerce entrepreneurs to increase their sales through strategic web design) you’re better equipped to actually market your services to those who need them in a more compelling way.
All successful businesses solve a problem for a group of people. So what problem do you solve?
Who Do You Solve It For?
There are few exercises more powerful when you’re starting your business than defining your dream client - or, what marketing pros call your “avatar”.
Defining your dream clients will help you create a brand so compelling to those people that they are drawn to you like a moth to a light.
Think about it: if you’re a female entrepreneur looking for graphic design services that are vibrant, energetic and young, are you more likely to hire a graphic designer who describes themselves as working with female entrepreneurs who are vibrant, energetic, and young, or are you likely to hire the graphic designer who works with startup CEOs in the financial industry?
This part of your business plan needs to be ultra specific. Get down to the nitty gritty. Don’t just define the demographics of your dream clients - define the psychographics, too. Psychographics are their beliefs, values, and lifestyles that define who they really are.
When you know your dream clients like you know yourself, you can find them more easily, speak their language, and build a brand that is compelling to them.
Join Freelancers Union (it's free!)
How Will You Find Your Clients?
Now that you’ve buckled down on what problem you’re solving and exactly who you’re solving the problem for, you’ll need to consider how and where you’ll find your dream clients.
Marketing can seem like a scary buzzword for most new freelancers, but it’s a necessary piece of the puzzle to thrive in your freelancing business.
Instead of thinking of this exercise as creating a marketing plan, which can be daunting, just consider exactly how you’ll find your clients.
Because you know exactly who your dream clients are, think about where those people hang out. Do they go to events that you could go to? Do they hang out on specific social media channels? Are they on blogs? Youtube? Do they have podcasts?
Considering where your dream clients spend their time will help you get in front of them.
How Are You Different?
You may have noticed that almost all industries are saturated with freelancers.
For every client that exists, it feels like there are dozens of freelancers vying for their attention.
You have to have something that sets you apart. This is what marketers call your “unique selling proposition.”
The good news is that you’ve already done some work with finding your unique selling proposition when you doubled down on your dream client. There’s no better unique selling proposition than catering specifically to the type of person or business your dream client is or has. This will set you apart as an expert of the specific subject matter your client needs.
Can you further set yourself apart with a rock-solid guarantee or an angle that makes you different?
This is an important thing to have in your business plan because you’ll need to be ultra-clear on it so you can communicate it to the right people - often.
How Will Your Business Earn Money?
You’re not starting a freelancing business for your health.
You’re starting a freelancing business to earn money. And while uber-detailed financial forecasting can be left for the startups that need venture capital, it’s still a good idea to plan for how you’ll earn money in your business.
Consider what you’ll sell to your dream clients. Sure, you’re freelancing, so it might not seem as if you’ll sell anything. But you are - you're just selling services.
Consider what you will price your services at. How much will you charge for different levels of service?
Then, consider how many clients you will have to work with month over month to earn a full-time living and cover your business expenses, including taxes.
You may be surprised with how much clarity this exercise can help you achieve.
What Will You Spend Money On?
It’s inevitable. Businesses incur expenses.
Whether it’s web hosting for your portfolio, your invoicing software, taxes, or a business coach, expenses happen. In fact, one of the best ways to boost your business and productivity quickly is to invest in it.
You just want to make sure you plan for these costs.
So consider what your costs will be to run your business. Will you invest in more expensive tools as you earn more money with your business? What will that look like?
Your business isn’t set in stone. It will move, change, and evolve over time, but it’s still crucial that you create a plan.
You Don’t Have to Be a Business Major to Create a Business Plan...
But you should create a plan for your freelancing business.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to be set in stone. It doesn't even have to be more than a couple of pages in length.
Just reflect on the questions above and you’ll be ready to take on those dream clients.
Get a free 2-page business plan template to help get those creative juices flowing and tackle these important questions by clicking here to sign up.
Sarah Peterson is a writer, traveler, and online entrepreneur who helps people stop settling for careers and lives they don't love.