Your step-by-step guide on how to start a freelancer business

If you're ready to take the plunge and start your own business, this guide is for you. Here's how to start a freelancer business, step by step.
Your step-by-step guide on how to start a freelancer business

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Have you ever felt a sense of dread that you may be stuck at your job... forever?

Deep down you know you've got the talent & skills needed to create something great. You've got a fire burning in you and a passion for what you do. All you need is a push in the right direction — a guide to show you the way.

Perhaps what you seek is going out on your own. Being your own boss. Living the freelance life.

Well, you're in the right place.

Let's dive right into everything you need to know about how to start a freelancer business.

Part 1: Get inspired to start freelancing and do your research

Almost a quarter of all startups fail before they reach their 2nd year. There are a ton of reasons why failure happens from lack of capital to tough competition. Two of the big ones that deserve their own section in this guide are mentality and research. 

Without the mindset & drive, it's unlikely you'll succeed in business. The same goes for whether you're going in completely blind or have at least some semblance of what you're doing (and what you're up against).

Stoking your entrepreneurial flame and business drive

Burning deep inside you is the entrepreneurial 'flame'.

The 'flame' is that feeling that you've got to build something great. It's a feeling that your purpose is taking on the challenge of starting a business. Knowing how to leverage this spark and flame is a driving factor in your business success.

Answering the "why" of starting a business

Having a reason as to why you're starting a freelance business is important for a few reasons:

  • Defines a vision, milestones, and goals
  • Dictates what'll be the products and/or services

Some start businesses because they have something to prove to themselves. Some entrepreneurs start businesses to disrupt an industry they loathe. Some freelancers get into it because it was a natural progression of their work and growth.

Whatever's your "why", just make sure it empowers you to commit.

Building a support network and pooling resources

It's important to gather resources that'll help get a start in freelancing — like:

  • Connections you can lean on for help, guidance, and services
  • Personal and third-party finances to pay for the operations
  • Tools and services that'll support your efforts and projects

If it helps, mimic your current work and gather the resources that you're using now. Or, reflect this new business entity around the lean startup methodology where it's only the essentials. The point is to know where to go when you run into barriers.

Discovering what you're good at and what the market wants

You've defined why you're building a freelance business. You stoked the entrepreneurial flame. You've also gathered resources. Now, you'll begin laying the groundwork for what'll define (pretty much) all of your business efforts.

Skill/Talent assessment

Knowing your skills & talents:

Examine what tasks and projects you're doing already (at work).

Think of what you're learning and building toward, too. If it helps, do a SWOT analysis to figure out your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The goal of this exercise is to come up with a shortlist of what marketable skills and talents you can offer businesses.

Competitor research

It shouldn't deter you when you find others offering the same things you have in mind! In fact, you should see competitors as a welcoming challenge that'll fuel your entrepreneurial drive. Competitors may turn into your greatest allies, too, in some instances!

Why go through the trouble of competitor research — well, you can:

  • Find out what's in-demand and selling in the market
  • Get great ideas and inspiration for marketing and ad campaigns
  • Cut through a lot of the noise and lessen the learning curve

You're effectively leveraging the competition to reveal what is (and isn't) working. This saves a ton of time and resources. It also verifies whether your skills & talents are enough to support the freelance biz!

Audience research

The last thing you'll do during the early-on research is get an idea of the audience.

If you can understand what the audience wants and needs then you're off to an amazing start. Start by:

  • Checking out who's buying from your competitors
  • Examining metrics using audience research tools
  • Looking back at all who you've worked with/for

The words you say and use in marketing/ad copy will reflect what they want to hear. The products you deliver solves the problem they have. By aligning so well, your business cultivates dedicated clients and passionate followers.

Part 2: Set up your freelancer business presence

The next phase of building your freelance business is a bit of a whirlwind because it'll come together so fast! By now, you've got an idea of what you're offering and who you're offering it to. You've also got a vision and feel driven to pursue and commit to this launch. Great! Let's now go through what's needed to set up your professional business presence.

Setting up shop

When people talk about starting a freelance business they're usually referencing this part of the process. Specifically, the part where you're setting up a website/portfolio and doing some marketing.

The reason you did all the stuff prior is that those actions align with the business goals. The efforts also create the foundation for (basically) everything else that comes during and after this point.

Creating a freelance website

There are a few ways to set up a website for your freelance business:

  • Build it yourself
  • Site builders
  • Outsource it

Let's look at these a bit more...

DIY site builders

If you've got the time and resources, building a site from scratch offers the best flexibility. Though, site builders have come a long way and offer a ton of features and benefits. It may be easier to simply use and tweak a site template vs handcrafting the site. This lets you set up faster — meaning you can start earning money sooner.

A few builders worth trying include:

  • Weebly
  • Squarespace

Many offer a free plan to help newcomers get started. For a few bucks each month, you can expand the features of these site builders. These tools also include themes, templates, and plugins for easier development and added flexibility.

Professional web development

You could also hand the site development off to professionals.

Here, you'll negotiate a deal for the site service and see through its completion. Depending on your budget, this could be a simple site to one that's quite extensive and expertly tuned for sales.

Check out freelance marketplaces like:

  • Upwork
  • 99Designs
  • Fiverr

Here, you'll outline your site plans with the developer. They'll provide an outline and wireframe based on your ideas/goals. If approved, they'll start building the site. If copywriting isn't included, you'll want to write it yourself or hire writers.

Setting up a physical shop

Want to set up a physical location for your freelance business? This can be a good option if you've got the money to spare. You'll still want to set up a site for the business, regardless, so make sure that's done first. Then, do the following:

  1. Figure out how much space is needed, your budget, and the office essentials
  2. Check out commercial listings in your area or work with a realtor
  3. Visit the location and sign the lease if it's what you want
  4. Set up the office systems, services, and layout
  5. Get business insurance and make sure the location is compliant

There's a little more to all that but you get the idea. Once set up physically, you'll gain the benefit of foot traffic. You could also host client meetings on location. And, it may make it easier for work/life balance.

The other freelance business assets

Your freelance website/portfolio is where most clients will find you. The other component is your social media presence. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let's consider some of the final pieces needed to put your business together.


You can either gather up what you have or invest in new hardware:

  • Computer (desktop or laptop)
  • Mobile phone or VOIP #
  • Desk and a comfy chair
  • Good lighting

Each freelance business is different so you may need to include specialty items. But, for the most part, these are the main items needed to get set up. You have your tool (computer) to work from and an environment to operate (office essentials).


Invest in the software you used when working a normal job. If it's outside of your budget, look for open source solutions as an alternative.

One of the best investments you can make when starting out is through our very own software and solutions! The Moxie's app and platform are feature-rich, offering several important services needed for successful operations.

Our app includes elements that will make your freelancing life easier — such as:

  • Communication tools to improve customer relationships
  • Project management and time tracking to get things done (better)
  • Expenses, invoices, and payment processing so you get paid

Our app also includes access to our growing team of professionals and advisors. It's like having a full workforce ready to take care of your business needs.

Part 3: Marketing and growing your freelancing business

The 3rd phase of setting up a freelance business is getting your name out there. It also involves bringing in clients. And, setting up the business so it functions without it being a chore and frustrating experience.

Let's dig into making money with your business.

Landing your first client(s)

The hardest part of starting a business is finding and landing your first client.

People don't know who you are nor do you have a lot to back up your claims. People often want to work with established players vs taking a risk. But, there are a few clever ways to overcome the barriers faced early on.

  • Cold pitch — Try sending emails to small businesses and individuals who may benefit from your skills
  • Job boards — Browse online job boards & listings and put in applications for those you could handle
  • Collaborate — Connect with business professionals and collaborate on paying projects and gigs
  • Announce it — Get on your personal channels and tell everyone you're available for hire
  • Search traffic — Refine and optimize your website so it attracts leads through online search

Take time to figure out what works and what doesn't when going after clients. Ditch those actions with little return and double-down on those that work well. Once you get a couple of clients, you can begin asking for referrals. You also gain experiences and portfolio pieces to look even better to potential clients!

Lead Generation for Freelance Businesses

Ready to amplify your reach in landing leads and locking in clients? Try some of these lead generation ideas:

  • Create online videos — Create video content showing your talent and skills (and funnel viewers to your services)
  • Leverage social media — Join platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook and connect with potential clients
  • Run an ad campaign — Set up a Google Ads account and start running ads in search to drive people back to your site
  • Do some local outreach — Connect with local businesses & organizations and use the opportunities to pitch your biz
  • Google My Business — Set up and optimize your Google My Business listing and profiles on other citation platforms

There are a lot of ways to market your freelance business if you've got the time. Most are inexpensive and even those that do cost money aren't that big of a money sink. Try out a bit of everything and (again) double-down on what works.

Keep doing this cycle of lead generation and projects and you'll make good money!

Refining systems and processes for growth opportunities

You'll have established your freelance business with enough effort and by following the tips so far. The next challenge is to refine the business so it's poised to scale.

You want to create a lean operation that functions without constant hang-ups. The ideal freelance business is one where the bulk of your effort is in the actual work. You don't want to spend all day doing the slog work, basically.

What are some ways to free up time, be productive, and make money? Consider:

Your goal is to make things mechanical — where the business functions if you need to take a break. This effort also lets you bring on talent and easily onboard them through documentation. You also gain an exit strategy since it's becoming a bit hands-off.

In all, you're bringing it all together so the business functions efficiently.

Learning how to start a freelancer business is just the beginning

There's a lot to process having gone through this topic of how to start a freelancer business.

The key takeaway, if anything, is that you don't have to necessarily have everything in place before you launch. If you've got the skills & talent, get your name out there, and land a client or two, then you're in business! Everything else will fall in line given you've got the drive and you stay lean throughout its operations and growth.

So, what are you waiting for? Turn your talents into a viable business opportunity today. And, let's touch base and see how we can collaborate in helping you find great success along the way!

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Darryl Kelly
Darryl Kelly
Darryl shares what he's learned as both a freelance photographer and freelance consultant. His experience as a freelancer is what led him to co-found Hectic.
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