Not quite ready to strike out on your own?
You’re cautious. We respect that.
In this guide, learn why you should work for yourself and how you can quickly get started today. Say adios to the traditional 9-5!
Irresistible benefits of being self-employed
The biggest upside to working for yourself?
You get complete control in every aspect of your business, including:
- Working hours: Clients don’t care how many hours you’re clocking in. All they ask from you are hitting deadlines, being responsive, and doing great work. Freelancing works for morning people and night owls!
- Projects and clients you work with: Difficult people can put a real damper on your day. Whether it’s project scope creep or a rude client, you can put an end to it. That’s right, don’t be afraid of firing clients who disrespect your boundaries.
- Rates: Get paid what you’re worth. Consider your expenses, the value of your work, and the project time frame. More importantly, raise your rates every year or each time you book a new client. Learn how to write a price increase email here.
Incredible, isn’t it? This complete control translates into flexibility and freedom in every part of your life.
3 quickfire tips on getting started
Being self-employed isn’t all rainbows and unicorns.
True, you don’t need to worry about office politics or long commutes, but there’s always the “freelance feast or famine cycle” lingering at the back of your mind.
Having freelanced on and off for nine years, I’ve come to realize that there are certain things I could’ve done to accelerate my self-employed journey.
Fortunately for you, this section shows you exactly what to do.
1. Set up processes for everything
Your experience and rates get you the client. Your process makes them stay and return for more.
If you want repeat work, make sure you nail every touchpoint.
For example, when you onboard new clients, lay out the next steps. Perhaps, it’s instructing them to complete a questionnaire or upload their brand assets in a designated folder.
Clients don’t just want the deliverables.
They want to know what’s next.
Pro tip: Create a spreadsheet to list what went wrong and right in every project. Do this after you complete each gig.
This spreadsheet helps you spot patterns, improve your process, and prevent mistakes from happening again.
2. Experiment and diversify your marketing channels
What works for your freelance hero may not work for your business.
In my early freelancing days, my best-performing channels were Upwork and Craigslist. After resigning from my full-time job to give freelancing another try, it was LinkedIn. Then it was Facebook Groups and Twitter.
Now it’s SEO and referrals.
If it weren’t for Twitter, I probably wouldn’t have landed this amazing long-term project
Moving forward, I plan to guest blog on non-competing websites and build my email list.
The goal here is to diversify your marketing channels and do more of what works.
Pro tip: There are pros and cons to joining freelance sites.
On the plus side, you don’t need to worry about the logistics, such as setting up a website and creating a portfolio.
The downside? The crowded market and high fees make it difficult to stand out and run a sustainable business.
Nonetheless, these marketplaces are worth looking into for beginners who want to build their portfolios and gather testimonials. Check out our guide on Fiverr vs. Upwork for a side-by-side comparison.
Once you’re ready to strike out on your own, consider creating a website using a web builder and integrate it with software tools. More on software tools below!
3. Streamline your business using free or lifetime tools
Repetitive tasks destroy productivity.
Fortunately, there are great tools out there to automate them. Zapier is the industry leader in no-code and automated integrations, while QuickBooks is the big kahuna in all things bookkeeping and accounting.
But for small businesses with modest budgets, these tools can be expensive. Zapier’s cheapest plan sets you back at $29.99 every month.
Pro tip: Buy software with annual or lifetime deals so that you can save more money down the road.
Looking for cheaper alternative automation software? We have some recommendations:
- There’s Billforward, an award-winning solution that simplifies your billing processes for only $69 for life (usual price: $1068).
- For the business consultant, look no further than Consolto, a video conferencing and CRM platform that costs a one-time $59 fee (usual price: $197).
- Then, there’s Deskera, an all-in-one business suite for invoicing, accounting, payroll, HR, and CRM at $149 annually.
Start using these tools to speed up your workflow and gain back time to collaborate with more clients and earn more money.
Browse 1000+ software deals on the AppSumo store. Pay only once and get them for life.
10 ideas to start working for yourself
1. Freelance writer
Skills required: Content writing, SEO, and content management system (CMS) like WordPress and Umbraco.
To get started, compile your best writing clips in a Google Doc (or an online portfolio tool like Contently) and send it to prospective clients. If you have the budget to spare, gather all your samples on a website.
Here’s a great one by Nathan Ojaokomo, a freelance B2B SaaS writer who’s written for brands like CoSchedule and Vimeo.
Pro tip: Sell content clusters, not a single article.
Instead of pitching a blog post to a client:
“What do you think of [Title] for next month?”
“Competitors have been writing extensively on [Topic], but they’re dry and generic. What do you think of building a hub and spoke strategy? [Expand]”
You’re not selling your writing. You’re selling a strategy.
2. Life coach
Skills required: Communication, listening, and patience.
Life coaches are the antidote to chaos.
Pro tip: Look for courses accredited through the International Coaching Federation. Bear in mind that there is a handful without accreditation that have received excellent reviews. The Life Coach School by Brooke Castillo is one example.
Besides private coaching, there are multiple ways to grow your business, including memberships and group coaching programs.
After leaving her law career, Linda Perry enrolled in The Ford Institute to earn her coaching certification. Today, she specializes in mindset coaching for small business owners, lawyers, copywriters, and creative entrepreneurs.
3. E-commerce owner
Skills required: Digital marketing, including Facebook Ads, content marketing, and email marketing.
E-commerce sales account for 18.1% of retail sales worldwide, and you want a slice of the pie.
Not sure if there’s a market for your niche?
Pro tip: Use Facebook Ads to validate your idea. Say, you’re selling a toothbrush specially designed for crooked teeth. Rather than ordering 5,000 units for your dropshipping e-commerce business, create a blog post (or other content like a landing page) and promote it. The more conversions you get, the more it indicates there’s a market for it.
Next, pick an e-commerce platform that fits your needs. If you already have a WordPress-hosted website, opt for WooCommerce. Over four million stores trust this e-commerce WordPress plugin.
Now that everything is up and running, experiment with different marketing strategies. Send behavior-based emails to cross-sell or upsell customers, or use exit pop-ups to catch users before they leave your site.
For more sales strategies, check out our e-commerce sales funnel guide.
4. Website designer
Skills required: Coding, designing, typography, user interface, web design software like Adobe Illustrator and GIMP, and CMS like WordPress.
Businesses that require simple websites tend to pick the DIY route. Looking at you, Elementor. But businesses that want to build unique, complicated websites? That’s where you’ll come in.
Designing a website is challenging as the process involves wireframes, mockups, prototypes, cross-browser testing—you name it. Buckle up for the back-and-forth emails and calls with your clients!
Pro tip: Clients may ask about web hosting. If you plan to manage it for them, bundle your services into a full package and charge them for these extra services.
Ashley Evans, a website designer based in England, provides hosting and creates WordPress themes, plugins, and online courses. Note how she targets a specific market: Book blogging!
Now that’s a great niche.
5. Affiliate marketer
Skills required: Content writing, SEO, and link building.
With affiliate marketing, it’s all about writing great content and attracting quality traffic.
Since your new affiliate website could take months to get off the ground, you probably don’t want to spend too much money on your design.
And that’s okay, because your content matters more.
That said, you want to build links to your website. The more credible websites link to your affiliate blog, the more likely it will rank on search engines.
Pro tip: Create content that revolves around the product to show how indispensable it is in the reader’s life.
Note how Ahrefs weaves its SEO tool into the narrative to show how it solves the reader’s problem.
Granted, Ahrefs is a B2B SaaS company, but its product-led content strategy applies to everyone.
6. Online tutor
Skills required: Teaching and communication.
As it turns out, you don’t need formal training to be an online educator.
Did you know? There are various teaching platforms out there that don’t require certification. Note that these sites take a massive cut of your earnings.
If you want to avoid these teaching marketplaces, we don’t blame you.
In this case, we recommend joining groups.
Teach English? Join expat communities to drum up the hype for your tutoring business and build a referral program to spread the word further. Offer multiple time slots and customize your lessons based on students’ interests and goals.
- Have your students pay upfront or make a 50% deposit to improve attendance rate.
- Email or send an SMS using ShortySMS to students before each lesson starts.
- Offer makeup classes as a refund alternative.
7. Virtual assistant
Skills required: Communication, organization, technical skills, and business management.
Well-organized folks make great assistants. Entrepreneurs can always count on them to keep their empires afloat while they focus on running their businesses.
Is this you? Wonderful!
Start by deciding which services you want to offer and market them on your website.
Sandra Booker runs Any Old Task, a $300K virtual assistant and business management business. She also runs The Virtual Assistant Studio to help people grow practices of their own.
Pro tip: Many virtual assistants charge hourly, but don’t let that limit you. If you have specialized skills, think about bundling them up into a package (e.g., social media management and customer support for $300 a month).
There’s a lot more to working as a freelance virtual assistant. Learn more in our virtual assistant guide.
8. Virtual events specialist
Skills required: Event planning, strategy, marketing, and interpersonal skills.
With the pandemic waging war on the world, many companies have switched to online events.
Pitch yourself to prospects or register a profile on networking sites like Soundings Connect. Depending on your skills, there are plenty of specialties to choose from.
There’s event planning where you’ll be in charge of everything logistical (e.g., finding the best platform for virtual trade fairs). With event consulting, you’ll help clients define their goals, fine-tune their marketing, and develop an event strategy roadmap.
Hands down, this is one great job for people-loving folks with a knack for thinking quickly on their feet.
9. Social media consultant
Skills required: Social media strategy, social media management, community building, and branding.
Social media is so much more than selfies and viral challenges. In the end, its goal is to boost branding and conversions and lower cost-per-acquisition.
To get your name out there, make sure that your social media profiles are in tip-top condition. Your tweets, posts, and pictures should give prospective clients a sense of your style.
Here’s an example featuring Pippa Akram, a social media consultant who helps SMEs drive their businesses forward with social media.
That Twitter banner though
Pro tip: Many freelance social media consultants got their start in agencies and worked with a ton of big brands. Unfortunately, due to NDAs, they can’t share the hard-won results and testimonials with prospective clients. One trick to combat this? Don’t mention the brand name. Go with the industry! For example, instead of [F&B brand], go with “F&B brand with ARR of $70 million.”
10. Business consultant
Skills required: Business planning, document writing, marketing, and communication.
You’ve climbed the career ladder, and you’re ready to impart your wisdom. As a business consultant, you’ll help clients build a comprehensive strategy for their businesses.
To truly succeed in your consulting business, you need years of experience and a vast network of decision-makers. We’re talking about folks like VPs, directors, and C-suites, by the way!
Gentle reminder: Now, we’re not Debbie Downers, but we do want you to brace yourself. Due to procurement policies, many clients prefer to work with exclusive agencies rather than freelance consultants. Consider these potential obstacles before diving into the consulting business.
Final thoughts: How to work for yourself
Tell us, which job from this list stands out to you?
Whichever business you end up picking, remember that all share similar success strategies.
Here’s a quick recap!
Your experience and rates attract clients. Your process makes them stay and return for more. From onboarding to offboarding, make sure your clients know what happens next.
Selling plays a significant role. Experiment and diversify your marketing channels. Whether it’s cold emails, Twitter, or Upwork, make sure that you’re not putting all your eggs in only one basket.
Freelance sites can work, but only for a short time. Once you’ve built a respectable portfolio, consider setting up a website of your own and getting software tools to grow your business.
These tools will speed up your workflow and gain you back more time to earn more money.
Browse 1000+ software deals on the AppSumo store today! Pay only once and get them for life.