The digital age has made it easier than ever before to start your own business, become self-employed, and build a thriving personal brand. If you’ve been considering embarking on your own journey and starting a career without a boss hanging over your head, then this is the right time to start strategizing and planning for this next chapter in your career.
After all, you have all the tools you need to manage your own business or freelancing gig remotely, and this might just be the opportunity you were looking for to become independent - both professionally and financially. Luckily, there are myriad opportunities out there, as you can nowadays become self-employed and start your own business in almost any sector.
Let’s explore some of the common issues that professionals looking to kick-start something on their own tend to come across, and what you can do to ensure success in this new chapter of your professional life!
Decide on your next career move
First things first, have you decided on your next career move and what you’re going to do when you are self-employed? If you love what you have been doing so far, you could try to launch your own brand (more on that in a bit), doing the things you know and love.
On the other hand, you could embark on a whole new journey that will take some training. Taking career change courses will equip you with the necessary skills and some of the discipline you’ll need to succeed in your new venture. And this is a great time to do that, as you may be eligible to work from home in your current job, which gives you some cover as you spend a few weeks or months studying and making preparations for your new pursuit.
Once you get established with the fundamentals, you can expand your product or service offering, making even better use of your skills and talents. For example, there are many opportunities for talented individuals to better approach creative design by offering complementary services that clients need - such as strategy and brainstorming, visual brand-building, and even storytelling.
This can also be a great learning opportunity for you, which you can use to further develop and acquire new skills. Fortunately, there are many work-from-home jobs that you can do online from the comfort of your home. Some of these include:
- Web design and development
- 2D and 3D animation
- Illustration and graphic design
- UI and UX design
- Video editing
- Social media marketing
- Search engine optimization
- And the list goes on.
These are just some of the creative and technical services that you can offer to your clients but don’t forget that being self-employed also means that you can also sell physical products. After all, there’s nothing stopping you from starting a T-shirt printing business from home if that’s your dream, and sending your amazing designs to customers around the world.
Remember that whatever path you want to follow, you can get a wealth of “fresh start” advice by Googling “how to become a [whatever]” For example, we found terrific information when we searched for “How to get online voice-over work” and “How to become a freelance video editor.” Don’t forget to do similar searches on YouTube as well.
The possibilities are endless here, but remember, it’s important to choose things you not only love, but that can also help you build financial independence.
Develop a winning personal brand
Becoming self-employed puts you in the driver’s seat. You are the leader of your business now and you call the shots, and that also means that the brand-building process falls on your shoulders. Make no mistake, the brand you build can make or break your new business in the long term, so you need to take a careful and calculated approach.
Firstly, you’ll need to come up with a brand name that will capture the attention of your target demographic and allow you to build your online presence quickly. Keep it short and simple, and remember that you can use your name or a corporate name depending on the type of brand you want to build.
During the brand-building process, it will be crucial to come up with your tone of voice and personality, as well as a set of values that will resonate with your audience. Make sure to conduct meticulous market research to uncover this information and come up with your unique value proposition.
While many startups will put all of this thought into their new website, sometimes it’s necessary to offer your services before your website is ready to go. In those cases, it might make sense to put together a personal online portfolio to showcase your past work in your field. For example, if you are a writer, designer, or marketer, you could use a marketing portfolio template to display your best work, and then use a link to that portfolio when you want to show a potential customer what you can do.
Using a portfolio to get one or two new customers can help start the income stream you might need to get help building a website and supporting other parts of your new business.
Obtain and manage the right documentation
As a self-employed business leader, you will be handling a lot of documentation, which is a necessary process if you want to ensure compliance, protect your work, and secure your partnerships. Without a doubt, you need the right documentation to run your business, but you also need to be able to manage that documentation efficiently and effectively.
It’s important to enable remote work for yourself and future team members without waiting for documents to be signed or approved manually. You need to be able to sign documents online through a secure platform, capture legally-binding signatures, and automate document management as much as possible. This will make the whole process more efficient for you and your clients, not to mention your entire team once you start growing your business.
Create systems to manage your money
Managing your own business requires a lot of documentation, but it also requires meticulous financial management. Now, managing finances is an extensive process that encompasses everything from cash flow management to revenue projections, and from managing taxes to handling payments securely online.
Start by setting up a bank account specifically for your business. This helps you keep your company finances separate from your personal account. You can “seed” your company account by giving it a loan (from you). Set up your account with the devices and accounts you’ll need to manage it – such as your phone and PayPal accounts. That’s because you’ll want to make it easy for clients (wherever they are) to pay you electronically, and you’ll need to transfer that income into your bank account where you centralize your company’s expenses.
Speaking of the need to earn money, it’s also necessary to prepare for paying self-employed taxes. First, get an overview of the kinds of taxes you’ll owe for your specialty in your location — this information is usually available online. Then, sign up for accounting software that will help you record all of your expenses in a way that matches what is known as “GAA,” or generally accepted accounting principles. You’ll probably want a tax professional to help you file your taxes, and they will require that you do this basic amount of bookkeeping in order to help you file.
It’s a good practice to set up a relationship with your tax accountant from the very start of your new business – or at the very least, near the end of your first year. Also, be mindful that your accountant will need a significant amount of time to prepare your taxes. That’s because everyone’s taxes are due at the same time, so accountants are quite busy for months leading up to the filing deadline.
Look for high-value clients
At some point, you’re going to start growing so much that you’ll need to bring in outside help for those large projects and clients. A little after that you will realize that you need help full-time, and so you’ll start thinking of assembling a team of professionals under your brand. This is great, it means you’re on track to building a diverse workplace of your own.
But before you can do any of that, you need to get some big clients. When you are prospecting for new clients and reaching out to potential partners, it’s important that you emphasize your value proposition and work on resolving very specific problems.
Remember, people don’t need generalized solutions so much as they need a highly-skilled individual (or team) to solve specific pain points. With that in mind, you might consider taking advantage of LinkedIn, where business people often seek others who can help solve their problems.
You can market your services on LinkedIn in a variety of ways – by posting authoritative articles, reaching out to others, or even passively by using LinkedIn’s “open to work” feature. Just set it to suit your needs, such as “open to part-time work,” which you can use to attract clients rather than full-time job offers.
Also, you can check out the blogs of some of the top growth hacking agencies to get fresh ideas, figure out how to tackle specific problems, and even optimize your sales cycle. You can even hire a sales expert right at the beginning to start prospecting for high-value clients right off the bat.
Whatever your startup strategy, it will involve a lot of email communication, whether that’s internal email to communicate with your team or external email to reach out to potential customers and partners. That means you’ll need a strong email system. Most businesses regard Windows email as the best-performing email system, but as with any email service, you’ll need an email client to get the best features for your needs, such as efficiency, productivity, and personalized outreach emailing. Choosing that email provider and setting up your new company’s dedicated email account should be one of your earliest priorities.
Manage your workforce remotely
Tying into the previous point, when you do start hiring outside help and when you start bringing people into your team, it will most likely be on a remote work basis. Remote work has become the norm nowadays, and the pandemic has definitely been one of the major driving forces of this change.
Your goal should be to prepare for this step early and have an action plan ready. After all, you might need to hire someone after a couple of months when you start landing big clients and projects.
The best thing you can do is to develop a robust performance management system and use the right software to manage your remote team members and improve productivity and efficiency. The reality is that you’re self-employed now and that means that you need to wear many hats to keep your new business afloat - one of your roles is to manage your team members as well as your clients.
When the time comes, you will outsource people management as well, but for now, empower yourself to do this on your own efficiently and effectively.
Build sustainable relationships with the right partners
Without a doubt, you will need to start marketing your services and your new brand if your goal is to stand out in a competitive industry. Now, you can’t hope to compete with the big players right away, but with the right content marketing strategy and examples, you can make a name for yourself.
Many startup founders feel they need to do as much as they can themselves, and when it comes to making a good start, they have to help customers find them. That means marketing, and one of the most important aspects of successful marketing is SEO (search engine optimization) — the ability to show up often in the places your potential customers are likely to search for services and products like yours. However, SEO can be complicated, so rely on a thorough beginner’s guide to SEO to keep yourself on the right track.
That said, no one person can do everything on their own, which is why partnerships are invaluable to freelancers. Consider partnering up with other freelancers or agencies that have complementary services that work well in combination with yours, or who can use your new business as a subcontractor on their own. This is one way to build sustainable relationships in your field and become a trusted figure quickly.
Use your home as your headquarters
Finally, now that you’re self-employed, it’s important to equip your home with all the tools you need to run your business efficiently and effectively. You can learn about home office essentials and build a productive home office with an adjustable work desk or an ergonomic chair to start. However, it’s also about the design of the space and the way you organize your office for maximum productivity - and don’t forget about the essential home office tech as well.
Make sure that all your gadgets are synced and connected so that you can access your work, software, and all client accounts wherever you are. Start backing up your work regularly and keep all important documentation in a safe online space.
Now that you’re leading your own business so to speak, put emphasis on data security as well, and consider using a hardware firewall for your home network from now on. After all, your home is now your place of business.
Over to you
Becoming self-employed is one of the best things you can do for your personal and professional future, but it can be a daunting task. There are many challenges you’re going to face as an independent business leader, and you need to make all the right decisions on the road to long-term success.
Don’t worry, setbacks are a natural part of this process, but you can minimize the risks and avoid the common pitfalls if you take the steps we’ve outlined here today. Make these tips an integral part of your business strategy, and watch as your new career path begins to unfold.