May 30, 2013

How to Start a Freelance Business on the Cheap

For many, the dream of landing a job they love is nothing more than that: a dream. For one reason or the next – ranging from financial obligations to a lack of knowledge – this dream dies time and time again.

When I graduated college, I jumped into a field (sales) that I did not love. Instead, I followed this path because I was hoping to make good money while having the chance to travel and communicate daily with a variety of people.

After a year or so in this field, I decided that enough was enough. The money was okay and the daily interaction with others was enjoyable, but I didn’t love what I was doing.

This led me to consider other options, including my first love: writing.

As a journalism major, it only made sense to consider a job that allowed me to write, in some capacity, on a daily basis.

With online publishing starting to take off (this was 2005 or so), I decided to stay away from a “traditional” job, such as working for a newspaper, and do my own thing as a freelance writer.

Fear is Natural for New Freelancers

As you can imagine, I was scared out of my mind. How was I going to find new clients? What would I do if I couldn’t make enough money to support myself? These were the types of questions eating away at my soul as I began to move forward with this huge step in my career.

While all of this was enough to drive me crazy, there was one other question to answer: how was I going to start my freelance business on the cheap?

Fortunately, being a freelance writer does not require much in terms of equipment and supplies.

Note: this does not hold true with all types of freelancing.

Soon enough, I had formulated a plan on how to get my business off the ground without breaking the bank or needing a loan.

Tips for Saving on Startup Costs

Although I applied the five tips below to my freelance writing business, these pertain to all types of freelancers:

1. Make a list of what you want and what you need. Just because I wanted the best computer available does not mean I needed to make this purchase before ever servicing a client.

You need to stick with the necessities as you get started.

2. Use what you have. This goes along with tip number one. Could I have purchased a new $1,500 computer? I could have, but I didn’t. Instead, I stuck with my old laptop for the time being. It was not until a couple years into my freelance writing career that I finally splurged for a new computer.

Make do with what you have, even if it is not the best quality. Don’t worry, you will find a way to make it work.

3. Buy used. As a freelance writer, I didn’t need much to get rolling. All I required, for the most part, was a computer, printer, and some office supplies.

I used my old computer, had office supplies laying around my home, and purchased a used printer for a few bucks at a garage sale. Was this me being cheap? Most definitely. I could have splurged for a new printer, but the one I paid $10 for did the trick.

4. Just get started. If you spend too much time saving money for new equipment and supplies you will always have an excuse for not chasing your dream.

This is what I told myself: just make it work with whatever you have. If there is a will there is a way.

5. Set a reasonable budget and see how well you perform. There is a difference between starting a freelance business on the cheap and trying to get started without spending a dime. Give yourself a little bit of money so you feel good about what you are doing. Along the way, set goals related to how much you are spending and how much you are saving. This will bring some fun to the process.

Cheap is Not Always Good

You can save a lot of money by relying on the five tips above. However, you don’t want the word “cheap” to resonate throughout your entire startup experience.

For example, you should be willing to spend good money to meet with a tax professional that can show you the ropes from day one.

Which business structure is best for you? What types of taxes will you owe? When are your taxes due?

If you skimp on the cost of professional help, it could end up costing you more time and money in the long run.

Final Thoughts

More people than ever are starting their own business. Along with this, more people than ever are looking into what it means to be a successful freelancer.

If you want to start a freelance business, this advice can help you do so at an affordable cost.

It was a long time ago when I started my freelance writing business, relying on the tips above to save as much money as possible. It worked for me back then and it can work for you now.

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