Starting a new business can be a scary task. Where do you even begin? This quick guide provides 5 basic steps to success in your new adventure.
1. Get your bookkeeping in order. This is the step you will love to hate! Most designers are not good bookkeepers…it’s just not in our nature! It’s in your best interest to visit an accountant. He will be able to set you up with a Tax ID and provide other valuable guidance regarding sales tax, income tax, etc. Save yourself some money by handling the invoicing yourself. Your accountant will naturally want to provide this service to you, but if you’re working with a small budget, use a tool like Quickbooks or paperfreebilling.com. Paperfreebilling.com is perfect for those on the move as it allows you to manage your invoicing from anywhere you can connect to the internet!
2. Produce a General Rate Sheet. Use this sheet as a guide when quoting projects. This way you will be consistent and accurate. For projects such as multi-paged brochures, catalogs are other larger projects, define an hourly rate and use that rate to calculate the number of hours you expect the project to take you; then add 25% to the time you estimated for unforeseen “time-wasters”. That will give your client a rough estimate. Make sure you state on the quote that time spent may be higher or lower and you will communicate with the client if the actual billable time exceeds higher than 10% of your quote. Some services will be better served with a solid rate. For instance, full-color business cards design fee could be $49, plus the cost of printing.
3. Brand yourself. Add automatic credibility to your business with a professionally designed website. Take the time to build a simple, attractive website, and design a logo and business card. Don’t spend weeks on this – after all, your time is valuable. Keep it simple and uncluttered. Put more effort in a clean layout than building elaborate backgrounds and rollover buttons. There are many free website builders that allow you to quickly build a site and customize options to make it your own. One such site is www.123gosites.com which allows you to choose from hundreds of templates, easily add pages and provides domain name and email addresses quickly and easily. There are hundreds of other options for easy, do-it-yourself websites – even if you’re not a website expert!
4. Make a list of resources. The age of the internet is here to stay. Make use of the great prices offered by such sites as gotprint.com and vistaprint.com. Find out where your local quick print shops are and you’ll want some local traditional printing sources too. You’ll want to keep the local printers in a database so you can communicate with them when you are ready to start marketing your services.
5. Time to market your services – Take that list of local printers (the one you saved from last step) and write them a professional letter outlining your services…printed nicely with your logo and contact information on it. Make it short and precise. A bullet list of services is helpful for busy people who will inevitably skim it Mail it, give it a week and then follow up with a phone call. Your phone call should be short and sweet. “Hi, my name is…”, “how are you”, “would love to work with you”, “when can I stop by”…Bam! Out of 25 letters sent – you may hook up with 2 or 3 printers. Do this quarterly to build your client base. But don’t stop there….target small to medium sized business and do some detective work to learn who the right person is to contact. In any given business, it may be the Marketing Manager, VP of Sales, President or Owner. It really depends upon the size of the business. Then proceed the same way: a personalized letter with a follow up call.
With perseverance and the right attitude, you will be making money in your freelance business in a few months!
This 5-step guide has been developed by Michelle Minix as a result of her freelance journey from green newbie to 12-year veteran. http://www.michelleminix.com
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