While creating goals is extremely important for providing direction, focus, inspiration, and motivation for your online freelancing business, creating a plan to reach those goals is crucial to achieving them.
Creating a business plan will provide you with a roadmap for your online freelancing business and will help you stay focused, encouraged, and moving forward with your efforts and goals. This post will help you understand what a business plan is and what elements you should include in one as a freelancer.
What is a business plan?
Oftentimes when people think of a business plan, the idea comes with daunting images of stacks of paper, complicated questions to answer, and lots of numbers. “Traditional” business plans are typically created by entrepreneurs or start-up companies seeking funding from banks and/or investors. For this reason, they can be anywhere from 50-100 pages and very complex.
A business plan is simply a “written description of your business’ future.” (entrepreneur.com). Its purpose is to identify and detail what you’re planning to do with your business and how you’ll do it.
The great news for us freelancers is that when we create a business plan, it’s for us. There are no set requirements for one, and in fact, business plans have even been known to be written up on paper napkins at coffee shops.
While I’m not necessarily recommending that, the point is that as a freelancer a business plan can be kept relatively simple and yet be profoundly powerful for your business when it comes to achieving your goals.
What elements should a business plan for an online freelancer include?
Once again, the purpose of a business plan for an online freelancer is to provide focus and clarity for your business. Particularly if you are just starting out, taking the time to create a plan can ultimately help you start your business off on the right foot. It can help make your early business efforts more efficient, saving you some time and grief in the long run.
As your business grows and becomes more complex, you’ll want to revisit your business plan and perhaps add in more elements; however, for the purposes of this post, I’ll be sharing with you a business plan outline that’s simple but thorough.
Here are the plan elements, and I’ll discuss each in more detail below:
- What do you do?
- Who do you do it for?
- How will you find your clients?
- How will you make money?
- What will your expenses be?
What do you do?
While it may be tempting to ‘do anything for anyone’ when starting out as an online freelancer, particularly if you’re needing to create income quickly, this approach will typically leave you scattered, frustrated, and unproductive.
Being clear on what it is you do and putting it in writing in your business plan will not only help you have clarity for crafting the rest of your business, it will also greatly serve you when dialoguing with potential clients. Your clarity will come through as confidence and help create an authentic sense of trust with the clientele you’re seeking to serve.
Decide on what it is you do and pursue avenues and resources that will help you master your skills and resources. This will be a foundational aspect of your online freelancing business and having it in your business plan will help you keep your focus on this important point.
Who do you do it for?
Who are the clients you’re seeking to serve? What do they do and what are their needs? In the same fashion as clearly identifying what services you provide, describing your ideal marketplace is a foundational building block of your business.
Knowing who you serve will help you think about where they ‘hang out’, meaning how you can find these clients based on who they are and what they do.
For example, if you’re targeting local small business owners, then you’d likely consider in-person networking opportunities. If you were looking to provide services to bloggers, you’d likely want to explore which social media platforms and online communities bloggers in your chosen niche tend to spend time in and begin networking there.
The bottom line: Having clarity about who you serve will ultimately help you streamline your efforts regarding finding clients to work with.
How will you find your clients?
After identifying who you’d like to provide your services to, how will you find these ideal clients?
As we just discussed, knowing who they are is the first step to figuring out how to reach them. This aspect of your plan, however, should dive a bit deeper into what your marketing efforts will look like.
I would recommend exploring various marketing strategies, deciding on at least a couple that feel right for you, and focusing on them. These can include:
- Social media
- In-person networking
- Asking for referrals from your existing network
- Online communities and job boards
- Cold pitching
Marketing yourself as an online freelancer should be a core discipline of building your business. Clearly identifying how you’ll do so will, again, help you maintain focus and streamline your efforts.
How will you make money?
This aspect of your business plan should focus on the “what” and “how” of charging for your services. Give some time and thought to consider and identify the following:
- What will your rates be?
- Will you charge an hourly rate, bill by project, use a retainer model, or a combination of these?
- Will you provide packages? What will they offer and what will they cost?
- How will you bill for your services?
It can be difficult for many people to talk about money, particularly when it comes to asking for it in exchange for your valuable services. Having these aspects of your business clearly identified ahead of time will help you feel more confident when it comes time to discuss your rates with potential clients.
Clarity about your rates will also help you plan for building your client roster to meet your financial goals, and that can motivate your marketing efforts.
If you know you’d like $X to meet your monthly financial goals, for example, you can estimate how many clients you’ll need to serve, based on the rates you’ve decided on, in order to reach those goals.
As you progress in your business, if you’re not serving the necessary amount of clients to meet your goals then it’s a good opportunity to revisit the marketing section of your plan and assess whether you’re making good use of the strategies you decided to focus on, or perhaps need to explore some new ones.
What will your expenses be?
While you don’t need to commit a large sum of money to starting your online freelance business, there will likely be some expenses associated with it, some of them on-going and or monthly.
These could include:
- Courses to hone your skills and service offerings
- Tools and software needed to deliver your services or to track certain aspects of your business, some of which are offered on a subscription basis
- Website hosting
- Marketing resources like business cards
Being clear on what your expenses will be will help you keep the financial and bookkeeping side of your business organized. It will also help you look at the “bigger picture” when it comes to examining your goals.
If you are starting with certain financial goals, as most freelancers do, then again, being clear on your rates and expenses will also help you clarify how many clients you will ideally be working with in order to meet those goals.
Putting it all together
You now have the elements to a simple, yet thorough business plan for your online freelancing business. It’s important to remember that this plan will and should be re-visited both for the purposes of maintaining your focus, but also for reassessing your business goals and progress.
It’s also important to remember to be flexible with your plan. Remember that it’s for you and your online freelancing adventure. While it’s valuable to have your plan in writing, it’s as valuable (if not more so) to be willing to make necessary shifts with it to keep yourself on target with your business goals.
Lastly, your business plan should make you feel encouraged and excited about your business! This is the roadmap to your dreams and looking at it should evoke feelings of enthusiasm and motivation about the adventure you’re on.
Dream it, plan it, do it. This is your journey and while it will have its ups and downs, you get to decide what the road to your destination will look like.
Are you ready to create a plan for your business’ success? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to hear about your goals!