Go from a side-hustle to a business with these 4 freelancer hacks
September 20, 2021
While I was pregnant with my oldest son more than 8 years ago, I read a book called “Good Enough is the New Perfect.” The synopsis: If you want to balance career and family, you often have to create your own solution to get that ‘perfect life’ outcome. I started freelancing and found a solution with contract work.
Over the next few years, I figured out how to nurture and grow my business while also home part-time with my kids: I took conference calls tucked away in friends’ bedrooms during playdates, worked through every naptime, brought my laptop to the park, and used the gym childcare to squeeze in both a workout and work.
While some of my clients may have understood my motherhood juggling, I never wanted to bring attention to it. When submitting larger proposals and working with bigger clients, I needed to convince clients that they weren’t sending money to a side-hustler doing work at the playground. I needed to create a business and craft the image of a professional consultancy if I wanted long-term clients and higher hourly rates.
Here’s how to improve your professional image so that you run your freelance work like a business, not a side-hustle:
Look professional with a custom mailing address and automation tools for freelancers
If I’d have known about virtual mailbox services or virtual addresses back when I started out, I would have signed up. (Especially if I’d known then how often I’d end up moving.) A virtual business address gives you a real, street address to use for marketing purposes, such as website listings, email signatures, and business directories. Unlike a PO box, you can receive packages from various senders (and can skip trips to the post office to check the mail.)
Otherwise, you’re using your home address on all your marketing materials - which not only jeopardizes your privacy, but depending on the type of business you run and if you sell products or services, may violate neighborhood homeowner association policies. You get the benefit of an address for business mail, without paying for office space.
Virtual mailboxes give you an address to list on any LLC or business incorporation paperwork, so you aren’t linking your business to your personal residence. You also get all your mail digitized, so you can search for any old contract, tax documents, or payments and keep it in cloud storage.
If you receive payments by check regularly, you can also add the check deposit feature to your account.
Create a buisness website and professional email address
Depending on the type of business you operate, you may be referring prospective clients to your website after meeting with them, or using the website to draw in leads. Either way, every business needs a website to help fuel word of mouth and make you appear more like a business owner or consulting firm than someone with a short freelance gig.
You can hire a professional website designer or do it yourself, with open-source platforms such as Wordpress, Squarespace, wocode, or Wix. Whatever you do, it’s better to pay the extra $10 a year to create a custom domain, so that your web address isn’t obviously a free site.
When you get a website, make sure you also have a professional email address linked to it. You may even forward this email to your preferred email, such as Gmail, but you can make sure outbound emails look professional and business-like.
Use invoicing applications and accounting software
When it’s time to ask for payment, you could make an invoice with a Microsoft Word document or email. That’s how I operated the first year or two I worked for myself. As my workload grew, I saw the benefit of using accounting platforms that not only send out invoices, but have the capability to send clients receipts, track past-due payments, and calculate monthly and yearly totals.
If you use a virtual mailbox, your mail can also connect to accounting software such as Quickbooks, Bill.com, and Xero. If you prefer a free option, you can use something like Wave for invoicing, collecting credit card payments, and tracking revenue.
Keep conversations friendly, but professional
Don’t forget: Be friendly with your potential clients, but don’t treat them like a lifelong friend. That means you keep explanations for delays professional without going into details about your personal struggles running a business.
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