Freelancing is one of the few career paths you can start instantly with very little up-front investment. Aside from a computer, you don’t need any equipment, and you don’t need a costly license given to you by some official writing committee.
But freelance writing is not only about creating. Many times, it requires you to be more of a CEO than a writer. And for that part, you do need at least a little money.
I’ve been working as a freelancer for about three years, but if I were to start my business all over again with just $100, I would spend money on a few important areas to make an immediate entrepreneurial impact.
1. The technical investment
These days, it’s very difficult to imagine a freelance writer who doesn’t have an established web presence. And I’m not just talking about on Twitter or LinkedIn.
In short, you need a professional website that convinces prospective clients working with you will likely pay off. You can also use it as a portfolio.
Here are a few necessities for your site:
– The prices vary, but you can generally get a domain name for $12 per year from GoDaddy.
– You can run your website for free on WordPress and work with a WordPress theme from the official WordPress.org directory.
– Get a personal logo design for your site’s header from Fiverr for as little as $5. Just choose from one of the many design sellers and tell the person to create a simple logo based on your name. This will give your site a nice personal touch.
2. The financial tools
The most popular digital payment method of the moment is PayPal. If you’re one of the few people who haven’t used it, you can sign up for free, and it’s available in most countries, so you don’t have to worry about overseas clients.
The only downside is that PayPal has noticeable fees (2.9 percent of the amount plus $0.30 on each transaction). Think of it as an additional tax for doing business. Or try Venmo, which is free except for 3 percent fees on credit card charges.
Apart from PayPal, you’ll want to invest in an accounting and invoicing tool. Sending invoices is one of those boring chores we just can’t escape. If you want to limit the boredom as much as possible, forget about Excel and sign up for FreshBooks. You can work with your first three clients for free.
3. Business training and education
If I could go back in time and only do one thing differently, I would have invested in some business education instead of only relying on the occasional piece of advice passed down from a friend. After three years, I’ve really started to believe in the value of paid education, and I don’t necessarily mean getting a university degree. This is purely about finding someone who has already achieved what you want to achieve and then compensating that person to teach and advise you.
The best online business training I’ve found on the web is Fizzle.co. I highly recommend you to take a look what the community has to offer with weekly coaching sessions and an online database of lessons. The trial is just $1, so you can take a good peek before you decide if you want to stay for the monthly subscription for $35 per month.
Additionally, I also recommend the free forum at QuickSprout. It’s one of the few places on the web where you can get great advice from people who actually know what they’re talking about. And what’s even better, from my observation, almost all new threads get a response from the creator of the site, Neil Patel, who built five multimillion-dollar companies and is a valuable source of marketing insights. Granted, the forum isn’t strictly about freelancing, but the business advice there applies to freelancing just as much as it does to any other type of business.
4. Clients and outreach
Ultimately, you want to reach the point where clients seek you out, but this won’t happen right away. So instead of sitting around and waiting for a miracle, you’d be much better off being proactive with cheap and useful tools that can help your outreach.
– Bidsketch: For $29 per month, this software will let you create, manage, and send client proposals. As an added bonus, you can track proposals, so you will be notified if the clients viewed them or not.
– Yesware: A simple browser plugin for Gmail that adds a tracking pixel to your outgoing messages and lets you know when someone opened your email. A little voyeuristic, but it is definitely valuable.
– Rapportive: Another Gmail plugin that shows up as a skinny sidebar in your inbox. If you track down the right email address, the sidebar displays additional contact information like names, social media profiles, and websites to confirm you’re reaching the right person.
5. Productivity and project management
One of the toughest parts of being self-employed is finding the discipline to complete tasks every day without anyone reminding you about them. Productivity often becomes the failure point for many freelancers, but there are affordable ways to organize and brainstorm.
– FreeMind: FreeMind is, in my opinion, the best mind-mapping tool out there. It allows you to take your thoughts and give them a clear representation on a computer screen. Mind mapping is in a league of its own when it comes to organizing stuff, compared to a Word document or a text list.
– Toggl: For $5 per month, this is a tracker that will help you monitor the time you’re spending on each project.
So there you have it, all the tools you need to start your career for as much as it would cost to buy a nice pair of headphones.
(Disclaimer: This article doesn’t include any costs of legally starting a business since those costs are very different in every country and state.)