How to Create an Online Freelance Business Setup

Work desk with Apple productsThere are thousands and thousands of budding as well as seasoned freelancers making good money working remotely with their clients. Some of them are extremely successful, while others struggle to get their first client despite having all the talent and capabilities. Generally, it's the entire online setup that hinders your growth as a freelancer. The entire freelancing business setup comprises of several important modules that form a single cohesive unit. This setup not only helps you gain new customers but also lets you provide your services in an efficient way. A slight mistake in the setup can ruin your dream to be a top freelancer in your domain. Today, we're going discuss creating an effective and robust setup that serves as a backbone for your online freelancing business. You may have to invest a decent amount for creating this setup but the results will recover the costs incurred very quickly.

Work desk with Apple products

Get Professional Certifications

Before you start building an online setup, consider obtaining essential certifications tailored specifically for freelancers. Generally, customers trust freelancers possessing these certifications as they add credibility to your resume.

In fact, some of the clients with big projects may not hire you at all (no matter how talented you are) if you do not have a certification related to the project. Here's a list of some of the most important certifications for freelancers that make you stand out from the crowd. While creating your portfolio, highlight these certifications prominently explaining their significance and importance. This way, the customers who're unaware of these certifications may know about your skills in a better way increasing the probability of getting a lead from the prospect.

Register & Legalize Your Freelance Business

Although you can start your freelancing business without any kind of legal procedures, I'll strongly suggest you register your business from the very beginning to avoid any kind of disputes or anomalies that may creep up later.

If you're a US citizen, here's a handy guide to register your freelance business in an easy way. For people living in other countries, you may visit your local government's official website to obtain relevant information for getting your business registered in a correct way.

There's one more important step that must be considered once you start getting clients on a regular basis. Hiring a chartered accountant for looking after your finances is vital for not only complying with financial regulations of your country, but it also lets you concentrate on the main job of providing top-notch services to your clients.

Decide Your Services

Freelancers are often multi-talented and fall into the trap of offering dozens of services to their clients. This makes the entire setup unmanageable resulting in missed deadlines and poor quality of work. To avoid such distasteful situations, you must carefully plan about the services you're going to offer to your clients. Following are some of the important factors that must be considered while choosing the type of services you're going to include in your portfolio.

  • Go with your strength - Identify the skills in which you're completely comfortable and have in-depth knowledge. Filter out every other secondary skill that is generally used to supplement the primary work.
  • Create an unambiguous definition of each service - Sometimes newbies fill their services page with tons of different kinds of services and that too in an ambiguous manner. This only creates confusion in the minds of potential clients instead of helping them take a decision. You must define each primary service you're going to offer and must give a clear title and description to it before including it in your services page.
  • Outline the scope of each service - Deciding the service alone doesn't solve the problem. You must define the boundaries of each service that clearly defines the sub-tasks that will be included in it. This way each of your clients will know beforehand about what he will get while purchasing a particular service package.

Decide Pricing Structure

This is one of the most important parts of setting a freelance business. Newbies often struggle to come up with a proper pricing structure that leads to disputes with customers regarding payments. There are several important considerations that must be pondered upon while deciding the payment structure for each of your primary services. Here are some of the basic guidelines that will help you formulate a clear and unambiguous pricing structure.

  • Select base price for each service - This is the minimum price tag for each of your primary services. It can go up depending on the type of project and you must mention it clearly on the pricing page. The base price clearly specifies the minimum amount a customer has to pay for availing a particular service.
  • Decide on hourly or one-time price structure - Some freelance services are provided on hourly rate (e.g. blog consulting), while others are more suitable for a one-time lump sum price (e.g. logo design). You must categorize your services on the basis of these two pricing structures and must come up with reasonable rates for both the categories.
  • Decide the upfront payments - This is yet another important consideration while deciding the pricing structure. Some projects demand entire fee payment beforehand, while others may be started after taking the initial amount. This upfront amount must be decided on the service-to-service basis and must be clearly mentioned on the pricing page.
  • Decide installments structure - Some long projects that stretch up to several months must be carried along with regular installments from the customers. You must chalk out a clear-cut strategy for such kind of projects and must decide the number of installments, their size and the intervals when they will be paid by the client.
  • Decide mode of payments - There are several ways a freelancer can accept payments from the clients. Check, wire transfers, direct bank deposit, payments through 3rd part service like PayPal are some of the methods that can be employed to receive money from your clients. You must select the most convenient and the safest option that involves speedy processing and transfer of money to your bank account.
  • Decide refund policy - Nothing is perfect and sometimes things go the wrong way leading to the cancellation of an order from the customer. In such cases, he may demand a refund for the amount already paid while signing the deal. Generally, the partial amount is refunded if the client decides to cancel the order without any valid reason. You must have a clear policy related to refunds on a separate page and you must link to it on your pricing page.

Prepare Contract Templates

Every serious freelancer has to deal with signing up for different kinds of contracts with the customers while taking up medium to large scale projects. There's no predefined or standard format for such types of contracts and they differ depending on the project and the agreement between both the parties. However, there are some important traits that must be included in every contract agreement. Make sure you consider the following points while preparing contracts for various services.

  • Include all clauses in a bullet list - Instead of writing long paragraph; separate each clause through a bullet list. This makes the entire contract easy-to-understand and leaves no chance of any ambiguity.
  • Include signature field for both parties on the same page - Both client's and freelancer's signature should be included on the same page in such type of contracts. This can be very helpful in case a dispute arises and the contract document is presented in the court.
  • Highlight important clauses in bold - All critical clauses must be in bold to emphasize their importance. In fact, you can also include important sections within colored boxes if the agreement is printed in rich HTML format.
  • Clearly state pricing & duration - Base price, additional charges, installments, refund procedure and other important financial information must be included a separate section.
  • Include full name with web links (if any) - This is very useful strategy to establish identification of an individual while signing freelance contracts. Apart from including the complete name, you must supplement it with links to his website, blog, email address and social media accounts.
If you're not sure about preparing a contract template, here's a comprehensive guide to creating freelance contracts that can be used for almost any kind of service.

Create Your Portfolio Site Structure

Every portfolio site is unique in terms of design, layout, and content. Although different important sections at the macro level are more or less same in these sites, still you need to carefully craft each section according to your business needs. A typical portfolio website consists of the following important elements.

  • Static front/home page - This is where most of your potential clients' lands when they visit your portfolio site for the first time. Include a large feature box right below the header summarizing about your services in a graphical format. You may include your own photograph within the feature box. Right below the feature box include different sections of partial bullet lists tabulating the services, pricing and testimonials with a link leading to the dedicated page for each section.
  • Services page - While designing your services page, make sure you do not include pricing on the same page. All you need is individual sections with details of each service you're offering with a link to corresponding pricing entry on the pricing and plans page. If a service doesn't have a fix price format, make sure you include a 'Request a quote' link to let customers contact you for further details.
  • Pricing page - This is an important section that must be designed very carefully. While mentioning the price in dollars, you must make it clear whether you're referring to US dollar or some other currency. Include a link to refund policy page, wherever applicable. You must also include discount pricing for bulk orders to encourage more leads.
  • Testimonials page - A good number of potential clients love to take a look at the existing work you've done with previous clients. Testimonials page is the perfect place to showcase your success and your satisfied customers. Include testimonials, photos and website links for each of the customer included on your testimonials page. If you're including contact information of some of the customers, make sure you've taken prior permission about the same.
  • About page - Although the entire portfolio site is all about you, still a dedicated 'About' page is a must to let potential clients know about you in detail. Include your front close up photograph, your mini-biography and all your certifications on this page. Also, include links to your social media accounts on your about page.
  • Blog link - If you want more leads for your freelancing business, you need organic traffic on your portfolio site. To pull this targeted traffic, you must include a blog to generate fresh content on a regular basis that will help you attract more traffic from various search engines.
  • Privacy policy page - All the visitors' information you're collecting on your portfolio site must be disclosed on the privacy policy page to keep things transparent for everyone. This also adds credibility to the site as you're not keeping anything under the curtains.
  • Refund policy page - This page is closely related to your pricing page. You must include a detailed refund policy with each clause written separately in the form of a bullet list. Use legends for service-specific clauses so that potential customers can know about the package on which a respective clause is applicable.
  • Copyright policy page - This is yet another important page for your portfolio website. Competitors often steal call-to-action banners and similar graphical elements from a portfolio website. You must write a detailed copyright policy to deal with such situations. Make sure you include a link to this page in the footer of every single web page on your portfolio website.
If you not sure about the design and layout for your portfolio website, here's a good list of stunning freelance portfolio websites for your inspiration. This will help you in kick-starting your site design process. Needless to say, you must respect the copyright policy of these websites and should strive to create a unique version that suits your business needs.

Essential Software & Tools Needed For the Entire Setup

Things discussed till now are mostly done on papers. Creating the entire setup, in reality, is completely different from creating plans, diagrams, and policies on papers. So let's get started and see how to use different tools and software to turn your portfolio site on papers into a live website ready to clinch deals from potential clients.

  • CMS & blogging software - When it comes to using content management system or a blogging engine for powering a portfolio website, WordPress is the most popular choice. It can be used both as a CMS as well as blogging software. This way you can use it both for your primary portfolio website as well as for the integrated blog.
  • Robust & secure payment software - Having a reliable and trustworthy payment processing system is critical for success of your freelancing business. If you're using WordPress, you can try these popular payment processing plugins that supports several popular payment gateways and services to collect money from your clients.
  • Squeeze & landing page creation software - Pricing and services pages are two of the most important elements that require special design and layout for getting good conversion rate. These key landing pages must not be left with the default layout present on other pages on your website. It's always better to use specialized squeeze and sales page designing software to craft these important web pages.
  • Membership software - If you're also offering membership packages for customers, you must integrate secure membership software on your portfolio website. Some of the popular membership software like vBulletin and aMember Pro gives you a powerful platform to launch your own subscription-based private forums made specifically for paying customers.
While designing your portfolio website, pay special attention to its speed. A sluggish site can drive away customers in no time. Make all prominent links easily traceable and do not hesitate to experiment with their placements within the entire template.

Miscellaneous Guidelines for Running a Freelancing Business

Now that you've got all the major details of launching your own web-based freelancing business, it's time to look into some of the general guidelines that must be followed to get most out of your endeavors. Including these guidelines in your overall business strategy will strengthen and optimize your entire setup giving you much more returns than you've anticipated.

  • Create a separate bank account for your freelancing business.
  • Religiously track all your conversion funnels.
  • Offer freebies to existing client base on a regular basis.
  • Be flexible while negotiating a deal.
  • Always give extended deadlines and deliver before the date.
  • Learn identifying non-paying customers.
  • Test and optimize key landing pages.
  • Always include cancellation clause within every contract.
  • Learn new methodologies to stay ahead of your competition.