How I Went from Freelancer to a Full-Time Business Consultant in 10 Steps

You’ve worked the 9 to 5 gig, the graveyard shift, and everything between.

You are well-versed in the careful balancing act between your job and your business. Maybe you’ve considered a career in professional juggling.

Time and time again, you find yourself working away in the wee hours of the morning. You always want to try to write one more post or create one more design before you begin your “real” job.

You may even question the rationality of becoming a freelancer. Do cubicles get you down? Maybe you’d like to be your own supervisor and have the freedom to create your own schedule. Perhaps you’re just allergic to your boss.

10 Crucial Steps to Scale-Up Your Business

Like you, I found myself “creatively moonlighting” in the wee hours of the morning. I sacrificed sleep like a bodybuilder sacrifices their blood, sweat, and tears.

I forgot what the so-called “free-time” was.

Before working in web design in Austin, I hit a rough patch in which no freelancer wants to find themselves. Forced to run back to my full-time job, I rethought my approach to my freelance business.

Now, as a leading Austin SEO consultant and designer, I’ve never looked back.

No matter the industry, If you’re starting out on the road of freelancing or have hit a rough patch, here are 10 critical steps that you should take to grow your business.

1. Seek Out Counsel and Expertise from the Experts

Freelancers of all experience levels are often more than happy to share their knowledge and expertise.  One of the best ways to learn how to succeed is to mimic those who have already succeeded.

#FREECON is just one of many ways in Austin that you can meet, collaborate, and learn from other freelancers. These conferences present the opportunity for education and lasting connections.

2. Step into Your Dream Client’s Shoes

Take the time to consider your dream client. Imagine what they look like, where you can find them, and how you can best attract them to your business. Determine the core values and services that you can offer your clients.

3. Be Confident, Know Your Worth, and Proofread Everything

You must know your value and how the services that you can provide exceed that of your competition. Confidence is key. Believe in your product or service in the same way you would like your clients to.

As a professional, it is crucial that you proofread anything that you submit to your clients, including emails or consultations. This is especially critical if you are striving to be a copywriter as documents full of errors can cause your potential clients to doubt your capability of success. Consider utilizing 3rd party programs that are designed to give your writing a boost, such as Grammarly.

4. Be a Good Steward of Time and Bill Hourly

While a flat fee is more appropriate in some cases, strive to bill hourly. Your time is one of your most important aspects, especially as a small business. Strive to bill hourly not only for the services that you offer but for consultations as well. The amount of time you will spend consulting in meetings and chats can quickly add up.

5. Qualify Your Clients and Ask Questions

When approached by a potential client, don’t be afraid to ask your client questions. Ask your clients about their budget and if they have a request for proposal (RFP). An RFP is a detailed spec sheet that includes all their business requirements. These proposals provide you with insight into their challenges. By understanding these business challenges, you can find a suitable solution.

Most committed clients have done their research and can provide a budget and an RFP. For serious clients that have not yet built an RFP, propose a small fee in exchange for your services. Then, do the research and assist them in defining their RFP in a manner that will meet their budget goals.

6. Set Clear Expectations of Work and Payment Terms

You can avoid future hassles if you define clear statements of work and payment terms upfront with your clients. Determine the amount you would need upfront for contracts large and small.

As an Austin SEO consultant and web designer, I request half of payments upfront for small contracts. For more significant deals, I ask for about a third of fees upfront.

However, you should always honor client requests about longer turnarounds on payments.

7. Utilize a Great Time Tracking and Invoicing System

You can save yourself a lot of time and hassle by utilizing a great time tracking and invoicing system. Systems such as Freshbooks can help you to track each hour that you spend committed to tasks for your clients. Utilizing these systems can substantially increase your profit margin.

8. Invest in Other Entrepreneurs

As you grow your business, it is crucial that you invest in other entrepreneurs. Productivity is significantly impacted when investing in qualified, reliable independents. By recognizing the talent in others, your business will have the opportunity to expand further.

One way to ensure that you make significant investments in other entrepreneurs is by determining your skillset and the skills that you lack. For example, if you are a graphic designer, you may not have the technical skills required to make a business website that will help you shine. While business websites are essential for most industries, graphic designers need a place to showcase their work and gain exposure. By working with a web designer that has the skills that you lack, you can advance your business opportunities tremendously.

9. Maintain Your Client Focus

Maintain a client focus throughout each aspect of your business. Make yourself accessible and available to clients. Create boundaries, but CARE about each client and the services that you will provide them.

Strive to exceed expectations. Learn more about your clients and their business. When hiring other entrepreneurs, find those who are just as invested in your business as you are. This adds a tremendous amount of value to your clients as well as improves the product or service you provide.

10. Create Retainer Plans That Add Value

Create retainer plans that add value. It is best never to leave your day job until you have a solid plan for income. You can find a large number of marketing solutions online to suit your business needs. If contracting other freelancers, be sure to utilize their talents for your benefit. Strive to create monthly plans that not only offer value but solve problems.

What this will look like will depend on your business. For example, if you are a copywriter, you may agree to provide a specified amount of blog posts each month, update and spruce up a certain number of articles regularly, or you might agree to be at a client’s beck and call (within reason). If you are a graphic designer, it may make more sense for you to agree to a specified amount of hours each week or month. It is essential that you and your client decide on pay for tracked hours beyond the agreed-upon amount upfront in cases such as these.

Use Your Failures as a Guidepost for the Future

Failure is never the end of the road. When you fail, you have the opportunity to learn from your failings and aspire to do better next time. Always go back to the drawing board. Always stand back up if you fall.

Those who risk nothing gain nothing, so lose the fear. Take control of your day, your business, and your life. Recognize risk for what it can represent: an opportunity. As you venture into new territories and take on new risks, it is essential that you trust your judgment and know your limitations.

Stay encouraged. Entrepreneurship is NOT easy, and it’s not for everyone. There is no “get-rich” quick methodology that will help you succeed. In this business, you create your success through hard work, commitment, and dedication.


Justin Staples

For 15 years, Justin has guided businesses on a transformative journey through strategic marketing and design to craft their unique online identity.