Your Guide to Building a Thriving Freelance Business From Scratch in 2021
By Craig Cannings
We often talk about freelancing as a journey, and like any journey, it begs the question, “Why do it?” Why is this journey worth embarking on instead of staying where things are comfortable and familiar? We want to know that there’s a benefit to heading out into unfamiliar territory. We want to know that the benefits outweigh the risks.
You might be considering this journey for a number of reasons. Maybe you’re at a crossroads, faced with the need to choose a direction that will most benefit your professional and personal life. Maybe freelancing is a dream you’ve had for a while, and now is the time to pursue it. Or maybe you’re being forced to make a change because the brick and mortar business you worked for has been affected by the global pandemic.
In any case, you need facts to back up your decision. Solid facts give you a solid foundation to build on. And they ease your mind as you step out of your comfort zone.
If you were heading out on a vacation, you’d research the destination and determine why it’s worth going to. In the same way, we can research the freelance industry and view stats that show its benefits. Here are some important facts to consider.
Since the topic is extensive and covers broader perspectives of freelancing, we have prepared a quick overview for every chapter so that it is easy for our readers to navigate and understand.
The Ultimate Guide for a Thriving Freelance Business from Scratch
- The opportunities of a successful freelancer (The growth of freelancing)
- How does the market affect freelancing business in 2021 (Major Shifts Driving the Growth of Freelancing in 2021)
- What drives people to opt for freelancing (Why People Choose to Pursue Freelancing)
- The booming freelancing opportunities (10 Types of Freelance Opportunities Emerging)
What are the steps of becoming a successful freelancer? (10-Step Success Road Map to Becoming a Freelancer)
How to determine your entrepreneurial readiness? (Develop an Entrepreneur's Mindset)Click here
Channelizing your own productivity and output (Build Your Personal Productivity System)Click here
The Growth of Freelancing
The global pandemic has caused unprecedented challenges for brick and mortar businesses over the past year. You may know people who are now out of work because physical distancing has restricted in-person services.
And while all this is happening, the freelance economy has quietly flourished. In fact, during the second quarter of 2020, freelance job postings rose by 41%, according to a Forbes article in November 2020. Furthermore, 47% of small “in-house” businesses indicated they are more likely to work with freelance professionals than before the global pandemic.
Major Shifts Driving the Growth of Freelancing in 2021
The growth of freelancing will continue in 2021 for several reasons. First of all, remote work has gone mainstream. In the past, it was uncommon to see people working from home. But now a huge proportion of the workforce has begun working from home because of physical distancing restrictions.
At the same time, freelancing has gone mainstream. There’s a growth in demand for specialized digital skills to complete important projects quickly. And in an uncertain economy, businesses will opt for more cost-effective freelance options over expensive in-house staff.
Why People Choose to Pursue Freelancing
Our 2020 Freelance Professional Report, a comprehensive survey of 275 active freelancers, shares findings that support the freelance journey:
- The top motivation for starting a freelance business was flexibility.
- Since the onset of COVID-19, 66% of respondents shared that their freelance businesses either stayed the same or grew during this uncertain time.
- In light of our current global pandemic, a resounding 78% of our respondents believe that the opportunities in the freelance space are still increasing.
- 72% of the respondents feel that the opportunities for VAs and freelancers are only increasing — The future is bright!
How Times of Recession Spur Innovation and New Opportunities
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”
– Brené Brown
In 2009, after “The Great Recession,” 550,000 new businesses launched in the US. As the Brené Brown quote illustrates, challenging times inspire creativity in entrepreneurs. While some opportunities end, others begin.
This excerpt from an article written shortly after “The Great Recession” in 2008 explains why:
“Economic crises like the current one have devastating economic and social costs, but they also give rise to major rounds of technological innovation. That’s why I call them Great Resets. There was a significant spike in patents in the wake of the Panic and Long Depression of 1873 — and subsequent decades saw the rise of major new innovations from the light bulb, phonograph, and telephones to systems innovations like electric power, telephone systems, and urban transit (i.e. street cars, cable cars, and subway systems). The Great Depression was far and away the most ‘technologically progressive decade of the 20th century,’ according to the detailed research of economic historian Alexander Field, outpacing the high-tech boom of the late 20th century by a considerable margin.”
Richard Florida, The Atlantic Senior Editor
Qualities Required to Reset and Grow Freelance Opportunities
As you can see, freelance opportunities await. But it’s up to you to prepare yourself to make the most of them. So, as you begin your freelance journey, remember to pack these four qualities in your suitcase:
- 1. PROACTIVENESS – Intentionally researching and brainstorming new ideas and seeking new opportunities
- 2. GRIT – Persisting at all costs in the face of adversity
- 3. CREATIVITY – Thinking “outside the box” and finding innovative ways to solve client problems
- 4. NEW LEARNING – Learning and developing new in-demand skills clients need now.
And now that we’ve explored the benefits of freelancing and discovered it’s a journey worth taking, let’s explore the lay of the land. We’ll discover what types of clients inhabit the freelancing world and how you can help them.
9 Types of Clients Affected by the Pandemic
In 2020, the world changed. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, many businesses had to shut their doors, deemed unsafe to continue serving customers face to face. Client industries most affected by the coronavirus are as follows:
- Real Estate
- Brick & Mortar Retailers
- Travel & Hospitality
- Event Planning & Related Professions (Photographers & Videographers)
These businesses were faced with a decision — adapt to the situation or close their doors forever. Thankfully, many can draw on innovation and creativity to meet the unexpected challenge. They can shift their activities online.
With that in mind, here are nine types of clients affected by the pandemic:
CLIENT #1: Ecommerce Store Owners
- Companies that sell digital or physical products that don’t rely on a brick and mortar presence,
like courses and ebooks.
- Many brick and mortar businesses are making the shift to selling products online.
CLIENT #2: Course Creators
- Forecasted to grow to $325 billion by 2025 (Forbes)
- Many conference speakers and related businesses will be looking to sell digital courses right now.
CLIENT #3: Coaches, Consultants & Counsellors
- Many are moving their in-person coaching online, such as fitness instructors livestreaming on Facebook and YouTube.
- Coaches will be looking to digitize their content in the form of ebooks, courses, podcasts, webinars, etc.
CLIENT #4: Software & App Developers
- Software is emerging that helps us do life from home, along with tools and apps that are relevant to our daily lives.
- Some examples are Zoom, meditation apps, productivity tools, and more.
CLIENT #5: Membership Site Owners
- Online entrepreneurs will need help setting up membership sites with exclusive access to content, training, and interaction with members.
- As more people spend time online, niche membership sites will grow.
CLIENT #6: Hobby-Based Businesses
- Hobbies such as puzzle-making, crafting and scrapbooking are increasing during this time of social distancing.
- For example, Susan Weeks’ podcast, “Stitchery Stories,” is expected to have higher download numbers.
CLIENT #7: Authors
- We expect to see growth in digital and physical book sales while people are at home.
- Authors will need help marketing their books online and setting them up on Kindle.
CLIENT #8: Businesses who formerly relied on Marketing Agencies
- Many businesses may be shifting from expensive marketing agencies to freelancers who offer specialized services.
CLIENT #9: Essential Service Businesses
- Online grocery delivery, pharmacies, restaurants, mobile car repair businesses (and more) will need help with social media, customer support, online ads, content marketing, and ecommerce support.
10 Types of Freelance Opportunities Emerging
You may be wondering now what specific types of freelance work would support businesses affected by the pandemic. The needs are overwhelming, and freelancers are uniquely positioned to provide a calming presence in the midst of a storm. Below are some specific services in demand as new opportunities emerge:
Service #1: Digital Marketing
Digital Marketing Opportunities
- Social Media support for businesses to share their messages, content, and discounts with the world
- Email list building and management to help clients effectively communicate with their subscribers
- Search Engine Optimization so businesses can get listed high in Google Search
- Web analytics using tools like Google Analytics to help businesses better understand their web audience
Service #2: All Virtual Events & Media
Virtual Event Opportunities
- Provide training and education for businesses shifting to event tools like Zoom, YouTubeLive, and Facebook Live
- Managing and moderating online events
- Post-production of online events including audio and video editing, repurposing, and publishing on a website
- Setting up and coordinating a multi-day, multi-speaker virtual conference
Service #3: Ecommerce Set-up & Management
Ecommerce Service Opportunities
- Help set up ecommerce stores for companies needing to make the shift online
- Set up stores using tools like Shopify and WooCommerce
- Manage products, fulfillment, billing, and customer support
Service #4: Online Customer & Client Support
Customer Service Opportunities
- Companies like Amazon hiring thousands of remote support professionals
- Provide customer support for digital companies
- Utilize live chat and help desk tools like Help Scout and Zendesk
Client & Customer Support Opportunities
- Virtual Administration (email, document preparation, calendar)
- CRM / Lead Generation
- Financial Management / Bookkeeping
- Managing customer support or other business inquiries
- Utilizing help desk software such as Help Scout or Zendesk
Service #5: Virtual Project Management
Our global workforce has literally gone REMOTE overnight!
Virtual Project Management Opportunities
- Skilled Virtual Project Managers are in serious demand with the growth of our remote workforce.
- Manage tasks, projects, and teams using a variety of online project management and communication tools
- Provide project management consulting to help remote teams work efficiently
Service #6: Content Marketing Management
The consumption of digital media and content is at an all-time high!
Content Marketing & Management Opportunities
- Businesses move home and increase production of online content (more blog posts, podcast episodes, livestream, and articles)
- Help manage, produce and distribute online content (e.g. set up their blog on WordPress or set up their YouTube channel)
- Track and analyze content results
Service #7: Course & Content Creation & Editing
People who typically deliver content in person are moving online.
Course & Content Creation & Editing Opportunities
- Set up and manage course creation tools like Teachable, Thinkific, and Kajabi
- Create digital books and free content
- Proofread and edit a whole variety of content projects
Service #8: Web Design & Management
Web Design & Management Opportunities
- Companies need support to either upgrade their website or set up a new one.
- You can offer solutions to their problem and come up with fast-track web design projects.
The Many Income Streams of WordPress
- Membership Sites
- Ecommerce Systems
- Online Courses
- Marketing Funnels
- Forms and Surveys
- Security and Maintenance
Service #9: Technology Support
Technology Support Opportunities
Business shifting online need help using a variety of technology to power their business:
- Website Tools
- Ecommerce Tools
- Email Marketing and Automation Tools
- Membership Site Tools
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Tools
- Course Management Tools
- Web Tracking Tools
Service #10: Online Advertising
Businesses are turning to online ads to find their targeted audience!
Online Advertising Opportunities
- Provide online ad services for relevant businesses (e.g. restaurants, mobile garages, delivery services, etc.)
- Set up Facebook and Google Ads campaigns
- Monitor and manage ads and ad spend
- Track and optimize results
10-Step Success Road Map to Becoming a Freelancer
Now that we’ve looked at the benefits of freelancing and the types of services you can provide, it’s time to plot the journey. And for that, we need a road map.
This 10-Step Success Road Map provides guidance to prepare you and keep you moving forward as you pursue a fulfilling freelance career. Once you’ve traveled through each step, you can keep this road map as a guide when you need to adjust your course or refine your services.
Now, with that being said, here we go! Hang on and enjoy the ride!