How to Write a Freelance Business Plan

How to Write a Freelance Business Plan

If you’re interested in becoming a freelancer, a sound business plan can provide a great foundation. By creating a freelance business plan, you can prepare for whatever comes your way while helping your business become more flexible and resilient. Much like a traditional business plan, a freelance business plan forces you to take an in-depth look at the viability of your business. It outlines strategies that you can reference to build your client base and grow your revenue.

If you plan to raise money to help get your freelancing business off the ground, your business plan can serve as the hook for potential investors. If you won’t need investors for your business, the program provides a roadmap that you can reference and revisit for inspiration and guidance.

The guide below will help you take the first steps toward creating an effective business plan for your new freelancing venture. This article reviews eight things that should be included in your freelance business plan, best practices to consider, and how to begin writing your business plan today.

8 essential elements to include in a freelance business plan

Launching a successful business takes time, dedication, adaptability, and planning. That is why it’s so important to have a well-outlined business plan in place.

Creating a detailed freelance business plan may seem like a daunting task. However, it will save you valuable time, minimize stress, and help you maintain a more steady income. There’s no better way to streamline everything than to create a detailed roadmap of what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it. If you’re ready to begin mapping out your journey as a freelancer, here are eight essential elements to consider when putting together your freelance business plan.

1) Company summary and purpose

Every business has a story; this is your chance to tell your business’s story. The company summary, also called an executive summary, should include an overview and the purpose of your business. The information in this summary provides an outline for the main points covered throughout the rest of your freelance business plan. Your company summary should focus on offering a short introduction to your brand, what you’ll achieve, and why you want to do it. This establishes the priorities of your business and sets the foundation for your business.

If you intend to share your plan with potential investors, it’s essential to emphasize the value and uniqueness of your business in this section. You want to hook the reader (potential investors), so they want to keep reading your plan. In other words, get the investors invested.

2) Target market or target audience

After detailing your unique brand story, your next step is to identify the target market for the services you offer. If you’re unsure about who your target audience is, you can start by thinking about potential clients. Are they in a specific industry? As you think about these potential clients, create a list of their similar characteristics. This will allow you to develop a buyer persona for deeper insight into who they are, their problems, and how you can solve those problems.

3) Your services

Turning your skills into a service is the first step to becoming a freelancer. As a freelancer, it is your responsibility to understand the client’s problem and position your skills in a way that will resolve their issues. To do this, you’ll need to know how your skills can help a prospective client. You’ll want to use this insight as the foundation of how you package your skills as a service.

  • This section is where you outline the details of your service offerings.
  • Do you create content, or are you a freelance writer?
  • Are you a mobile developer, web developer, or programmer?
  • Are you in graphic design, or do you do product design?

In your freelance business plan, develop a brief description of each service you plan to offer clients. Try to concisely explain what you’ll do and outline the process you’ll use to execute that service.

It would be beneficial to your plan if you also talked about how you’ll offer your services to clients. Will you have packages? Would you only do work on a per-project basis? You can also include other details, such as if you’ll have rush fees or how many free revisions you’re willing to do.

Planning for more than one business income stream can help make your business more resilient. Annual research in the Freelance Forward report found that many freelancers offer more than one product or service. If you’re looking to develop a new skill, start by reviewing some of the most in-demand freelance jobs and skills. However, this doesn’t mean you need to launch something entirely new. There are numerous ways to funnel your knowledge into new revenue streams. You could expand your service offering by applying your existing skills to a new niche or repackaging your services in a new way that provides clients multiple ways to start working with your freelance business.

4) Competitor differentiation plan (niche)

In the world of freelancing, there will be competition. This section of your freelance business plan is all about getting to know your competitors. You should identify what your competition is doing and how you’ll do things better. You’ll have to be aware of where you stand and how your services compare. Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • How will I be different?
  • What will make my freelance services stand out?
  • How can I provide more value than my competitors?
  • What are my competitors charging, and how is their pricing structured?
  • What unique value do I bring to my clients that my competitors can’t offer?

Keep in mind that competitors aren’t limited to just freelancers offering the same services. You may also face competition from agencies, established businesses, software/technology, and other ways to solve the problem that your service addresses.

5) Client acquisition and management

If you don’t know how to build a stable client base, your chances of long-term business success are slim. In this section, your objective is to explain how you’ll create a steady stream of ideal clients and how you’ll be able to gain their trust to become repeat customers. Freelancing is about forming and strengthening relationships. You get acquainted with a client, agree on your services, and then it is your business’s responsibility to meet or exceed the client’s expectations.

How to find new clients

Building a stable client base is your ticket to freelancing success. However, getting clients to come to you, especially when you’re just starting, is not an easy task. Your success in acquiring the first few clients comes down to your ability to find the clients in your target market and connect with them in a way that showcases your ability to solve their problems. Consider the following questions about how you’ll grow your business and find new freelance clients:

  • Are you able to understand your prospective clients’ problems?
  • Are you able to develop an effective solution and position your services as the answer that will solve their issues?
  • Are you able to sell your services and represent your past successes with a solid portfolio of case studies?

If you have a plan for these items, your chances of getting that first and second client increase dramatically. If you’re entirely new to your line of work and don’t have an established portfolio yet, don’t stress. Sometimes just placing yourself “at the right place, at the right time” can land you that coveted first project.

With that, there are many different places to find those clients. Upwork is the world’s work marketplace, with thousands of freelance opportunities posted every day.

How to keep clients & grow your business

Long-term growth will usually depend on how well you can keep clients happy so that they’ll keep coming back for more projects. After all, clients tend to stick around to those who consistently provide good results.

How often do you reach out to companies you’ve worked with in the past? Satisfied clients can bring tremendous value to your business: a study on the ROI of customer experience found happy customers are at least 75% more likely to purchase again, as well as more likely to refer someone. To determine how you can keep clients happy, ask yourself questions such as:

  • How often can I go the extra mile?
  • What are the most effective ways to communicate with clients?
  • Should I engage clients in a certain way?
  • How well can I simplify things and make it easier for them?
  • How can I reward those who are loyal?

As you grow, it’s challenging to balance the number of clients you have and the number of projects you’re working on at any moment. You don’t want to overcommit yourself and, if you already have a good routine, taking on more work can feel like a risk. However, greater demand gives you the luxury of options such as raising your rates, being more selective about the projects you take on, or expanding into an agency.

6) Marketing and sales strategies

The next thing to include in your freelance business plan is a marketing and sales strategy. Marketing is not a one-size-fits-all type thing. It is essential to have your marketing strategies listed in your freelance business plan so that you can track your marketing success and learn to draw in your prospective clients more effectively. Create a practical approach that emphasizes your business strengths and reaches qualified leads, all without taking up too much of your time.

Upwork marketplace and freelance platforms

Freelance marketplaces have served as the starting point for many successful freelancing careers. You can find thousands of projects on these platforms, such as Upwork. These platforms can even serve as the primary source of clients and income for growing freelance businesses.

Getting yourself known in these marketplaces can take time and effort. Setting up an engaging and effective profile and perfecting your proposal pitch should be seen as essential steps in growing your business on these platforms. As you build up a reputation, you’ll hopefully get to a point where clients on these platforms are coming to you instead of you seeking them out and applying.

Below are some other marketing strategies to consider when writing your business plan:

  • Website & SEO
  • Social Media Advertising
  • Digital & Search Ads (PPC)
  • Email Marketing
  • Traditional Advertising - TV, Radio, Print
  • Public Relations

For more ideas check out Upwork’s article, “How to Market Your Freelance Business.”

7) Goals, milestones, and timelines

Every business should define an initial revenue target. Setting sales goals is the backbone of strategic business planning. The first step is to ask yourself how much money you want to make inside a specific time frame, such as in the next three to six months. Say you want to make $10,000 in the next six months. To reach that amount, determine how many clients you would need to acquire to make it happen (e.g., three new clients each month).

After determining your target amount and client volume, setting milestones with timelines is an essential part of freelancing success. These timelines can help you focus and use your time more efficiently. Deciding to “go for it” and then improvise as needed may not get you the results you want. Similar to the overarching business planning process, you need to take a moment and get more specific on the things you want to accomplish. Important smaller milestones might include:

  • Getting ‘x’ number of followers per week on social media.
  • Sending ‘x’ number of project proposals per week.
  • Having ‘x’ number of clients in six months.
  • Doubling your income in one year.

Next, you’ll need to describe the realistic ways that you’ll achieve these goals.

  • Do you need to advertise to gain more followers?
  • Can improving your website entice more clients?
  • Should you specialize in a particular niche to be able to charge more?

8) Financial plan and expenses

Every business needs a budget to cover its expenses. A good financial plan allows you to utilize your budget and prioritize spending effectively. Going through the financial planning process helps you create a list of expenditures that you can prioritize. When it comes to freelancing expenses, if you’re trying to grow your business through advertising, it could quickly use a vast bulk of the budget. A financial plan can tell you if your marketing efforts are getting the returns you intended and can even give signals if you need to change your strategies to produce better results. Suppose financial planning sounds overwhelming and outside of your comfort zone. In that case, you can always use the online resources and tools to assist in this portion of your planning, or you can outsource those questions to an accountant or bookkeeping professional.

Best practices to consider when creating your business plan

Plan for the unexpected

Freelancing can be unpredictable. If your business depends on your availability to do the work, it’s crucial to consider what will happen to your business if you’re unexpectedly unavailable.

  • How will you fulfill your client and business needs if you’re gone for a week, a month, a year?
  • Do you have a network of other freelancers who can ask for help—perhaps as subcontractors—if you’re unable to meet commitments?
  • Can someone else communicate need-to-know information to your clients?
  • Are there processes in place to keep specific areas of your business running even if you’re not there?
  • What safeguards and backups do you have for your business information?
  • Do you know what resources are available to your business?

Fortunately, there are some things that you can plan for so that you’re prepared when unexpected circumstances arise.

Start saving and create an emergency fund

Markets experience ups and downs, and in freelancing, what may be lucrative at one point can become scarce in another. Securing your finances before starting freelancing full-time will save you from a few bad financial decisions and help you during times of economic uncertainty. The standard advice is that everyone should have an emergency fund, enough money saved to cover at least three to six months of expenses, depending on your circumstances. When your business is doing well, it is always a good idea to boost your savings and grow your emergency fund. That way, during lean times when you lack a regular workflow, you’ll still be able to cover your business essentials.

Plan for low demand

Dips in the markets may mean less workflow for many. Lean moments may be an excellent time to up your game and double your efforts in acquiring new clients. With the presence of high unemployment, slow business, and health concerns, you may need to change your approach. A good review of Section 5 (Client Acquisition & Management) of your plan allows you to tweak this approach. Ask questions like how you can make things easier for clients and provide more value as a partner to help your clients get back on their feet.

If you’re a solo freelancer, your business depends entirely on your availability. During a pandemic or an average day, anything can happen. It is always helpful to consider a backup plan for your business if you suddenly become unavailable to work. Can you have people that can cover for you while you’re gone? Are there sound operational processes in place for your business for when someone takes over?

Review and update your freelance business plan

A business plan should be frequently reviewed and proactively updated. You don’t want to wait for an unexpected event and have your business plan helplessly out of date. Continually updating your document allows you to keep things organized, track your progress, and let you know how well your business is doing so that you can make better decisions.

Start creating your freelance business plan today

Now that you’ve learned all the essential things that a good freelance business plan needs, it’s time to start writing yours. A well-written program provides a clear roadmap for the future, and how detailed it is can either make or break a business. If you’re looking for a template to use, you can start with the eight essential things in this article to help you structure an outline. There are also many services available online to help you create a personalized freelance business plan. You can use pre-existing templates or even hire someone to write your business plan for you.

Hire someone to write your business plan for you

If you want to have your business plan as personalized and unique as possible without writing it yourself, hiring expert freelancer business plan writers or consultants is an excellent choice. These professionals have the experience and skill necessary to create a well-polished document that conveys your business objectives. Just make sure to find one that can effectively express your business objectives and represent your business.

Put your plan into action

Finally, you’ve outlined your goals, ideas, budget plans, client acquisition strategy, and many other vital aspects of your new freelance business. Make sure that you understand this plan inside and out. It’s going to serve as your guide when things get complicated and confusing.

After doing all of the hard work and planning, it’s time to make sure that everything is executed the way you intended. Keep in mind that a plan doesn’t necessarily have to be set in stone. Your business, the market, and you may undergo some changes along the way. It’s essential to update your plan regularly so it always aligns with your goals, objectives, and the things you value the most. Remember your motivation for starting your freelance business journey—this will give you energy, and your business plan will give you focus.  

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Author Spotlight

How to Write a Freelance Business Plan
Sean Cope
SEO Writer

Formerly a full-time in-house marketing director, Sean Cope began building an SEO and content creation company by freelancing on Upwork. He has enjoyed working with clients in various industries, leading them to achieve their business goals and higher Google search rankings. Sean is passionate about helping new clients in growing their businesses through search engine optimization, content writing, and digital marketing.

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