Getting set up as a freelancer is a lot easier than you think. Many people think you need a lot of money, even though there are scads of tutorials on people’s blogs about setting up a business on a shoestring budget. Actually, barring the tablet and computer time I purchased, setting up can be, and actually is a lot cheaper. That is if you are willing to work harder. No, becoming an independent contractor still isn’t free, there are costs involved. For instance you will need to pay for internet, a website, and possibly business cards. Here are a few more costs involved in setting up shop as a freelancer.
The basics are the business.
—Michael S. Clouse
1. Office Products
Not everybody will want to be as organized as I am, I’m sure, but keeping notes, client data, and lists of projects does make it easier to keep track of things. Aside from the usual supply of sticky notes, pens, pencils, highlighters, and a notebook, I’d say your most important expenses will be a planner to calendar with daily pages and a binder with organizer tabs and notebook paper. Because it is easier to keep your website and its content separate from, say, the 2 to 5 clients you are also keeping tabs on.
I know Annie hooked me on this when she started keeping notes on my website, when she was helping me set it up. It is super helpful not only to have a planner to sort out projects and client project due dates, but also that handy binder to keep lists of their contact data, security codes, and article lists. Because, when you are in a rush to get something done, it is way easier to flip to the fifth tab to find out the color code client XX wants is a hexadecimal of blue, than try to match it on a screen that may or may not show their exact color of blue in the text editor.
I know a few colleagues who use all the above products on their tablet or laptop, carefully sorting their calendars onto google Calendars and their notes in excel sheets. For me, working on a tablet, it’s harder to switch back and forth between screens when I’m typing. But you will want at least a means of typing our articles, a small $150 to $350 laptop will do, and a cell phone to create an internet hotspot.
If all you can afford is a free tablet, like I got, then go for it. Last year Verizon was doing this deal where the tablet was free if you signed up for a $10 data plan to go with it. Just pay the tax, which also got footed onto my phone bill. So for a hefty extra $11 a month, I have a tablet to work from, until I replace that water-ruined laptop I lost two summers ago.
3. Online Business Marketing
Many businesses cannot fathom why they need a website or social media. Let me tell you, the difference is catching all those people plugged into electronic media, or not. If you are not online you’re at the mercy of people being able to walk past your storefront to find you. Don’t have a store front because you are working from you laptop at a café? That’s why you need a website, it is your virtual storefront. The cost is someplace around $10 to $100, depending on hosting plans, carriers, and whatnot. It is still worth the virtual reality to purchase. Add to it social media accounts like Twitter and Facebook pages, and you are basically adding the internet equivalent of fliers and business cards to everyone who frequents the internet.
4. Offline Business Marketing
Business cards are all the rage still. I mean, why mess with a good thing, right? Business cards are about the only real offline marketing expense you need right away, as a freelancer. You basically need a card that you can hand to people when they ask you what you do and this card needs to tell them just what you do and how to get in touch with you. Business cards run from $10 to $50 and are well-worth the splurge.
5. Future Business Expenses
Just starting out as a freelancer means there are very few actual expenses. You can easily get away without having a computer for a while, if you frequent a local library. Which leaves just a notebook, planner, and business cards. You need to save up about $100 to get started.
I Got Started with Just $20
In fact, I started with supplies I got for about $5 at yard sales during my summer trip. Because buying a tiny RV and refurbishing it ate up my entire savings. So I found odds and ends at penny and dime bins any time I crossed paths with a typical garage sale sign. Then, a quick trip to a dollar store netted the big final expense of a daily, dated, day planner. Like I said previously, I bought the domain several years ago, so the recurring $10 renewal fee wasn’t much to keep up with, even though it really hurt some years to keep it up. Wrapping that up with the $5 deposit I placed on my tablet, and I think anyone can actually do this.
How You Can Get Started
If you want this thing to work, you’ve got to work this thing you want.
—Michael S. Clouse
Let’s add up you first expenses: Internet access (free at the library), computer (also free at the library), Hosting ($0 to $50 per year, depending on how you procure it), a domain name ($5.99 to $15.99), Business Cards ($15), and office supplies at a dollar store ($10 should cover everything – pens, pencils, highlighters, notebook, binder, planner, divider tabs, notebook paper, bag to carry it all in.) Total cost to get started $31 to $91. Can you afford this? Can you save up for it? I bet you can repay yourself for this after just one client too.