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As a freelancer, you work hard trading your hours for clients’ dollars. This can be a profitable venture with the right skills, but eventually, every freelancer runs into the same problem: You want to earn more, but you’re all out of time.
At this point, freelancers have two options:
- Use your skills to land a high-paying full-time job, or;
- Scale your freelance work into a business.
What’s the difference between freelancing and running a business, you ask?
Both freelancers and entrepreneurs enjoy flexibility, autonomy, and other self-employment benefits.
However, while freelancers work in their business, entrepreneurs work on their business. A business owner’s income isn’t limited by hours in the day because businesses have processes and systems to keep cash flowing around the clock.
If this all sounds out of your wheelhouse, take a detour before starting your business to go back to school.
You can take online classes in vital business skills while continuing to freelance. You’ll learn how to make data-driven decisions in operations, marketing, and financial management. If you’re ambitious, you can even earn an MBA in as little as 12 months.
Once confident in your skills, take these steps to scale your freelance work into a full-time business:
1. Standardize with systems and processes
Running a business involves a lot of tiny, time-consuming tasks.
Business systems take these tasks and turn them into repeatable processes. It’s this standardization that lets businesses hire and train employees while maintaining consistent results.
It also frees up your time to focus on working on your business, not in it.
Business processes to systematize include:
- Employee onboarding.
- Lead generation.
- Order fulfillment.
To establish systems, document every step in a process and identify strategies to streamline them.
Software saves time while reducing human error in repetitive processes. For example, an employee app like Connecteam keeps training modules, employee handbooks, and scheduling all in one centralized knowledge hub.
For project- and client-based businesses, project management software like Monday breaks down projects into discrete steps and tracks progress towards completion.
2. Delegate and Automate
If you’re responsible for every task in your business, you’re inevitably limited by your own time. Delegating lets you accomplish more overall and focus your energy on what you do best.
Hiring employees is one of the biggest things separating business owners from freelancers. However, you don’t need a full team right away.
Hiring an admin or virtual assistant frees up time at an affordable cost. As you grow, look for employees with skills complementary to your own.
You can also delegate tasks to technology using automation. Instead of hiring an assistant, use integration to automatically sync data across apps.
You can integrate Quickbooks Online with online banking and payment apps, connect your Square POS with inventory software for real-time stock visibility, and even integrate your CRM with marketing automation software to nurture customers through the sales cycle.
3. Run your business like a business
By that, we mean organizing yourself as a bonafide company, buying business insurance, upgrading your business website with Divi Engine, and taking other steps to protect yourself and your clients.
These steps give first-time business owners a lot of anxiety, but covering yourself legally is less complicated than you might imagine. You’ll need to:
- Register your business as an LLC or corporation.
- Apply for a federal tax ID (EIN) and state tax ID if required.
- Obtain business permits and licenses.
- Open a business bank account.
- Purchase general liability insurance.
Writing business contracts is another key skill you’ll need.
Proposal apps like PandaDoc and Proposify streamline proposal creation and contract signing with templates, document tracking, and digital signatures so you stay covered with less effort.
More than anything else, transitioning from freelancer to entrepreneur requires a shift in mindset. Instead of providing labor in exchange for pay, business owners build organizations that succeed with or without their active participation.
Don’t expect this transformation to happen overnight, but with vision, strategy, and persistence you can create a business that sustains you and itself.
Cody McBride is the creator of TechDeck.info where he offers easy-to-understand tech-related advice and troubleshooting tips.