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What is necessary when you start out on your freelance career?

Have you ever mislaid your reading glasses, or your car or front door keys? That book you were reading? How often have you looked for something you’ve mislaid only to find it there before your very eyes?

This often happens with people who dream of becoming a freelancer. They just cannot decide what they need – or not need – to embark on their freelancing career. It’s true, our imagination is the only limit to what freelancing career we choose to follow, but the huge choice of tools or resources to realise this freelancing career makes us blind to what is, or is not, necessary. Not only do the choices seem unlimited, but most are also expensive. And you are left questioning yourself on how to avoid making costly mistakes.

What are the two most frequently asked questions?

The two most frequently asked questions when starting out are:

  • What do I need?
  • What do I not need?

What do I need?

One of the first questions to ask in what you DO need, is the question of professional qualifications.

Do you need a professional qualification to support your freelance teaching career?

In some countries, you may not even be allowed to work without a qualification! To do otherwise, risks you working illegally.

  • Please check the law in the country where you work if a professional qualification is mandatory.

Once you have checked whether a professional qualification in the country you work in is by law compulsory, you can now decide whether you still want or even need a professional qualification. This will depend on the kind of freelancing career you have chosen. For example, teaching careers in academic subjects such as bookkeeping, chemistry or medicine requires professional qualifications. However, it is not absolutely necessary to be qualified if you want to teach how to play the piano or play the guitar.  A professional qualification does not guarantee that every professional pianist or guitarist who plays in an orchestra or band is a suitable music teacher. They can play their instruments, but cannot pass on their knowledge to a student so he can learn. A pedagogical qualification will show you have learnt the tools of trade but also how to instruct and teach a student.

You may not need a trainer’s licence if you are a football or handball trainer for children. Working as a handyman, part-time gardener or giving homework help, doesn’t usually need a professional qualification. Neither does selling your talent as a magician or clown. However, a speaker or presenter may require qualifications – but not necessarily. So what is important?

What is important is:

  • your enthusiasm and
  • the experience you bring from and into your chosen field.

The key point about professional qualifications is that in every freelancing career, your customers and students will need to perceive your expertise. And you need to support this perception – their perception – in the quality of your products or services. Because it is going to be your expertise that is going to convince your students to buy. This, your web site, and your back office service.

What else do I need?

What else do you have to have when you start up your freelance business?

  1. (optional) Further Education
  2. Web site
  3. The Back Office
  4. Teaching Equipment or Realia

If your chosen field means you do need a qualification, then you will have to search and plan time for the “what, when, and where” you can take a course for that necessary qualification. Once you have decided how to get it, the remaining questions are easily narrowed down to the fundamentals of running your business. The Web Site, The Back Office and the Teaching Equipment you need to carry out your freelancing teaching, training or coaching.

(optional) Further Education

A professional qualification has a bonus. It can help your peace of mind. For often, lack of self-confidence is your biggest enemy. Qualifications will make you FEEL as if you are qualified to become a freelancer.

Web site

You will need a web site to attract your global visitors. Not every freelancer has his business set up in a large city with people going past his doorstep. Most freelancers work from home, or in the country, or some other spot that is not easily accessible to the occasional passers-by. Modern reality is that today, everybody first refers to the Internet when they need a service or product. Usually, these customers and students visit several web sites to get the information they need. Then, and only then, they may go to a bricks and mortar business, or they may contact you direct through your web site.

It is not one hundred per cent necessary for a top, professional web site. But a web site you must have. It is, however, not free. But there are ways to keep these start-up overhead costs down.

If you do not have a web site, you are certainly losing business! You can read about how necessary an Internet presence is for your business by subscribing to the FTT Ezine and download the free report How to find customers or students?

This brings us to the Back Office – what it entails and the overhead costs it too will involve. Where can you keep these costs (the overheads in financial jargon) down?

The Back Office

First, what is meant by “Back Office”?

Back Office is another word for the administrative side of running your business. This can include the office space you use, the people working in your office, and of course, the (more expensive) equipment needed to run the administrative part of your freelance business. For example:

  • office space (rental),
  • office furniture,
  • computer,
  • printer,
  • scanner,
  • telephone, and
  • business cards.

Be aware! The Back Office is an area where you can seriously go overboard with expenditures and ruin your budding enterprise before it even begins… 🙁

Costs that cripple you are in those “nice-to-have” expensive equipment – and in personnel. Let members of your family help you when you are in the start-up phase. Hiring people is expensive and there are a lot of legal requirements that come with the hiring of personnel – not forgetting the paid holidays! When your business is established and expanding, you will have had time to gain the knowledge and wisdom to decide for or against hiring personnel.

Once you have sorted out the necessary Back Office equipment, there is another type of equipment you will have to consider: the teaching equipment (or realia) to carry out your freelancing job or project.

Teaching Equipment or Realia

🙂  This is something you have to decide for yourself! If you are a Tennis Instructor, you will need different equipment to a Football Trainer. Or a Golf Instructor. Or an English Teacher or Maths Professor. A Belly Dancer. A Music Teacher…

Important is to keep an eagle eye on the initial outlay and the running costs. Again – don’t go overboard and ruin your business before it can take off.

The second question of what you don’t need is important in that you avoid ruining your new business before it can take off. So what do you NOT need?

What do I not need?

If you can answer sufficiently well the question of what you DO need… the second question (What do I not need) is automatically resolved by process of elimination. 🙂

Summary + Action plan

Just like those keys, the problem of what you don’t need when you are starting up your freelance career is already staring you in your face. Which costs should I avoid? Having it put down, “black on white” so to speak, helps to clarify and put your thoughts into order.

Briefly, you will have to consider:

  1. (optional) Further Education: We spoke about whether a professional qualification is legally necessary, and whether it will morally support your self-confidence.
  2. Web site: A web site is important as it will raise your visibility with potential customers and students. There is a special (and free) report on how to ensure a steady stream of customers or students available when you register for the FTT ezine. Download the free report on How to find customers or students?
  3. The Back Office: A real and dangerous potential to explode your overhead costs. This area has to be closely watched to avoid “nice-to-have” but expensive outlays.
  4. Teaching Equipment or Realia: Similar to the Back Office, this is another potential hazardous area for overheads.

Disciplined in planning, and disciplined in keeping an eye on your overheads and outlays is the key to reduce the chance of overburdening your available resources. You will have better chances of surviving the first few years as a freelancer. If you don’t plan your costs in advance – or temporarily “mislay” them – just this once for that “nice-to-have” – you will find your new-found freedom as a freelancer slowly but surely slip-sliding away beneath your fingers.

Plan your outgoings as rigidly disciplined as you plan your work with your customers and students. Don’t allow yourself to weaken in your discipline of keeping the costs under control. The first few years are not the money bringing years. Once you have established your business and are visible to your customers, your finances will change and it is then you can afford the extra break, or that “nice-to-have”.

You know what is necessary to start-up and what is not… The “nice-to-haves” will just have to wait a little.

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