Continuing on my post from last week, I'm offering advice to marketing research professionals who want to go freelance. Here are a few more thoughts about getting started... Name & Legal Entity
One of the biggest questions when I started was whether I should give the company a name or simply go by my own name. My husband, the marketer and graphic artist, insisted that I come up with a name for the company both for branding and for flexibility. I spent months thinking about the name, going through multiple iterations, checking for available website URLs, etc. In retrospect, I probably would recommend just going with your first and last name if you want to get off to a quick start, especially if you are going to be selling your skills and not specific products and services.
All that being said, I love my company name - Harvest Insights - and the logo, but I honestly still have difficulty explaining what Harvest Insights is when I hand over my card to someone who knows I'm freelance. We usually have some awkward conversation that sounds like:
Potential Client: "Oh, so what's Harvest Insights?"
Me: "It's just me. Just a company name for me. That's pretty much all you're getting is me."
Hmm...maybe I should come up with a better elevator speech than that, but that's a blog for another day.
The legal entity issue is something else entirely, and I'll admit that I'm not qualified to discuss whether you should set yourself up as an LLC, c-corp, s-corp, or whatever else. I will, however, tell you that all of these legal and businessy things take time. You should plan on it taking a week or so to get your legal entity set up, go to the bank to set up an account, file with the state, get and EIN number, fill out whatever other paperwork is required, etc. Somewhere in this span of time, you should set up an appointment with your accountant. If you don't have an accountant, get one. They can help you figure out what you are going to need to pay every quarter in taxes. That's a vitally important piece of information because it will influence how much you need to gross to make this whole endeavor worthwhile.
Services to Offer
For some of you, this is going to be very easy. Maybe you are a trained moderator, and you just want to take on qualitative projects as such. That's pretty straightforward and very easy for everyone to understand. However, if you have quantitative skills or report writing experience or infographic expertise or meeting facilitation training, then you've got a more complicated proposition. Going into Harvest Insights, I had experience in a lot of different methodologies - qual and quant. Plus, I was a trained moderator. It was really difficult for me to figure out how to explain that succinctly to potential clients. Saying that you can do everything is basically the same as saying that you can do nothing because people don't know when to call you.
So, I ended up making a list of the two or three skills that I thought I could sell - report writing, moderating, and some quant services among them. From experience, I can tell you that moderating is the easiest thing to sell. Lots of companies use freelance moderators, and it's a great way to get your foot in the door. Then, you can diversify your offerings as clients become more comfortable with you.
Assuming that you've figured out what you are selling and the name you are selling it under, there are a few very basic marketing pieces that you need to have in your back pocket. These are the things that potential clients are going to want to see from you.
- Business Cards - Basic must-have. You can get them printed online or go to Office Depot and get them done if you are in a rush. Office Depot is expensive, but I was in a panic once and they printed a sample run for me to approve for free which was enough for me to get through my first business meeting. Then, I printed the rest online for a lot cheaper.
- Electronic Business Cards - These are very easy to set up in Outlook or most other email platforms. You basically are attaching your contact entry to a prospecting email so that they can quickly and easily save it in their files.
- Resume - When you are thinking about a resume as a freelancer, keep it short and sweet. If you can do an infographic resume, go for it because that will set you apart and make you memorable. If not, try something simple and clean that will highlight experience that is relevant to the skills you are selling. They don't need to know that you sold make-up 15 years ago if you are selling your report writing skills.
- Writing or Report Sample - No matter what service you are selling, you have to have some type of writing sample because you never know when someone is going to ask if you can write a topline for the groups you just finished or a summary of the bulletin board project. I know it's difficult because you have proprietary reports that you can't share, but get creative. Have you had an article published that you can share? Do you keep a professional blog? Can you blind the executive summary of an old report?
- Online Presence - You need to have some type of online presence in this day and age. That doesn't mean that you have to set up some very complicated website, but at least have a LinkedIn or even a Facebook Page for your business. It's not that people are necessarily going to find you that way, but it legitimizes you for potential clients. If you are going to market yourself to people that you don't know yet, then you have to have this type of presence.
Alright, I think that's enough blathering on for today. I will continue in the next post with some details on where to look for clients and other getting started tips.