This can seem like a huge task, but it’s really not as difficult as it might seem. After being laid off last year, I really didn’t know how to proceed. With no freelancers in my network, no clients lined up, and no clue how to even start, I started my business. In this blog post, I will share some of the things I have learned along the way and hope it will inspire you to get started as well.
Step 1: Get in the right mindset
Before you do anything, I think it’s important to take inventory of your current life. Many people dream of starting a freelance career while at their 9-to-5, but don’t actually start anything. I’m not hating, this is how I was too. Some people are able to do both their “regular” job while starting up a sidehustle. If this is you, I would encourage you to stay in your job while you are starting up your business to ensure you have an income. This will give you peace of mind as you’re not starting completely from scratch. HOWEVER, some people (myself included) need a kick in the butt to make their dreams come true. If you keep procrastinating on starting your business, I would encourage you to just rip off the bandaid and plan your exit from the job that’s holding you back. Start saving your current income so that you have a cushion, but I truly believe that a little bit of discomfort will be a great motivator.
The next step is to consider what your life as a freelancer would be like. I think doing some meditations to figure out what your perfect day would look like makes sense. You can also create a vision board, and/or list the things you would like to accomplish in the next few years. I think these exercises help you find your motivation, especially if you’re struggling with what you actually want to do. This will also prepare you for the next step…
Step 2: Figure out what you will sell
So you’re ready to start your freelance journey, but what will you sell? I think this can be one of the biggest hurdles to actually getting started. It’s easy to tell ourselves that we have to be experts to get clients. This is not the case though, so don’t get stuck in this negative line of thinking!! Think about what makes you you and how you can create value for potential clients. Write down a list of your skills; is there room for improvement in certain areas? Then take an online course or look at some YouTube videos. Your skills may be related to your previous work experience, but it doesn’t have to be.
I started my freelance career as an online marketing consultant, which is based on my previous work experience. However, I’ve found that I really enjoy helping small businesses and budding entrepreneurs, which is why I started BizBabes. You may be surprised what companies and people are willing to pay for, but remember people pay for value. If you have a skill that they lack, they will be willing to pay. Maybe you are really good at Trello, why not start a sidehustle helping businesses get organized? Or maybe you love taking photos, why not set up a business taking peoples’ photos for their resumes or Instagram? I saw a post the other day, about a guy who has a business taking peoples’ photos for Tinder. So start thinking creatively, I think that there’s really no limit to what you can offer as a freelancer.
Step 3: Register yourself
When you decide to start freelancing in Germany, you have to register yourself- regardless of whether you are doing it as a sidehustle or full-time. The registration process is pretty easy, you just have to know which forms to fill out (which can be a little tricky). The first step is to fill out the “Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung für Einzelunternehmen” through Elster. If you don’t speak German, this guide is super helpful. I had help from Google Translate and my German mother-in-law, and if I can do it, so can you! This form is the first step as it will give you the tax number for your business, so that you can invoice your clients.
Now depending on whether you are doing freelance full-time or as a sidehustle, you may need to do a little more paperwork, including registering for a VAT number and a Gewerbeschein (business license). I will be releasing an eBook soon, which will have a detailed explanation of all the bureaucratic steps you need to take to become a freelancer in Germany. However, to get started, the most important thing is to fill out the guide through the Elster, as you need to have a tax ID to be able to send invoices. You can start as a Kleinunternehmer, which means that you don’t need to charge VAT (thus eliminating that extra paperwork), and I found this to be a great way to dip my toes into freelancing. As a Kleinunternehmer you can earn up to 22,800 euro without charging VAT, and you can always change your status once you start earning more.
Step 4: Find your clients
So your tax number is processing and you are ready to look for your clients, but where do you start? I’ve written about how I got started on Fiverr, so I have to mention that first. This is a great platform if you are starting from scratch because you can apply for different projects and get started quite quickly. In addition, you can try Upwork, FlexJobs, or FreelancerMap, all of which are platforms where potential clients list their projects that you can then apply for. I would also really recommend updating your Linkedin profile to reflect your new freelance status. I have gotten a few leads through Linkedin and think it can be a powerful lead generation tool.
Now, some of you may not be starting from scratch, so use your network. Some of my freelance friends used their old 9-to-5 job to launch their freelance career by taking them on as their first freelance client. Maybe this is something you can consider too? I would also recommend sharing on your social media that you are starting a business and looking for clients. If your business is more creative-based, then I would recommend using Instagram to grow your following. If you’re not “good” with social media, you can use this time to learn and go by trial and error. There is so much potential to grow a business these days, it’s all about thinking a little creatively how you position yourself.
Step 5: Stay persistent
I think one of the most important parts about freelancing is that you have to believe in yourself and be your own biggest cheerleader. There will be moments of doubt, and that’s completely ok, but the important thing is to just keep going. Revisit your goals frequently to make sure that you’re on the right track. It took me a while to feel “successful” and there were definitely times of doubt. But I didn’t give up, and that’s key! If you find that you’re not happy with your progress, you might want to find someone to network with (for example, you can join my Facebook group), or consider hiring a coach who can help you. Surrounding yourself with other freelancers will boost your confidence and give you tips and tricks for growing your business.
I know that starting out can feel really overwhelming, but trust me, you can do it! It’s all about having the right mindset, and you can really make anything happen for yourself. Start with these steps, register yourself with the Finanzamt, and you will have already taken a great first step. Everything else will happen, as long as you stay on your path. You might notice that I didn’t mention a business plan or a website. These are great if you have them, but I don’t think they are essential. I wasted a month trying to program a website, and would recommend that you just pay someone or buy a template, if you’re not technologically inclined. The most important thing when you are getting started is to do just that, start. Don’t be too shy to ask for help, and seek out people who are in the same boat as you. Germany can be really tricky with all the bureaucratic stuff, but if you ask for help, people really will help you.
I am working on an eBook which outlines all these steps in full detail, and have plans to launch a course at the end of the year so I can teach you how to really get started as a freelancer. What are some topics that you’d like me to cover in this course? Feel free to send me an email at email@example.com. I would love to hear your feedback!