Is this your year to go into business for yourself as an LGBTQ freelancer in 2023? I am so excited for the new entrepreneurs and small business owners who are getting started selling products and services directly to their customers.
I’ve built a business as a freelancer from scratch twice, first as a web app developer and second as a writer and journalist. A lot of the core concepts of freelancing remain consistent across industries: marketing, outreach, contracts, invoicing, scheduling your work, and self-promotion.
In this post, I share what I wish I knew before I started freelancing, all about how to start as a LGBTQ freelancer in 2023.
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What can you do to help your customers?
You are a skilled, talented, and motivated individual. But guess what — your customers don’t care about that. Your customers want to know, what can you do for me without me having to think about it too hard?
Even though I know you are good at many things, sell one skill to your potential customer at a time. If you give a potential customer a list of 25 things you can do for them, you’re asking them to do the work of figuring out what your job is going to be. If your customer wants to hire someone to create social media posts for them, they are going to look first for a social media content expert, not someone who writes, edits, does graphic design, web development, and oh yeah, social media posts.
Customers want you to make their life easier or better. What you can do for them should be your main selling point, not what you want or need. Consider:
“I need to pay rent on the 1st so I’m looking for some freelance work. I want to get paid for content creation while I learn enough about the industry to start my own monetized channels.”
“As a business owner, you’re too busy to consistently post on social media. I can create high quality reliable content for you that your customers will love, so you can focus on the core of your business.”
This could literally be the same person with same skills to offer, just reframed towards what the customer needs.
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You need a website
If you’re self-employed or doing freelance work on the side, you need a website. I recommend any website that you are able to easily maintain. If you plan to do any blogging or sales directly on your website, I highly recommend getting started with a WordPress website on a hosting service such as BlueHost (not on WordPress.com, which doesn’t allow you to customize your website as much).
Your website can be simple: it should have your name and/or the name of your business and a summary of what products or services you provide. A website makes your business look established and dependable.
Once you have ideas for the name of your website, check out domain names on Namecheap. I recommend a dot com domain name because it’s easier for people to remember.
A professional email address (and social media accounts)
If you’re communicating with customers, please don’t use an email address like “prettybirdie2943 @ gmail.com”. You can sign up for a free email address with your business name in it. If you want to take it one step more professional, you can use your website domain name to sign up for “your name @ your website . com”. I use Google Workspace to power my email address at my website domain name. This costs me currently $6/month and includes Google Drive sharing and storage and Google Meet access.
Even if you’re not posting on social media regularly (yet), please go ahead and reserve your preferred business username on each social media platform. Your username could include your name or refer to your business. If you’re a solo entrepreneur, it may make more sense to choose a username based on your name instead of the business niche you’re currently targeting. Your business may grow and change and you don’t want to outgrow the account name. On the other hand, you may choose to change your name, so a more business-focused username may last longer.
Learn SEO from Perfecting Blogging by Sophia Lee
I worked at a marketing and web dev agency for three years and still didn’t feel I learned search engine optimization (SEO) until I took a fantastic online course: Perfecting Blogging by Sophia Lee. This straightforward course shows you exactly how to research keywords and add them to your blog posts and web pages to be found in search results. The course is targeted towards bloggers, but I’ve used the same tactics to advertise products and services for my business. I highly recommend checking out this useful course.
Check out my full review of Perfecting Blogging by Sophia Lee here.
Bring as much (or as little) of your identity to work as is comfortable
You can choose how much or little to share of your real life and personality when you are advertising your services online. If you’re LGBTQ, you can be out or not: I know very successful freelancers who share content about their trans, bisexual, etc, identity and find clients who are excited to work with an LGBTQ expert. On the flip side, you don’t owe anyone information about your identity that you don’t want to share.
The one thing you do have to share with most paying customers as a contractor is your legal name (on a W-9 tax form, for example). So if the discrepancy between your chosen name and your legal name will out you, it may be best to be upfront about the reason. If you’re selling products (in a WooCommerce or Etsy store, for example) you don’t need to fill out a W-9 for each customer. If you have a business entity such as an LLC, I believe you can use the name of the business instead of your legal name. However, please do additional research or consult a legal professional as this is not legal advice.
You are now HR
Your customers may say some offensive things to you. At a large company, you might approach HR with a complaint. But if you’re self-employed, there is no HR. Your choices are:
- Ignore the offensive statement and continue working for this person as if nothing had happened
- Give written or verbal feedback about what was offensive about the customer’s statement and ask them not to do this again
- Give notice or resign from the project. You don’t have to give the reason. You may not get paid
As a contractor, you have the blessing and the curse of being able to select who you work for. The work is less reliable but you are in control of who you choose to work with.
If I’m creating a one-off invoice, I like using Canva. They have a number of free templates where it’s easy to enter name, address, amount invoiced, etc.
Wave has a collection of free tools designed for small businesses for invoicing, accounting, and banking. Their easy-to-use software is popular with small business owners.
For time tracking and invoicing hourly work, I like Harvest time tracking.
It doesn’t matter so much what software you use to send an invoice, as long as you send it.
Make your art no matter what
Working as a freelancer can be isolating. Some people struggle with the lack of imposed structure or routine. A book I found valuable to understand the struggle of the self-employed and how to succeed in creative or self-driven ventures is Make Your Art No Matter What by Beth Pickens. Please give it a read if you’re wondering how anyone creates their own work successfully.
You got this
I’m excited for you as you launch your next freelance venture! LGBTQ representation among small business owners is inspiring and I wish you all the best getting started!
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