Over 57 million people freelanced last year, and just about half of millennials in the workforce have freelanced. What does this mean for you and your side hustle? It’s more important than ever that you stand out in a crowded marketplace. While it’s important to increase your skills to be one of the top performers in your field, there are other ways to establish yourself as a professional.
While the specific niche will determine how much you’ll need to invest in each of these must-have tools, most industries will require you to have at least a modest version of all of them in place.
You can’t run a business for long if you’re not getting paid. In addition to charging the right amount for your services, you need to be sure you have an efficient and effective way to request and receive money. The right invoicing software can provide reusable templates for each client, as well as give you an easy way to accept funds through a variety of services (such as PayPal, Stripe or your bank account.)
It’s not hard to add up your earnings for a month, but do you know what expenses you incurred? Without a comprehensive view of both income and costs, it’s not possible to know if you’re a profitable business. A simple accounting tool is all most freelancers need, and many web-based options are preferred.
3. Tax software
Filing your first self-employed tax return can be intimidating! Luckily, there are many companies lined up to help with your side hustle. Whether you choose to download the tax product to your computer or work from a web-based dashboard, a solution that’s designed to incorporate a schedule C, plus any 1099s you may issue, work best. Tax software usually costs a bit more for the “business” version, but it is worth it for all the short-cuts it provides.
Need an extra boost? Look for a service that provides invoicing and accounting in one. Many of these will pre-fill your Schedule C, too!
4. Social media
If your business isn’t on Facebook, now’s the time to create that business page. If you provide visually-appealing services, such as art, photography, food or travel, an Instagram account can give you a way to communicate news and special discounts to your customers. Twitter may also be relevant if your clients are largely focused online. Don’t forget an updated and active LinkedIn profile (with the option to pay for a Premium subscription if you send a lot of sales pitches).
While all of these platforms are free, some of the tools you may choose to help manage them (such as auto-schedulers) can cost a small monthly fee.
5. Web hosting
Whether you choose to build a website from scratch, utilize a plug-and-play service, or communicate your offerings via a blog, a dedicated URL and web hosting show the world you are a true professional. Consider premium domain privacy services that hide your contact details. They cost a bit more but can save you from unneeded sales calls and junk mail.
Are you still using your Yahoo email address from college? Does your email contain the words “lovescats”? Unless you are a cat-sitting service, choose a more professional email address that matches the domain of your company website. You can usually add this service to your domain hosting package for an additional price.
7. Business address
If you plan on receiving packages for your side hustle, a business address can come in handy. Not only will it save you time and money on scheduled pickups and drop-offs, but customers will feel better about sending their money to a vetted business address. Even if you live in an apartment or suite, a forwarding address can be purchased from a company that provides package and marketing services.
8. Business credit card
Is this meal for business, or pleasure? The IRS (and business professionals) recommend keeping separate bank accounts for your work and personal life. Figure out how you’ll pay for side hustle expenses before you buy, and you’ll save yourself hours of record keeping and tax preparation at the end of the year. The choice of a personal card that you set aside just for business purposes or business credit card will depend on your needs and creditworthiness.
9. Business phone
The days of keeping a dedicated landline may be over, but it’s still a good idea to have a work number. Not only is it necessary to write off your service costs as a business expense each tax year, but it can help you brand properly, too. Answering the phone only during business hours, and with a professional greeting, is much easier to do with a separate number.
10. Cloud storage/data services
What would you do if your computer crashed? Can you access all of your work files from anywhere in the world? To best answer these questions, consider a cloud-based data storage service that holds all your work-related projects and info securely online. Not only is it a convenient way to snag documents away from home, but it’s an ideal method for backing up data to a second location.
If you work in design or the arts, you’ll probably have this covered. For the rest of us, this will be a required business expense. Look for a multi-color logo that works well in print and online. You’ll never know when you’ll need it for web-based projects or marketing materials.
12. Business cards
Even if you don’t get out much, you can’t beat the power of a well-designed business card. Remember, it doesn’t have to flashy, but it does need to have all the right info. Whether you order 100 or 1,000, be sure to include your best contact info with a reminder of what services you provide.
If this list seems overwhelming, take heart. You don’t have to buy all of these necessary services at once, and accomplishing a few will make the rest seem easier. If you need inspiration for doing it right, reach out to other freelancers, or take a look at competitors in your side hustle niche. You can learn a lot from others who have blazed the trail before you!
This article originally appeared on Nav.com by Linsey Knerl.