If you’re a designer, it’s probably an eventual goal of yours to one day be able to start your own firm, especially if you could take the business online. Imagine it — no more driving to the office every day, dealing with exhausting coworkers, and only taking on the clients you wanted to design for. It would be a dream come true, right?

While taking your talent to your own company is no easy task, with the right plan in place, it is possible to build your own online design business; and you can do it sooner than you might think. If you think you’ve got the network, experience, and drive to build a successful company, here are three tips for getting the ball rolling:

Develop a Financial Plan

If you’re going to take off on your own, the first step you’ll need to take is developing a solid financial plan to set yourself up for success. In addition to saving enough money to live on (or otherwise having a plan for what you’ll do for money/income) while you build your business, you’re also going to need to estimate business expenses and be prepared to pay for many operational and overhead costs upfront. Fortunately, the costs of establishing and operating an exclusively-online business can be very low, so you don’t take this to mean that you have to keep your dreams on the back burner until you can amass a huge savings.

According to Time, while the average freelancer makes approximately $30 per hour, most freelancers actually start out making somewhere between $15 to $19. If you already have a lot of experience working in the industry, you won’t have any trouble justifying your rates, but if you’re fairly new to the game it may be awhile before you start really bringing home the bacon. Either way, your online business is not going to be up and running (let alone busy and highly profitable) overnight, so just be careful not to overextend yourself financially.

Work Your Network and Get in Early with Newcomers

Networking is a critical component of any successful business plan, but it’s even more important in an industry like design, where word-of-mouth referrals are practically worth their weight in gold. It’s important to begin outreach as early (and often) as possible, and start immediately with the goal of meeting new people outside your regular circle.

It’s worthwhile to take a look at local entrepreneurial events, which can help you network with other business owners who are also learning how to start an online store. Not only can these relationships become cross-promotional, but startups are likely in need of your design services as they work to develop their brands! According to Equidam, the average startup can grow as much as 120 percent in the first year, so getting in early with other newcomers to the online business scene could potentially be a huge networking opportunity.

Pick Up a Side Hustle

I know, I know… it probably sounds counterintuitive to suggest you should take on any additional work when you’re trying to build your business, but there are at least a couple of reasons this could be a good idea for you. First of all, you may not be able to earn your full income potential right out of the starting gate, and a gig economy side job can be supplemental income that’s low-key, low-stress, and highly flexible, unlike more traditional work.

More importantly, though, your side hustle is another opportunity to build your network; whether you’re driving for Lyft or using a tutoring platform to answer questions for money online, you’re interacting with new people and creating the opportunity to build new relationships. You could even tap into your industry resources and see if you can take on some side design jobs, perhaps even working pro bono if there’s an opportunity for great exposure or a solid new connection. This can help you build your design portfolio for your online business, helping you to attract a wider audience for the main business you’re growing, too.

When it comes to launching your own online design business, it can feel like you’re taking a huge professional risk. After all, there are no guarantees when you become an entrepreneur. Building a business from scratch and marketing yourself effectively is no easy feat, but with some careful financial planning and a lot of dedication to growing your business, you can become your own boss and work from home online as a designer.

Are you a designer who has successfully transitioned to an online, work from home business plan? What tips would you offer someone who is just starting that journey?

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