It seems like everyone has a side hustle these days. From graphic designers to weekend dog walkers, freelancing is becoming more common as job demands and the gig economy have shifted the way we think about work. According to a survey conducted by Upwork and the Freelancers Union, as much as 50.9 percent of the U.S. workforce could be working freelance in the next decade. 

If you have been freelancing long enough, you’ve probably thought about whether you could turn it into your full-time job and become an entrepreneur. Taking on that title means a shift in mindset that can be equally exciting and intimidating. It brings up the huge question—where should I start? To help artists and aspiring entrepreneurs take that leap, Columbia Online built an 8-week course that is all about owning what you do and maximizing your success. 

Self-Management and Entrepreneurship is not your average business class. Taught by musician and record label founder Justin Sinkovich, the course was made by creatives for creatives. With decades of experience working for himself and others, Justin has been through the process of balancing art and business. In the course, he shares all the most practical lessons he learned along the way.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can reach your full potential as an entrepreneur, here are six tips from the course that will help you get started. 

Set your career goals 

Before you launch your own business, it is important to ask that ever-cliché interview question—where do see yourself in five years? If you like the idea of leaving a legacy, you might even ask what the 200-year plan for your career is.  

No matter where you start, working backwards is a good strategy for coming up with a career plan. Think about how your goals align with the mission of your work and your personality.  

Having a long-term vision for your business not only adds meaning to your work but also helps clarify the short-term steps that need to happen along the way. It is also good to get into the habit of setting weekly and monthly checkpoints with yourself to stay accountable. By having both short and long-term goals, it will make the process of working for yourself that much more rewarding. 

Perfect your online portfolio 

As an entrepreneur, creating high-quality samples of your work is just the first step. Making an online portfolio or website where potential clients can easily view your work is arguably just as important as the samples themselves. 

This is where you get into aspects of branding and your identity as an entrepreneur. Your website is often the first impression people will get of your work, so it is important to make it easy to navigate, informative, and engaging. 

Most online portfolios will have a home page, about section, contact page, and section for work samples. You could also consider adding your resume, links to online stores, or a blog to post updates on your work. 

Focus on building relationships rather than revenue 

Making money is important when starting a business, but you’ll have a hard time raking in the cash if you don’t have any clients. This is where networking comes into play. 

If you are more of an introvert or work in a creative industry, think of it as developing relationships with people you genuinely want to work with. Even just by taking the time to start a few conversations with other entrepreneurs you admire, you could open doors for yourself you might not have expected. 

Develop an Elevator Pitch 

Your elevator pitch is the answer to the seemingly simple question, what do you do? The answer might seem obvious in your head, but there’s nothing worse than getting tongue-tied when trying to promote your work to a potential client. Your pitch should be concise, around 30-60 seconds, and should highlight what you do in a clear and goal-oriented way. 

Spend some time thinking about what makes you different from other freelancers or entrepreneurs in your field. A good elevator pitch will have four key elements—confidence, personality, passion, and focus. Most importantly, don’t forget to practice. Your pitch should feel second nature to take the pressure off during important conversations. 

Have a support system in place 

Beyond just having a strong client base, you should also have a team of people you can go to for your own support. Jumping into entrepreneurship can be exciting, but it can also be stressful, demanding, and many other adjectives you’ll find along the way. Your support system can help you get through the tough times to keep you working toward your goals. It should include friends, family, and peers working in and around your field. 

Mentorship is also a crucial part of a strong support system. In Self-Management and Entrepreneurship, you can learn strategies for finding a mentor and maintaining a strong relationship with her or him. The course itself can also serve as a strong support system as you prepare yourself to become an entrepreneur or independent freelancer. By working with other students who share your goals, you can learn how to be a role model for yourself with all the tools you need to succeed. 

Click here to learn more and enroll in Self-Management and Entrepreneurship with Columbia Online.

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