Starting your own freelance paralegal business can be inexpensive and profitable, if you know what to do and how to do it, and there are 1,000’s of articles, books, and workshops on the subject. However, before purchasing any how-to program, consider laying the foundation for a basic online business by following these mostly free, but always inexpensive, steps.
1. Set up a website. The first step to setting up your freelance paralegal business is to create a fabulous website that draws in potential clients and makes them want to hire you. You can do this using a free website service such as Webs or, contact the folks at Designer Hosting, and mention Paralegal Alliance, for a $5.00 a month webhosting package that provides you with personal attention and help doing everything from setting up your site to landing your first client. No matter what hosting company you decide to use, your website should contain the following pages:
a. Splash page. Visitors to your website should be able to tell what you do and what the purpose of your site is within a few seconds of arriving. Think very carefully about the title of your site and the images and text that you put on the first page.
b. Services. Simply saying that you provide “paralegal services” is not enough. Create a services pages where you list the specific services that you provide. Describe the various documents that you prepare, the copy/print/mailing services that you provide, and for whom you provide each service. For example, if you prepare full sets of initial pleadings for an agreed divorce to the general public for $200, specific that the service is for non-attorneys. You may want to run a search at your favorite search engine, for freelance paralegals and review other freelancers’ websites to see what they are charging and what types of services they offer.
c. Portfolio/Writing Samples. Many potential employers will want to see a sample of your writing before hiring you. Gather some pleadings, motions, and briefs you have drafted, redact them, and include them on your site. You may also want to include your resume on this section of your website.
d. Contact. Your contact page should include an email address and a phone number where potential clients can reach you. You may also want to include your Yahoo Instant Messenger and/or Skype username and/or a contact form on this page. The more ways you give potential clients to contact you, the more likely they will.
2. Draft a services contract. When accepting jobs through one of the freelance job sites, you may not need a contract, as the site provides the employer with an easy contract creation tool, and all you will have to do is accept it. For clients who found you through your website or some other means, however, you may want to have one ready. Your contract should include your hourly rate, a space to fill in the services being provided for each client, a non-disclosure clause at a minimum. You may use this Freelance Contract as a form for drafting yours, if you wish.
3. Create social media accounts. Social media accounts are important for marketing and making you look like a true professional. Your accounts should use the same colors and style as your website, to help you create a brand for your services, and should contain a link to your website. Some place you might want to consider setting up accounts include:
a. Facebook. You may already have a Facebook account that you can use to create your business page. Login to your account, and then go to Facebook’s Create a Page section. You may even want to consider having a professional design your page’s cover image so that it matches your website. Ashley Dixon at Unforgettable Web Designs does great work and her facebook cover images are quite inexpensive.
b. Twitter. Sign up for a Twitter account, if you do not already have one and start tweeting important news for attorneys, paralegals, and other legal professionals. If you have a blog on your website, tweet each new blog post as you post it.
c. LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the social network for professionals. Create an account and network with other legal professionals by joining interesting legal groups and adding friends and co-workers in the legal field.
4. Join some freelance job boards. Now that you are all set up and looking like a professional business owner, it is time to get some clients! Instead of just waiting for them to find your website, set up profiles on some freelance job sites and find some clients yourself.
a. Odesk. Odesk is my favorite freelance job site. It allows you to bid on up to 25 jobs a week for free, and does not limit your ability to view or bid on jobs in any category you choose.
b. Guru. Guru will let you bid on any number of jobs with a free account, however many jobs will be open only to paying members. Create a profile anyway, as there are several new jobs a day that you will be able to bid on with a free account and you are always free to bid on jobs that the employer invites you to bid on.
c. Elance. Elance has many legal jobs available at any given time, and will allow you to bid on up to 10 jobs a week with a free account; however, it will limit you to one category. You may change your one category at any time, but it takes a few days for changes to be complete. You may bid on jobs outside of your chosen category, if you are invited to do so by the person who posted the job.
5. Bid on some jobs. Go to each of the job sites every day and bid on as many jobs as you can. It may be hard to get your first client, but once you do, you will be off and running. Do a great job for your clients, so they leave you a good rating and review, and before you know it, you will be invited to apply for so many jobs, you will not have to go looking for them anymore.
6. Advertise your site. Get your site noticed by potential clients by doing some free and low cost advertising. You can start with:
a. Business directory listings. Make sure you submit a listing for your business in any business directory that you can find.
b. Search engines. Submit your website address to all of the search engines that you can find. A list of most of them can be found at The Search Engine List.
c. Direct mailings. Create a flyer, brochure, or advertisement letter to mail to attorneys in your county and the surrounding counties.
7. Collect testimonials and references. As you complete jobs for clients, ask them to submit a review on the freelance job site you used to find the job, or directly to you for posting on your website. Many clients will automatically submit a rating and review when hiring you through one of the job sites. Elance and Odesk both offer widgets that display your ratings, job titles, and other information about the jobs you are currently doing and those you have successfully completed directly on your website.