Becoming a freelance paralegal offers fascinating and remunerative opportunities. The work is hard and the hours are long, but freelance paralegals genuinely enjoy the challenge and relish the ability to be their own boss and take on the projects that interest them the most. Setting up a freelance paralegal business is no easy task. Use these tips as you consider starting a business or to help you get your new venture moving in the right direction.
1. Get Qualified
No one earns their paralegal certificate and then immediately strikes out on their own. With little experience, it would be virtually impossible to find an attorney who is willing to trust their work to you. Spending three to five years working in a law firm or corporate environment is recommended before freelancing. This means that you’ve learned your craft from other well-qualified professionals. It also gives you an opportunity to build contacts to whom you can offer your services as a freelancer. Similarly, consider sitting for the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam to further bolster your professional credentials.
2. Choose a Business Entity
Organizing your freelance paralegal business as a corporation, limited liability company or other entity has advantages and disadvantages. It may make sense to meet with an attorney to discuss which option is right for you. For instance, organizing as a corporation may protect your personal assets if things don’t go well with your business. However, this entity type comes with regulations that must be followed. An attorney’s advice in this regard can be indispensable, and they may also assist you with filing necessary paperwork with the state and obtaining required licenses and permits.
3. Brush Up Networking Skills
Self-promotion is important when you become a freelance paralegal. Work will rarely come to you, especially in the beginning. That means that a big part of your job is drumming up business. Have some business cards made, and make certain that your resume does an excellent job of selling your education and experience. Mailing these to various firms and businesses is a good idea, but delivering them by hand is even better. Wherever you visit, ask for attorney business cards so that you can contact them directly by email, thereby eliminating the need to have everything passed through an assistant.
4. Set Up an Office
Even if it’s just a corner in your home, having an office will make you feel more professional. You’ll need a range of office equipment like an Internet-enabled computer, scanner, copier and fax machine. A telephone with conference call capabilities is also advisable. Try to make your office space as separate from the rest of your home as possible, which will limit disruptions. As your business grows and your revenue stream becomes more predictable, you may want to consider renting an office, especially if you will spend time meeting with clients and witnesses.
5. Price Your Services
Since you’re just starting out, you may want to contact other freelance paralegals in your area to determine how much they charge for their services. It won’t hurt to price your services a bit below theirs as an incentive to potential customers to choose you. Create a list of flat-fee services that also includes your hourly rate that can be distributed to customers to make it easy for them to comparison shop.
Freelance paralegal work can be immensely rewarding. However, getting a new business going is a time-consuming and difficult process. Use these tips for becoming a freelance paralegal as your guide for the early stages of the venture.