Before setting up your virtual freelance paralegal business, make sure you understand the difference between working as a remote paralegal and being a virtual freelance paralegal.
A remote paralegal and a virtual freelance paralegal both perform their work from workspaces other than a law firm or legal department. They may work from their home, a coffee shop, or even a travel trailer.
If you are thinking of becoming a virtual freelance paralegal, you have to weigh the pros and cons. While there are numerous pros, let’s discuss the cons first.
A remote paralegal is an employee and as such is afforded the protections of an employee, such as being paid at least minimum wage, not being harassed or discriminated against, and family leave. The benefits which employed remote paralegals receive are having half of their annual social security contribution paid by their employer, many have access to health, dental, and vision coverage (some even paid for in part or whole by their employer), many have access to 401K plans (and many employers contribute to their employee’s 401Ks), and paid vacation and sick days.
When you are a virtual freelance paralegal you do not have the benefits of an employee because you are a self-employed business owner. Being a business owner has many advantages (and not only tax advantages!).
Why would anyone want to be self-employed?
One word: freedom. Time freedom. Location freedom. Financial freedom. You can work the hours which work best for you, a gift for parents or people who feel trapped working 9 to 5. You can work from anywhere you have internet connectivity, including on a boat or in an RV. Your income is not limited by the pay structure of a law firm, and you’ll have many more tax deductions as a business owner.
Want to be at school activities without the hassle of requesting time off of work, work in different parts of the world, have the income to meet your family’s needs? As long as you hit the agreed deadlines and provide quality work-product, you can obtain time, location and financial freedom as a business owner.
Why would an attorney or law firm want to work with a virtual freelance paralegal?
There are many benefits which an attorney or law firm receives from having a virtual freelance paralegal on their team. The 2 main benefits are time and money. Understanding the benefits you provide to a law firm helps you create your marketing.
What are the steps for setting up a virtual freelance paralegal business?
Market Research and Business Plan for Your Virtual Freelance Paralegal Business
To figure out your market ask yourself a number of questions. Are you a specialist (such as a litigation or bankruptcy paralegal) or a generalist? Are there other virtual freelance paralegals providing the services you plan to offer? Are there subcontracting opportunities? What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Who needs your services?
Once you have an idea of what services you are offering to whom, write a business plan, which will give you a blueprint to follow. Your business plan should have the following:
- Company Name
- Business Structure
- Target Market
- Service Offering
- Revenue Targets
- Set up a business structure
Set up a business structure for your virtual freelance paralegal business
In your business plan, you determine the type of business structure that is best for you. You analyzed if your business should be a sole proprietorship or an LLC. You most likely will need an EIN for your business, which you can obtain for free from the IRS. Research your state and local business requirements. For many counties, you will have
In your business plan you identified your ideal clients. Your clients are most likely attorneys, law firms, and legal departments. Some virtual freelance paralegals have more public-facing businesses in which they provide document preparation services and notary services. Some states allow paralegals to provide other services.
Reach out to your professional and personal networks and let them know that you are setting up your virtual freelance paralegal business. Someone in your network may need your services or could refer you to someone who does. Make sure that your LinkedIn profile is updated to reflect your new business.
Clients can also be found on freelance marketplaces such as Upwork, Freelance For Law, and Hire An Esquire. There are opportunities to be a subcontractor for a virtual freelance paralegal with more work than time. During your market research, you most likely found other virtual freelance paralegals offering services similar to yours. Instead of viewing them as competition, see them as potential collaborators.
Processes and Systems
Set up an accounting and bookkeeping system for your business. It is vital to know your cash flow. A good bookkeeping system is also necessary for tax purposes. Have a client onboarding process. Track your time. Set up a way to securely transfer confidential information. Be available for your clients (via email, video conferencing, and maybe even text for urgent, time-sensitive matters) and use a task management tool so that you don’t forget anything. Have the software necessary to do your work, such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and any specific legal software required.
Website, Social Media, and Marketing
Some people wait for the perfect moment to start their business. There is rarely the perfect moment to start a business, you just need a client. The main focus should be finding your first and next client and providing excellent service. Without clients, there is no business.
After you have found your first or first few clients, it is time to think about the next steps in growing your business: a professional website, implementation of a social media marketing plan, and having an overall marketing plan.
While having a virtual paralegal freelance business can be challenging, for many the benefits outweigh the challenges. Share with us in the Official Paralegal Club Facebook group or our Instagram page if you are thinking about becoming a virtual freelance paralegal or if you are one already. You will find support and mentorship at the Paralegal Club!