1. What are three key things a freelance photographer should do to turn the gig into an actual business?
I think the transition from freelance to professional is different for each person. I was lucky/unlucky enough to lose my job a year and a half ago, which sort of forced me to go full time. If you are gainfully employed, however, there are a few things that I think will be helpful for a slower transition.
Talk to everyone, and I mean EVERYONE that you know about what you do. Yes, some people will not find this interesting, but forget about them. Forget about anything negative that you hear, and anything that sneaks into your brain. It sounds cheesy to say that you should believe in yourself, but that is truly the most important thing. Be brave enough to believe that you can accomplish what you set out to accomplish.
I get the most joy out of shooting portraits of babies and kids. I have found that I cannot, at this time, make a living just shooting what excites me. This means I have shot everything else that people have offered to me, including: awards ceremonies, art openings, weddings, family portraits, commercial work, etc. You don't always have to love what you do; the goal is to get paid so that you can get the equipment and name recognition that you need. The more you say yes to people, the more people will offer you work. Once you're getting enough offers, you can be more selective about the jobs you accept.