You need to have a combination of marketing and management skills to be able to successfully kick off your career as a freelancer. Freelancing is like a mini-business. Just like any business, you have to be able to market your services and attract clients who are willing to work with you.
Do you have those robust entrepreneurial abilities that are required to run and manage your own small freelance business? Yes? Great, read on for more tips on how to start you freelance career.
Know Your Focus
As a freelancer, the first and most important thing you need to worry about is getting clients (apart from being the best creative you can be, obviously). This means you’ll have to give clients a good reason to hire you.
While it can be tempting market yourself as a jack-of-all-trades (in the hopes of landing ANY job), it is usually not a good idea to start out by marketing any or every skill you have (I am both a writer and a graphic designer… so I’m totally awesome. Uh, no!). You can be graphic designer, a writer, a programmer, or anything really but if your clients don’t know exactly what they can get from you, they won’t know how they’ll be able to use you in their business.
First focus on what you do best and demonstrate your ability to deliver extraordinary work.
That leads me to my next point…
Show Off What You Got
Did you write an article or two for a blog? Did you design an awesome logo for a company? Gather your previous work and make a portfolio. Select your best pieces of work and display them in a way that illustrates the results your prospective clients can expect from you. It doesn’t matter how big or small the project was; just make sure it represents what you do best. For artists and creatives, an added plus is that you can display and manage your portfolio on sites like Dribble, Behance, etc. Also, having an online presence with the help of social media sites is quite useful for a freelancer. That way your prospective clients can easily search your name and can get a sense of who you are in your chosen field.
Set Goals and Plan on How to Meet Them
You certainly can’t quit your day job without having a clear plan laid out in front of you before you dive into the world of freelance. In the beginning you might be able to earn a few bucks for what you do, but I doubt it will be enough to pay the bills if you don’t have a concise and realistic plan for your freelance career.
Setting goals about how much you need to charge and how many projects you will need per week or per month is essential.
Figuring out your best time for work (your most productive hours) and structuring your time and resources so that you stay productive and organized is of paramount importance.
To put it simply, being a freelancer takes an immense amount discipline and hard work. There is no one else to push you to get your work done or to fill in for the more boring parts of being a freelancer such as billing your clients or delivering materials. Having certain practices and structures in place to make sure you don’t have those terrible months, is essential to any successful freelance career.
Use Multiple Platforms
At first, you might use freelance platforms such as oDesk, LocalMart, Guru, Freelancer, Angie’s List, or Houzz to land some clients. However, don’t limit yourself by sticking to these freelance platforms only.
There are other ways you can market yourself, like through classified sites (like Craigs List), LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. These websites are great for targeting niche ads to a massive population.
The key is to diversify the ways in which prospective clients can reach you and see your work.
Unfortunately, even anti-social freelancers don’t get off the hook with this one. Networking is a reality that we all have to accept and hopefully – embrace.
Networking greatly increases your chance of being seen and heard as a player in the freelance world and it is still one of the best strategies for marketing yourself to prospective clients. Most people are willing to hire “someone who knows someone” because it’s just human nature. People tend to trust other people they directly or indirectly know.
Professional networking events are a good opportunity for freelancers to get to know other people who might need your services. Freelancers have the opportunity to gather free advice and information as well as contacts. Make use of such opportunities and get to know as many people as you can.
Word of Mouth is Important
What really wins over a client is word of mouth (reviews). You don’t have to do the convincing part yourself because someone does that job for you. Every time you do a job and the client appreciates it, politely ask them if they are willing to write some good words about you.
However, keep in mind that word of mouth is a double-edged sword. If a client is satisfied with your work, they will be happy to tell everyone. But if you do a poor job, they will want to tell everyone as well. This means that cultivating a good reputation among your existing clients is just as important as trying to land new ones.
Learn the Elevator Pitch
Getting clients often means having to learn the art the elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a short and concise “sales” pitch that you make to clients in the same amount of time it would take to ride an elevator. You need to be able to make an impression of your skills as a freelancer, your talent as a creative, and your value as a worker in just a few seconds.
The name can be misleading but the elevator pitch can and should be done in any situation especially if you’re in need of some new clients. Insert little bits and pieces of your pitch into casual conversation and you’ll be surprised how many contacts you can make with people who need your services.
Create a Brand:
I know, I know. It’s easier said than done. However, just like any other business, the freelance business also benefits from building a brand (personal branding) in order to remain strong and be distinct from the competitors.
Your brand will be your identity. It should clearly communicate your unique selling point. Brands will always have something unique about them that set them apart from the rest. You don’t want to be that desperate freelancer who’s willing to do anything for a couple of green papers. Anyone can find anyone who’s willing to do that. It’s best to focus on what you do best in your particular industry. For example, instead of saying you are a “graphic designer” you can say you are “the designer who loves to help emerging digital startups.”
The way you present yourself will have a profound impact on how you are perceived. Therefore, care must be taken in cultivating your “brand.”