Working for yourself as a freelancer is a fantastic way to move away from being an employee and toward being an entrepreneur. But it’s not an easy road you’ve chosen. Just ask the most successful freelancers out there–whether they be graphic designers, writers, marketers, accountants, programmers, or some other type of freelancer–and they’ll tell you that it took hard work and careful planning to get where they are today.
Here, get the shortcuts to success for your own freelance journey.
Get Your Mentality Right
Working for yourself is drastically different from working for someone else. For one, you no longer have the safety net of a steady paycheck (though one option is to start freelancing while you continue to work full-time). It’s now up to you to find (and keep) clients.
You might love doing whatever thing you’re good at (draw, write, create), but you’ll have to shift your mindset to accept that you now also have to tackle sales, customer service, and finance as part of your freelance career. You’ll have to continually seek work; use sites like UpWork, FreelanceWritingGigs.com, ProBlogger, and Craigslist to find people looking for help with projects that you’re qualified to assist with.
Managing customer relationships might also be something new for you. Happy clients are those that will come back again and again with more projects, so be sure to dedicate sufficient time to ensure their happiness.
You’ll also have to structure your work schedule to maximize your efficient hours. Do you find yourself more productive first thing in the morning or later at night? There’s no reason you have to stick to the typical 9-to-5 hours if your productivity falls outside of that timeframe, though of course being available to talk to clients during those hours may be helpful.
Arm Yourself with Professional Tools
You now have to consider yourself a business owner and invest in the tools and technology that will help you be seen as professional to potential clients.
A website is a must. Use it to serve as a portfolio of past projects so that potential clients can gauge whether you’re a good fit for their project. You can have one professionally designed, though website builders like Wix make it easy to create your own professional-looking site with no design skills needed.
You’ll also want to set up a business email address rather than using your BinkyJoe@ one. This is a subtle way to communicate your professionalism to clients, and of course it’s helpful to separate your personal emails from business queries.
Also, have a separate business bank account so you can keep your finances organized, which will make filing taxes a breeze.
If there is software that can help you do your job better, invest in it. That includes email marketing, accounting, and design tools. Remember: every cent you invest in your freelance business is an investment in your future.
Constantly Be Building Your Brand
Let’s be honest: you have hundreds if not thousands of competitors who offer similar services. So how do you stand out? Thought leadership, marketing, and networking will be your best friends in helping you grow your business.
Blogging on websites that target your audience is a great way to create thought leadership. Write about topics you are an expert on, and people who read your articles will click the link in your bio to learn more about what you do. Hopefully, they’ll also hire you.
Marketing is an ongoing effort for the freelancer. Social media, email, content marketing, digital ads…these are just a few of the tools that can put you in front of people before they need the services you offer and can help you build a relationship with them so that you are their first choice when that decision needs to be made.
Spend some time with the folks who work in the industries you do business with. Attend local networking groups and get involved. Remember: it’s not about machine-gunning your business card around a room, but rather building relationships long-term so that people trust you enough to hire or refer you to others.
It can be tempting to stop looking for new projects when you have a few steady clients, but trust me: doing so can be a detriment to your business. What happens if your biggest client suddenly ends the relationship? You’re stressed and scrambling for cash.
Get into a routine of regularly checking the freelance job boards for new projects and sending out proposals. Remember: you’re always marketing today for business tomorrow.
Also, keep sharpening your skills. The services that are hot today with clients may be old news in a few months, so stay on top of trends and new tools in your industry so you can always confidently offer cutting-edge solutions to clientele. With the speed of technology today, the freelancer who knows the latest software or programming language is the one that stays ahead.
Freelancing isn’t for everyone. It can be hard work and incredibly frustrating during droughts. But for those with the right mindset and fortitude, it can be an incredible way to flex their professional skills while having the freedom of entrepreneurship.