New freelancers generally have one core focus - survival. Staying in the game long enough to figure out how it all works until you can grow your business is a common journey for many newbies. Over the years, we've helped enough freelancers to know there are a few key approaches, techniques and traits to success. Check out our top 5 ways to freelance like a pro for the inside scoop.
GET SET UP FAST
Building an appealing online presence is accessible but not always as easy as you may think. If you start with poor raw materials (ie: a weak portfolio or brand) then no matter how hot your website looks, it's unlikely to generate leads or sales. Start with your brand, consider who your audience is, produce images to backup your service and upload them onto a select number of profile sites, your own website and social media platforms that work for you. Remember, the more your brand is out there, the better chance you have of being found but the more upkeep there is so choose carefully.
Quick Tip: Be consistent with your brand no matter where you choose to promote your services.
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Some freelancers are lucky enough to have financial backing or have managed to raise the funds required to setup their freelance business. Others just drive straight in and aim to earn enough to run the business from scratch. Whatever your business strategy is there's one thing you've got to do and that's hustle. Particularly in the creative service sector where competition is high, it's all about getting out there and finding opportunities.
We're often asked 'what's the one piece of advice you give freelancers starting out?' and the answer is to have the right mindset going in. Freelancing is not for everyone and it can be as tough as it can be rewarding so go in with your eyes open.
GO THE EXTRA MILE
The first target for many freelancers is to land a handful of regular clients so that the rent and bills are covered. Landing those early clients when new to the game is one of the toughest tasks there is so it's important that you play to your strengths and provide the client with something a more experienced freelancer can't - namely: time. When looking for the first few key clients go above and beyond for them. You may not have as much experience as some but your extra efforts will be greatly appreciated. We always recommend you preserve your value and never work for free but offer a little extra to the client. That might be extra time, a complimentary consultation or a discount on future bookings. Anything that helps you stand out and gets you repeat bookings is a good thing.
Quick Tip: The more successful you become, the more difficult it is to manage all of your clients equally. Try not to neglect smaller jobs or lower paying clients, their recommendation is as valuable to you as the next client.
CLIENTS ARE PEOPLE TOO
Whether you work with large companies, small businesses or the general public, freelance service providers work for people and it pays to remember that. We're not just talking about good customer service, we're talking about taking a real interest in them. We see great examples of this with freelancer members posting their client's event on their Instagram for extra publicity or writing a review on a film, book or project they worked on. It takes 5 minutes and adds value to your service whilst reminding the client you're awesome. More importantly it shows you care about the project and are proud to be apart of it.
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One of the best things about freelancing is the eclectic nature of work. Everyday is different and the freelance life takes you to weird and wonderful places. The flip side to that coin is a lack of structure which can quickly lead to a lack of productivity, mistakes and loss of earnings. Put together a structure that you can easily work around if you get booked for a last minute job or need to fly to Milan for a week's project. This can be done by breaking down the essentials and making time to tick them off your list. In the must-do column we'd include:
Customer service - have you touched base with your existing clients this week?
New business - it's easy to neglect this one when you've a couple of clients and you're stressed out with 101 things to do. This can be done through marketing channels, applying for jobs or paid advertising. However you find new clients, ensure you dedicate a good chuck of your time to it every week and professionally reply to their enquiry quickly.
Update your online presence - your brand doesn't stop evolving in our game. Fresh content means more attention. Any new work, achievements or interesting tales from the week should be uploaded to your profile. Once you get into a rhythm, you'll be using your new work to promote yourself simultaneously.
Finances - you hate doing them but know they've got to be done. Invoices, receipts, tax and accounts are not only for the government, they provide you with a financial snapshot of business so you know what's working and what's not.
MEET THE DEADLINE
You're a professional freelancer and if you want to be paid as a professional you have to act like one. The basics such as correct spelling in an email, showing up on time or meeting a deadline is critical to keeping your clients happy. Whether you're a part time freelancer, weekend warrior or full time self employed, unprofessionalism can cost you work.
DON'T SELL YOURSELF SHORT
Figure out your what you're worth and stick to it. We've a great way to work out your hourly rate HERE, if you're not sure how to do it. Definitely one of the toughest parts of setting up you're freelance business but vital to get it right. Be careful when experimenting with prices as, aside from it looking very unprofessional, clients talk!
For more help with your freelance business, click here to join the club, promote your services, apply to jobs and tap into freelance resources.