Six Key Tips to Make It as a Freelancer
Plain and simple, making it as a freelancer boils down to one thing: getting more freelance work. It doesn’t get any simpler than that, but any freelancer knows that this is easier said than done.
We covered the differences between sales and marketing, but winning more freelance work takes a healthy dose of both sales and marketing. The key to winning more proposals for freelancers isn’t rocket science as long as you’re willing to put in the work, so we’ve broken down our top tips to help freelancers like you get more clients.
The first and most important step is listening to what your client is hoping to achieve. You must also be aware of what they want to help their customers achieve. Every company has its own KPIs and each individual has their own measure of success, and it’s in your best interest to thoroughly understand both. How will you know what value you provide, and the value you’re helping clients provide if you don’t know what need you’re filling?
Listen to your customers and research the needs of similar companies you’d like to work with. This will help you find opportunities in those industries, giving you the opportunity to fill specific needs that aren’t currently being filled. Keeping the conversation open will add a personal touch that will make clients feel comfortable and confident working with you for years to come.
Once you know the problems facing an industry, get specific about your strengths and what you can do for potential clients. Although the common tendency is to try to do it all and not leave money on the table, you can often do more by doing less. Target a niche market with a specific need you can fill and specialize in a service like SEO writing, Facebook Ads, backlink building, or WordPress development.
Not only will this help your client see the need to hire you again, but it will help you refine your skills in a specific area, making you infinitely more valuable in your niche than someone who provides mediocre service in more areas. The benefit of taking time to listen is giving yourself the opportunity to find the crossroads of the where market needs align with your skillset
Avoid hourly billing when possible.
Hourly work incentivizes speed in the eyes of your client and promotes micromanaging of your internal processes. It takes the focus off of the quality of your work, and places it on your hourly rate. Charging per project with a value-based approach will set healthy expectations at the outset of each project and take pressure off of you to rush. This will ultimately free you up to do amazing work in whatever time you truly need.
Especially when just starting out, this will give you time to learn and perfect your work without stressing about the project timeline. For writers, sometimes the words just come a little quicker. For designers, sometimes things just click and take less time.
With a value-based billing approach, you are charging for expertise and knowledge in an area that your client does not have. Just because you know the secret sauce to getting a development project done in two hours doesn’t mean you should get paid less than the guy that takes two days to get it done. Charging per project will help you work efficiently for your clients—and keep the focus on the value, not the speed, of your work.
Too busy? Raise your rates!
Basic supply and demand principles apply to your business, just like they apply to produce at your local grocer (ex: have you noticed how expensive Avocados are right now?). If you have more requests for work than you have time to fulfill those requests, you should consider raising the price for your services.
You’ve refined your skills. You’re an expert in your area like no one else; you can sell on Shopify like no one else on Upwork. Bet on yourself by charging more for your work! While you can’t start a business by charging $20,000 per month with no experience under your belt, you CAN raise your rates as you gain experience and prove your worth. You should charge prices that match the value you provide. If you specialize in a niche that has a specific ROI based on your efforts, this can help you negotiate based on returns or even ask for an additional commission on returns you generate.
If you do something like SEO optimized writing, you can base your rates on expected web traffic returns. If you’re a developer, base your rates on industry standards per project and adjust from there.
This is called the anchoring principle and it’s typically talked about in terms of negotiating a salary, but is just as valuable in a freelance setting. Asking for more money for your work will create an initial benchmark offer that will likely be negotiated by the client. If you start too low in the beginning, you could be leaving money on the table.
Ask for referrals!
Good clients beget good clients.
If you’re working with a small business in your area, I would be willing to wager that they know other businesses in their network in need of your work, or friends of theirs who could benefit from your expertise. Getting unsolicited referrals is a major form of flattery, but asking for them is perfectly acceptable. In fact, establishing the relationship with your clients early will set you up perfectly to ask for a referral in a natural, conversational way.
Your work speaks for itself, but you shouldn’t leave the work up to your clients to tell their friends about you. Ask your best clients directly for an introduction. I think you’ll be surprised by how much “low hanging fruit” is truly available.
Some people love networking events, and some people hate the thought of having to be in a large group setting. A lot of my freelance friends are crippling introverts and no amount of free craft beer would coax them into striking up conversations with strangers about themselves. While that’s well and good, forcing yourself to go to seminars, meetups and business-focused happy hours can help get your company name out there.
Online resources are also a huge opportunity for freelancers. Sites like Upwork, 99designs, Project4Hire and even Craigslist can help you get both one-off and recurring clients. Networking with other freelancers by getting out of the “home office” once in awhile and working at coffee shops and coworking spaces will pay dividends for years to come. You can even join freelance Slack channels and Facebook groups to catalyze the process.
Even getting your name known at local agencies who frequently hire freelancers could help you get new work. Let people know what you’re best at providing, what you’re excited to do for them and that you’re just an email, text or Slack message away.
Now that you’ve got several more client projects, you need to take time to celebrate! Remember to always keep listening and you’ll continue to bring exceptional value (and in turn, make more money) as you continue to grow your revenue and your business.