Freelancing has steadily been on the rise. In the U.S. alone there are nearly 54 million freelancers as of 2017. Who doesn’t wish to select their own projects, enjoy flexible work hours and set their own rates?
Being self-employed is rewarding. Becoming a full-time freelancer is scary at first, but over time you can reap the benefits. If you want to earn an income doing work that you love, here’s a look at nine tips to build a successful freelancing career.
1. Choose a freelancing niche
Deciding what services best suit your skill set, are of interest, and profitable can prove to be tricky. Choose a niche that has competition because that indicates there’s demand.
Even if you choose a profitable freelancing niche, remember your happiness should come first. Choose projects that you enjoy and consider the wide range of freelancing options including web development, mobile development, styling, design, writing, admin support, customer service, marketing, accounting, data science and more.
2. Create goals and a business plan
As an employee, to successfully perform your role, you probably have targets you need to reach. Freelancing is no different in that regard. Decide what you want to achieve and develop a 30/60/90 day plan to get there.
For instance, if you want to quit your day job and become a freelancer, consider what you need to make to live comfortably. From there, consider how you will find your first freelancing clients, market your services, and how much you will charge. It’s a good idea to start building your freelancing business on the side while you’re working to make the transition smoother.
3. Work on your personal brand
You might be the best freelancer in your city, but if you do not put your brand out there, nobody will ever know you exist. Successful freelancers create an online presence to attract customers and build their personal brand. Start by creating a simple SEO-friendly website to market your services.
Create an impressive freelancing portfolio. Clarify your skills, the clients you serve (i.e. ideal customers), what problems you solve for them, and what makes you different from the competition. A strong online presence makes it easier for new clients to discover your work and vet your business. Include work examples, a professional headshot and contact details. Make it as easy as possible for clients to choose you and trust that you will get the job done.
4. Compete on value, not price
To become a successful freelancer, compete on value and not price. There will always be someone who will complete a project for a lower rate. In contrast, clients may hesitate at a higher price.
However, once you deliver quality work, the price will not be an issue because they can trust your work. This is why knowing your target audience well is essential. If your services require higher rates, target clients with bigger budgets who are willing to pay for quality work.
5. Identify ideal clients
If you need to land your first client, consider that every contact counts. The more specific you are in your marketing efforts, the better the results will be. Ask yourself: Who would find your services useful? What types of individuals or businesses can pay your rates? How can you connect with them? When you get offers, be picky and ensure the client’s work is a mutual fit.
6. Market your freelancing services
Marketing is a critical step for every business. If you sit at home waiting for work to find you, you’ll be highly disappointed and broke. Finding freelance work is not easy, but you can’t sit back and assume clients will come to you.
Approach marketing strategically. Build your client roster with reputable freelance marketplaces, join a local coworking space, attend local meetups where your ideal customers may hangout, or test social media marketing and local paid search advertising. Even though you’re a solopreneur, you don’t have to work in isolation. Attend networking events and sell your business by word of mouth. People are more likely to trust someone they know, so get out there.
7. Put everything in writing
Put everything in writing. Create detailed scope documents for each service you offer to set expectations early. Meanwhile, do not take a client’s word that they will pay you.
Draft a freelancing agreement that clearly outlines your terms, conditions, rates, and specifics on the tasks included. Not only does a scope of work document make clients take you more seriously but you can also refer to it whenever a client wants you to do more than what was previously agreed.
8. Ask for customer testimonials
Request satisfied clients to write a testimonial about your work. Build strong relationships to make it easy for them to share their feedback about your work and recommend you to others. Publish customer reviews on your website, social media platforms, and in marketing materials, online and offline.
Testimonials are proof that what you offer is genuine, credible and of quality. It communicates that you aren’t the only one who thinks you are good at what you do.
9. Manage your time well
Once your freelance career takes off, and you have a steady stream of clients, you would think it becomes easier to manage your time. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
It’s easy to get swamped by accepting every project request that hits your desk. Be picky about which projects you take. Organize your workday by setting specific office hours. Give priority to the most significant projects to avoid being overwhelmed.
Overworking can make you unproductive. Show clients you’re reliable by managing and setting feasible deadlines. This alone will earn you more referrals and repeat customers.
Earn income doing what you love
Freelancing is not as difficult as many people think. You are your own boss, and entirely responsible for making your small business successful. It is an excellent way to grow personally and professionally.
When you become a successful freelancer, and the workload becomes too much, hire a team and delegate. If you have been thinking about starting a freelance career, you are making the right decision. Have fun while earning an income from doing what you love.
Dylan Menders is a freelance marketing consultant and blogger, who writes on topics of digital marketing, career, and self-development. He is the co-founder of his own blog Smart Pill Wiki.