What could be better than working for yourself, from anywhere you choose? That’s the dream and the reality of freelance work, but there are challenges to overcome if you want to launch and grow a successful freelance business. If you don’t know where to start, see the ten steps.
In this article, we look at the ten steps to freelance success. Remember, don’t abandon your job right away; identify the skills and attributes you want to highlight and source initial clients on the side. It’s important to grow your freelance business slowly while earning at the same time.
If you have a good idea for a business, but you don’t have clearly defined goals, chances are you will run into problems along the way. Without any clear direction or a way to measure your progress, a freelance business can stagnate and ultimately fail, even if the idea is pretty good.
Whether it’s a small freelance business or a successful global entrepreneur, they all agree that goal setting is the best way to find employees for your business. It’s also a good idea to have a range of goals, such as focused business ones, along with more abstract personal ones.
Start by deciding on the reason for your freelance business, maybe you need to earn a little extra on the side, or perhaps you need to rely on a freelance income to pay the bills. These are abstract personal goals; try to couple them with monthly targets to review and update regularly.
Find a Niche
If you’re thinking about freelancing, chances are you have the skill to offer; this could be a writing ability, it could also be some digital design skills or specialist knowledge in a particular area. The first place you are likely to search for work is on platforms such as Upwork and Fiverr.
These platforms are useful to get started with and find your first clients, but long term, they don’t offer the best value for money. Whatever niche you operate in is saturated with other freelancers like you offering the same services at a lower price. It quickly becomes a race to the bottom.
If you want to get ahead as a freelancer, you will eventually need your own website with a product and a niche. For example, if you specialize in ebooks for SaaS software, you can charge a premium for services because you have positioned yourself intelligently in the market.
Eventually, you want to be known within the industry as a resource that can deliver certain outcomes to businesses in the niche. But that’s not going to happen all at once; at first, you will probably have to work with clients that aren’t the best fit for the future of your business.
Don’t worry about it at the start. In the beginning, you need to stay focused on finding clients, so it’s fine to cast the net wide, but bear in mind that as your business develops, you need to narrow your range so you operate within a narrow sphere of influence to grow yoru reputation.
A narrow range of clients benefits you in several ways. First, you build authority in your domain, and your reputation spreads; secondly, you become an expert in your field, which finally leads to faster business growth and better revenue, so don’t be afraid to turn down work now and then.
Pricing is something of a thorny issue when freelancing, but it’s important to get it right if you want to establish strong long-term relationships with clients. In general, it’s better to start with higher prices and negotiate, but you still need to have some knowledge of acceptable rates.
To find out your hourly rate as a freelancer, decide how much you would like to earn in a year – obviously, you need to be realistic about this based on your industry market. Next, subtract your expenses which include things like internet access and devices, to come up with an hourly rate.
It’s important to remember that the prices you charge should be relative to the value you deliver, so forget about what the competition is charging and set your rates according to your personal perspectives. The aim of pricing is to deliver value for money and secure repeat client business.
These days, it’s virtually unthinkable not to have a website for your freelance business. A website shows that you are professional, qualified, and established; it also offers many features that can help to grow your business and your customer base online, such as a helpful blog.
If you’re new to this, you will have to look into SEO practices when designing your website. There are two options, you can invest in a website developer, or you can build one from scratch. Each has its advantages, but either way, you will need knowledge of SEO to be successful.
Identify the keywords you want to associate with your business and use them in the titles of web pages and in your blog articles. Also, make sure that your website is light – it doesn’t have too much video content, for instance – and that it’s easy to navigate and user-friendly for visitors.
There are some pages of the website that are fundamental to your business, one of them is a blog, and the other is a portfolio page that demonstrates the type of work you produce. A portfolio page allows clients to browse your work and decide if you are a suitable freelancer.
Think of your portfolio page as a resume for visiting clients, as with a resume, you want to take full advantage of the client’s attention and sell yourself from every angle. For instance, you need to display your work, but you can also highlight some of your skills and talents at the same time.
Don’t forget to include testimonials from other clients – this is a strong endorsement of your work – and remember to include contact details on the page so they can get in touch easily if they like your work. Try to make your website professional and eye-catching; it makes a difference.
It can be hard to get started as a freelancer when you don’t have a website or a reputation, but don’t let that put you off; with a little bit of creative ingenuity, you can find the right clients for your business. Start on platforms like Upwork and Fiverr and secure jobs to build a portfolio.
Again, don’t be afraid to use a scattergun approach; in the beginning, it’s more important that you gain experience and build your portfolio into something attractive to new clients. Once you have established yourself, you can start using other platforms such as Linkedin for networking.
It’s up to you how many clients you take on but don’t overstretch yourself, there are only so many hours in the day, and you don’t want to burn out or deliver low-quality work. Many freelancers simply stick with one or two clients that are aligned with their industry niche.
One way to find new clients is to network on websites like Linkedin, but that’s not the only way to put yourself in front of the companies you want to work with in the future. Start by identifying who these companies are; they should be businesses that extend your potential in some way.
Create a calendar of content for your website and include blog posts that mention these clients. After you’ve published the content and left it for a month or so to rank, you can reach out to the client with an offer and direct them to your content. This shows a degree of investment in them.
Most of the time, companies are grateful to you for the effort of creating and publishing content that reflects favourably on them. Chances are they will share it through their social channels and hire you for work. Even if they don’t, they are unlikely to forget you and will reach out in future.
If you want to launch a successful freelance business, you need to learn how to pitch to clients. Pitching is the process of selling yourself to companies by reaching out and offering them services that bring value to the business. Get your pitches right, and you won’t be short of clients. You don’t have much time, so make a strong elevator pitch in your speculative emails.
Even if your goal is to work as a full-time freelancer, it’s best to bide your time and hold onto your day job while you build the new business. If you abandon your full-time job too soon, you risk your new freelance business failing as well as your livelihood. Instead, operate your business on the side and grow it independently until it has enough substance to take over.
If you dream of starting your own freelance business, the good news is there has never been a better time to be successful. The internet is packed with helpful advice along with ample opportunities to find and connect with clients. Follow the ten steps above to make a strong start.