You are reading part “5” in a 5 part series called the Freelancers Blueprint. If you have not already read the preceding posts, we recommend doing so for context. You can read the first post on Deciding to Become A Freelancer here. You can also download a free copy of the entire guide by signing up for our newsletter! It is totally free, no strings attached.
While many beginning solopreneurs sign up with freelance job sites, the posts advertised often fall far below your pay grade.
You’ll also find the high number of competitors to be downright scary, which may even make you question the logic of your freelancing decision. What to do? Quit haunting Fiverr, and start creating goals and strategies to get the clients you want.
One of the primary advantages of freelancing remains picking and choosing the customers you wish to work with.
Create a “dream list” of your prospects. Then, post this list in a visible place so you stay focused on the prize. Each week, take concrete steps towards researching each company and drafting pitches.
Take advantage of LinkedIn’s research and free email verification tools to locate contact emails for these clients. Reach out to relevant individuals at these companies via personalized email messages.
Briefly introduce your company and the services you provide. Avoid mass email campaigns, which are turn-offs. Instead, get specific and individualized.
Aim to demonstrate your understanding of each company’s unique needs. Then, explain how you will fulfill those needs.
Focus on identifying the types of clients you want to work with. Then, actively pursue them. This process lets you circumnavigate low-paying freelancer sites while forging satisfying connections that pay well.
Solopreneuring means wearing many different hats. For example, you may take professional development courses while creating a portfolio. Or work on a website while setting up and managing your social media channels.
From there, you’ve got to find clients and deliver excellent work. How do you fit other marketing activities, such as research and pitching, into the mix? Balancing it all can prove challenging. For this reason, many freelancers fall short in the area of self-promotion.
Instead, they focus on core services to the detriment of their business. This approach results in freelancers with lots of education, lovely websites, and a lack of customers.
But how can you expect to gain new clients without exposure? Make promotion of yourself and your brand a top priority is a great first step. Here are some handy tips to help you get marketing back on the front burner.
Cultivating a Professional Online Presence
It’s easy to suffer from imposter syndrome when you’re new to freelancing. After all, you’ve got to promote yourself and your services confidently. All while learning new skills on the fly.
There’s a massive learning curve. One that can throw you off-balance and put you outside of your wheelhouse. Yet, you must appear confident and capable.
You must fake it until you make it. Some personality types deal with this better than others. No matter your personality, you must have a certain tolerance for venturing beyond your depth.
You should also cultivate a professional online persona. This persona should emphasize your competencies. It should underscore your ability to deliver on projects in a timely and accurate fashion.
Use your website to showcase your skills and abilities. While you don’t need an expensive one, you do need it to sell your services accurately and clearly.
That means providing social proof, a portfolio, and other evidence about what makes you a compelling professional to work with. Personal branding for freelancers matters when it comes to attracting a steady supply of customers.
When you “wow” a customer, the business transaction shouldn’t end there. Always ask for referrals. You never know who might need the services you offer.
Referrals represent one of the best weapons in your marketing arsenal. Consistently reaching out to past clients about new prospects will help you expand your business network. No advertising necessary.
Make Marketing a Priority
Marketing is your lifeline when it comes to gaining new customers. Yet, many entrepreneurs fail to advertise their business adequately. Marketing gets lost in the fray of other “more necessary” activities.
Yet, without a predictable and repeatable process for capturing leads, keeping your freelance business afloat will prove hard.
How do you break this cycle? Consider starting your day with a manageable chunk of time spent marketing. It might be as little as a half-hour each morning, but you’ll quickly reap the benefits.
After you’ve made your list and started reaching out to potential customers with pitches, get your onboarding processes and documents in place. Always prepare for success.
Onboarding a client typically starts with a pitch. From there, you’ll hop on the phone or a Zoom chat to discuss the client’s current needs.
This meeting isn’t the time to chat about your background and qualifications. Remember, you’re not in a job interview.
Instead, you’re an entrepreneur capable of solving a company’s problem. Knowing which services a customer needs requires excellent listening skills and an ability to read between the lines.
Your goal is to take what your prospect tells you and translate it into the services they need. These services will then be briefly summarized in a proposal that illustrates how you’ll add value to their business.
This proposal should also outline your rates and why you charge what you charge. From there, draw up a contract and enter into a legal agreement with your customer. And all of this occurs before your first paycheck!
Check out these must-have tips for crafting effective freelance contracts.
When you get a response to a pitch, and your potential client is chomping at the bit to get started, don’t get caught off guard. From the time you first consult with a client, be prepared to send them a proposal within 24-48 hours.
The same goes for a contract. Once the client decides on an agreement, send the document ASAP. Striking while the iron is hot remains a vital aspect of gaining and keeping customers.
Google “freelancer self-care,” and hundreds of articles pop up. You could make the argument that the act of becoming a freelancer represents a significant act of self-care. That said, establishing a healthy work-life balance can prove tricky.
Earlier, we briefly talked about the need to self-motivate if you want your freelance endeavors to pay off. But it’s just as easy to fall into the habit of working all the time. Highly motivated people are especially susceptible to overachieving.
Fantastic self-care tips include:
- Proactively managing your schedule
- Setting goals and rewards
- Having a support system
- Personal development
- Getting enough sleep
- Scheduling at least one rest day per week
- Scheduling vacations and time away from work
- While these may sound like no-brainers, working from home can also mean never leaving work if you’re not careful. Becoming a workaholic is easier than
- you think. Creating a dedicated home office or workspace can help you avoid this trap.
Remember that never leaving the hamster wheel leads to sloppy habits. The separation between work life and private life can get muddied in a heartbeat.
Besides self-care techniques, you also need to take care of yourself financially. Just like a company would. That means getting decent health insurance, setting aside a retirement fund, and learning the ins and outs of filing taxes as a freelancer.
We’ve covered a lot of freelancing ground. You’ve identified your strengths and weaknesses and learned to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. You’ve committed to the process, making growth, grit, and resilience your new personal mantras.
You’ve identified a freelance career path and developed the necessary skills. Learning while you start pitching.
The next step in the process is, by far, the scariest. Quitting your job.
You aren’t a bonafide freelancer until you take this leap. Of course, this is where the rubber meets the road. You must eschew the safety, security, and stability of a “normal” job.
Does the thought of leaving make your stomach swirl with butterflies? Depending on your personality and comfort level, you may wish to keep your current job, launching your freelance career as a side hustle.
At School For Freelancers we would never encourage you to take the leap until you have 3 to 6 months of expenses saved up, enough client work to cover your living expenses, and more.
We do not think it is a good idea to go “all in” and risk it all. This is why so many fail. Putting it all on the line can be exciting and has certainly worked out for people, but what you don’t hear about is the foreclosures, divorces, overwhelming stress, and much more that could be caused by leaping too early.
We are not here to scare you, obviously, quite the opposite, we are here to encourage you to take the leap, but first eliminate as much of the risk as possible.
This approach provides a financial buffer while giving you extra time to develop a list of paying clients before a solopreneurship deep dive. The side gig approach will also tell you a lot about yourself and the struggles you may face once you go full time.
If you’ve been wondering about how to become a freelancer, the tips above will help you get started. Along the way, you’ll develop the skills to run a successful business. You’ll also find a niche and cultivate a professional online presence.
The guide above provides steps for implementing a system that makes marketing a daily priority. After all, without a steady supply of clients, your business won’t go far.
If you’re willing to step outside of your comfort zone, learn some new skills, and reach out to the companies and brands you most want to work with, you’ll be well on your way to success.
Are you ready to learn how to freelance the right way? Turn your skills into a career by applying to School for Freelancers now.
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