Last Friday 13th January 2017 took place the annual Micro Biz Matters Day. If you haven’t heard about this before, this is an initiative from Tony Robinson (@TonyRobinsonOBE) and Tina Boden (@microBizGirl) that aims to help small businesses in the UK and worldwide to grow their business. It takes place every year and the #MicroBizMattersDay 2017 was again a great success, trending on Twitter most of the day.
Since freelancermap knows the freelancing market first hand, we also wanted to get involved and contribute with 13 tips to help freelance businesses to succeed. It doesn’t matter if you are just starting or have already years of freelancing behind you, here are our pro tips on how to become a freelance superstar. Rock on!
1. Make SMART plans
As this new year has started, you have probably set your resolutions. We believe that goal setting is important, but if done the right way. Thinking about smart goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound) can guide your business in the right direction.
The key factor here is to avoid writing down vague intentions. Set a plan such as “Winning X new clients that pay above rate Y and keep you occupied for at least Z days before calendar week U”. You can track the measures and make the necessary adjustments as the deadline looms.
2. Brand yourself
Knowing how to market yourself as a freelancer is essential to stand out from the crowd. Establishing a good brand brings clients to you, rather than you having to seek them out. Be sure that you have a website, an online portfolio of your best work and keep your profiles on freelancing websites updated.
Furthermore, being present on social media (e.g. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook) and having a blog put your expertise on display and additionally makes it easier for prospective clients to find you online. Don’t worry, you don’t need to write on your blog every day. But make sure to inform your readers when you are going to publish fresh new content (for example, on the 13th of every month) so they come back. You can also use your website or blog to grow a mailing list. With an email marketing strategy, you will be able to send relevant pieces of information to potential clients and remind them of your name.
3. Become an influencer
To be an influencer, you need to build a reputation. And there is no shortcut for that. You can start with social networks, forums or your personal blog. Join in the conversation, be engaged and add value to your industry. Think of yourself as a mentor and try to help people that are starting in your field (yes, they will follow and remember you!). Creating a course or writing e-books can be good ideas.
Remember, don’t repeat information that is already out there. You need to have an opinion and bring new inputs. It may help if you think about some questions, such as:
- What are the trends in my industry?
- How is my field evolving?
- How does this relate to what’s happening in the world right now?
- Who are the other leaders out there and what are they doing?
- How can I contribute?
Basically, find the answers, raise professional awareness, connect to people and spread the word!
4. Get that client
As a freelancer, you are also an entrepreneur and making an effective pitch is essential to get the best clients. So don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Apply to as many projects as necessary and contact potential clients directly.
The key to success here is to have attention to the details and personalize your pitches to each kind of job and client. Show your interest and that you understand their needs. Do your research, learn and try to connect to the right people. Sometimes, just sitting behind your computer won’t work: get dressed and get out of home! Events, conferences and meetup groups in your field can help you to open doors. One good idea for freelancers is to try to find business partners, such as agencies.
5. Say no
Turn down proposals or clients if you’re not passionate about them. Declining offers that you don’t like or with low payment might be difficult at first, but please keep in mind why you started your own business: to have freedom. You followed your passion for working on what you can do best. You don’t have to be impolite and burn bridges, but you can nicely turn down projects to focus on the projects that give you joy.
6. Get referrals
Word-of-mouth is (and will always be) the most powerful marketing tool that you can have. Social Media is useful, being on top of Google’s SERP is also amazing but a client referral is more important than any of those. If your former client recommends you to another company, the chances of you getting this new client will definitely ramp up. Referrals can come as a result of your hard work, but it doesn’t hurt if you ask your clients directly for a thumbs up.
7. Automate and Delegate
Time is limited and if you want to keep your freelance business growing, you will need to delegate or automate some tasks. For example, bookkeeping, contracts, and emails are usually an annoyance for many freelancers. You can outsource these as well as other administrative tasks by hiring a Virtual Assistant. You can also automate the onboarding of new clients with email automation. Or, if you don’t have time for marketing and dealing with a blog, you can hire a freelance marketer or a copywriter. Take a look at your business and delegate!
8. Collaborate with fellow freelancers
There are several benefits of connecting with other freelancers and we always insist that they should be your allies instead of your rivals. You can share knowledge and ideas, learn new things or useful techniques. In a nutshell, collaboration with other freelancers can help you grow your freelance business (and theirs).
Other freelancers can also be awesome referrals to get new projects, for example, when they get an assignment from a client that falls outside their expertise or when they are too busy to accept it.
In addition, a fellow freelancer can be a great accountability partner. He can help you to check your progress and stick to your goals by discussing recent challenges and accomplishments.
9. Never stop learning
Technology, design, products, services. Everything evolves incredibly fast these days. That means you have to evolve as fast as your industry does. Learn something new every day and keep your skills up to date. Perfecting them needs to be your top priority since it is your responsability for keeping yourself ahead of the game.
Thanks to the Internet, you have nowadays plenty of free online resources that will help you on this such as blogs, tutorials, podcasts, webinars. Also, attending to workshops or seminars can be an excellent opportunity to learn with experts and worth the investment.
10. Know your value
Yeah, we know. Pricing is one of the most polemics and discussed topics among freelancers. It’s difficult to set the right price for your work, especially when other freelancers put their rates too low. But you should not be scared by them. Explain to the client that is all about quality and accomplishing deadlines. We recommend that you calculate a minimum rate. That means a line that you’re not willing to cross.
How to find this magic number?
Just take the top 60% of your projects by pay and do not go under their average amount. Of course, you should recalculate your minimum rate from time to time. What about once a year? Also, be prepared to part ways with that particular client that wants to pay you less than you deserve.
11. Keep yourself healthy and active
Freelancers often have to work irregular hours and have lots of pressure to meet deadlines, which can lead to an unhealthy and lonely life. But as we previously mentioned, you don’t need to be a lone wolf. Keeping an active social life is not only good for your overall health, but also for your work.
Don’t be locked in your home-office. Go outside, practice physical activities. Start the day with a healthy and substantial breakfast to give you that energy kick and a good mood to face the day.
Reserve time to enjoy your family and friends. Take vacations (you don’t need to go far away. Trust us, local trips can do wonders!). Take care of yourself in the first place and this will reflect in your work.
12. Get things done
Working from home and being able to manage your own schedule sounds great at first. However, these flexible working hours tend to give freelancers too many reasons to procrastinate. The struggle with procrastination will make you unhappy, so you need to be efficient and work wisely in order to accomplish more.
A good practice to win this battle is setting a timer for 15 or 30 minutes and challenge yourself to finish a certain assignment. You will be surprised how much you can get done when you give yourself a specific time frame. It’ll be easier to focus on that particular tasks by removing all distractions. If you are unable to finish a task within your set time frame, it’s ok to add a little more time. But make sure you don’t move away from this task until it is complete. Self-discipline is the answer!
13. Manage your money wisely
Last but not least, freelancing offers lots of benefits, such as working with something that you are passionate about and being able to dictate your own life. But let’s not lie: money is also an essential part of your freelancing success. There is no way to find freedom in freelancing without taking financial responsibilities. Here you shouldn’t think about making sacrifices, but instead, you should focus on knowing your priorities.
One of the biggest challenges in freelancing is dealing with irregular income, so you have to make sure you have an emergency plan for when you run low of projects. Consider vacations, possible illnesses, your dinners with friends, and everything else and then budget for the year the best you can. An important tip is to don’t rely on one big client. Having multiple clients will guarantee that even if something unexpected happens, most of your income is still secure.
We hope you find these tips useful and have your best freelance year ahead! It was a pleasure to contribute to the #IGave13 campaign. In 2018, the event will be held on the 12th of January, so stay tuned!