How To Succeed As a Freelancer
Do you want to be a successful freelancer, in this article I bring together a whole series of topics designed to help freelancers succeed in today’s marketplace. Should you wish to add to this, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments area.
- Are You a Freelancer or a Consultant?
- How Much Should You Spend to Market Your Freelance Services?
- How to Build Your Freelance Blog
- How to Find More Great Clients
- How to Find Your Ideal Client
- How to Keep Your Best Clients
- Ideas to Market Your Freelance Services
- Managing Freelance Burnout
- Managing Freelance Cash Flow
- Time Management Tips for Successful Freelancers
Whether you’re just starting out in the freelance world or you’ve been at it for quite a long time, there’s one question to ask yourself that many people neglect to think about. Are you a freelancer or a consultant?
What’s the Difference?
A freelancer is a person who works on a project by project basis. They’re assigned a task to complete, they complete it and they get paid. They may have one or two primary clients or they may have dozens. A freelancer can also work for an individual or a business.
A consultant on the other hand is a person that a business or individual turns to for advice, expertise and help. They also are assigned a task and paid to complete it. However they’re given wiggle room within the project to use their skills and experience to help the client achieve their objectives.
For example, a freelance copywriter may write the copy exactly as a client has dictated. This includes the exact format, benefits and even call to action.
A consultant, on the other hand, will be asked what approach they recommend to sell a product or service. The client will trust them to make the best decisions for their sales copy.
Why Does It Matter?
There are benefits to being a freelancer only. For one, there are no heightened expectations. You’re not expected to be an expert in your industry. You’re just expected to complete a task. Freelancers don’t have the added stress of helping a client thrive and grow.
However, consultants benefit for a number of other reasons. They’re able to charge a lot more because of their expertise. Their clients are also often loyal and come back for their expert help time and time again. This means consultants may spend less of their time actually seeking clients and more time making money.
Which Is the Right Approach for You?
There’s no right or wrong answer here. Each and every freelancer has their own reasons for being a freelance professional. They have their own goals and agenda. If you want to simply work part time and make some extra money, then maybe the idea of positioning yourself as a consultant just doesn’t make sense.
However, for those freelancers who are looking to build a solid full-time business, it makes sense to position yourself as a consultant.
How Do You Position Yourself as a Consultant?
One fantastic way is simply to publish, a lot. Become a guest blogger. Publish articles on your website and other websites. Write reports and ebooks and give them away. Publication helps establish authority and credibility. Also, participate in social networking sites and offer advice to those who need your help.
Finally, you can position yourself as an expert by simply offering advice and experience to your current clients when it’s appropriate. If you’re looking to grow your business and make more money, consider adding “consultant” to your list of services and watch your business boom.
Building a successful freelance business doesn’t happen overnight. And it doesn’t happen without some hard work. In addition to providing exceptional results and services, you also need to market your business.
However, how much time and money you should spend to market your business is up for a bit of debate. Here are a few considerations when deciding how much time and money to devote to your marketing.
- What are your business goals? If you aspire to have a small, part-time practice and you only need two to three clients to make that a reality, then you may not need to spend a ton of time and money marketing. On the other hand, if you aspire to have a large number of ongoing clients and to perhaps expand your business, then you’ll likely be investing a bit more into your marketing strategy.
- Who is your audience? Who you’re marketing to makes a difference in the amount of time and money you devote to the task. For example, if your audience is small business owners in your community, then they may be more receptive to hiring you. However, if you’re marketing to Fortune 500 businesses, then you’re going to have to devote a lot of time and energy to get their attention.
- How much time and money do you have? Realistically, you can only spend as much time or money as you have, right? So how much time and money do you have to devote to building your business? Take some time to determine how much you have in both areas.
- Follow recommendations. Many business experts recommend two things. They recommend spending half of your time marketing your business. This includes not only creating your marketing strategy but also implementing your marketing tactics and following up.They also often recommend turning all of your profits for the first year back around into marketing your business. Of course that makes it difficult to eat and put a roof over your head. If you can follow this advice, by all means do. However, if that budget simply isn’t realistic, evaluate how much you need to live on and how much you can reinvest in your business.
- Where can you cut back? There are many areas in business where you can cut back. For example, instead of paying for an 800 number, you can get a Google number for free. Instead of hiring someone to custom design a website, you can install a WordPress website yourself.
There are also areas where you can get creative or better manage your time. For example, if it takes you a long time to send invoices and manage your finances, maybe you can trade with a bookkeeper and write copy for them, create a logo or manage their blog or website in exchange.
There’s no question that marketing your business is an important part of building and growing your freelance business. However, how much time and money you spend on marketing it depends largely on your goals and resources. Spend them wisely. To your success!
Having an online presence is imperative for anyone with a freelance career. It’s an opportunity to showcase your skills and knowledge. It also makes it easy for prospects to find you and connect with you. However, not all websites are created equal and a blog may be a much more effective and efficient means of connecting with prospects. Here’s how to build your freelance blog.
- Choose your platform. Most experts and bloggers will advise going with WordPress. It’s the most commonly used blogging platform. It’s easy to use and customize yourself – you don’t have to hire a pro to get the job done.Additionally, there are more widgets and plug-ins available for WordPress than any other blogging platform. This means you can basically ask a WordPress blog to do just about anything you need it to do. Finally, WordPress is free, and although you do have to pay a few dollars to host it yourself rather than on WordPress, it’s worth the money to have your own URL. You can also find quality WordPress templates for free, or you can buy a predesigned template that fits your needs.If you don’t want to use WordPress, take a look at Blogger, Typepad, and Tumblr. There are many free and paid blogging platforms to choose from.
- Decide what you want your blog to accomplish BEFORE you begin creating it. What do you want your blog to focus on? Presumably, you’re marketing your services as a freelancer, right? What static pages do you want to have? For example, you probably need a bio, a rates page, and a contact page.What else do you need? Plan your blog before you create it. What categories will you post your content in? What sites will you link to, if any? Will you integrate your social networking activities into your blog? Answer these questions before you create your blog and it’ll look a lot more put together.
- Start posting. Make sure each post is relevant to your audience. Each post should have a purpose. The purpose can be to drive traffic, to make an announcement or to highlight a promotion. It can also be simply to provide valuable information to your audience or to solve a problem they have. Consider creating a content plan and plan a month’s worth of posts in advance. That way, you’re never at a loss for what to write about – you’ve already brainstormed a solution.Note that it’s also a nice idea to find guest bloggers to help you out. It adds value to your blog and helps position you as a credible resource in your industry.
Blogging is one of the best ways to build your freelance business. It helps drive traffic to your site and increase awareness. It also helps establish your credibility. If you’re not blogging yet, consider adding one to your current website or changing your website to a blog.
Whether your freelance business is exactly where you want it or you’re looking to grow, it pays to spend some time filling your rolodex with great clients. After all, the more clients you have, the more money you’ll make. Here are a few ways to find all the great clients you could ever want.
- Network – One of the best ways to find great clients is to put yourself out there. Networking online and offline is a fantastic way to meet wonderful people and future customers. Online, take a look at industry chat rooms and forums. Don’t forget the mainstream social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter too.Offline, check out your local small business association, chamber of commerce or other industry associations.
- Blog – Blogging is a fantastic way to share your experience, knowledge and skills with prospective clients. You can combine networking with your blogging endeavors and post links to your new blog posts on your networking sites.Blogging will help drive potential customers to your services. Search engine results and external links will both help you build your client base.
- Referrals – If you’re looking for a sure-fire way to build your client base with great clients, ask your current best clients to refer others. You can even go so far as to offer a referral bonus in the form of cash or a discount on services.
- Affiliates – Depending on the size of your business and your desired business goals, you may benefit from an affiliate program. Paying others a commission to promote your business takes a bit of planning; however, it can really be worth it. You may end up building an empire.
- Free information – Okay, so you’re blogging, networking and you have an affiliate team or a referral program. What else can you do? You can offer free information about your industry. Think about your target audience and the problems they have.
If you are a freelance graphic designer, you might create a report about the five reasons why you need a quality logo. If you’re a freelance writer, you might offer a report on how to hire a freelance writer. Free information drives traffic to your website and services. It also demonstrates your credibility as an expert in your industry. Create free reports and publish articles, and you can even create free worksheets, online courses and newsletters.
There are clients out there just waiting for you to present yourself. Use your skills, knowledge and resources to attract your ideal customer. Give them every reason to hire you for their next project and every project thereafter.
Being a freelancer has definite perks. You have the freedom to choose your hours. You can call in sick without feeling guilty. And of course you’re in control of who you work with and the projects you work on. However, in the beginning and certainly throughout your freelance career you’ll likely take projects that are with clients you’d rather pass on. Many freelancers struggle to find their ideal clients.
What Is Your Ideal Client?
Before you can go on a scavenger hunt for your ideal client, you want to identify what makes them ideal. Is it a topic, project type or subject matter that you find ideal? Do you prefer certain communication styles? Are you looking for someone who is detail oriented or someone who lets you manage the details? Do you want to work together as a team or would you rather work alone?
Many people view their ideal client as someone who provides them with a constant stream of well-paying work. That’s certainly a bonus. However, if you don’t enjoy working with that client or on their projects, the money isn’t going to be as fun to earn. They won’t be an ideal client.
Take some notes or jot down an idea of who your ideal client is. Daydream for a minute and imagine who they are. This is your ideal client profile. Keep this information where you can review it often.
Finding Your Ideal Client
The next step is to explore where your ideal client may hang out. Do they participate on industry forums? Are they in your local networking group? Find out where they hang out and make yourself a part of their world.
For example, if your ideal client is a small business blogger interested in parenting and child-related topics, then you may network on small business blogging sites or parenting sites. Check out the people who are hanging out there too. Connect with them.
Introduce yourself. Perhaps you already know who your ideal client is. Maybe you love the products a company offers, you like their personality and would love to work with them. Then by all means hold out your virtual hand and introduce yourself. Let them know you admire their work. Tell them what you do and offer your services. Consider offering a project on spec. That way they get to know you and the amazing freelance work you do, and there’s no risk to them.
Ask for an introduction. If you know people who know people, tell them who your ideal client is and ask for referrals and introductions. If there’s one thing everyone should have been taught in school, it is that hard work is only part of the success equation. Who you know is also important, and it makes the trip to success street much faster and easier.
Finding your ideal client isn’t difficult. Describe them in a paragraph or two; create an ideal client profile. Then seek them out online and off. Ask for introductions and referrals. Connect with them and don’t be shy. Your ideal client may be looking for an ideal freelancer – you!
You’ve worked hard to get where you are. You’ve marketed. You’ve done projects on spec, and for less than you’d like just to make a name for yourself. Finally, you’re starting to get some truly great clients. Clients that fit your ideal client profile. It’s vitally important to keep these fantastic clients.
Your best clients are the ones that are:
- Easy to work with
- Provide frequent jobs and income
- Give you a sense of joy, pride and accomplishment
So what can you do to keep your best clients? What can you do to make sure your bread and butter, your dream clients, stay with you for the long haul?
- Deliver more than promised. One of the best ways to ensure your clients stick around is to go above and beyond what they ask for. Imagine if you went to the dentist and they not only cleaned your teeth but whitened a few of the front ones for free? You’d be ecstatic, right? That’s a dentist you’d go back to in six months, maybe even if you’re terrified of the dentist.
- Become more than just a service provider. Service providers are easy to come by. Maybe not ones that are as good as you, but they’re out there by the dozens to be sure. One way to keep your customers coming back again and again is to become an adviser and someone they can turn to.How do you accomplish this transition from service provider to consultant? Begin by offering advice and insight when it’s appropriate and relevant. When they ask you a question or for your advice, give it. Back it up with reasons why you feel the way you do and establish yourself as an expert.
- Honor your commitments and follow through. It might surprise you to know that your customers are probably accustomed to freelancers who flake. Many freelancers are really good about making commitments and promises, but few are good at following through. Create a no excuses policy for yourself. Always deliver on time and follow through on your commitments. You’ll surprise your customers and they’ll come back for your services again and again.
- Touch base. Sometimes clients drop away for a while. Make sure they keep you in the front of their mind by touching base with them from time to time. Connect with them on social media sites. When you come across some industry information you think they might benefit from, send them a note. Keeping your customer in mind will help them remember you when they need your services.
Keeping your best customers is about offering exceptional customer service. It’s about taking the extra steps to let them know they’re important to you. It’s well worth the effort. You’ve come a long way. Keep your best customers and make your freelance life all you dreamed it would be.
You’re a freelancer, right? In order to continue to be a freelancer and to grow your business, it’s important to get the word out. It’s called marketing and it’s something many freelancers neglect. Take advantage of their mistake and capture more clients. Here are seven ideas to market your freelance services.
- Guest blog – Your prospects read industry blogs, right? Email the owner or owners of the blog and offer to be a guest blogger for free. Your posts will capture the attention of prospects and turn them into customers. Make sure when you sign on as a guest blogger, that you’re able to also create a bio and a link back to your blog or website.
- Give away free information – In addition to becoming a guest blogger, write or create a free report, online course or even a video to give away. Make sure your free information provides valuable information – information that provides a solution or solves a problem for your audience.In addition to offering the free information on your website, you can also offer it to other business owners to distribute. Make sure they agree to keep your name as author and your contact information intact.
- Article marketing – Another way to gain attention and market your freelance business is to create articles and publish them on as a guest blogger, you could also syndicate your content with other high profile websites.
- Create a newsletter – When you gain subscribers, whether they’re customers or not, you have access to them. They’ve agreed to receive information from you and you can provide them with valuable information. Each newsletter is an endorsement for you and your services. Invite them to forward your newsletter to a friend for more exposure.
- Ask satisfied customers for referrals – Don’t be shy. When a customer is satisfied, ask them for referrals. In fact, you can create a referral reward program. Each customer who refers a new customer can receive 50% off their next project. Make sure to include a dollar limit on that referral bonus, unless you don’t mind giving away thousands of dollars.
- Network – Social networking is a wonderful way to meet new people. It’s also a great way to share your knowledge, skills and experience. You can offer value to others and in return they may become customers.
- Don’t forget promotion – Postcards, business cards, advertisements and magnets on the side of your car… these little promotional items can go a long way toward attracting awareness. Invest your money wisely and focus on a few small promotional items.
Marketing doesn’t have to be stuffy and complicated. You can find creative and effective means to spread the word about your business. Growing your freelance business takes time and resources. Invest them wisely and reach your freelance business goals.
If you haven’t experienced freelance burnout, it’s probably only a matter of time. Burnout is something that happens to most freelancers. There are a few key ways to manage it so it doesn’t affect your income or career.
What Is Freelance Burnout?
Freelance burnout is what happens when you just don’t have it in you to complete another project for anyone, even your best clients. You’re just plain tired of being a freelancer. You procrastinate to the point where every project becomes an emergency project or it’s delivered late. Your passion and enthusiasm for your career and business have evaporated.
What Causes Freelance Burnout?
Burnout is caused by a number of possible events or factors.
- You’re in the wrong niche/industry. Sometimes we dive into a niche because it’s the easiest. However, if you don’t have an undying passion for that niche, then burnout is a very real possibility.
- You’re working too hard. Working every day, seven days a week and eight to ten hours a day is a lot. For most people, it’s too much. Even if you absolutely enjoy what you’re doing, breaks and days off are essential.
- You’re bored. Sometimes freelancers end up doing the same type of project over and over again. If you’re in a creative field, this may be stunting your creativity.
I’m Burnt Out, Now What?
If you’re suffering from burnout, try to identify why it is happening. Are you bored? Working too hard? In the wrong field? Take some time to look within yourself for the answers. It’s not going to go away until you know what’s causing it.
If you’re bored, find something that excites you. Look for a creative outlet. It can be something related to your business or entirely separate. You can create a new report, video or ebook to promote your business. Take up photography as a new hobby or write a fiction book. Make time to keep your creative side happy.
If you’re working too hard, the solution is both simple and complicated. The simple solution is to stop working so hard. However, you have obligations – both financial and to your customers, right? Look for ways to lessen your workload. Can you outsource some of the tasks that take up your time? Do you have room in your budget to weed out the smaller, lesser paying clients, and focus on the bigger clients and projects?
If you’re in the wrong niche or industry, then it’s time to make a transition. This isn’t as difficult as it sounds. Begin seeking clients in your desired niche or industry. Maybe you’ll create an entirely new website or blog devoted to that target audience.
As you begin to get more clients in your desired niche, you can begin to outsource the other projects or simply turn away new customers. It won’t take long to find clients in your new niche. When you love what you’re doing, people are attracted to you and your enthusiasm.
The biggest piece of advice is that if you’re suffering from burnout, take a look at what’s causing it. You might be surprised at the answers you find. Once you know what’s causing it, take the steps necessary to change things around. You’ve built a successful freelance career, so making these changes should be easy for you!
Managing cash flow is one of the most difficult challenges for any business owner, regardless of their size. Bills may come when you don’t have any money in your account. Clients pay at inconvenient times and worse, they sometimes don’t pay at all. When you’re a freelancer, managing cash flow is extremely important. Without a good system, you can go into debt quickly. Let’s take a look at a few expert tips to make sure you stay in the black each month.
- Collect a deposit before starting a project. Some freelancers actually collect 100% of the project’s estimated cost before starting. If you have a fantastic reputation in your industry, you can probably get away with this. Otherwise, a good rule of thumb is to collect 50% in advance. This ensures you’ve at least collected half of the project’s costs and you’ll have cash to work with.
- Make your invoices due upon receipt. Many companies are accustomed to working with a net 10 or net 30 invoice. This means they don’t have to pay it for ten or thirty days. When your invoices are due upon receipt it can throw them and their accounting department for a loop. Make sure your customers know your terms before signing on to work with them. Implement consequences if customers don’t pay on time.For example, add a late fee for every day or week a payment is late. Make sure this is clear in advance so your customers are not unhappily surprised. You can also offer a discount to clients who pay on time to motivate them to pay quickly.
- Invoice right away. It may seem like common sense; however, many freelancers wait to invoice. Don’t wait. As soon as you deliver that project, invoice them. Even if there are going to be revisions, make the invoice part of your project delivery process.
- Pay your bills at the last possible moment. Again, this may seem like common sense; however, many folks are inadvertently giving away money. Hold onto your cash and earn interest as long as you can. Afraid you’re going to miss a due date and incur late fees? Using automatic bill pay helps you make sure payments are on time and you can schedule them for the last possible day. (You’ll also save money on stamps.)
- Reward clients with ongoing projects. When you have a client that has regular work, reward them for that. Set up a discount for regular work – we’re talking a project every week or month here – and agree to invoice them at the end of the month. This way, you have guaranteed cash flow and they get a discount. It’s a win-win.
It’s tough to know when your next paycheck is coming sometimes. By taking a few steps to manage your cash flow and offer incentives for repeat business and fast payment, you help to ensure you never have to use that credit card to buy groceries again.
Freelancers around the globe all face one critical challenge to their success. The ability to manage their time is incredibly important. It can mean the difference between failure and success. Manage your time well and you’ll not only accomplish more, you’ll also make more money. Here’s how.
- Get a calendar, and use it. One of the easiest mistakes to make is to assume you’ll remember the projects you have on hand, what’s due, and when it’s due. This can not only lead to a sense of feeling overwhelmed, you will also likely forget something. There’s nothing worse than having to cram a project in. You’re left feeling like you couldn’t give the project 100% and perhaps have an unhappy client.The solution is simple. Get a calendar, or calendar software, and use it. Schedule your projects, not only when they’re due but also when you’re going to work on them.
- Make room for changes. Some days just don’t go very well. Maybe you’d planned on writing a report and you wake with a migraine. Well if you’ve scheduled that report to be written the day before it’s due, you’re out of luck. However, if you’ve made room in your calendar for bad days, rush jobs and other challenges life throws at you, then you’ll sail through the project without any problem.
- Stay focused when you’re working. Freelancers have the ability to work from anywhere they desire. They can work from their couch, the beach, the coffee shop or the park. This freedom also presents challenges. It’s tough to focus.If you’re great at focusing rather than surfing the web, checking your email or feeding your fish on Facebook, then great. If you struggle with focus, consider using a timer to help you stay focused. Set the timer for how long it should take you to complete a project and work on the project until the timer beeps. If you’ve been focusing solely on your task, then it should be completed or nearly completed.
- Calculate your hourly rate. If you’re money motivated, this is a great way to help you stay focused and on task. For example, if you have 50 articles to write and it takes you five days to write them, at a rate of $20/article you’re making $25/hour in an eight hour day. However, if you can write those same articles in two days, you’re making $62.50/hour. The latter is a much more enticing hourly rate.
- Set aside time to stretch, play, and otherwise laze about. All work and no play leads to boredom, procrastination, and a complete and total inability to focus. Set aside time to do nothing, at least nothing work related. You’ll be much better able to focus and manage your work time later.
Managing your time as a freelance writer is generally a learned skill. Pay attention to your days, weeks and months. Are you successful? What challenges did you have? How can you eliminate those challenges from happening again? Use these five tips and you’re well on your way to a long and happy freelance career. I trust this article helps you become a successful freelancer and please feel free to add you own tips below in the comments area.