In a world where most businesses fail within the first two years, you could probably count me as a veteran. I’ve been freelancing pretty much my entire adult life and I still receive daily emails from clients who have been with me for a few years, as well as new inquiries. Relatively speaking, that could be considered success. Now I’m no globetrotter with the Midas-touch, or a widget-millionaire or whatever the cool thing is to be in entrepreneurology today, but that’s exactly what enables my friends and readers to relate to me: I’m a person just like you. I have bills that don’t pay themselves. I have a budget to meet, or else… I have goals that (most often) seem insurmountable because I’m not all that.
The good news is that you don’t NEED to be all that to start off working as a freelancer. I do know the way to turn a semi-successful freelancing business into a raging success, but I don’t have the time or money right now to make that happen. For now, I’m happy with what I have and look forward to where I’m going. But let’s not digress.
I want to show you the…
6 Simple Steps to Freelancing Success
What is freelancing exactly?
A freelancer or freelance worker is a term commonly used for a person who is self-employed and is not necessarily committed to a particular employer long-term. Wikipedia
The one thing that holds most people back from pursuing a freelancing career, is the fact that there’s no guaranteed paycheck at the end of the month that covers the bills. Instead of exchanging time for money as you do in a traditional job, you are paid for results or set outcomes and work done. Instead of being motivated by a boss, who finds you work to do, freelancing requires that YOU find the work and motivate yourself. You’re the boss.
As a freelancer, you may not be blasted by your boss when you don’t deliver, but you will simply lose your clients.
So how do we make the most of a freelancing career? Whether you’re a content writer, editor, accountant, physiotherapist or builder, the tips below will stand you in good stead. They can even be applied to other types of business as well as in your standard career.
Step 1: Understand the terminology
Freelancing does NOT mean working only when you’re free. It simply means you’re free from commitments to a particular employer and free to pursue more clients. Even Tim Ferris didn’t start off with a 4-hour work week. He worked like a demon for years before – learning, building and planning. He also worked incredibly hard at promoting his book. And outside of those 4 hours a week, he does work – to him, it just doesn’t feel like work. Also, he has many people running various parts of his business.
I don’t consider cooking and baking and grocery shopping work, but I know many people who hate doing it.
The crux of the matter is that you can’t start a freelancing business and expect to work 4 hours a week while earning a small fortune. You’ve got to work at it and on it. When I’m not working at my business (writing, editing), I’m working on it (promoting it, client services, improving systems). Working ON your business is not something you should ever delegate. It should come from the inside of you. If you can’t get your hands dirty, you shouldn’t be in business.
Of course, freelancing also doesn’t mean you have to work for free. Set your price according to industry standards, and don’t sell yourself short. Your time is money.
Step 2: Be responsive
We live in a consumer’s market. Everyone is shopping for the cheapest, fastest and best combination of services and products. The days when belly-to-belly marketing ensured that you’re their go-to person are well behind us. Your best friend and even your mother will shop around for a better deal before bringing their business to you. Not to mention your competitors. They will crush you like a bug, unless you step up and deliver the winning edge.
What’s the winning edge? SERVICE. You need to be the first person to get back to them, showing them that you care about them, value their time, understand them, and have the perfect solution to their problem. You have to tape it all down in a short, well-constructed and comprehensively concise message.
Check your emails daily. Respond to quote requests immediately. Let them know that you are handling it. Keep them posted.
I see so many people sit on emails for days before responding. Do you know what happens while you’re playing hard to get? Your competition is lapping up all the business.
Step 3: Pay fast and be paid fast
One of the less pleasant aspects of being a freelancer, is the fact that you have bills to pay. Yep – much like everyone else. However, there’s a secret to getting the money to roll in faster: if you pay your service providers / bills fast and happily, your clients will do the same to you.
It’s a type of cosmic karma. You can’t open your hands to receive more money if you’re holding on to money. Let it flooooow! Money is a fluid thing, it comes and goes. Let it!
When you pay for something, celebrate the fact that you were able to do so. Celebrate bills that are paid ahead of time and you’ll be surprised to see more roll in.
Appreciate your clients. Don’t take them for granted.
Step 4: Learn to market
Unless your target audience knows what you’re selling, they won’t buy. Invest in a website. List your services. Don’t just say you offer “author solutions” – explain that you offer writing (list the specifics) and editing (list the specifics). LinkedIn profiles are notorious for ambiguous marketing. People actually shoot themselves in the foot by trying to dream up weird and wonderful titles:
- Incubating a new future (unemployed?)
- Director and entrepreneur (of what?)
- Head Honcho (of what?)
- Side project (okay…)
- Meta therapist (why do I need one?)
Be crystal clear about your offering in your online presence, offline communications, ads and in communicating with people face-to-face. People are skeptical, so when you try to make them feel like idiots for not understanding your strange title, they will not ask.
Step 5: Grab opportunities
Opportunities will not come to you – you have to hunt them down. If you want something, figure out the steps required to get there, and methodically work each step backwards until you achieve it. Work at it daily.
If someone sends you a message on LinkedIn, introducing you to their services, don’t just send a “thanks” or thumbs-up emoji and call yourself a marketer or networker! Respond. Tell them thanks / no thanks, and tell them how you may be able to find synergy. Engage!
Step 6: Follow up = Fortune
So many freelancers are sitting on leads worth thousands of dollars, but they miss out on it because they don’t follow up. Perhaps they don’t want to “beg” for business, or they don’t know what to say. It’s as simple as saying:
“Hello [name], You asked about our [xyz] service a while ago and I was wondering if you’re still interested. Please let me know. Regards.“
Or, sending on promotions.
At the start of your business, collect every lead in a spread sheet, and sign up for an email follow up program. Always think about ways in which you can resolve clients’ issues. If you know they want what you have to offer, but can’t afford it, make it a bit more affordable by offering a promo, or a smaller package, or whatever will help them get some value from your offer.
If you don’t follow up, they will find a better deal from another freelancer and leave you in the dust. People want to know you care and that you’re thinking about them and wanting to help them. Show them!
As a freelancer, you have to work at your business and on your business at all times. There’s no switching off. You always have to be thinking about ways to achieve more and better results. Questions? Don’t hesitate to ask in comments, below.