More and more freelancers enter the field with each passing year. But you know that — you’ve already made the jump.
Freelancer Union's 2016 report even considers freelancers an emerging voting block in upcoming elections. Look at you, running your business and swaying elections! But what stands out most is that the 55 million workers participating in the freelance market generated over $1 trillion for the U.S. economy last year. You’re no small fish.
What does all that mean?
Freelancing is here to stay, and if you want to make your career thrive, you need to look at it for what it is: a business. Whether you have an LLC or are working on a bare-bones side project, you need to approach your work as a small business owner would.
Doing so means you enable yourself to win the best clients and secure the compensation your craft deserves — that’s why you should hone in on these practices to help grow your business.
Marketing and Sales
Regardless of the industry you’re in, marketing and sales have to be part of your operation. You need to market your services in order to find and secure new clients and new work, and in the freelance world, that means you’re selling you.
Whether you have a million clients in your network or just one, the name of the game is always growth. You want to consistently grow for two main reasons:
To earn the most you can, and
To have a large pool of potential customers.
The First Step
Let’s start with your first step, the foundational work.
Determine who you want to target. There’s a broad spectrum out there. Hone in on your targets, then build out. If your services are geared more toward companies, LinkedIn is your top option for it’s excellent B2B potential. If you’re looking to attract new individual customers, Facebook and Twitter are great places to start.
From there, dig deeper into where your audience goes. If you’re a designer or in a visual field, check out Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Behance, and other visual arts communities like 500px. Post quality content and calls to action that get the attention of your audience.
From there, expand. If you find yourself stuck on where to look, Google’s similar search is a great tool to tap into. All you have to do is search a social media platform you want to connect with. For example, search ‘Behance,’ click on the arrow next to its result, and select ‘Similar.’
Now you have a list of additional platforms to tap into. This works for any freelance profession that has a large enough community. For example, if you’re a writer, you might look into Contently and Muck Rack. Give it a try.
Expand Your Reach
Once you have the hang of social media promotion and audience growth, it’s time to go further. Explore ideas like newsletters and strategic partnerships like guest posting. Both are great ways to expand your reach for potential clients and assert yourself as an authority in your niche.
Don’t forget about past clients you’ve had a good experience working with.
Try this next time you’re looking to restart a partnership: If a client recently published a great article, email them saying that — nothing restarts dialogue like a genuine compliment. Once the ball is rolling, mention that it’s been awhile since you last worked together. It could be the gateway to your next project.
Just like any business, you want to wow every customer every time, and communication (along with top notch work) is the key.
Communicating throughout the project ensures you’re both on the same page. It also shows reassures the client they’ve hired someone competent and professional.
Have a question? Reach out and ask. They’ll appreciate your attention to detail.
Make big gains? Give them a status report! Not only are you communicating, you’re showing them their return on investment.
Even a thank you email at the end can earn you major brownie points.
Whether you’re meeting with your client in-person or communicating online, A+ communication turn your one-off project into a steady working relationship. In doing so, you’re showing clients that you’re every bit as reliable as any agency employee.
The backend operation might not be the first thing to pop into your mind when you gasp and exclaim, I will become a freelancer! But if you’re not prepared to handle the administrative side, you could be in for a big headache.
Be it invoice generation, time tracking, securing pay from delinquent clients, or a multitude of other tasks, you have to take on an administrative role in your freelance operation. Without proper structure in place, you could find yourself knee-deep in paperwork and tax documents.
The way to minimize your headaches? Start acting like a bookkeeper as soon as possible.
The best way to make sure your financial records are in order, if you aren’t a finance professional, is to delegate these tasks to someone or something else. If you have the funds available, a real-life tax professional is the way to go. If not, opt for an easy-to-use bookkeeping solution.
Freelancer, you are a small business.
Hopefully it’s clear by now that you already are a small business, even if you’re not acting like it yet. If that’s the case, it’s time to shift your mindset a bit. By rethinking how you run your freelance operation, you’ll be able to grow your business and live the life and career you dreamt of when hopped into the gig economy.
There will always be ups and downs — they’re inevitable — but with a structure focused on the success of your marketing and customer satisfaction, you’ll have yourself (and your business) in the best position possible.