So you’ve been working as a freelancer on the general websites, but now you want to take the next step? Good for you! The big question is, of course, what is the next step? How can you go from working for a few people that you’ve picked up via the working boards and the websites into turning what you’re doing into an actual business?
Step one: Target your most profitable niche
The first thing you are going to have to figure out is where you made your most money and then (at least for the time being) specializing in that niche. The reasoning behind this is simple. First of all, by specializing you’re going to grow in leaps and bounds in that one area, making your skill set ever much more valuable than if you’d be a generalist and growing incrementally in lots of areas.
Secondly, specialists appear more professional. After all, we’re all bound to think that somebody that specializes did so because they’re good in that area. Generalists, on the other hand, both seem unable to make up their minds and obviously haven’t learned as much about one specific area as the specialist has.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t change expand as time moves on. This is only to start off with. Later on, when you’ve established yourself as an expert, and you’ve got some clients to back your play, it will be a simple matter to expand into new niches.
Step two: Find the right company name
You’ve got to have the right company name in place, without any excess words that don’t mean anything (e.g. limited, incorporated, etc). Does a company name really matter? Of course, it does. It’s one of the very first things people find out about you and we’re amazingly quick to judge. That means that right from the bat it’s important that you make a good impression. A good company name can do that. A long, windy, uncertain one cannot.
You also need to pay attention to the psychology of names. We are more likely to remember shorter names than longer ones. We like the name to be complete (like ‘Kodak’ which starts the same way it finishes) and we like words that sound like something we already know, as this gives us an immediate visual trigger (provided we like the trigger, of course, ‘Shik’ would probably not get you very far).
Step Three: Push your online marketing
Next, it’s time to let people know you’re out there. In times past, that was done through advertising, today the best marketing is content marketing. The reason content marketing is the better way to go for a freelancer is that if you’ve got good content you’re killing two birds with one stone. It both lets people know you’re out there as well as showing expertise.
Note that it’s vital that you work on not just building a good web page but also on expanding your social media presence. If you’ve got a good social media presence with a large following that’s like a testimonial for how good you are at what you do.
And of course work on your portfolio. But do pay attention, no portfolio is better than a bad one as this will generally be the first encounter with your work. So take the time to choose the pieces you’ll include wisely. Also, remember that you do not need to put in everything you’ve done. It’s much better to choose a few great pieces than having them mixed in with average ones.
Step Four: Collaborate
Not everybody is your enemy. Instead, work on finding a couple of people to team up with. Best are probably people in related fields so that you can share projects and introduce yourself as a package deal and thereby tackle much larger projects than you’d be able to tackle alone.
That said, freelancers in your own field can be useful as well as you can help each other become better, make each other aware of jobs better suited to the other person’s specialties, and hand off work to each other when one person is overloaded.
Do not underestimate the importance of this step. If you respect each other, another freelancer can be vitally important in getting started as well as helping you get through the rough times.
Step Five: Work on your pitch
Nowadays people are very distracted. That means you’ve got to be able to woo them in as few words as possible. So work on your pitch. You’ve got thirty seconds to convince me. Start! Seriously, though, you never know when you’re going to run into somebody that could make a real difference to you, so make certain you’ve got your pitch worked out. Otherwise, you might be kicking yourself when you start talking to somebody important at a party and you flubber your sale.
Step Six: Branch out your client search
Now it’s time to start finding clients. There are a lot of places for you to look.
- See if your local chamber of commerce has any meetings or events scheduled that you can go to and network.
- Join business networking groups that are associated with your niche or – even better – the niche that your clients are in.
- Find Meetup events, but preferably outside of your niche (as the competition will all be there if it’s inside your niche).
- Join groups on social media dedicated to topics that your clients would be interested in and try and see if you can make connections there.
- Get an app developed that would interest your clients and then offer it via your website (provided they sign up for your wonderful newsletter of course).
And there’s a lot more things to try. The thing is, don’t be afraid to fail. You don’t need every attempt to succeed, you see. One lucky break can get you work for months at a time while one failure will cost you from a few minutes to a few hours. So go get ‘em!
Step seven: Market value
Skills are nice. Value is nicer. What do I mean with that? People can always find somebody else who has a skill and therefore if you market yourself based on skills you’re replaceable. If on the other hand, you manage to convince somebody that you’re adding real value to their company, then they’re going to think twice before looking for somebody else. That means you have that little bit more certainty and that is often exactly what is in short supply in the world of Freelancing.
The thing is, all these things you can do without stopping what you’re already doing. That means that none of this will endanger, in anyway, what you’ve already got built up. In other words, there is no risk, the only reward. So roll up your sleeves, get up the couch, and remember to drop us a line when you’re raking in the big dough and everybody’s screaming your name! So you’ve been working as a freelancer on the general websites, but now you want to take the next step? Good for you! The big question is, of course, what is the next step? How can you go from working for a few people that you’ve picked up via the working boards and the websites into turning what you’re doing into an actual business?
Disclaimer: All images are provided by author.