Whether you’re taking on some freelance work on the side, or you’re making it your full-time gig, freelancing is a great way to explore new fields, earn extra money and be your own boss. Depending on how much time you’re devoting to freelancing, it can be challenging to find new clients and quickly grow your business. One method might work for a while and then you may hit that plateau of a full roster of clients. There’s a process for scaling your freelance business and it all starts with knowing your brand:
1. Brand your business
In the US alone there are 54 million people carrying out freelance work. That’s a lot of competition.
To stand out from the rest, you need to create a brand around your business to make it memorable, trustworthy and sought-after. Kristi Hines for instance, uses her name as her domain name, tells you right away she’s a freelance writer and has both her name and “Freelance Writer” as her branding tagline. She also shows off some popular publications she’s written for, relevant certifications she’s bagged and glowing testimonials she’s received on her homepage.
What makes what you’re doing stand out? Are you conveying your unique presence and mission to potential clients? Why should they choose you over others doing similar work?
Branding doesn’t simply refer to the colors you use or your logo. It covers the entire experience you give clients, from their initial contact with you, to your tone of emails, to your systems and everything in between. Creating and understanding your brand not only boosts your professionalism as a freelancer, but it also makes it easier to scale your business in the future.
2. Branch out to find new clients
Freelancers tend to get stuck in a rut of applying for jobs in the same way. They find a tactic that works – whether that’s cold emailing potential clients or applying for jobs posted on sites like Upwork.com and Guru.com – and run with it, but this often leaves a lot of work on the table. Think about it: if you’re always applying for projects through job boards, you might miss the opportunity to land work with a dream client via Twitter or other social media platforms.
This doesn’t mean you have to stick your finger in hundreds of pies. Instead, you want to constantly be looking for new ways to find clients and get your business in front of a wider audience. In this industry report, 27% of freelancers found work via referrals and 24% by word-of-mouth (online job boards, email, social media and more than 30 other sources account for the remaining 49%, each contributing between 0.1% and 6%). How can you make the most of these sources?
3. Build your network
Without the comfort of an office and colleagues, freelancing can be a lonely career choice. That doesn’t mean you can’t have professional partners and collaborate with others. In fact, you want to start building your network from the get-go, compiling connections who are freelancers and potential clients. Start by connecting with other freelancers in the comment section of industry blogs, joining relevant LinkedIn and Facebook groups (use the search bar on each social network to find them), taking part in relevant Twitter chats, and joining industry forums like Inbound (for marketers) and DesignersTalk (for designers).
Networking has immense benefits ranging from collaboration to community support. Sometimes you might need another freelancer to work on a project with you. Designers and writers often work together, for example.
4. Outsource smaller tasks
You’ll start to realize that there are hundreds of little administrative tasks that go hand in hand with freelancing. Consider how much time you’re spending on these tasks that aren’t adding anything huge to your business: tasks like invoicing, maintaining your social media channels, and keeping your website up-to-date. Outsourcing or automating these tasks gives you the time you need to work on your business, not in your business.
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5. Systematize your services
In order to grow, you have to have the tools in place to keep revenue consistently coming in at a pace that’s constantly on the rise.
To do this, you need to systematize some aspects of your services so they can be carried out without much work at all. If you’re a designer, for example, the start of your service flow might look something like this: Client purchases package in their cart on your website then a questionnaire is automatically sent to client via auto-responder and then the client schedules discovery call slot on online calendar.
These three steps require no contact from you; everything is done automatically.
6. Invest in professional development
In a piece on The Atlantic that dubs freelancing as the industrial revolution of our time, the idea that “today, careers consist of piecing together various types of work, juggling multiple clients, and learning to be marketing and accounting experts,” is heavily touted. Essentially, freelancers need to be jack-of-all-trades.
To grow your business, you have to grow as a person and a professional, which means learning new skills, keeping on top of new trends, and learning to use new tools. Online education sites like Coursera, Udemy and Codecademy are a good place to start.
This can be daunting when you’re only really good at what you’re doing, but it’s the development side of things where you’ll get new ideas, plan for the future, and start implementing new systems and approaches.
7. Create a product
Finally, to really scale your freelance business, you need to break away from the service-based mentality. That means creating a product to sell.
Think about it: once you’ve created your e-book, course, or physical product, you can sell it as many times as you can, whereas you’re limited to providing X amount of services per week to clients.
Not only does it give you the freedom to reach more people at the same time, but creating a product also provides you with consistent passive income, giving you the chance to work on other areas of your business.