Being a freelance worker has many benefits. Freelancers often love what they do and are more engaged in their work because they are passionate about it. In recent years freelance work has allowed more and more people to pursue their dreams in place of a more traditional 9-5 job.
Freelancing is a hard gig, but you can still grow your business
With that being said, being a freelancer is a hard gig. Freelancers lack many things that people with more traditional jobs have to help them. This is especially applicable in the early stages of growing their business.
Freelancers often start with no clients and no connections in their industry and have no guaranteed income until they can obtain clients. As a result, they often struggle to create sustainable income.
Here are 6 tips to help freelancers grow their business.
Learn to maximize productivity
As a freelancer, you might be paid by the job rather than for how many hours you work. If this is the case, the more productive you can be, the more jobs you can take on, and the more money you will make. Even if you are not paid by the job, maximizing your productivity is in your best interest.
You will reach deadlines more efficiently and have more time to focus on other parts of your business.
Discover how you work best
Everyone has their own ways of working and maximizing productivity. However, finding how you work best is essential to being a productive freelancer.
One standard method is to eliminate distractions. In practice, avoiding distractions is different for everyone but often involves how you use technology and create an environment conducive to working effectively. For example, consider putting your phone on silent or do not disturb during work hours.
Some work best in a quiet room while others prefer to listen to music. Most people work best when they are alone and distraction-free. Establish hours during the day that are for you to work on your business. Make these the same hours each day, if possible, to create a routine you can get used to.
Set goals and track your progress.
Setting goals helps to organize the different things you’ll need to do your work — which for freelancers are many. It can also help people be motivated to finish tasks if they attach a goal to the listed item.
Make sure that these goals are specific and time-bound. Also, make sure that your goals are relevant to the larger goal of growing your business. With each goal you set, ask yourself, “Will this goal help me grow my business, and if so, how?”
Then, follow up regularly with how you are doing and your various goals. Additionally, make sure to list the things you need to do to achieve your goals and follow up with those as you accomplish them.
Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day
Going to bed and waking up at consistent times every day can boost alertness and productivity, according to Andrew Huberman, Professor of Neurobiology and Ophthalmology at Stanford School of Medicine. Going to bed at a consistent hour is important because humans have a circadian rhythm, set to release certain hormones associated with waking and sleeping at certain times during the day and night.
The most critical factor in your circadian rhythm is light, specifically, the light from the sun. Therefore, regulating your circadian rhythm (by going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time each day, preferably waking up within a few hours of sunrise and going to sleep 14-18 hours later) will increase how alert and productive you are throughout the day.
Develop a relationship with your clients
People are more likely to hire you if they know and trust you. So, firstly, you must earn their trust when you are first in contact with them so that they will hire you. Trust also includes developing a relationship with them as you first work with them. Additionally, you should do your best to stay involved with each client and foster a permanent relationship with them.
Communicate clearly and effectively with your clients so that you are both on the same page throughout the project. If necessary, ask questions so that you are aware of their expectations. Be honest about what you can provide them, so their expectations will be met.
Earn their trust
Before a client hires you, they have to trust you. To convince them that you are the right person for the job — there are a few things you can do.
- First, make a portfolio and regularly update it with your best and most up-to-date work. Then, make your portfolio easy to navigate so clients won’t feel overwhelmed or confused.
- Second, consider making a website that features your work and is visually appealing.
- Third, when communicating with potential clients, try to have in-person meetings or video calls where you can discuss their expectations. Answer their communications quickly and thoroughly.
- Finally, on your website and in any advertising you do, make sure that it is easy for potential customers to find out what they need to know about you and your service.
Develop a relationship with your clients
Once you are hired, developing a relationship with the client is crucial. As you are working with them, ask what their goals are for their company. When you understand their company better you can know what they want out of your service. More importantly, they will feel you are more invested in them and their business.
Also, do your best to get to know them outside of their company, fostering a personal relationship as well. Finally, keep them in the loop by regularly sending them progress updates and samples of how the project is coming along.
Ask them each time if that is what they are hoping for or if they would like you to change anything. Give them ideas about how it could be improved, or other things they could do. Even if they don’t use your ideas, they will feel you are engaged in their company and dreams.
Making the relationship permanent
When you are finished working with a client, ask them for feedback on your work and overall experience. Ask them if their expectations were met, and if they would have liked you to do anything differently.
Be open to their response and any constructive criticism they are willing to offer. In addition, ask if there is anything else that they need to be done that you could do. Also, ask if anyone they know, especially someone in their industry, needs your services.
Asking if they need additional work or know someone who does can result in you receiving more work (more on that below). In the future, follow up with old clients, asking them how things are going personally and professionally. Take a genuine interest in what they are trying to accomplish and remember details, even writing them down if necessary.
Increase the number of potential clients you have
It’s a simple business idea: the bigger your net, the more fish you can catch. Bigger companies often have many long-term clients or will make significant, long-term deals with several other companies. So if you are in a smaller company you may have to find a lot of potential clients on your own.
As mentioned above, a satisfied client is often your best source of new clients, so make sure to do your best work and follow the tips above. Find new ways to reach out and let people know you’re there. You will only be hired by people who know you exist and see what you do.
Advertising is an excellent way to get new clients but also has risks, so it must be done right. Additionally, there are several small things that you can do to increase your clientele base, which will be covered below.
Referrals, repeats, and outreach: what you can personally do
Asking for referrals is great for finding more people to work with. Ask friends and family members who might need your services. Ask those you have worked with if they know people who would benefit from your work. As you meet people in your day-to-day life, ask them if they or anyone they know needs that. You can be your own free advertising machine.
Additionally, ask people you have worked with before about more potential opportunities with them. Creating regular clients is the best and fastest way to create a sustainable income as a freelancer.
Go to local events
Also, consider attending local events where you can introduce yourself to your target demographic. For example, consider putting up flyers at local places where business people or entrepreneurs frequent.
Finally, join freelancer sites and add your portfolio to them. Many freelancers benefit from learning a new skill and opening themselves up to an additional market. If you choose to go to events, notify your previous clients of your unique ability. Ask them if your new skill is something they need.
Asking these types of questions to clients about your newly acquired skill means that every client you have worked with has another chance to hire you or refer you to someone else. If they are pleased with your past work, then they are more likely to hire you again.
Lastly, if none of these work like you hope — cold outreach can be effective, albeit less than many other things discussed here. Cold outreach refers to using the cold calling method on various platforms. For example, many freelancers join groups or forums online and offer services (Facebook and Reddit are standard options).
Advertising can be immensely beneficial to a freelance business, especially as you are starting out. The downside to advertising is that it costs money, and so if the advertising is ineffective, it means a net loss on the part of your business.
You don’t want to blanket advertise because every ad you run must be worth the money you put into it.
Many people choose to use Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube’s ad platforms, but others are also. The main thing to remember is that ads must be kept simple. If someone doesn’t know what you are offering and how to access that (get in contact with you, go to your website, etc.) within a few seconds, then the ad won’t be worth it.
Make sure you are clear about why you are showing the ad and what you want them to do. Explain concisely who you are, what you do, why they should hire you, and how they can contact you.
Ensure that, for clients, it is easy to do their part. You want to make it easy for a new client or repeat client to put in their contact information or contact you.
Pay attention to how successful these ads are and how they do when targeted at different groups. Gather data that gives you a correct metric on your ad information costs.
Running ads effectively can help your freelance business get a boost in new clients, which is essential to making your business sustainable.
Image Credit: by Tony Schnagl; Pexels; Thank you!