I started my freelance journey about 3 years ago.
I was looking for a side hustle and somehow landed on an online freelancing website.
I registered and, after 2 weeks of pitching, landed my first job.
I can’t remember the exact details, but I remember the ecstatic feeling when I received my first payment -$5 from my online endeavor.
Since then, I have grown and commanded much higher fees.
I’ve made a successful career as a freelancer.
Here are the key lessons from my experience that shaped my path.
1| Find Your (Profitable) Niche
It’s tempting to start off your freelancing career as a generalist.
You’re eager to take on any type of work from any client and any industry. That’s understandable.
As a newbie, you’ll want to maximize every opportunity to land a new client.
But this strategy is hardly sustainable.
The case against casting a wide net is that it may come up with the more undesirable and low-value catches out there.
Because the market is saturated with generalist freelancers, pricing always becomes a race to the bottom.
Just as a heart disease patient will prefer a cardiologist to a GP, clients will be more comfortable giving their money to a specialist.
That is why you should choose a niche right off the bat and deepen your expertise there.
Aside from getting better paid, narrowing down to a niche also makes marketing and completing projects easier.
You have a specific type of client you look for and tailor your prospecting in that direction. It will also enable you to create a brand.
Choose a marketable niche that interests you.
Even if you not quite the expert, narrowing your services to a niche you love will give you the extra motivation to get tasks done.
And you can always brush up your skills.
To get started with Freelancing, following a proven blueprint…Check out “My Freelance Paycheck”.
2| Build A Portfolio
A portfolio showcases samples of your best work to potential clients.
They need to know who you have worked with previously, your style and the quality of your work.
With your portfolio, you specify the services you offer, who they are for, and why you are the best person to hire.
Other essentials to include in your portfolio include:
- Your contact information
- Relevant education, skills, certification, and accomplishments
- Testimonials, feedback or social proof
Your portfolio can also be hosted on several websites like Behance and DevianArt.
But building your own portfolio website is more professional. The best way to sell your services is by showing clients you can solve their most pressing problems.
3| Establish Your Credibility
A well-designed portfolio establishes credibility and tells prospective clients that you can deliver on your services.
But what if you’re just starting out?
As a newbie, you may not have a well-developed body of work and testimonials to show off.
However, you must appear credible and competent to build sufficient trust if you are to make any money freelancing.
You can find ways to demonstrate your competencies by thinking creatively.
When I first started out as a freelance writer, I volunteered to write for a friend’s blog in return for positive feedback and a by-line.
Ask your LinkedIn in contacts to endorse you for talents relevant to your freelance pursuits.
You can also get certifications in your area of specialization and present them along with with your educational qualifications if they are contextually relevant.
Hubspot Academy and Google Digital Skills are some of the well known and recognized online resources that offer free certification.
And even before starting with those sites, I recommend you follow this proven blueprint for Freelance Writing success…My Freelance Paycheck
4| Identify Your Prospective Clients
When I first started out, I didn’t have much discretionary freedom in selecting clients.
But with time, I learned to identify the sort of clients I work best with.
While this may mean turning down a lot of business, narrowing your client base will help you achieve more in less time.
As your reputation builds, satisfied clients will refer others to you. You’ll be seen as the best person to solve their problems.
Which means You can charge premium rates and be sure of getting hired and paid.
So how do you qualify prospects?
- Look for businesses that need your services and have the funds to pay your prices.
- Find the decision-makers within the business. Can you get their contacts and connect with them on a personal level?
With these sorted out, you are ready to start pitching.
5| Learn to Pitch
Learn to pitch even if you have a network that supplies you with client referrals.
Excellent pitching skills will always ensure you have constant work and avoid the dreaded feast and famine cycle.
Make you pitches stand out from the mountain pile of proposals businesses are inundated with daily by:
- Adding a personal touch. Research the mail recipient and their business. Quote something they said that you agree with or compliment them on a recent achievement.
- Do not waste time talking about yourself and your accomplishment. Focus on the client and how you can help them
- Also, include testimonials and work samples from past clients to show that you are capable.
- Go a step further by suggesting a solution or adding value to them in some way.
For a step-by-step approach to pitching, including templates and more… Check out ‘My Freelance Paycheck’
6| Charge What You’re Worth
Pricing your services can be tricky, and there is no hard science to it.
Finding out what other freelancers in your niches are charging can be a helpful guide. But you mustn’t solely rely on that.
Try to estimate the value you provide the customer and charge accordingly.
From experience, it’s better to charge based on projects rather than an hourly rate.
This is because clients are more interested in the outcome or the results of the projects.
If it solves their problem and makes them happy, they wouldn’t care less about the number of hours you spent completing the project.
When you start getting better at your craft with experience, you will take far less time to complete a given gig.
Thus, you’ll short-change yourself with hourly billing.
7| Define The Project Scope
Before starting on a project, clarify with the client the expected milestones and timelines.
You will leave the wrong impression if a client has to wait for too long for the project to be completed or, even worse, billed for more hours than they expected.
8| Stick to Deadlines
Your ability to turn in your work on time every time is critical to your success as a freelancer.
But since you work from home, it’s easy to get distracted and procrastinate.
- Always build and sustain momentum by starting up a project once the contract is in place. If you wait, you may never get around to it till the last minute.
- Learn to say no to extra commitments when your hands are full
- Break challenging projects into smaller, manageable pieces to make them easier to handle. Taking it on all at once tends to be intimidating and gives you an excuse to put it off.
- Give yourself and earlier deadline than that from the client.
It takes discipline to stay on track and do your assigned work. But the payoff is huge.
9| Stay Organized
Freelancing requires you to juggle multiple clients, and deadlines. Set up a system to stay organized and efficient.
A daily routine is important.
Mapping out time for everything helps keep you committed. Make use of apps to schedule meetings, create to-do lists, and book appointments.
Use a sound filing system and keep your workspace clear of clutter.
The right systems and processes in place will ensure you stay on top of your work and manage your clients’ expectations.
10| Delight Your Customer
The customer is king. Annoying cliche aside, this phrase sums up all you need to do to become a successful freelancer.
When you exceed customers’ expectations, you’ll earn a superstar reputation in no time.
Not only will a delighted customer return for further projects, but they will also give your excellent feedbacks, testimonials, and refer more clients to you.
Just keep them happy and satisfied.
To get started with Freelancing, check out this proven blueprint…