Often, people are afraid to strike out on their own as a freelancer because they aren’t sure how to drum up enough business to stay afloat. What’s your best advice for how to do this, and why?
These answers are provided by Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most successful young entrepreneurs. YEC members represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year, and have created tens of thousands of jobs. Learn more at yes.co.
1. Build Your Reputation First
Unless you are currently working for a company in the exact same business you’d be doing as a freelancer, I think the old adage of “don’t quit your day job” is still good advice. Get one or two clients whom you can manage along with the rest of your day job responsibilities, do excellent work for them and build up your reputation. You can then quit your main job without undue fear.
2. Get Active on Social Media
Be social on social media every day. That doesn’t mean just producing content that you can cross-post across platforms (which is important too), but also engaging with others. I see entrepreneurs often make the mistake of thinking that people will just “find them.” But if everyone believes that someone else will find them, who is doing the finding? Take the step to reach out.
3. Target Your Ideal Client
The best way to drum up business as a freelancer is to target your ideal client. Once you know who you want to work with, you can start creating content and marketing materials that appeal to them. You can also reach out to potential clients through social media or networking events. By focusing on your target market, you’ll be more likely to attract the right kind of clients and make more sales.
4. Work With Other Freelancers
Start working for other freelancers and take on their extra work. If you do a good job, they will send the work they don’t want or have time for your way. My book of first clients were other professionals who had more experience than I did, and often I got referred clients who were too small for them. I built meaningful relationships and lifetime value clients.
5. Improve Your Online Visibility
One way of attracting clients for your freelance services is to promote your services online. So, start working on improving your online visibility. This will not only attract new leads, but it will also help you build brand recognition. When people start recognizing you, they will come to you when they need any of those services.
6. Write Guest Posts
It’s easier to expand your business if you have a strong reputation. I suggest reaching out to publications that publish content in your industry and asking if they accept guest posts. Use this opportunity to write a value-packed article for another publication with a link back to your website. This strategy helps build your reputation, which will eventually lead to more on-site traffic.
7. Build Industry Connections
For any type of freelancer position, it’s important to focus on building networking connections in your industry. This is an easier way to get your foot in the door and get noticed by your target audience.
8. Ask for Referrals
Always, always ask for referrals. Don’t ask once; ask periodically. Then, you get to take advantage of the networking efforts of multiple people. Don’t hide in a home office. Attend every event that might be related to your field. Work at coffee shops with a stack of business cards next to you. Learn how to be the one who breaks the ice, and have faith in yourself.
9. Highlight Testimonials
One way to find potential clients is to show testimonials and other forms of social proof on your website. Research shows that 72% of people won’t take action on a website until they read reviews. It doesn’t matter if they are buying a physical product or the services of an individual. Reviews and testimonials can tremendously impact your sales and engagement.
10. Cold Email Business Owners
There are two critical skills a freelancer can develop to keep bringing in customers: lead generation and cold emailing. I recommend learning these skills or getting help from fellow freelancers to find real emails of business owners. An aspiring freelancer can then cold email these owners with offers of their services. In this way, they can keep finding new clients.
11. Design an Engaging Website
If you want to see success as a freelancer, you have to build an audience. It’s nearly impossible to see consistent engagement if you don’t have a website. I suggest creating a blog and sharing industry-specific news, opinion pieces and advice for your readers. Before long, you’ll have a list of options when it’s time to choose your next gig.
12. Build Your Portfolio in a Particular Niche
The key to quickly ramping up cash flow as a freelancer is to find a niche that you can start building a portfolio in to show new prospects. For example, as a writer, you could focus on some area you’re interested in or have some sort of real-world experience in, such as health care. It’s far easier to sell work when the examples you send to prospects are relevant to their business.
13. Focus on the Quality of Your Work
One of the most efficient ways to stay on top of your freelancing game is to focus on quality content consistently. Whether you’re a makeup artist, photographer, writer or web designer, people will come looking for you if you can woo them with the quality of your work. It helps promote word-of-mouth and attract more clients.