Are you one of the 54 million freelancers the U.S. trying to take your career to the next level? If so, you can make that a reality by giving these eight tricks a shot.
1. Specialize in One Area
Let’s say that you’re a freelance writer with years of experience in online marketing, but have ventured off to write a couple of articles discussing everything from healthcare to fantasy football. When you apply to a freelancing site or build your portfolio on your own site, don’t you think that you should be focusing on your online marketing expertise as opposed to the topics that you have minimal experience with?
While it’s important to demonstrate your flexibility and ability to learn new topics, it’s more important to highlight the skills that you’re already a pro at. This attracts the clients who is looking for your specific set of skills and knowledge.
As you build a rapport, you can let you clients know that you have additional specializations, which could lead to you getting a gig with them in a different capacity, but for the time being, proudly showcase what you’re best at.
2. Learn Something New
While you should definitely focus on your specialization, that doesn’t mean that you should stop learning new skills or information. Let’s say that you’re a social media manager. You obviously have to learn the hottest new channels, techniques, and trends to stay relevant and competitive.
Also, as a freelancer, you’re expected to wear multiple hats. Unlike a business with various departments, you have to at least be familiar with things marketing, billing, and tax deductions so that your business can thrive. You don’t have to be a guru. But, having general knowledge will make you a more successful freelancer.
Besides, learning a new skill can make you more marketable in case your current industry dries up and it keeps your mind sharp.
3. Land Bigger and Better Clients
When you’re starting out, you’ll probably snag a series of one-off jobs. While that’s alright in the beginning, you have to think bigger. Instead of working for several clients who hire you intermiddly, work on landing two or three anchor clients.
Anchor clients are the recurring clients who are your bread and butter. In other words, they’re your main source of income and you can rely on about the same amount of work each month. This helps to stabilize your cash flow, focus on work instead of marketing yourself, and can lead to the meeting new clients when you’re referred.
Don’t worry if you’re not the strongest writer. You’ll find your own voice as you go along. What people are looking for on your blog is that you’re demonstrating your knowledge in your specific area of expertise. If you were a freelance account specializing in taxes, then you’re blog would contain information like the latest tax laws, tips on how to file your taxes, and the best tools to keep your tax information organized. When a client spots your blog and they’re impressed by knowledge, they’ll want to hire you to assist them with their taxes because you’ve proven your value.
If you want to become an awesome blogger, keep in mind that people love visual content. It’s easy for them to digest and share. So, an awesome infographic could be a powerful blog post. Also, I’m a firm believer in less is more. Get directly to the point and don’t overdo your blog posts with pictures and links.
5. Find a Coworking Space
One of the best things about being a freelancer is that you can work pretty much wherever you want. The thing is that staying in your pajamas all day with the TV on in the background may not be exactly the most productive environment. Or, it may be just fine and productive for you, but someone calls a quick meeting where you should be in attendance and you have trouble getting there because you smell like you just got done shoveling out the barn. It's not good for you to stick around the house all day and it can get pretty lonely being cooped up. Best to mix up your days by getting up and getting totally prepared to go out. Then sit down and work and then mix that up with meetings and meetups that can augment your business.
That’s why coworking spaces are becoming so popular freelancers. These spaces provide you with some much-needed socialization with like-minded individuals. This increases your productivity and gives you a chance to network.
I've been working at an amazing co-working space in Palo Alto for the past year, its great and one of the best places that I personally have been able to network while working.
Additionally, coworking spaces have in-house resources like copy machines, photographers, accountants, or offices to meet your high-profile clients. And, there’s also some sort of event going on. For example, the space could be hosting a social media event for local business owners. This gives you a chance to not only mingle and meet potential clients, but also demonstrates your expertise if you volunteer to speak.
There are only so many hours in the day. Between completing tasks by the deadline, marketing your services, and invoicing your clients, you’re not really left with a whole lot of time on your hands. When your workload becomes too big handle don’t hesitate to hire some outside help.
For the last couple of years I’ve outsourced several incredible freelance writers to help me out with writing content for my sites or for my clients websites. This has created a needed piece of open time that I can use to focus on other tasks or assignments to build the business, or fill in when I'm double booked.
Whether it’s writers, an accountant, or web designer there’s no shame in outsourcing certain tasks. And, thanks to sites like Toptal, Freelancer, and Behance, you can find talented freelancers to lend you a hand in whatever area you need or want.
7. Use the Right Tools
Besides hiring help, you should also rely on the right tools to help maintain your productivity, along with saving you a ton of time and money.
Some of my favorite are tools are:
- Hootsuite to schedule content onto my social media accounts and monitor their activity.
- Contactually to build better relationships with influencers and clients.
- Google Drive to provide cloud storage for documents and spreadsheets that I can also share and collaborate on documents and spreadsheets with others. There’s also email, hangouts, and a calendar.
- DocStoc for my professional and legal documents needs.
- Mint to help manage my manage and create a budget.
- WordPress as my free blogging platform.
- Skype to communicate with clients and remote workers.
8. Avoid Burnout
Getting burnout as a freelancer is a very real concern. Unlike some jobs when you just clock out at the end, freelancing can become a 24/7 job. For example, just because you’re done actually working for the day doesn’t mean that you’re not thinking about your next assignment or responding to your client’s emails. This type of stress, on top of juggling your personal life can easily get in the way of your career.
To prevent this from happening in the first place, take the following steps;
- Set boundaries. If you’re away for the weekend or swamped with work, don’t be afraid to tell your client. Be totally upfront. While making more money is tempting, overcommitting is one of the easiest ways to get overwhelmed and beyond on your work. It is also the best way for you to become unreliable. There is no way you can do absolutely everything that has to be done all by yourself.
- Ask for help. As mentioned previously, there’s nothing wrong with asking for help. Sometimes you need a fellow freelancer to help lessen your workload.
- Establish goals and priorities. My rule of thumb is first come, first serve - unless the client needs something ASAP. Work on your top priorities first and get to the ones that aren't as important later.
- Only accept projects or clients that interest you. Just because you could use the extra cash doesn’t mean that you have to accept a gig that you loathe. Are you really going to be motivated to complete a task when it’s something that bores you or is for a client you can’t stand?
- Build a strong rapport with current clients. Remember your anchor clients. Take care of them and they will take care of you.
- Use the Pomodoro Technique. Basically, this is where you work for 25 minutes straight and then take a 10-minute break. It keeps you refreshed. They have a cool little tomato looking timer, too.