If you are a freelancer and you are struggling to kick on with your career, then you are not alone. Although the lifestyle is attractive, the reality of being a freelancer is tough. This is especially true if you’re just starting out and you haven’t much prior experience or contacts in the industry you work in.
The excitement of starting out on your freelancing path soon fades, and once you have learned the basics of your craft and have your first few clients under your belt, then it can be easy to lose momentum. After all, you will likely have to cold message everyone you work with, which can take a great deal of time if no one knows who you are or what you offer.
While the temptation to give up and go find a salaried job will be immense at times, you shouldn’t be disheartened because it is entirely possible to grow your freelance career into something greater.
By working on a few key areas, you can transform your freelancing work from a trickle to a tsunami of clients, recognition, and, best of all, consistent income. To do this, you will need to focus on improving your portfolio, creating a distinct brand image, working on your financial knowledge to handle money better, as well as considering branching out into consulting, starting an online course, or expanding your skill set into other areas.
Without further ado, this is how to grow your freelancing career quickly:
Improve your financial knowledge
A severely underrated skill in all lines of work is a fundamental financial education, and never is this more important than with freelancing.
Although you might imagine that finance has little to do with the area you work in (unless you work in finance, of course), the truth is that you are going to need to make every penny go a long way.
One of the biggest downsides of freelancing is the unpredictable ‘feast or famine’ income, which can leave you feeling like a king or high and dry, depending on how many clients you currently have.
It is crucial to balance this topsy turvy cash flow by developing your financial knowledge. This will help you to know how to save your money properly, how to invest it if you want your existing bank account to start generating more cash, and how key concepts like appreciation work.
As a freelancer, you will also have to create your own invoices, as well as pay your own taxes, so it is vital that you can define tax invoice.
Build a distinct brand identity
A common mistake many freelancers make is to treat themselves as one person doing a job rather than a standalone business.
The truth is that if you want to grow your freelancing career, then you are going to need to start treating yourself like the latter for a number of important reasons.
The first is that it helps you overcome imposter syndrome and helps motivate you to complete work during hard times, just like a business would have to.
The second is rather less explored by a lot of freelancers but is arguably one of the most crucial steps to growing your career – building a brand identity.
While it is relatively easy for businesses to develop their own image because you will have set up the company for a particular reason, and people will naturally treat it as a standalone brand, when the brand is you, it can be difficult to comprehend.
In fact, you must transform your professional persona into a recognizable, distinct and likable brand that prospects will be attracted to in your industry. You need to build prominence in your niche so that potential clients already know of you by the time you pitch to them.
Arguably, you should go one step further than this and build so much authority in your industry that individuals and businesses ask you to work with them, rather than the other way around.
You can reach this level of authority by guest posting on popular industry blogs, regularly posting to social media sites like LinkedIn, building an email list, guest starring on popular industry podcasts or YouTube channels, or being featured in respected publications as an expert in your field. This social proof will do wonders when it comes to convincing a potential client to work with you.
Ask for referrals and testimonials
If you want to prove to clients that you are one of the best at what you do, then you are going to want to provide testimonials to back that up.
To get the ball rolling, ask your current clients for testimonials once you have completed their work – the reviews will soon stack up.
You should also ask them for referrals if they think you have done a good job. This is when a current client recommends your services to another individual or business, which is a far easier way of landing clients than having to cold email strangers.
To encourage this process every time, you could introduce an exclusive discount to clients who successfully refer your services to someone else, which will benefit both of you.
Once this has been repeated a few times, you will start to gain more regular work, which in turn will lead to more testimonials, and a stronger reputation.
Develop your portfolio
If your portfolio is looking barren, then it is time to fill it up with work. If you are relatively new in your freelancing career, then this could mean dropping your rates in order to get some experience under your belt and some previous work on the board.
While no one wants to work for less than they are worth, it could help slingshot you forward in the long run. Furthermore, when you are being paid below the market rate, you can experiment and practice your craft without feeling pressured to deliver a world-class piece of work.
Consulting could be a great option if you have a great deal of experience as a freelancer but you have reached a rut in your career.
Perhaps you want to hold back on the number of clients you work with, or you simply want a change of pace. Hiring out your specialized knowledge and skills as a consultant can be a fantastic way of doing this.