Starting out as a freelancer is exciting – but it can be scary, too. When you’ve got specific income goals you want – or need – to meet, you’ve got to find ways to effectively get the word out about your services. And you’ve got to prove yourself. The pressure is on!
Fortunately, you have it within your power to give your freelance business the boost it needs to move it onward and upward.
- Don’t be shy! When you decide to enter into the world of freelancing, you need to come out of your shell. It’s up to YOU to raise awareness of your services to everyone you know and then some. Tell everyone you come in contact with (friends, family, doctors, your kid’s teachers, fellow gym rats, former work colleagues, your pastor, the guy in line behind you at the grocery store, and on and on) what you’re doing and that you’re ready to serve clients. Seriously, prospective clients sometimes come from the most unexpected places. For example, I met three clients through taking Kung Fu classes at a local martial arts studio. You just never know – so view every interaction as a potential opportunity.
- Beef up your portfolio with pro bono work. If you’re just starting out as a freelancer, volunteering your skills and talent can help you build a repository of real world samples to share. Even as an established freelancer, a portfolio is essential to show prospects what you’re capable of. But as a new solopreneur, it’s even more important because you won’t have a long-standing reputation to back you up. And doing pro bono work can also help you garner testimonials from prominent people within your business community. Just be sure to temper the time you spend on volunteer endeavors – if you over-commit, you’ll find it difficult to focus on growing your business.
- Link up with LinkedIn. And for goodness sake, complete your profile! LinkedIn is the most powerful professional social network online. Yes, it takes some upfront time to set it up, but it’s easy, intuitive and FREE. With a profile that’s well-written and full of relevant information about your experience, skills and capabilities, you increase your chances of getting found by prospects looking for a professional in your field in your geographic area. For me, my time on LinkedIn has absolutely paid off. 15% of my clients have come directly through LinkedIn – most of them are local, but they also include a mobile-app development company based in NYC who found me via a search for a freelancing marketing content writer geographically located in the Lancaster, PA area. Yes, LinkedIn can be a freelancer’s best friend.
- Spend a little – time and money. To make it as a freelancer, you’ve got to invest yourself to the cause. That means spending time on establishing your personal brand. Social media networks give you a phenomenal opportunity to do that. The key to success is to consistently put forth the effort to build a loyal following around your professional persona. And consider putting some cold hard cash toward making yourself known in your local business community. Local chambers of commerce and networking organizations provide all sorts of face-to-face meeting opportunities that – over time – enable you to develop strong professional relationships that lead to new clients. Just remember, what you get out of memberships to these organizations directly reflects what you put into them. Don’t expect to attend just one mixer all year and walk away with a dozen leads. Besides the promise of new business, I love my chamber membership for the opportunity to maintain a personal connection with existing clients and other wonderful people in our local community. Though I’m a huge fan of social media, nothing beats talking up close and personal.
Above all, be diligent in all of your efforts to build your freelance business. There’s no fast track to success. Developing your reputation, assembling a respectable portfolio and making the right connections will take not only time, but also a heck of a lot of energy. Remember to keep your eye on the prize – a career of flexibility, variety and limitless possibilities – and you’ll stay motivated to move forward.
What strategies and tactics have helped you build your freelance business the most? What online and offline networking efforts have delivered results?
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