Going freelance can be the most challenging period of anyone’s career but if you have the heart and right skills, it can also be the most rewarding. As someone who has been a freelancer for most of my career life (around 10 years), I’ve had my share of ups and downs.
I’ve learned a ton of in my freelance journey but the one thing I realized that’s more important than being good at what you do is getting people to know that you’re good. Here are tips on how to market yourself as a freelancer.
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Build Yourself an Online Portfolio
It goes without saying that every freelancer has to have an online presence. Create your own website, run your own social media channels, upload every single project you’ve made and showcase them to potential clients. Learn SEO and implement it on your website. A lot of the very successful freelancers I’ve known thru the years were really good at SEO.
This is your discovery stage and this is the best opportunity to impress a client even before they get to know you.
Present Yourself Well
First impressions last and that could not be any more true in the case of many freelancers. Start with a great calling card, the kind that people will really keep because it looks nice and unique.
This includes your letterhead for creating proposals, a customized invoice or PayPal.me account, report templates, demo reels — the whole enchilada!
Use services like Trello or Slack to onboard new clients so they’ll feel you’re prepared and organized for the task.
Master a Vertical and Brand Yourself
While it is good that you have a wide variety of skills, you need to identify yourself with a vertical and be really good at it. Are you a brilliant copywriter, kick-ass designer or video editor, social media expert or SEO specialist. Focus on this one single aspect of your service and be really good at it. Use it as your winning pitch and just offer the other services later on.
What you really want to happen is that whenever people ask around who the best person is for a specific job, your name will pop-up first.
Create Free Products or Service
This is one of the passive yet most effective ways to market yourself. Create something for free — if you’re a developer, create a plugin or extension; if you’re a designer, make themes for WordPress and distribute it for free or make lots of cool wallpapers and upload them on your site; videographers can share their custom LUTS via YouTube. Write an eBook and give it out as a free download on Amazon Kindle Store.
Just make sure that these free products can be traced back to you.
Share Ideas, Answer Questions
This is similar to creating free products or services but in this case, the service is your knowledge. Sharing your knowledge or expert opinion to the community is a great way to be recognized not only by peers but potential clients as well.
You can put up your own blog and tackle a subject matter you’re passionate about (this is part of “mastering a vertical and branding yourself”), or join niche forums in your chosen industry and open an account in Quora.
Volunteer for a Good Cause
Adopt an NGO and help them with whatever you can. You could redesign the website for free, manage their social media accounts or edit an AVP for them.
For one, you can claim it as part of your portfolio and, two, you get to network with other related organizations thru an endorsement or referral.
Network with other Freelancers
Network and help out other freelancers. Get inspiration from them. Share ideas. It’s a gold mine. Events such as the recently concluded Paypal Freelancer Community Summit and the upcoming PayPal Learning Workshops are avenues to meet freelancers working in other industries. They’re a good source of referrals for new clients they cannot service or no longer support.
Join Awards and Competitions
If there are a lot of awards and competitions in your industry, participate and be active. It could be a photography contest, a design contest, SEO competition, Webby Awards and I’m sure there’s more. Even if you don’t actually win, just by being part one of the finalists can get you a lot of attention and free publicity.
Be a Problem-Solver, Not a Supplier
Most freelancers are treated like suppliers. Elevate yourself from this perception and be a solutions provider. Don’t just deliver a service, offer a solution. There’s a huge difference between the two. Offering a solution means you have the best interest of your client to reach his objectives. They will see the difference, appreciate it and give you a lot of referrals in return. Nothing beats a happy client that keeps on coming back but a client who brings in his contacts as well.
Give 200% Effort to VIP Clients
This is what I usually tell people when they ask me “How do you become a rockstar consultant?” — be a “Consultant to the Rockstars“. So, when you chance upon a rare opportunity to land a rockstar client, give them 200% of your effort.
In my early days as a freelancer, the very first VIP client I had introduced to the rest of the big clients in the industry — from journalists, authors, politicians, celebrities, academics. I helped them out with many big and small problems outside of the project, gave them advice and share valuable insights until I became their go-to guy for almost everything related to tech.
If they’re truly happy with your work, their endorsement is gold. And until today, even if I am no longer active in the industry for more than 5 years (I still do the occasional consulting gig for important clients and friends), I still get the usual call-for-help.
With every project that you do for a client, always remember that the final output is a reflection of your competence and not the amount that you’ve been paid for it. If you follow that mindset, you’re already a superstar in the eyes of your clients.