How much time did you dedicate to freelancing last year? You may have completed a few one-off projects or found a couple of ongoing clients, but did not put much effort into growing your consulting career. But with the freelance economy growing at such a fast rate, now is a good time to take your business a step further.
If your goal is to get more clients, build your portfolio, and turn freelancing into a full-time career, here are five ways to ramp up your business in the coming year.
Build Your Online Presence
Having a strong online presence is incredibly valuable to freelancers. Why? It’s an affordable yet effective way to advertise your services, and makes it easier for potential clients to find you.
If you haven’t already, consider doing the following:
- Update your LinkedIn profile and building your network. To enhance your visibility on LinkedIn, send personalized invites to new connections, give and request endorsements, comment on and share updates from your connections, and become active in groups.
- Optimize and improve your profiles on the freelance sites you use, such as Upwork and Freelancer. Make sure your overview, skills, and portfolio are always up to date, and request client reviews or testimonials after a job is complete.
- Build and maintain a website to showcase your skills and talents. A website can help you build trust and credibility with potential clients, as it presents you as a legitimate business rather than a casual freelancer taking jobs for pocket money. Many freelancers also find success in blogging, as it allows them to build a community and grow their social media following.
Enhance Your Networking Efforts
Building relationships is key to building your freelancing career, and part of your networking efforts should be dedicated to maintaining relationships with past and current clients. For instance, you can offer additional value (while gaining new clients for yourself) with a referral program that offers a discount or free services to a client when they refer someone who signs a contract with you.
Alternatively, you can keep in touch with the occasional message, congratulating them on achievements or milestones, or even sharing one of your blog posts that they may find of interest.
Outreach is a little different, as it involves finding new contacts to add to your network. Here are a few ways you can connect with clients and other freelancers:
- Attend local networking events or join a networking group to meet local professionals and build mutually beneficial relationships. If you’re unsure of where to find an event, start by searching on websites like Eventbrite or Meetup.
- Help out your fellow freelancers. Whether it’s answering questions from someone who is just getting started or passing work to another consultant when you cannot commit to a project, helping others builds goodwill and may lead to referrals and new clients later.
- Maintain active profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Engage with influencers, share content, and reach out to potential clients on these platforms.
Refresh Your Skills
Whether you are a UX designer or a content writer, your industry is probably changing fast. On that note, it is a good idea to keep current with industry trends by reading blogs and newsletters, and following and engaging with influencers on social media. You should also allocate time for professional development.
In the freelancing industry, you will rarely be asked about a degree or other formal education. However, it is a competitive field, so you still need to have the relevant skills to keep getting jobs. There are many ways to improve and refresh your skills, including books (especially e-books, as they have a faster publication time and therefore may better reflect current industry trends and knowledge) and online courses offered by platforms like Coursera or lynda.com. You can even offer new skills, in order to offer more to your clients.
Diversify Your Skills
When you started out as a freelancer or consultant, you probably had a niche skill to offer, such as Android app development or blogging. But if you want to grow your business and get new clients (while keeping the current ones), you might consider diversifying your skillset.
Many freelance skills, such as content marketing and social media marketing, naturally overlap, so all it takes is a little research to see what skills would pair well with the services you are already offering. Take some time to learn and practice those skills, and from there you can list the new services you are offering on your website.
Tip: Try bundling your services at a discounted rate to offer your clients better value.
Look in the Right Places
There is no shortage of websites to find work as a freelancer, but not all of them may be suited to finding the best opportunities in your field. Some of the well-known sites offer clients a wide range of services, but you will have more competition when bidding for projects. With that in mind, consider creating a profile on a site that offers more niche services, such as 99designs for designers or Rent a Coder for programmers.
And while the location of the company you’re working for doesn’t usually matter when it comes to freelancing, you might be surprised at the range of opportunities available locally. Try advertising your services on Craigslist or Kijiji, or even contacting local businesses to see if there’s an opportunity to work with them. Alternatively, you can get in touch with a local marketing agency, as they sometimes outsource various projects to freelancers in their area.
Forging a Flourishing Freelance Career
While freelancing is a booming industry, it can still be challenging to drum up new prospects, regulate your cash flow, and balance your side hustle with a 9-to-5 job. However, the flexible scheduling and the option to work from home, not to mention the opportunity to be your own boss, are big draws for freelancers. If you value these things as well, it could be time to make the transition to full-time freelancer this year.
Are you trying to grow your freelance business?