Freelancing: How to be successful with your freelance business
Posted: Wed 9th Mar 2022
For many, freelancing can be the solution for improving your work-life balance or becoming your own boss. Flexible hours, no long commutes, choose who you work with... what's not to like?
But of course, it also has its share of challenges. From winning work to managing clients, finding the balance between business development, delivery and working on the business takes time to get right.
Whether you’re thinking about freelancing, just getting started, or have been working on your own, here are six tips to achieve freelance success.
Manage your time
The expression 'time is money' has never been truer than for the self-employed. It's important for freelancers to keep billable hours optimised. A good rule of thumb is spending 80% of your time on delivery and the rest on business development and business admin.
Each person needs to find their own strategies that fit best with their workflows, but here are some top tips you can try.
Track your time
A freelancer's main currency besides money is time, so it's imperative to know how you're spending it. Tracking your time means you can see if you're spending too long on a project that you might not be getting paid a whole lot of money for. Or, if you're simply taking too long to finish a task.
Get rid of distractions
Remaining focused and channelling your attention to the task at hand is key when it comes to mastering time management. Getting rid of distractions is vital.
Consider using noise-blocking headphones, setting your phone to 'do not disturb', shutting your door, or working in a different part of your house to be more productive during your work hours.
As a freelancer, you have to wear many hats, so it makes sense to proactively plan out your week and block time for specific roles.
You may think you're great at handling several tasks at once, but if your brain is switching back and forth between topics you'll reduce your efficiency. Plan the night before to hit the ground running each morning, and write a to-do list that won't overwhelm you.
Outsource the biggest timewasters
It might be an extra cost, but buying software or outsourcing to an expert will free you up to focus your energy on what you do best. Enterprise Nation adviser Karen Watkins explains why it's important to acknowledge that you can't do it all.
Be the expert in your niche
Rather than trying to be a 'jack of all trades', zero in on a specific skill that you excel in. It takes twice the work, money and time if you choose to serve everyone.
Decide who you want to talk to, and how you want to position yourself – or else you'll be talking to everyone and no-one. Enterprise Nation adviser Dave Holloway explains why getting 'uncomfortably niche' is the key to profitable sales.
Part of defining your niche is about understanding your personal branding – your positioning, your voice and your uniqueness. Social media can play a big part in this and you'll see more and more business owners 'showing up' online.
But there's more to it than behind-the-scenes content and talking stories. Tara Tomes offers five ways to gain credibility in your industry and start positioning yourself as an expert.
And in the video interview below, Cynthia Wihardja discusses how you can increase your confidence, position your uniqueness and engage your ideal clients.
Build a client base
One of the challenges when working for yourself is creating a steady income. The best way to achieve this is by building a strong and loyal client base.
Start reaching out to contacts such as previous employers or colleagues, as they know you and the quality of your work. Ask if they know anybody who might need your services.
Attending networking events is a good way to build connections and generate leads. Start with events that are close to home and within your industry.
If you already have clients, they can help you to generate new work.
Ask them for referrals. They might know others in the sector who need similar services.
Ask what challenges they face in reaching current objectives – do you have additional services that could help?
Finally, ask them for testimonials and public reviews as this can help potential clients to see the value you provide.
Other top tips to build your client base include:
making sure your website is optimised for search engines (called SEO)
joining conversations on social media
listing yourself in professional directories
scouring job vacancy boards, as these often indicate companies with a greater need
Of course, selling doesn't come easily to everyone, and it requires more than just intuition to convert. Martin Knowles is a sales expert and explains how to overcome sales objections.
In this video interview with Dr Susanne Evans, she shares some of the techniques she uses to win new business, build her network and manage her business successfully.
Share your knowledge
When you're just starting your freelance career, you're desperate to meet and talk to people about your business and get new contacts.
Speaking at large-scale events or taking part in virtual conferences or webinars can cement your credentials as a reputable expert and secure trust from your audience. Or why not create your own virtual events on social media?
Remember though that not all networking is about getting new clients. Sometimes it's about meeting people who can support you personally. You need to create a support network which could be other small business owners or people within your profession.
Enterprise Nation hosts monthly small business meet-ups, connecting founders and providing peer-to-peer support. Find your nearest meet-up.
Podcasts are another great way to introducing yourself to new audiences. Connect with notable podcasters, influencers and thought leaders who can help boost your visibility and expand your network.
Set your price – and stick to it
It can be tempting for many new freelancers to undersell themselves when they first start, thinking it'll help them win clients. But pricing yourself too low can hinder the confidence of potential clients in your skills. A little below your ideal rate is fine until you have built your reputation. A lot below is not.
But your hourly rate must be enough to meet your needs. Start by identifying the rate that you need or want to earn. You can then use freelance websites to see if you can earn that rate in your field, or whether you're prepared to accept the rate you can earn.
Rachael Howourth explains how to get your sales mindset right, and shares three tangible things you can start doing today to help you portray the epic value you offer your clients.
Build long-term relationships
If a client liked working with you, it's highly likely they'd hire you again. So it's important to nurture those relationships. You just need to remind them about yourself occasionally, without it consuming too much of your time. Here's a few ideas to keep the lines of communication open:
Find out what they're up to. Follow their social media accounts, websites, or product pages to know what they are doing. You'll then be ready to seize any new opportunity that arises.
Send a newsletter. Emailing regular newsletters to anyone you've worked with is a useful way to share industry-related information, and to showcase recent projects that you've worked on. Not everyone will read it, but simply seeing your name will remind them of your existence.
Be human. Contacting former clients needn't be awkward. Small, thoughtful gestures such as sending a birthday or Christmas card will make a big impression and show your clients that you care.
Be present online. Having a presence in the online world is essential for a freelancer. Sharing updates on social media, writing a blog or creating content will raise the interest of your former collaborators.