So you want to run a successful freelance business—how do you do it?
It’s easy to look at those you envy. To wonder how they got where they are. So what’s the secret formula to running a successful freelance business?
After years of being online, following well-known freelancers, and growing my own freelance business, I’ve narrowed this secret formula down to four ingredients that will ultimately lead to success when combined with lots of hard work:
- High quality work
- Communication skills
These four things shouldn’t be a shocker to you. Take a look at every well-known freelancer and you’ll see these hidden in their success. Their work is top-notch, their clients rave about them, they share their expertise with those looking to learn, and none of this would be possible if it weren’t for their communication skills.
Let me break down each of these and share the true meaning behind them; how you can apply each to your freelance business, and how it will ultimately better your chances at freelance success.
1. High quality work
It goes without saying that if you can produce high quality work then you’ll generate more leads, and your past clients will be more than happy to talk about you to their friends.
However, this doesn’t just apply to client work. It’s your portfolio website, your Facebook cover photo, Twitter bio—it’s everything that makes up who you are as a freelancer.
Not only does your freelance services have to be of high standard, but your entire online presence needs to scream quality. There’s a reason why majority of people love and trust Apple products, because they’re known for such high quality.
If you lack the confidence in your current portfolio, then produce your own piece to show off. Redesign a local website or design and mockup your own t-shirt for example. The work you showcase doesn’t always have to be client work, and in many cases, it’s your own side project that yield the best results.
All it takes is one client project. One client project to turn into a case study. One client project to convert into a referral.
Once you’ve completed a project, don’t just upload a screenshot to your portfolio. Make sure your client is completely satisfied with your services, then ask for referrals! Don’t wait until you’re out of work to go around asking. Keep the momentum going at all times. At the very least ask your clients to keep your name in mind.
Word of mouth is the most reliable source of leads for me personally and for many other freelancers. Nothing is more effective than a past client personally recommending your name and services.
Also at the end of every project, share your process and showcase your work in detail. Potential clients like to see this and in turn will lead to more project inquiries in your inbox. You can make your work sell for you – so start presenting it in the form of a case study rather than just a screenshot.
All it takes is one project to kickstart your freelance business. You just have to develop an effective process – know how you’ll start and end each project. Land the work, then make the result of that work market your services for you.
If you think back, how did you find your favorite designer, blog, or YouTuber? I’ll guess it was either through someone telling you about them or by searching and stumbling upon them yourself. You know your favorite designer, blog, YouTuber, etc. because they put themselves out there.
Aside from doing good work you should be sharing everything you know and showing your work process. By sharing your knowledge and work with the world, you’ll not only look like more of an expert in your field but it will better your chances at getting found by clients rather than always having to chase after them yourself.
However, be wary with all of your sharing – you don’t want it to get in the way of what really matters. It’s easy to get caught up in social media analytics – refreshing your profile to see the results or to design for the sake of getting likes. Post what will only benefit yourself then wait to check the results after your priorities are sorted for the day.
4. Communication skills
Dealing with clients, sending emails, making phone calls – it all revolves around having good communication skills. It’s key for every freelancer.
You want to remain professional at all times, be responsive in a timely manner, and be honest when dealing with clients. Also, when you’re in the middle of a project, always identify the next step in the process. The last thing you want is your client to get confused, waiting on your call when you’re the one waiting on them to send over something.
If you lack in communication skills or if this makes you anxious, don’t worry. You’ll get better with it in time just like everything else there is to learn in growing a freelance business.
Apply these four things to your freelancing
Take what you’ve read here and apply it to your freelance business as you see fit.
- Present yourself and produce work of high standards. This is what will attract potential clients.
- After landing each project, do your best work, then turn that project into a case study and referral. This is how you’ll get work consistently.
- Share your new case studies, post your designs to Dribbble, and write about your experiences. This is how work will start to come to you.
- Stay organized and professional in all communication throughout your freelance career. This will help in everything you do.
If you can do these four things and work your butt off, then you’ll be guaranteed success in your freelance career.
What ingredients would you add to the formula of freelance success?
Share in the comments below!