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10 Steps to Succeeding as a Freelancer

As more of the world embrace flexible work models and opt for multiple streams of income, freelancing is becoming an attractive way of earning a living. A lot of persons take it up as a side hustle; others are taking on gigs and serving several clients full time. However it’s done, we can be certain that it’s getting the nod of many more persons than it’s had in the past several decades.

A lot of persons think that the freelancer’s life is a stroll in the park- there’s supposedly plenty of ‘me-time’, with a couple of extra hours than usual available for staying in bed, hanging out with friends, seeing the movies, and other fun stuff while still being able to rake in the cash they need to sustain themselves.

The reality is, you’re going to need to shed this kind of thinking if you’ll stand any chance of succeeding at freelancing. Yes, it gives you the freedom to set your own schedules and do as you like with it. But unless you’re actually doing a good deal of work and getting paid for it, you’ll very likely find yourself starving and unable to pay your bills.

But let’s say you already know all this, and you’re prepared to put in the effort and grind it out to make your gig-catching business do well. What do you need to do to excel at it?

Here, we’ll walk you through ten steps to hitting the big mark as a freelancer.

1. Define Your Goal

Ask yourself these questions: Why do you want to be a freelancer? What would you like to achieve with it? Is it about being independent, taking charge of your own time, or living your dreams? What would these aspirations translate to in practical terms? And how will this type of professional path help you bring these desires of yours to life?      

2. Be Ready to Take the Plunge

There are a lot of points to be noted here.

First of all, you have to be sure that you know what you’ll need to achieve your aims in this business. Do you possess the requisite skills? Can you stand the irregular, sometimes sudden changes to your planned routines? Do you have enough saved up to sustain you while you’re getting started with gaining clients at the early stages? Is there a real demand for the services you will be offering in the first place?

These are crucial questions. Without the right skills, you won’t be able to satisfy wants, and won’t command high enough rates to keep you in business. It will also take you time to settle into your new, sometimes wildly variable work pattern, so you want to be sure that you’ve got the financial resource, mental strength, and discipline to stay with the process at the beginning.

3. Decide What Your Niche Will Be

There are freelance software developers, graphics designers, writers, marketers and so on. What service will you be offering to several clients at a time? You should go with one that you’re good at– perhaps one you already have some prior experience in.

4. Know What Your Target Market Is

Who will you be selling your services to? Do you want to reach individuals or businesses, persons closer to where you are or across the globe? Think about the peculiar details that these different sorts of audiences will expect of your service, and decide how you’re going to be taking care of those.

Don’t assume your customers will be the same regardless of the demographic or psychographic categories they might fall into. Know who you’ll be pitching your stuff to, and understand their motivations and needs.

5. Understand How the Client’s Mind Works

Well, you’re not going to be able to read their minds, but you can at least know what motivates their decision to use a service. Understanding how the client’s thinking proceeds will go a long way to developing a strategy for connecting with them, presenting your services and keeping them interested in what you have to offer.

Thankfully, this doesn’t necessarily require that you burn countless hours while researching consumer psychology (although getting in-depth with that sort of thing might be fine). Be prepared to put yourself in their shoes, so you’re able to comprehend them better and treat them in ways that’ll impress them.

Another good option strategy would be to hang around the places they can be found- niche and industry-specific social network pages or blogs, networking sessions, etc. –so that you can interact with and observe them closely. This will, in turn, give you a glimpse into their wants, and why they make the sort of decisions they do.

6. Build Your Portfolio

A portfolio is a selection of work that you’ve done. People looking to hire you for projects will want to see your portfolio, to be sure that you’re up to the task.

How do you get a portfolio when you’re only just starting out?   

There are a few ways to do this. One will be to do a few jobs for a fraction of the price with people you know so that you have something to present when someone asks you for your past work.  Another would be to register with freelance platforms like Fiverr and Upwork, just to get a few projects under your belt (and get paid for them).

7. Get Active On the Blogosphere

Have your own blog, where you talk about what you do, what’s going on in your niche, and tips that might be useful to the sort of people your freelance business is targeting. It could double as your portfolio as well.

Having your work featured on other blogs is a good idea too. When you have your articles published on websites apart from your own, you could access a much wider audience with them. It’s advisable you keep your guest posts down-to-earth and rich in interesting, useful information, without making them brazenly sales-y. The readers of those posts may well be interested in getting in touch with you for a project.

 8. Be Deliberate About Marketing on Social Media

Besides making guest appearances on blogs, you should be deliberate about marketing your services on social media. Let the world know what you do, and that you’re good at it. Social networks give you a platform to do this free of charge.  

You will have to be smart about your approach to presenting what you do on these channels. If you’re constantly ‘advertising’ your services, people will very likely tune off. But if you make your posts more varied and more relevant to the concerns and needs of your ideal audience, they’ll pay more attention and take notice of what you’re doing.

There are many other ways to get inexpensive exposure for your business, as explained in this article: 10 Proven Ways to Market Your Business For Free.

9. Pitch Your Services

This is perhaps the single surest way to land quality clients, especially when you’re starting out. Referrals will come with time, but until then, you’ve got to put your services in front of people who may need them.

You pitch your services by interacting with potential clients at trade events, emailing them your best offers, and connecting with them via LinkedIn.

10. Do Outstanding Work

If you’re constantly putting out exceptional work, you will get more repeat customers and referrals. This is how many top freelancers grow their enterprise. If you’re able to improve the quality of your output, you’ll have enough leeway to raise your rates over time and afford a higher standard of living.

Featured image source: Mirtmirt via Shutterstock

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Ikenna Nwachukwu

Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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