Freelancing has never been easy, but it is more popular than ever. There are now about 1.1 billion freelancers around the world.
Managing your own freelance business involves wearing many hats. As a long-time self-employed freelance consultant, I longed to support other freelancers, so I started #FreelanceChat on Twitter in Sept. 2018. As we head into a new year, I like to ask some of our guests the advice they might give to other freelancers.
Here’s what our expert guests had to say.
14 Tips for Freelancers from #FreelanceChat Guests
1) “Make sure you are spending your time serving clients who appreciate and value your work. Do a small sample project with each new client to make sure there’s a good fit. There are millions of potential clients in the world, and you don’t have to work with all of them. The more time you spend with clients who inspire you to do your best work, the more your business will grow.”
– Elaine Pofeldt, author of The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business, https://www.linkedin.com/in/elainepofeldt/, @elainepofeldt
2) My advice would be to take the opportunity to re-educate yourself on your clients. 2020 forced many companies to re-evaluate their place in the world, from how their products could still serve a pandemic-ridden customer base, to their public stance on major societal issues. What was the status quo 12 months ago in their messaging, strategy or approach just may not be relevant anymore. If you haven’t already, take the time to sit down with your client and ask the question, ‘How will 2021 be different for you?’”
– Jason Bradwell, Author of B2B Bite, @JasonRBradwell
3) “Freelancing seems to be a magnet for false dichotomies: generalist vs. specialist, business name vs. your own name, hourly pricing vs. project pricing, set rates vs. variable rates, inviolable work hours vs. ‘work whenever,’ and so on. Despite all the strident opinions you’ll see, there’s no single correct answer…except this: Do whatever works for *your* business financially and psychologically.”
– Jake Poinier, DoctorFreelance.com, @DrFreelance
4) “My tip is a networking tip. When choosing where to go/hang out, go to spaces that are semi-related to your industry and line of work, not just directly related. What I mean here is that if you’re an SEO, don’t just hang out on SEO groups or go to SEO events – also hang out in web development spaces, in copywriting spaces, in PR spaces, and so on. If you only go to SEO spaces, you’ll mostly be networking with your peers and competitors… but if you go to semi-related spaces instead, you might find that you’re the only SEO in those spaces – and therefore the only person that all those web developers/copywriters/PRs get to know well. It’s worked really well for me and my freelance business over the years.”
– Steve Morgan, Freelance SEO Consultant and author of Anti-Sell, @SteviePhil
5) “Referrals are the No. 1 way I get new clients. A simple but effective marketing technique is to email your entire network—former clients, current clients, potential clients you’ve talked to in the past (not cold prospects), and other freelancers—to say you are available to take on new projects. Make a bulleted list of your services, explaining briefly how you can help them. Ask them to also forward to colleagues who might need these services.”
– Melanie Padgett Powers, Owner of MelEdits and Host of Deliberate Freelancer Podcast, @meledits
6) “If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that freelancers and independent consultants need multiple revenue streams to protect their businesses from upheaval. For the average freelancer, this could look like adding a low-ticket ‘how-to’ product. It will help you grow your influence without losing money to advertising.”
– Tom Basgil, Social Media and Lead Generation Specialist, http://TomBasgil.com, @tombasgil
7) “Find anchor clients. I work regularly with a top tier of one to three anchor clients and have a second tier of past clients that I write for occasionally but that would give me more work if I was available. It’s good to have backup in case those top-tier clients cut their budgets, the work changes, or I’m ready for a change.”
– Michelle Rafter, Portland-based business ghostwriter and reporter, @michellerafter
8) “Think about your skills and your clients independently. Growth in freelancing comes from: 1) Building a new offering for a specific, valuable clientele. 2) Taking what you are good at to a new type of client (i.e., if you’re a writer, going from writing blogs for startups to writing in-depth analysis pieces for big corporations). Or 3) Creating products around your skill, whether educational for other freelancers, DIY for your clients, or new products that create different value for clients.”
9) “The best advice I can give to freelancers is to create a solid network of friends and share exactly what you do and who you do it for. Then, after they refer you to leads and clients, it’s your responsibility to perform and meet expectations. 9 times out of ten, that’s as simple as meeting deadlines and delivering what you said you were going to deliver. It’s not easy, but it is that simple.”
– Adrienne Barnes, B2B SaaS Content Strategist and Consultant, ANB, @adriennenakohl
10) “Coming off 2020, one of the main pieces of advice a lot of freelancers need to hear is: take time off. This was an exhausting year, and not being able to travel made it easy to overlook the need to still take vacation. But taking time to rest is an important part of doing good work. Make it a priority this year (and all the years to come)!”
– Kristen Hicks, Austin Copywriter, @atxcopywriter
11) “Focus on acquiring retainers and set a 100% up-front payment policy for the client to pay you on the same date every period. This way, you grow and sustain your business instead of staying in survival mode. If you automate the transactions and notification emails, you cut labor and time, too.”
– Ashley Ashbee, inbound marketing consultant, @cartooninperson
12) “Share your knowledge for free. Create content with tips focused around your skill and niche. Write a LinkedIn article, create an infographic on Canva to share on Twitter and Instagram. The more you create, the more they stick in your prospect’s mind — they’ll reach out when they’re ready (inbound marketing!).”
– Terry Schilling, Copywriter & Copy Coach, @tschill86
13) “Make 2021 the year you spread your risk. Ideally, no single client should account for more than 35% of your total revenue. More than that, and you’re asking for trouble.”
– André Spiteri, Maverick Words Ltd, @andre_spiteri
14) “Here’s something that’s incredibly easy to recommend, but not so easy to stick by, especially if you are new to freelancing and don’t have an extensive portfolio of work and clients yet. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ to projects or clients who are not a good fit—whether it’s because of the nature of the work or the nature of the people. You can usually feel it in your gut when something is going to cause you more pain than gain. I’ve felt far more regret for bad projects I accepted than good ones I might have missed out on. Life’s short, I’m busy, and I choose to do cool work with cool people. If neither of those criteria is met, I take a pass!”
– Carmen Hill, Content Strategist & Writer, @carmenhill
Freelancer in 2021? Join Us for #FreelanceChat
If you’re a freelancer looking for a supportive community, please join us on Twitter every Thursday at noon Eastern for #FreelanceChat. And be sure to follow each of these experts for more freelancing tips and advice.
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About the author: You’ll find Michelle Garrett at the intersection of PR, content marketing and social media. As a public relations and communications consultant, content creator, blogger, speaker and freelance writer, Michelle’s articles and advice have been featured in Entrepreneur, Forbes, Muck Rack, Ragan’s PR Daily, Meltwater, ThomasNet, Attorney at Work, FairyGodBoss, Freelancers Union and more. Michelle was also named a Top Digital PR Leader in 2020, and her blog was named to the list of Top 25 Must-Read Public Relations Blogs.