According to a new report by MBO Partners, three million full-time independent workers — or 17.9% of full-time free agents — earned more than $100,000 in 2016, compared to two million in 2011, marking a 50% increase. The report says 47% of the freelancers are making more money on their own than they did in a traditional job. The study projects that by 2021, between 46% and 48% of working adults will be doing independent work or will have done it in the past. But the total number of full-time freelancers fell since last year by 5%, or 800,000, to 16.9 million as some freelancers returned to full-time employment.
While freelancing offers flexibility, freedom and control over one’s schedule ideally, it also requires the freelancer to drum up their own clients for their goods or services. So what do they need to do, after hanging their shingle out, to stay in business and grow it?
In a perfect world, talent and hard work should assure one of word-of-mouth publicity, but the days when client needs were uniform and people had time to network and exchange notes are long past, making reputation building a matter of old worldly nostalgia and a huge challenge in current times. So the changed rules make life that much more complicated. Here are a few suggestions on how to market yourself if you’re a freelancer:
Research potential clients: Decide who should be your target client and focus on ways and means to get them to recognize your existence instead of waiting (futilely) for them to notice you.
Make a name for yourself: This won’t happen by taking any scrap work that comes your way. Working for a non-profit wouldn’t hurt, and doing some gratis industry blogging or YouTube videos may help to establish your name and endorse your expertise. You could also try starting off with any of these: moonlighting, volunteering, interning and doing client work at night and on weekends in addition to a nine-to-five stable job.
Update your website: Paid or free, get yourself a website that looks great and provides users with a pleasant experience. Post your portfolio, videos, endorsements and thought leadership posts on it, along with other projects. Consider blogging to establish your expertise and knowledge levels.
Request client testimonials: Be completely focused on quality so you need not hesitate to request client feedback, endorsements and testimonials where possible, and provide them prominently on your website or LinkedIn profile.
Be professional: Be organized and adopt a professional approach in all your communications, especially the content on your website and brochures. Showcase your professional qualifications, recognitions and awards.
Join associations: Associate with a larger professional group with established credentials to make it easier for you to attract and retain clients.
Make your social media presence known: Share ideas, posts and industry news stories on social platforms to make your knowledge and experience speak for themselves. Gain attention for the right reasons.
Become an expert networker: if there’s an opportunity to attend an industry event where you could meet other people and network with them, don’t pass it up unless it’s beyond your budget.
Get referrals: Getting a referral isn’t possible without making your client happy with the quality of your work in addition to the rapport and the trust you build. Once you achieve that, getting a referral is a simple and easy job.
Develop online advertising: Look for online advertisement opportunities that fit your budget and offer a decent click-through rate. Choose your target audience(s) wisely so you get the most bang for your buck.
Polish your rate sheet: either desperate for work as you have no takers or that your work is so sub-standard that you believe that you can’t charge industry rates and average norms for your locale.
As a freelancer, it’s easy to drop your marketing hustle during the busy times, but one of the most important things to remember is to keep up your marketing activities constantly, so you can keep the work flowing steadily in, without drying up at some point. It makes sense to set aside a specific number of hours for marketing, instead of taking it up when you find that work has dried up and there are no jobs in hand. Marketing is a process, not a one-time event.
How do you market yourself as a freelancer? How do you balance continual marketing while also performing the work? We’d love to hear how you do it!
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