Being a freelancer can be extremely rewarding, but by the very nature of the business, you’re on your own. You are the one executing work, but you are also sales, marketing, and CEO — the face of the business.
Whether you are growing a side hustle, starting from scratch, or looking to scale out your freelance operations there are things you need to do to maintain and build a healthy business. Let’s take a look at some of the most crucial elements to maintaining and growing your freelance business below.
Maintain productivity by implementing project management ideology and software.
We’ve implemented OKR — or Objectives and Key Results — which is an increasingly popular way to set goals, and progress towards reaching those goals, in an agile way. It’s super simple to align short term tasks and long term strategy around goals that are quantifiable and measurable when organized into OKR’s
This can be a lifesaver if working on projects with other people. By implementing OKR’s you always have insight into what everyone is working on, what is expected to get done each week, and where projects are stuck. It’s also a great way to communicate to your client where your projects stand.
Document everything you do.
It’s always best to have a documented, standardized way of working that you can consistently add to and refine as projects move forward. By documenting what you do you not only build a level of transparency into all of our projects, you create a living FAQ for all of our tasks. By doing this you are also creating a trail of accountability for all parties involved in the project. Also, having a workbook where everything lives for a project can save a ton of time in terms of educating your client or a new freelancer joining a project.
Own your calendar and block off “me time”.
We all utilize our calendars, but all do so differently. You need to learn to set boundaries for when collaborators can book time, block extra time when you can work distraction free, and make sure you have overlapping windows with people you’ll need to be in touch with.
Keep honing your skills and knowledge base.
You always need to be improving your skill-set. Your competition will be constantly improving, and technology will always be advancing. Whether your providing admin work or creative services you need to make sure you are always current with trends in order to keep winning and maintaining business.
While nobody knows everything, larger projects might require skills you don’t have. Be honest with yourself and fill the knowledge gaps that exist, it’ll only result in you getting more new business, spending less time on projects, and potentially up-selling existing clients.
Upsell your clients by finding their gaps in expertise.
If you are already working with a client on specific needs then you have an advantage over anyone else trying to seek business with them — open direct communication. You probably have the ability to fill additional needs for them that could be either related or completely different from the work you are currently performing for them. Make use of your open communication line with them and ask questions, find additional needs, and upsell based on where you could fit.
Maintain your network by staying top of mind, engaged, and helpful.
This is absolutely crucial, and something that needs to be done on a weekly, if not daily basis. Your network can be incredibly valuable but can also be useless if you are not actively engaged. Scheduling regular coffee meetings with the important members of your network can help unlock opportunities for business growth that might otherwise go uncovered. Participating in partner events, hosting free lectures and webinars, and sending out a newsletter are just some of the ways to stay engaged with your network that could provide avenues for new business growth.
Make sure your online profiles are always up to date.
While not rocket science, you’ll want your online profiles to be up to date and built so that they’re working for you. Not just job boards, your socials, websites, blogs, etc should be maintained to make sure you’re always putting the best foot forward online.
Actively build your digital presence.
Beyond your online profiles you should be building out a digital presence that showcases your talent. Depending on what your skill-set is this can be a blog highlighting your thoughts, tips and tricks, showcasing your knowledge base, or presenting your projects. You might want to have a portfolio online if you are a creative, and you probably want to be sharing your work via every social you have. It also might make sense to have ancillary brands that are aligned with your industry that you manage. For example, separately branded blogs or social handles that share and comment on news and insights for your industry or area of expertise. This isn’t limited to freelancing — even large companies like Adobe do this with their web property CMO.com.
Follow your competition, potential clients, and industry as a whole.
There are simple things you can do to see what is going on with your competition and industry to make sure you are always staying competitive and knowledgeable about what opportunities are out there. This shouldn’t make up a ton of your time but simple things like setting up Hootsuite streams to follow keywords, or Twitter lists to follow companies in your space can be incredibly helpful.
Never rely on one or a few clients.
Often times you’ll have one or a select few clients that feed you a ton of business. While this is great at first, it is important to remember that things can change quickly. People leave jobs, budgets can get cut, or work can simply just dry up for a number of reasons. As a freelancer, you want diverse revenue streams. The same thing can be said for potential clients in your pipeline — you don’t want to put all of your eggs in one basket.
Make sure to keep a consistent sales process and pipeline.
It’s easy to get caught up in the business you already have but it is necessary to have a healthy pipeline of new business coming in. We know clients can drop off, so it’s imperative to make sure you’re able to keep a steady pipeline of work. The last thing you want is to go from insanely busy to completely quiet. It isn’t enough to build a network and keep profiles up to date, you need to actually be pitching and closing new business on a regular basis.
If you never ask you never get an answer.
This little tip to keep in mind is relevant in many different ways. When talking to people in your network, you’ll never know if they need help in an area aligned with your expertise if you never ask. You can’t upsell clients if you don’t find out what other challenges they are facing. Make sure to always be asking questions that can be helping your business, and listening to see where there are new opportunities for growth.
Follow up, follow up, follow up.
Never be afraid to follow up with someone. There is no reason to think you are being polite by not following up with a potential client or pushing an existing one. Follow up is key to closing new business and making sure current projects are completed on time.
Get to no faster.
Don’t waste time constantly trying to work with someone that isn’t that interested, or seemingly aloof or hesitant. Getting to no faster will allow you to focus on potential clients that will sign, and on the projects you already have.
If interested in more guides and tips for freelancing, stay up to date with Snipply’s blog where we’ll be publishing a full guide for both freelancers and those looking to build a freelance team. And if interested in tools to make your world in freelancing easier, check out Snipply’s beta here.
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