Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success.
— C.S. Lewis
When I first entered the freelance world, I had no idea what I was doing.
Since then, I’ve learned a thing or ten about freelancing. These are things I wish I had known before I jumped into freelancing. I hope they can help you with your freelance journey.
Without further ado, here they are.
1. Find out exactly what you want to do before you do it.
Before jumping into freelancing, I knew I liked writing and copywriting. I didn’t know that I needed to further specialize these skills. I soon found out that if I wanted to work with specific clients and increase my income, then I would have to niche down.
Figure out your specialty sooner rather than later. People don’t hire generalists, they hire a specialist.
More importantly, figure out what you like to do, not what makes you the most money. If you like it and it makes you a lot of money, cool. But don’t pursue the most lucrative freelance specialty only to find out you hate that kind of specialty.
Here are some examples of niching down:
- Email copywriter instead of just a generalist copywriter.
- Fiction ghostwriter instead of just a generalist writer.
- E-commerce Facebook ads specialist instead of just a Facebook ad specialist.
Don’t get me wrong, you can get clients as a generalist, but in my experience, it’s much harder to get clients. People who are specialized are more in demand.
You can also diversify your income with a bunch of specialties (hint, it’s no. 10.)
After you figure out what you’re a specialist in, become an expert, be an authority figure & be the go-to person in that niche.
2. Figure out your ideal clients.
Knowing your niche is one thing, knowing who you want to work with is another.
If you specialize as a personal development writer, figure out what businesses you want to work with that need personal development writers.
As an email copywriter, I’ve learned that not everyone is my ideal client. Not everyone needs emails, even if they did want my emails, would it benefit them and their customers?
Here are some questions to help you discover your ideal client…
- What business are they in?
- How large is their business?
- Are they a thriving business or do they see you as someone who’s come to the rescue? (Don’t try to be the hero for them).
- What’s the minimum budget they need to hire me?
- What’s their product and their offer?
- Who’s their ideal customer?
These questions will get you closer to your ideal client. It will be easier to find them because you won’t be trying to work with everyone in the universe.
After you figure out your ideal client, you’re gonna want to decide how much income you want to bring in month after month being a specialist. Do you want to charge $500 or $5000 with every client you work with?
Which is why it’s important to…
3. Have financial goals.
If you’re dipping your toes into freelancing because you like making a little extra grocery money or you’re actually going full-fledged into it, you should decide how much you want to make per month and how many clients it will take to get there.
Here are some questions to help you identify your goals as a freelancer:
- How much do I want to make by the end of this year, in two years, in five years?
- How much do I need to charge per project/hour to get me to my goal?
- How many clients do I need to reach my financial goal?
Figuring out how much you want to make, will determine how much you want to work and much you should charge per project/hour.
Someone once told me, if you’re getting a ton of clients for the price you’re charging, raise the price. If your price is really high and you’re getting zero clients, consider lowering it.
While you’re trying to get clients and trying to figure out how to price yourself, you have to think like a client. You have to think of how to help them and what they need help with.
Which brings me to my next point…
4. Create helpful content for your ideal clients.
Creating content for your ideal customer should help them reach their goals or overcome a problem.
Helpful content is in the form of:
- Articles about trends in the market or anything related to their industry.
- How-to guides.
- Classes; masterclasses; Udemy; consulting.
For instance, if your ideal customer was an e-commerce business, what kind of information would be most helpful to them? Would you show them helpful information that could increase their sales without you? You should because when they need someone to help them in that realm, they will think of you.
Creating helpful content will also help you get noticed. People will read your article from months ago, and they will want you to contribute to their publication or do a job for them.
You’re playing the long-game. Creating helpful content will help you get clients if you’re patient enough.
It can also help you become a freelance mentor as well as create and teach classes on your specialty that builds your credibility.
Which is why it’s important to create a system for what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.
5. Have a system for finding clients.
The number 1. problem freelancers have is how to find clients.
Let me say right now, I don’t have a golden formula for finding clients. I don’t have a secret method. Nobody does. It comes down to how much work and much time you want to put into finding clients.
Ultimately, finding clients requires consistency, effort, and research.
- The consistency to stick with one or various methods.
- The effort to craft a unique message to potential clients.
- The research to know if that client needs your services.
Having said that, I’m a firm believer in having a diversity of ways to find clients.
Here’s how I find clients or how they find me:
- I send out a uniquely crafted email to the CEO or the marketing director if I see a job posting that I think I would be a good fit for.
- I connect daily on LinkedIn with specific people in specific industries that I would like to work with; examples would be e-commerce businesses. I don’t send them any messages. I just write and post articles on LinkedIn.
- People reach out to me if they see my work on Medium or they come across my website.
- I apply for freelance jobs on LinkedIn and Indeed.
- I was referred by someone.
- I attend networking and non-working events.
Having done this kind of work for a couple of years, I understand that everything is a process. I understand that the more I write, the more I create, the easier it is for clients to find me. This is what is key for me.
Find out what works for you and what you’re most comfortable with doing.
6. Understand the business side of freelancing.
After you get a client and you start making guacamole, you’ll have to meet with the taxman and the lawyers.
What you need to know about the business of freelancing…
Of course, some things you can do yourself. QuickBooks allows you to do taxes yourself. You can track what you’re spending your money on if it’s business or personal.
You can also find contracts on Rocket Lawyer & And.Co. Essential elements should include your role and the deliverables to avoid scope creep. Deadlines. And ownership. You can send over the document to your client with Docu-Sign.
You can also find proposals on Panda Doc and layered throughout Google. I use Canva now to create my proposals which is super helpful in terms of style and making the portfolio look professional.
These are essential if you want to avoid tax fraud, getting screwed over by a non-paying client, and the guidelines of what you expect to deliver to that client.
If you’re looking for more help, then no. 7 is perfect for you.
7. Invest in a course, mentor, and time for reading.
As a freelancer, you should always invest in knowledge. Invest in people who can help you, train you, coach you, and help your freelance career blossom.
I invested in an email course, a Facebook ads course, a freelance business course & a copywriting community course. Each has made me realize that I’m not doing this alone. More importantly, I’ve learned that there is a better way of doing things.
Here are the courses and communities I was in:
(Email copywriting) Email Copy Academy by Chris Orzechowski.
(Facebook ads course) Laptop Empires by Bobby Hoyt and Mike Yanda.
(Business of freelance) Freelance Coop by Abbey Woodcock.
(Copywriting community) CopyChief by Kevin Rogers.
These are some communities/courses that will help you with copywriting and freelancing. They will help you hone your craft. No, I’m not an affiliate, so I don’t care if you sign up or not. But they are there if you’re ever interested because they’ve helped me out.
In addition, you should always be reading. You’re probably like DUH. Seriously, it’s a lot harder to find time to read if you don’t prioritize it.
I used to find that it’s harder to read because I feel like I’m not doing something to actually reach out to clients. I used to feel like it takes away from networking.
That’s not true at all.
Reading will enhance your mindset and your skills. Reading will not only help you find clients, but it will also help you keep clients because you’ll have a better understanding of what to do and how to do it.
When you think you’ve mastered it all or want to step beyond just working with clients as a freelancer, then you should consider no. 8.
8. Decide if you want to scale from freelancing.
If you’re bored with working with clients or maybe you have the motivation to do more, then you should consider teaching a course.
I see a lot of people offer this in their CTA on Medium, and a lot of freelancers do this — they teach a masterclass. They offer a specialized course on email marketing, on writing, on copywriting, on how to succeed on Medium, etc.
You should absolutely scale from freelancing…
- If you like teaching mini-courses, masterclasses, or anything.
- If you want to do more than freelance.
- If you want an extra stream of income.
Don’t teach a course on freelancing or a specialty copywriting course if you’re not confident you can help people or you don’t have confidence in your abilities as a freelancer.
However, if you want to help freelancers succeed, then provide a mini-course, provide coaching lessons, offer everything you can to help people succeed. It’s what I hope to do in the near future.
When you do decide to scale and do more than just freelance, you’ll have the opportunity to bring in more streams of income.
9. Diversify your income.
Freelancing gives you the ability to do more than just one job. You are a specialized worker with a diverse range of skills. And you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket.
Nothing’s wrong with working with just clients. Yet I recommend having fallback incomes, which means doing more than just one thing.
Here are my streams of income:
- Writer for agencies and businesses.
- Writing on Medium.
- Email copywriter for e-commerce businesses and media agencies.
- Facebook ads copywriter for e-commerce businesses & local businesses.
- Freelance coaching.
There are things I could be doing more to increase my income like teaching courses (which I plan to).
If you’re going to freelance, you have to be financially prepared for your biggest client to let you go on a random day. That’s the difference between freelancing and working in the corporate world. As a freelancer, you have the advantage of diversifying your income.
It’s your opportunity to make the most out of it.
10. Freelancers need a brand.
Every business needs a brand. Freelancers also need a brand. They need their ideal customers to have a perception of their business.
By 2027, 50% of the American workforce will be freelancers, which makes it all the more important to stand out beyond just offering a service.
Think of it like this…a freelancer without a brand is just looking for work. They are just looking for anyone to work with without any criteria. A freelancer with a brand works has a niche, has a specialty, and has a way of telling their story to their consumers.
As a freelancer with a brand, you are closing the gap between a business and its customers with your product. Your product transforms your customer in a way that other freelancers couldn’t do.
To separate yourself from other freelancers, to be extraordinary, you have to find ways to lead your customers from A to Z. Your story is who you are and how you separate yourself.
Anyone can be a freelancer. Anyone can sit on their couch, open their laptop, and try to find a remote job.
But if you want to make a living out of freelancing, 3k a month, 5k a month, 10k+ a month, you have to believe in the structure and system of your freelance business.
Now everyone has a blueprint for how to freelance. Now they have to commit to the work and to the process. If they can commit, they can take their first step toward becoming a world-class freelance specialist.