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How To Become A Successful Freelancer

Becoming a freelancer can be liberating — and also a little terrifying. Where do you even begin? What processes and structures do you need to have in place? How do you find clients? And how do you know how much to charge?

Did you know that 36% of the American workforce is made up of freelancers? Or that freelancers contribute $1.4 trillion to the U.S. economy? As crazy as these numbers sound, they're also reassuring—especially if you've been dreaming about leaving your day job to become a freelancer and start your own business. In short, the dream is real, and many others have done it before you.

But I hate to break it to you, but working freelance means working. The reality is that work will not come to you like someone who has a crush on you. You have to fight for it and fight hard.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of moving from full-time employee to full-time freelancer, there are few things you need to consider seriously before starting your freelancing career.

How To Become A Successful Freelancer

How To Price Yourself as a Freelancer

Don't overstretch what you are capable of doing and fall into the trap of saying yes to every new prospective client. If what they are asking you to do falls outside your particular area of expertise or interest, politely decline.

While deciding how much to charge for your freelance services is a major step toward determining your perceived value, you need to make sure you're charging enough to make a sustainable, comfortable living. Most clients won’t hesitate to pay higher rates for a freelancer that gives them an incredible first impression and sells them on the ability to deliver high quality results.

Clients care only about the results and the values you offer, and not your time. The best way to justify higher rates? Make sure you have impressive skills that are in high demand. As long as I continue to deliver consistent value to my clients (beyond their expectations), I have no trouble setting and maintaining high prices for the services I'm providing.

Before setting your prices at the bare minimum you need to charge in order to hit your financial needs, consider the actual value you'd be creating for your potential clients and make sure you’re not leaving money on the table. You can always increase your rates in the future and hope your client stays on board, but if you start at a price point you’re already excited about, you’ll be that much more likely to over-deliver and continue increasing your value moving forward.

If you try to compete on price alone with your competitors, you'll often lose. Cost is certainly a factor for customers, but many people are willing to pay more when they can see the value and feel like they’re getting their money’s worth. Satisfied customers that perceive a lot of value in your offering are not only willing to pay more, they're willing to talk you up.

You need to pay close attention to pricing. Here is a short story about two freelance bloggers, enjoy and learn a few lessons.

Not so long ago, in a buzzing little town of Redactonburg, there lived two twins. They went to the same school and the same college. They have the same set of skills, and both became freelance bloggers.

Both worked hard. The first blogger worked every day, whereas the second blogger worked weekly. The first blogger got ten clients a month, and the second blogger got two clients a month.

Surprisingly, the second blogger earned much more than the first blogger. "How can this be?"

The secret is in the pricing!

The first blogger charged $10 per post, whereas the second blogger charged $100 per post. The first blogger might have thought that charging low will enable him to get more clients. He did but less pay and more works!

Hourly Pricing

After 20 years of web design project, I realized that I was doing myself a serious injustice by billing hourly. Clients don't care if it takes you 20 minutes or 20 hours to complete the project. Clients care that the work is done and it is done well.

When you charge based on the project, you are tying the price of the project to the client's end result. The end result is all that the client cares about. Project-based fees helped increase my income while working far less time.

Aim Small, Miss Small

In the movie "The Patriot," there is a scene where Mel Gibson's character is teaching a couple young boys how to shoot. He famously says "Aim small, miss small" meaning that if you aim at a man and miss, you miss the man, while if you aim at a button (for instance) and miss, you still hit the man. If you focus your aim on a small part of your target, you have a better chance of hitting it.

Successful freelancing is not about getting lots of clients but getting the right clients. You are not a robot. You can't work for millions of people and earn millions in a fortnight. You should forget the dream of getting many clients if you want to be successful.

Before you can go out and start looking for clients, you'll need to develop a clear picture of who you're going to work best with. Taking on projects beyond your area of expertise is only going to cause you unnecessary and easily avoidable stress. I'm an experienced WordPress developer, but that doesn't mean I'll work on every single WordPress project that comes my way. As for me, I work together to design, create, brand, and produce work that I am proud of for folks that I believe in.

One major decision you need to make early on in your freelance career is what you do and what you don't do. The more specific you can be about what services you offer, the better. Not only will it help you brand yourself, it'll allow you to control how potential clients perceive you and give you the opportunity to continue building your portfolio in the direction you want to move in.

Aiming big tends to miss big. Successful businesses have mastered the discipline of aiming at a small, yet rich, target. If you don't narrow your focus, you may attempt to attract and serve everyone. By attempting to attract everyone you will also compete with everyone. Imagine the awfulness of trying to please everyone. Imagine the cost of competing against everyone.

If you aim small, focus on what you can do based on the resources in front of you and provide a scheduled timetable in which to accomplish it. Then you will miss small. The more detailed your game plan is, the better your chances are of achieving success. It will become the road map that you and your team will use to ask the right questions, evaluate progress and delegate responsibilities.

Whether you are a business leader, an executive director, or sales manager, I encourage you to take time to define your target. Think as if you are playing the game... If darts are your people, resources, and content, what are you throwing them towards?

Clarify the core of that target and make it known. Then, do everything you can to encourage everyone in your organization to aim small and miss small at that particular target. Not only will this increase the focus in which you do what you do, but it will also give clarity to why you do it and what kind of impact you were actually making.

Create a Branded Portfolio Site

It goes without saying that one of the best ways to demonstrate your technical skills is by having an amazing portfolio site of your own. If you want to be taken seriously as a new freelancer, you’re going to need a website that:

  • Showcases your expertise.
  • Highlights relevant past experiences.
  • Shows who you are.
  • Includes your contact information so that potential clients can easily find you.

Creating a branded website or blog can be the best thing you do for your freelancing business. A brand lets people know who you are and what you do. A branding project can help you figure out what and how to communicate your story.

Do you need some help determining your brand's mission, vision, and overall business and marketing goals? Or perhaps naming your company or coming up with the tagline? These exercises fall into the brand identity category, and it's something a skilled branding agency like ours can help you with. Or, something you can do with your internal team during a brainstorming session.

But no matter whom you choose to work with, branding your website or blog is a vital part of your freelance business that will help you both understand and communicate who you are.

Why You're Not Making Money as a Freelancer

If you're not making money as a freelancer, it is your fault. The good news is that this is a fixable issue, and if you decide to put in the work, you can change the situation around very quickly. Here's why you're not making money as a freelancer and some quick and easy ways to fix it:

  • You are Searching for Clients in the Wrong Place.
  • You're Relying on Websites such as Fiverr and Upwork.
  • You're Not Marketing.

You are searching for clients in the wrong place: If you are finding that the clients you are attracting aren't the ones you were hoping to work with, you might be looking for clients in the wrong place. Identifying your ideal customer can seem like an overwhelming and daunting task. What jobs do you enjoy the most? What industry do you prefer the most?

You're relying on websites such as Fiverr and Upwork: If you're relying on these sorts of freelancer websites to get work, you're missing out big time. If you're serious about making a decent income, you'll need to dump those websites with the low-paying clientele and get serious about learning how to find and pitch clients directly.

If you want to build a career and catch the big fish, you'll need to ditch those websites and start reaching out to editors and content managers directly. Pitching is everything. How did I do it? You have to identify a client's need before you even reach out to them, offer them advice for free, and make a personal connection.

You're not marketing: If you're a new freelancer with little work or no work, you have to put every hour of freelancing time into marketing. That is all you should be doing every day for as many hours as you can afford to. If you want to make a living with freelancing, you need to learn to get clients. And to get clients, you have to learn marketing and learn how to market well and smartly.


Talk to your potential client and first try to understand them, their problems and their wants. For example: You are doing a website design or branding project for a client, then you are providing them significant value. You are helping them improve their online presence and you are improving their brand perception. This will help them drive more sales and increase the income of their business.

If you can emphasize the value that you provide to the client in your proposal process, then you will begin to see your income grow as a result of it. With pricing, it's not just about the money. It's about quality of life. I work at the same time have enough time to enjoy life, to write and create other things.

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