Part one of this article was everything that needed to be covered before any actual work began when jumping into the world of freelancing. Learning, planning, and getting your business set up were all included. Now, in part two, I’ll go over what to do now that you’re organized and (overly) excited to get to business.
Haven’t read the first half yet? Go there now: Getting Started Guide: Part 1
4. Marketing for a 100% Online Business
This is just the way I’ve setup my business, to work completely online, so I have the most knowledge within this area. If you’d like to meet up with some offline clients though, get listed in your local business directory and phone book, start talking to friends, family, colleagues, and anyone in town, and get in contact with any other previously established firms or freelancers in your area in case they need to outsource work, or want to even refer you. Most importantly: research more on marketing in this field locally on your own!
Without further a due, here are the steps needed to be taken to creating a strong marketing base for yourself:
Create Social Media Profiles
If you plan on working entirely online (or otherwise for that matter), you need to network with people somehow. Joining the most popular social networking sites overall and within your niche is essential for doing so. Create social media profiles for at least these sites, relating to your business. When creating your profiles, try to create some sort of consistency among them, and brand yourself ‘as you’ or ‘as a business’ as much as you’d like.
- Facebook (Page or Personal)
- Any other niche social network or community
I don’t necessarily consistently or constantly post on all my social networks, and I only primarily keep a few updated. Many other freelancers can be a lot more social than I am, but it is important to keep up some level of interaction via social media. Do keep in mind though, the more you Tweet, share, post, and etc., the better for your business network. (Unless it get’s spammy. Don’t do that; still be human and share relevant and useful things.)
Get Involved with the Community
If you have your social media accounts set up, you’ve just joined the community, congratulations. Now is the time to begin interacting. Begin following others in your field, others in similar fields, and especially those within your target client base.
It’s a smart idea to communicate with both groups (client and peers) as both can lead you to future work. Both can also lead you to opportunities in other ways, such as how when I reached out to Vitaly Friedman years ago for a try at blogging; given the opportunity it was a success and blogging today is still my primary means of marketing (passively, too!).
Don’t be afraid to send your favorite author, designer, blogger, or company a Tweet, message, or friend request. Compliment a favorite project of theirs or just introduce yourself. The best part of social networking sites is that it’s the best casual way to get to know people you’d otherwise have no access to! Beyond social media, don’t be afraid to reach out to others in your field via email to ask for advice, tips, and to say hello. I get emails like this all the time, and while I don’t have the time to respond to many of them, they’re always appreciated and I do send an email back much of the time. It’s even led me to some fantastic business opportunities and ideas.
Produce Free Content, Themes, Graphics, Whatever!
Now that you’re a part of the community, give back to it. It’s not only the responsible thing to do (you likely earned the majority of your skills through free tutorials, articles, and resources, right?), but it’s also great for your business. Take the time to produce free content: you’ll become more of a leading figure in your field and it will help your overall reputation, and it’s great link bait. People will link to you, and potential clients will find you.
You can make whatever sort of freebies to give out that you like, just be sure you love to do it and that it’s in your niche of work you’d like to do. Also, and most importantly, make sure it’s of quality! A bad freebie shows the community your level of work quality…equally as bad. However, an awesome freebie (which may take more time and effort) will reap far more benefits.
Finally, make sure you’re listed on sites, directories, and within communities so clients or agencies can find you if they’re actively looking. There are more prestigious sites (like Behance) that let you showcase your work, and others that accept everyone like Carbonmade and freelance directories.
This is never a huge source of work for me, but create the profiles and you’ll be there if anyone’s looking for you. Also, don’t forget to get your site and blog indexed in search engines!
Manually Look for Jobs
This is for your spare time. When you need work, then just go out and look for it via job boards, local postings, or online postings. Your time is spent much more beneficially doing to above items that will help you out long term and produce better results for your business, but manually looking for jobs is great if you’ve already done all of the above.
The thing with competing for job titles is that you have to be the best, fastest, and cheapest, all at the same time. Great clients can be found via these listings, and even repeat business arrangements can be found (be sure to do an extraordinary job). However, don’t count on it all of the time. You will have the greatest chance of reliable, repeat, decently paying, and respectful client work with the clients that come to you, so focus your main efforts on getting more of these types of clients to do that.
5. Set Your Price
There is no magical formula for pricing yourself. It all depends on your quality of work, type of work, and time frame. The only formula to technically abide by is:
(Cost of running business + cost of living + profit) / number of projects = project cost
It took me years to get to a comfortable level for my finances, especially since I do a variety of project types (blogging, design, frontend development, backend development). I even dabbled in other services I no longer offer, like graphic and logo design. While I’ve found a nice medium for my lifestyle now, I’m still not done. After I graduate and as I get older I know I’m going to want a better profit margin, and the cost of living for me will go up. On top of this, my customer service level will likely increase, as will the quality of my work. Therefore, my rates will go up as needed; they are surely not set in stone to this day.
At least in America, it is illegal to ask other freelancers what they charge for X-type of project specifically, not to mention sort of rude. However, there are plenty of great resources, polls, and statistics out there that one can research to get a good starting point. After that, you just need to adjust as necessary. Be sure to track your time and set an hourly rate according to how much you need to live off of. (This applies even if you don’t do per-hour rates, it just really helps to estimate project quotes.)
With experience, you’ll soon learn how much time it takes you to do certain projects, what a good quote is per type of project, and which quote amount gets you a good turnaround with potential clients.
Some Links to Get You Started:
- Guidelines for Small Project Pricing
- Why You Should Never Charge Hourly
- Figuring out how much to charge
- How to Set a Price for Web Design Work
- Pay Me Please: A Freelancer’s Guide to Billing and Pricing
- How much to charge for design work?
- Hourly vs. Fixed Pricing
6. Do Your Job Well, and Keep to Your Process
It may take some time to get your first gig, and it may not even be a situation where you can get repeat work easily. For example, I do get repeat business from clients with startups and small businesses, but they’re merely referrals and since these clients don’t need several websites themelves, I usually work with them once and I’m done. My biggest sources of repeat work are working with agencies. This is just my situation however; if you’d like to take on more small businesses and startups rather than working with agencies or other designers/developers, then be sure to market yourself in that way!
However, no matter what client, project, or project type, do an excellent job. Once you really get established, it’s impossible, not to mention impractical, to go above and beyond for every single project. Yet for your first few, strive to do this. Overworked and underpaid is the motto for any new freelancer (don’t underpay yourself intentionally, just work beyond your means to get established).
Doing great work will lead to referrals and repeat business. Referrals and repeat business are the lifeblood to any successful freelance business.
Finally, keep to your process very carefully. The reason for this is primarily to keep yourself organized. I know when I was starting out I lost a lot of good business because I was unorganized, slow, and missed deadlines. My final outcome was usually just fine, but this lack of professionalism lost me valuable future work. Also, by keeping to a process you can better see which parts of it are working and which are not. Adjust what you do in an organized fashion, and officially adjust your schedule…see below.
7. Track Your Progress (and Improve)
Is your business making money? Losing money? Is it stuck? Is your client base growing, or is it even too much to handle? Do you have enough business at all to keep you busy? These are all essential questions to ask each month. The direction of your business can change from month to month, but be sure to track your business to ensure it’s growing in a positive direction for the most part, and at a rate you’re satisfied with.
Also, don’t just ask questions about your business, but for yourself too: are you happy with the current types of projects you do? Are you happy with your workload? Do you need to step up your game, or let back on work a bit for your current or future lifestyle? How can you alter your business to better suit your needs and wants?
Just like with everything else, I have processes I keep to so that I know I’m always moving forward. I’ll test out what does and doesn’t work, and I’m learning to this day how to better streamline my business, time, effort, and still grow at the same time. Try out different things, but make sure to track the results. If it made you or your business richer, more efficient, happier, or whatever, then stick to it. If it made things worse, go back to the old way or try something else!
Has this guide helped you?
This is an article that I plan on constantly improving, so please let me know if it helped you or not within the comments or by leaving be some feedback via the “Feedback” button to the right. If you notice a problem, have a question, a complaint, a suggestion, or would just like to let me know what helped you out the most, it’s greatly appreciated.