There’s no denying that freelancing online is hard, especially if you do it full-time. Before you land long-term clients and achieve a stable income, you will face challenges that will make you rethink your decision to switch to working online. However, becoming a successful freelancer is not an impossible. The control it gives you over your time makes it a worthwhile pursuit. Who doesn’t dream of working whenever they want and from anywhere?
Just to name a few, here are common hurdles of being a freelancer online:
- Clients unexpectedly terminating contracts
- Income varying from week to week (no steady paycheck)
- No employer-sponsored health insurance or other benefits
- No paid vacation days
The key to reaching success as a freelancer online is to hone your craft, be consistent and have a strong work ethic. Most importantly, being reliable is key to establishing long-term relationships with clients. Whether you’re just starting out or gearing up to take things to the next level, here are 5 steps you can take towards becoming a reliable freelancer online:
Build a strong personal online brand
You might have heard of entrepreneur and marketing maven Gary Vaynerchuk. He always speaks of the importance of investing in personal branding. His brand has positioned him as an authority in his field and helped him land major business opportunities like book deals and speaking engagements. This clearly illustrates the impact of a strong personal brand. It refers to the way you present yourself and people’s perception of you. It’s crucial to value it as it can make or break your freelance business.
If you’re wondering where to start, consider these 3 steps. To quote Gary Vee, “You have to understand your own personal DNA. Don’t do things because I do them or Steve Jobs or Mark Cuban tried it. You need to know your personal brand and stay true to it.” Once you figure what you stand for, start putting yourself out there. Join a few social media platforms and post valuable content. Make sure your voice is consistent across the board. Participate in group chats, monitor conversations and think about how your expertise can solve people’s problems. Leverage already existing audiences by sharing your thoughts on sites like Medium and LinkedIn. Engage with influencers in your field and be genuine in your interactions. Network online and offline, and build authentic relationships. Document your process and highlight your wins. Slowly but surely, people will connect with what you do and respond to your content. The return on investment will speak for itself.
Be responsive via email and on social media
A strong digital presence is an integral component of personal branding. If someone reaches out to you, it’s likely because they’re interested in what you do. Not responding in a timely fashion is a sure-fire way of losing their interest. An extended delay could be the difference between a client choosing you for a project and going for another freelancer online. Be active on the social platforms you’re on. Respond to comments as quickly as possible and direct people to your email for longer conversations. This attentive behavior makes people feel valued. It’s harder to address everyone once you become popular, which is why it’s all the more important to set a precedent and do it while you’re still establishing yourself.
Do some pro bono work and collect client testimonials
People rarely say no to getting free help. A great way to put yourself out there is offering your services for free. Design a startup’s logo, manage the social media presence of a small business or contribute guest posts to a local magazine. Do a great job and they will always remember that! This may feel counterintuitive, but it pays off in word of mouth marketing and testimonials. These give you credibility as people tend to trust their friends’ recommendations more than traditional ads (which are way more impersonal). Think of it as an investment. You might feel like it’s not worth it if you’re not getting paid, but not all rewards are monetary. Whether it gives you access to an exclusive network or generates a few leads for your career, offering your services pro bono can take you to the next level.
Share content that provides value
Think of yourself like a media company. You have information to share about a particular topic and it’s up to you to communicate that with your target audience. One mistake freelancers make is being so busy hustling that they forget to showcase their expertise. How do you expect people to believe you can deliver a service if you have no written trail to show for it? An event series, a blog, podcast or YouTube channel are just a few ways to share your knowledge. Don’t worry so much about the medium. Just put that content out there. Create stuff that your prospective clients care to read either because it teaches them something they want to know or it appeals to their emotions. A common misconception when it comes to content creation is that the broader you get, the better it is. In reality, choosing a niche is a more strategic move as it allows you to focus your efforts. Use your expertise to make your audience’s lives better. Address common challenges in a series of posts and use their feedback for more content ideas. Consumers tend to connect with brands that also care to educate them as opposed to getting them to buy things all the time.
Continue your education as a freelancer online
Most importantly, never stop learning. Always ask yourself how you can keep getting better at what you do. Maybe taking online courses or shadowing other industry experts will help! Invest in every opportunity to perfect your craft and consider it a lifelong process.
Furthermore, the market is always evolving, so make sure you stay ahead of emerging trends. A decade ago, you’d probably be fine learning how to do one thing well and doing it for the rest of your life, but it no longer holds true today. Technology is disrupting every industry and replacing traditional jobs, so it’s a good practice to be flexible enough and adapt.
Shelcy Joseph is a freelance writer and the voice behind A Millennial’s Guide to Life, a career and lifestyle destination for multi-passionate creatives. When she’s not typing away on her laptop, she loves to explore the city, try out new restaurants, capture moments with her camera and meeting new people. Get her FREE guide to effective time management on her site.