Yesterday, I talked about the first few steps in my path to freelance success. In this post, I’ll finish talking about the steps I took and how you could take advantage of those things. Just to review, the first three steps were:
- Figure out what you like doing
- Figure out if there is money in what you like doing
- Write a plan, including specifics for your finances and marketing
Now, onto the next steps.
Practice Your Craft
If you want someone to pay you to do something, you need to be good at doing that thing. That means you need to practice.
One of the best ways to practice your craft is to create high-quality stuff and give it away for free. There are lots of ways to do that:
- Are you a developer? You can contribute to open source projects, create a library and give it away, or write tutorials related to your expertise
- Are you a designer? You can give away a set of icons, create a single page website skin, or give advice on design practices
- Are you a writer? Find something you’re interested in and write about it to show off your skills
- Are you a freelance personal trainer? Record some videos that show people how to perform certain exercises
The ideas are endless. As long as it is related to your field, you can potentially profit from it. From a mindset standpoint, this is a marketing step. You are not seeking payment (although it can be nice). This is to get your name out there and establish expertise.
Seek Out and Nurture Your First Good Client
Once you know you’re good at something, its time to find your first client and nurture your relationship with them. There’s a bunch of different ways to find that client:
- Referral from a friend, family member, or business associated
- Inbound lead from you website (which you should definitely have up and running)
- From online job boards or on a freelance website like Elance, ODesk, or Freelancer.com
The first two scenarios are generally preferable to the last one. Once you find your first client, you need to do an awesome job on your first project. Work as hard as you possibly can to meet your client’s expectations while establishing a good rapport. Make sure you make it clear what is your responsibility and what isn’t, but going the extra mile on the first project won’t hurt you in the long run.
The most important thing here is to establish a relationship that allows you to be the person that this client goes to in the future.
Leverage Your First Client Into Multiple Contracts
Once you have your first client and have established a great relationship, you need to leverage that client to generate more business for yourself. There’s a few different ways to leverage your client:
- You can get new contracts from the client, turning them into a repeat client
- The client can refer others to you and your business
- You can ask the client for a testimonial, write a case study about your project, or request credit within the project itself – this is indirect leverage
All of these things are valuable and relatively easy to do, assuming you do a good job following up.
After First Few Contracts – Examine Your Current Situation
After you complete a couple of projects, you need to step back and take a look at your freelance business. There are a lot of important questions you can ask yourself, but I recommend starting with at the following:
- Do I really like doing this thing for money?
- Who is my ideal client and what is my ideal project?
- What have I learned so far and how can I use this knowledge?
- How can I continue learning new things and bettering myself?
The first question is probably the most important, but they can all help you move forward with your business.
Solidify Marketing and Advertising – Push and Watch Your Business Grows
At this point, hopefully you’ve got a good feel for what it takes to be a freelancer and how you should be running your business. Assuming you want to keep freelancing and grow your business, there’s a lot of things you can do as you move forward. You can ramp up your marketing efforts by blogging, tweeting, attending conferences or meetups, or sponsoring the said events. You can advertise your services in a variety of ways and places.
If you’re looking to start freelancing or are already freelancing and not sure how you can push forward, I hope you’ve found this set of articles helpful. Looking back, this is the exact path that I followed to grow my freelancing business to what it is.
If you have any questions or would like specific examples of some of the things I talked about, please leave a comment and I’ll be happy to provide as much help as I can.