If you are looking for a magical formula that will help you accelerate your freelancing career, don’t let anyone fool you to believe that one exists. However, if you are struggling to get freelance jobs consistently, don’t know where to begin your search or are doubtful of your capabilities and think you don’t have the requisite skills to become a successful freelancer, this article is just for you.
The common route
The common route to search for freelance jobs is to be active on all freelancing platforms and constantly bid for gigs. You have probably done this already and have also found some success. You might have also directed a few clients to go through Fiverr or Upwork even though you found them or they found you elsewhere. I once did this too and sacrificed 20% of the project fee in the hopes that the 5-star rating (which I was confident of getting) will attract more clients. Well, it just attracted many people who wasted a lot of my time. Remember, time is valuable and so are you.
The less taken route
Now let’s talk about the less taken route — one that popular freelancing blogs don’t talk about — finding companies or individuals you’d like to work with. For lack of a better term, I call this approach Identify and Impress. Here’s a breakdown of what it entails:
- You have limited time and want at least one stable client who either offers consistent work or agrees to a monthly contract for an ongoing task.
- You are willing to provide value first and negotiate later.
- You care about your client’s success as much as you care about your own.
- You want to be a specialist and build your expertise in one or two niches.
- You are open to doing things that you don’t necessarily enjoy but are good at.
So how exactly can one Identify and Impress, you ask?
Identify who you’d like to work with based on your interests, skill set and the value that you can add. Companies of all sizes are on the lookout for specialists who can help them alleviate what prevents growth or elevate that fuels it. It’s on you to figure out who can benefit the most from what you have to offer, while also ensuring that your own interests are aligned.
Let’s assume that your goal is to become a Facebook Ads expert and Fashion is one of your niches. The obvious thing to do is to identify relevant brands that can benefit from your core service, that is, running ads across Facebook’s products. What’s not so obvious is to ascertain which brands can benefit the most by hiring you, or in other words, who you can impress the most. So how exactly do you do that? It’s the R word that is very often given little or no importance in the freelancing world — Research.
As someone who has been on the other side of the fence, I cannot stress the importance of researching before reaching out. The only sure shot way to a stellar first impression is to dig deep to find what challenges one is facing and offer a solution rather than pitching your service.
Not “Hey, it looks like you don’t run regular ads on Facebook; I can help you do that.”
But “Hey, it looks like you can really use a better headline for your homepage as xyz doesn’t explain your core proposition very well. Here’s what I came up with — zyx; would love to hear what you think!”
That is sure to Impress even if the reader might not like the proposed headline. This approach helps you differentiate yourself from the rest and even if it doesn’t bear fruit in the short-run, chances are high that if the prospect is in need of your services in the near future, they will get in touch with you.
Cut the noise out
Acquire a new skill. Take that course. Enrol in that bootcamp. Learn some SEO, copywriting, programming, data analysis and design. Be the equivalent of a human swiss army knife. Forget it.
The internet is full of such advice. Unfortunately, it isn’t the best advice for those looking to make a meaningful living or some side income via freelance jobs. While it is very important to be on a path of constant learning to stay ahead of the curve, it is equally important to be really freaking good at one or two (or maybe three) things. And the things you are really good at must complement each other in a way that you can portray yourself as a box of ingredients, each of which is necessary to prepare that dish perfectly.
So just focus on what you’re already good and invest on honing your skills instead of spending valuable time and resources learning that hot new skill (read coding) that brings the promise of an income you have always dreamt of.
A final piece of advice
Since you’ve read so far, I am assuming that you already have some monetizable skill and now understand how to Identify and Impress clients to get quality freelance jobs. One more thing you must keep in mind is that sometimes you might have to go below your expected rates to acquire meaningful work that you not only enjoy doing but also puts you on a path of high growth. It will take some time but eventually, you will get to a point where you have a pipeline full of prospects who are also willing to pay the full price for your expertise. Until then, it won’t hurt to assume that you are worth nothing.
First published on the Letshead Blog.