For anyone looking to get into freelancing or scale their side business, it can seem quite daunting. As a freelancer, you are in control of the work you do, how you get paid, and how you establish your own brand in the ever-saturating landscape of freelancers and contractors.
Whether you’re offering marketing, writing, development, or design services, it’s crucial to have a solid understanding of your own business and the strategies you put into place to grow it.
Make no mistake: freelancing requires much more initial work, communication with clients and personal time invested than a traditional work environment. However, the advantages lie in the ability to create your own schedule, be your own boss, and choose how and when you get paid.
In this blog post, discover top tips and tools to help you make the most out of your freelance journey, whether you’re just getting started, or looking to improve your efforts and gain more clients.
1. Scale Your Practice Using Systems
In order to effectively manage and scale a freelance business, it’s crucial to have systems in place to help you. Think of a systems as repeatable sets of steps that you use in your business to manage current clients, and improve results. Having solid systems in place gives you the ability to take on more work and deliver the best results for any current and future clients – no exceptions!
Use a Task Management Platform
A mistake many freelancers make starting out is thinking that they can run their entire operation through email alone.
Attempting to manage and scale a freelance business over email chains and scattered notes is not only more stressful than it has to be, but it’s also an easy way to lose track of important deliverables, which client owes what, and more.
As a modern alternative, many freelancers utilize task management systems to keep everything organized and to track progress of various projects and clients. A project management platform such as Monday.com allows you to set up tasks and projects by client, create visual calendars tracking all your projects, track payments and campaign information, as well as assign due dates and notifications to keep you on track.
Apart from keeping track of your work, another great use for Monday.com is to leverage its collaboration tools and share boards with clients; for example, you can keep them up to date on the work you’re carrying out for them, ask them for feedback or approval, share files, let them see exactly how much time you spent on a project (especially as there is built-in time tracking) and pretty much use it for all of your collaboration.
Having all of your work life in one place (besides email!) brings organization and clarity to your freelance work and helps you save time and make sure that you’re always delivering work on time. It’s worth taking a few hours to set up the system; but in the long run, it will help you save considerable time – and help you scale your business.
Create a Client On-boarding Checklist
One of the most helpful types of systems to create when getting started is an on-boarding checklist that you funnel every new client through. This will allow you to receive all of the necessary details on the front-end of a new client-work relationship.
This checklist could include:
- contact details
- access information to relevant accounts
- formal contract/agreement before work kicks off
- any relevant information you need from them to carry out your work
Not only is this more professional, but it’s also easier for you, as you’ll have easy access to any information you need.
2. The Importance of Networking
While it can be hard at first to look past the stereotypical demises of traditional networking events (ex: those conferences that go on for just a little bit too long) networking is a crucial aspect to freelancers as it allows you to make valuable connections, and scope out potential new clients and resources in your industry.
Find Others In Your Field
As most freelancers work either remotely or from home, it can be hard to get out and meet other freelancers or agencies in your industry. Outside of traditional networking events, there are tons of ways, especially in the digital era, that let you connect and learn from leaders in your field.
This can be as simple as googling other freelancers in your area, or searching through LinkedIn and Facebook for freelancers and relevant groups.
Provide Value First, Ask Later
The number one rule of networking in general is to provide value first, and ask for value back later. People you meet are much more willing to become a resource for you, or to help you find more clients if you first provide some sort of value to them upfront.
3. Track, Analyze, and Optimize Your Business
Tracking and analyzing the work you do and your progress is one of the most important aspects to freelancing, and will also allow you to optimize your strategies in acquiring and retaining more clients for your freelance business.
Track Your Time
Ask yourself, do you know how many hours you spend on a given project? Whether you’re charging by the hour or not, it’s imperative to keep track of the time that you spend working for clients, as this can be referenced later for invoices, as well as giving you a clearer understanding of where you’re spending the majority of your time and efforts.
What’s more, it can also help you accurately price your services; if you’re spending much longer than you expected on certain types of projects, you might have to review your pricing policy to ensure the work you do is worth your time.
To make this process easier, consider using a simple time tracking app like Everhour to keep track of the hours you spend on projects for different clients, and easily export this information later.
Use this information to understand how long things are taking you, but also so that you can accurately price your services.
Optimize Based on Results
The most efficient way to scale any freelance business is to take a detailed inventory on what’s working well for you, and what isn’t working. This could mean offering your services at a slightly higher rate to attract more high quality clients, or cutting back on offering “X” service as it’s taking away too many hours, while not bringing in enough revenue to justify the time investment.
4. Stay On Top Of The Legal Side
As a freelancer, you are in charge of all of your legal work, which can definitely seem intimidating if you don’t know what to expect. Things you need to keep at the front of your mind are:
- the contracts you’re using to on-board your clients
- the incorporation status of your business
- keeping track of your taxes as an independent contractor
For ready to go scopes of work, and other non-legal agreements, PandaDoc offers great templates that you can use to jumpstart the initial services you plan on offering clients. For more legal related work, LegalZoom offers incorporation and legally binding contract templates.
As a freelancer, you’re also responsible for paying the self-employment tax. And, like most freelancers, you’ll most likely have multiple sources of income from multiple clients, therefore it’s imperative to keep a clean record of all of the paperwork and contracts. TurboTax can be a great resource for freelancers looking to learn more about how taxes fit into their work lifestyle.
5. Be a Leader in Your Niche to Find New Clients
While word of mouth and referrals are a great way to attract new clients in the short-term, in order to efficiently build a pipeline of consistent work, it’s important to establish yourself as a leader in your field.
This can be done through strategic networking as mentioned above, as well as keeping up to date with social media profiles, blogs, and consistently publishing industry-related content that can lead potential clients back to you. For example, if you’re a content marketer, it would be a good idea to publish a series of LinkedIn posts identifying the best types of content to reach different audiences.
Offering valuable information and resources up front, even to those you haven’t met or chatted with yet, is a great way to open the door for new clients that otherwise wouldn’t have been able to find you and get to know your practice and areas of expertise.
Freelancing for many is the key to a more flexible, comfortable, and happier work lifestyle, but like any starting, any business is not without its challenges and obstacles. Utilize these tips and tools to kickstart or grow your freelance business in 2019. Whether you’re protecting your data, branching out, or just optimizing what you already do, these tips will help you keep freelancing and wowing your clients at every step.