Learn how to improve your success as a freelancer with tips from Virtual Vocations.

5 Tips to Improve Your Success as a Freelancer

In this guest post, Atreyee Chowdhury, a writer and learning experience designer, discusses how you can create and maintain your success as a freelancer.

Going freelance can be very satisfying and rewarding simultaneously and with good reason. The gig economy alone in the U.S. generated a whopping $1.2 trillion in 2020. Plus, with the pandemic ravaging our lives, it is by far one of the best ways to ensure a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. 

You get to be your own boss and have the ultimate financial freedom. Plus, you can work from wherever you want. The only constraint is the “when” you work.

Being your own boss means you have responsibilities of both yourself and management which can often seem overwhelming when you start to scale. But don’t worry. You have help. Try these best performing strategies to become a seasoned freelancer in 2021 and beyond.

5 Tips To Skyrocket Your Success as a Freelancer

Freelancing is a double-edged sword. One side is full of rewards. The other can be pretty daunting with uncertainty and anxiety. But if you are a little strategic, you can end up on the brighter side. 

Following are the top five areas where you should be looking before you scale your freelancing business.

1. Start With Planning

The freelancing landscape might give you ideas like “work when you feel like.” However, the reality is far different. When you are your own boss, you are responsible for everything. From business development to management to production, you have to take care of every aspect of your business. Without proper planning, your entire professional landscape might feel like it’s in jeopardy. 

The worst part is you might end up feeling anxious and vulnerable with your work-life balance upside down. Here’s what you should do to plan better:

  1. Goal-setting: Every successful freelancer starts their journey with clearly defined goals. But to make them more actionable, divide them into long-term, mid-term, and short-term milestones. These are usually annual, quarterly, and monthly goals, although you can create something that works for you. Setting a goal for each month prepares your mind and creates a realistic deadline for your entire day. Google Docs or Google Sheets are especially handy for this task.
  2. Prioritize tasks: If you’ve had to scale fast in your freelancing journey, prioritization is critical. You can use the Eisenhower matrix to categorize your tasks based on value and urgency. This will give you a clear view of the tasks that you can keep on a pending list and the tasks that you can outsource.
  3. Stay focused: Staying focused is one of the biggest virtues when it comes to freelancing. But it is often easier said than done. You can use tools to keep your focus intact. Calm is an excellent meditation app that can help with this. Also, it is essential to plan your day ahead of time. You can schedule your activities in the Google calendar. Finally, create a workspace that is conducive to productive work. With a bit of practice and conscious work, you will get there in no time.

2. Define Your Differentiation Factor

The freelancing landscape is unique in every way. While there are rewards and fulfillment, it’s incredibly competitive to earn clients and hold onto success as a freelancer. Regardless of your profession, you will face cut-throat competition. This makes developing a differentiation factor critical for sustainable success. Here are a few elements to consider when you develop your brand. 

  1. Define your audience: Knowing your audience is critical for successful project completion. This will give you an edge over your competitors. Having complete knowledge of what your audience cares about, their motivations, and their lives will ensure you acquire clients faster. An audience persona is a great way to do so.
  2. Pricing strategy: In freelancing, setting prices by the total time you invest in a project is a common yet undermining trend. By charging hourly, you not only undercut the value that your services bring to your client’s business, but you also impede your long-term growth. A value-based pricing model is what justifies the long-term goals that you have for your business. This creates more room for improvements in service and time for precision in deliverables. The best part is it saves you from burnout.
  3. Testimonials: Although the value-based pricing model is the key ingredient to your sustainable business growth, it will not be possible to gain your clients’ confidence. This means reinforcing your credentials is essential to develop trust. If you have learning experience from premier institutes, displaying so is a great way. More importantly, showing past work experience can get you a step ahead here. But for this to work, relevance is key. The best way to do this is by gathering social proof and testimonials of your happy clients. However, if you are just starting, working for free in exchange for a testimonial is a great way to kickstart. 

3. Use productivity tools

The freelancing landscape is chaotic. You have to do plenty of work simultaneously, which makes efficient management critical for success as a freelancer. But maintaining a smooth workflow consistently is challenging. This makes productivity tools almost indispensable. 

Decluttering your workspace, these tools can tame the workload and create more room for productive work. You can be your most creative self and bring out the best performance with these tools. Here are some of the most important tools that you should consider integrating into your operations today. 

  1. Documentation tools: One of the best ways to optimize time and improve the efficiency of your freelance business is to have a knowledge base. It is the one-stop resource for answering all your questions specific to your business operations, products, and services. Having technical documentation in software development ensures all your stakeholders have thorough knowledge about your products. The time you used to answer common questions of end-users and clients can be automated now for more productive work like product development, testing, and improvements.
  2. Project management tools: Efficient management of your projects not only saves time but ensures that your deliverables are always on time. This means this is one tool that you cannot afford to miss if you have to develop a brand in the long term. What’s more, having a single dashboard to manage the complete workflow ensures you have realistic expectations of the timelines of the deliveries. JIRA is a great tool to do so.
  3. Automation tools: When you are working as a freelance developer, chances are you are going to collaborate with someone to streamline the project. This is where the big picture comes in. Communicating with collaborators and clients in real-time, taking feedback from end-users, and applying them to your product can get messy. You can end up having miscommunications about critical information like expectations, deliverables, and timelines. Automating processes and creating a smooth workflow ensures you have a robust pipeline of operations that boosts the quality of product development. Zapier is a great tool to consider.

4. Marketing Like There’s No Tomorrow

One of the most critical tasks as a freelancer is ensuring that your client roster is full. However, achieving a booked client roster is challenging. This means pitching and promoting your services go hand in hand with your production activity. This is where networking comes in. 

Your industry peers can offer recommendations that ensure your services are competent. Staying in touch with your past clients is important, as well. Here’s how: 

  1. Ask for referrals: Asking for referrals from existing clients can be a tremendous asset when it comes to client acquisition. It takes off a massive load of client scouting. What’s more, this word-of-mouth marketing technique creates more sustainable relationships that have trust integrated into it from the beginning. 
  1. Be open to collaborations: Your peers can not only keep you updated with your industry practices but ensure you have more sales opportunities. In addition, collaborations and partnerships in projects are strategic growth hacking methods for your business. This makes networking with your indirect competitors incredibly important. 
  1. Create your digital presence: Having an online presence is one of the first steps toward creating a robust marketing strategy. Your website will be the one-stop address where your audience can find everything they need to know about your service. This makes staying in touch with your audience incredibly easier. You can map your audience’s interactions with you and ensure you are always in close contact with their needs in real-time.

5. Track your progress

Investing time in developing and scaling your business is one critical part of a sustainable and successful freelancing career. However, it will just take you half the way. To optimize your resources, auditing your performance from time to time is indispensable. As they say, if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. Here are a few ideas on how to do so. 

  1. Graphical tracker: Human brains can process a picture 60X times faster than words and numbers. This makes data visualization incredibly powerful when it comes to auditing your business performance. Using a graphical representation tool like a line graph maker can ensure you have a comprehensive understanding of the performance trend from your past data points. It opens doors to create forecasts and ways to optimize current operations.
  2. Productivity tracking tools: It is impossible to be productive for an entire working day. With distractions all around, from surfing the internet to cute baby videos on social media, numerous places consume your valuable time. Tracking your screen time ensures you find the gaps to optimize for productive work. Toggl is an excellent tool to do this.
  3. To-do-list tools: Creating a to-do list can be of enormous help for you to be your productive best daily. However, the idea here is not to crowd your to-do list with ten jobs while you can just finish three. Create a realistic task list for a day and finish them by the end of the day. The small wins that you would achieve daily will start having compounding effects on your monthly, quarterly, and annual goals at the end. Microsoft To-Do is a great tool to do this.

Parting Advice

Freelancing is a rewarding venture. Done right, it can make all your dreams come true. You can work from anywhere, have more time for family, and even enjoy leisure time. But success as a freelancer depends upon how well you plan and discipline yourself. The above tips set you up on that road. However, the real work has to be done by you. Remember, success comes to those who take an action.

Author Bio

Atreyee Chowdhury works full-time as a Learning Experience Designer and is passionate about writing. She has helped many small- and medium-scale businesses achieve their content marketing goals with her carefully crafted content that is both informative and engaging. Currently, she lives in Bangalore, India, with her husband. She loves to read, experiment with different cuisines, travel, and explore the latest content marketing and L&D trends in her free time. You can reach her on Linkedin or write to her at atreyee.c@gmail.com.

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