How to grow as a freelancer: actionable tips to level up your freelance career

Guest Author 28.06.2021
A person working from home office

Thinking of effective ways on how to grow as a freelancer is never easy. But despite the relative instability of this career path, still, many professionals are choosing the freelance road. For example, by 2028, it’s projected there will be 90 million freelancers in the US alone.

But, let’s forget all of the other freelancers you have to compete against in your industry for a second. Of which there may be many. Eek!

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You want to grow as a freelancer for yourself. And achieve what you’ve always dreamed of for yourself.

All you need to know is how to grow your freelance business and become more competitive among other self-employed professionals out there. While it may seem to be a tough challenge, it’s not impossible. So, here are a few great practical tips on how to grow as a freelancer. Check them out and begin to grow!

#1 Consider yourself a small business

When done right, freelancing can offer a remarkable work-life balance. But it’s essential to treat your freelance venture as a proper business to spur growth and financial success. Thus, that is the first tip on how to grow as a freelancer. 

But how to really start treating your freelance venture as a small business? 

Find your niche

If you are setting out in freelancing, chances are you have a particular skill or service in mind. For example, it could be email marketing, photography, virtual administration, transcription, web design, or graphic design.

Yet re-examining what you offer and zeroing in on a niche within a niche can give you a competitive edge. You’ll make your business more relevant and appealing to a specific market and prove that you are:

  • Genuinely tuned into your client’s industry
  • Committed to helping your clients get the results they want 
  • Able to capture the message your clients want to communicate to their audience

To give you an example, I used to cover all sorts of topics as a freelance writer, from travel in Scotland to co-working spaces to air conditioning systems (yawn). But, it was only when I started to specialize in writing for SaaS and B2B Tech brands that I was able to raise my profile and profits.

So, now the question is, how do you choose a profitable freelancing niche that allows you to grow as a freelancer?

Firstly, think about your ideal clients. Why would you love to work for these customers, and how will you help them?

Next, study the market to help you think of ways on how to make more money freelancing. The goal here is to identify profitable and viable options that are likely to keep your business afloat in the long run. 

Now that you have a few feasible options, it’s time to narrow everything down. Consider your interests, what you enjoy doing most, and what you have excelled in to settle on a niche you will zealously serve.

Create a personal brand

Another helpful tip on how to grow as a freelancer is connected to your personal brand. It helps to create a way for potential clients to remember you and your freelancing specialty. That’s what branding is all about – creating a unique personality that differentiates your business from others. 

But how do you go about your freelance branding?

First, figure out how you want to be known by your ideal clients

Let’s say you’re a freelance software developer. You know that you’re not the fastest nor the cheapest option. But your clients can trust you to build top-quality applications on time and on budget. That’s reliability. And that’s how you should market yourself – as the most reliable software developer in town.

Build on this reputation by gathering reviews and feedback. Then share that feedback on LinkedIn or your personal website.

Show off your expertise

For those looking for ways on how to grow your freelance business, blogging is among the best online marketing strategies. Even if your freelance gig has nothing to do with writing, showing off your expertise via blogging can really help you grow as a freelancer.

A blog helps you express yourself and build your brand. But most importantly, it’s an effective tool to showcase your expertise and attract high-quality prospective clients. 

No doubt, you’ll need a platform to share your knowledge and showcase your expertise online. You can get started with any of these top blogging platforms

Show your audience and prospective clients that you know your trade and can solve their problems by creating helpful blog posts.

Creating long-form content, knowing your buyer persona, providing problem-solving content – all these are the most used yet highly effective content marketing tactics. They all work like a charm.

Anil Agarwal, BloggersPassion

As your blog content raises your profile and drives more visitors to your website, you increase your chances of finding clients who are enthusiastic AF about working with you.  

#2 Grow your confidence and you’ll grow as a freelancer

Another tip on how to grow your freelance business is related to your confidence. To be a successful freelancer you need to stop beating yourself up over imperfections. 

So, it’s time you throw that imposter syndrome out of the window and start presenting your best self to potential clients. 

Here are a few tips to help you feel confident and eventually make more money freelancing. 

Identify your unique selling points

If you can’t tell why anyone would buy your freelance services, it’ll be hard to convince prospects they should invest in your services. If thinking about how to grow as a freelancer, keep this in mind.

One essential aspect of freelancing is your unique selling proposition (USP). It’s that one feature or perceived benefit that makes your business better than the competition. 

A compelling USP is assertive. It should be a position that makes a unique case against competing services. But again, you should focus on what your target customers truly care about.

There are several approaches to finding your USP. Let’s take a glance at a few:

  • Specialization – Compared to a freelancer who markets their services in a more generalized way, you are more likely to stand out to a client looking for a solution that matches your area of specialization. 
  •  A high profile – Establishing a high profile in your industry helps you stand out from the crowd. 
  • Extraordinary experience – Think of a specific experience or achievement that positions you as an authority in your industry. This could be working with a high-profile client or authoring a book. 
  • Uniqueness – Listen to the mother of all drag queens RuPaul, and emphasize your charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent. I, for example, set myself apart by taking complex topics and making them easy to understand, which not everybody can do. And just generally having fun in what can be a rather dry industry (SaaS and B2B Tech). 

You may also want to emphasize your diverse skills, bundled services, quality of services, or the results you achieved for past clients.

Whatever your USPs are, work them into your branding efforts to the point where no prospect will have to ask why they should work with you.

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Know what you want to achieve

Having a goal helps add purpose to your work, and that is crucial to everyone, especially freelancers looking to grow their business. 

Are you a part-time freelancer looking to freelance full-time in the future? If so, it’s essential to consider how much income you’ll need to generate to cover all your expenses. Then, ensure you can put in the legwork to meet that goal.

Whatever your freelancing goals are, make sure they’re SMART goals:

Specific“I want to be a successful solopreneur as defined by having six high-profile clients” is more definite than “I want to become a successful freelancer.”
MeasurableIf you cannot measure your goals, chances are you won’t know when you’ve reached them.
AttainableBe realistic with your freelance business goals. For example, you’re not going to be a gazillionaire in the next month.
RelevantEnsure your goals are laser-focused on your business.
Time-boundGoals work best when you set and stick to deadlines. 

Sell yourself 

Another useful tip on how to grow as a freelancer is learning to market your freelance services and doing so. Admittedly, I found this tough for a while being a modest, little, tea-drinking British person. But, you just have to go for it.

There is incredible value to having a website to showcase your work samples and information about you and your freelance services. Besides being the primary point of contact for your potential clients, your website is also the best place to communicate your USPs. 

Social media channels like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter offer freelancers an extra avenue to level up their online presence. Update your accounts frequently to engage your followers and build a loyal social community

You can also grow your freelance client base by asking for referrals from your current and former clients. In fact, 84% of B2B buyers start their purchasing process with a referral. What’s more, personal recommendations influence over 90% of all B2B buying decisions. 

#3 Manage your time wisely to grow your freelance business

You undoubtedly want to invest your time in what you do best – the actual work. 

But, freelancers wear many hats. You are the chief marketing officer, sales director, HR manager, chief operations officer, and financial officer of your freelance business. 

There’s a lot to juggle and it can seem like slowing down your growth as a freelancer. 

So, you must stay organized if you hope to succeed and eventually scale. Thus, when thinking about how to grow your freelance business, effective time management plays a crucial role.

Work with a to-do list

To-do lists keep you focused throughout the day… and help you hold onto your sanity if you have a lot on your plate. 

Divide your list into four quadrants: do, decide, delegate, and delete. The result may look something like this:

Eisenhower matrix

This way, you know what you need to do, what you can delegate, and what you can ignore for now. Plus, there are many cool to-do list apps that can assist you daily. 

Track your time

An essential tip on how to grow as a freelancer is connected with being aware of how you spend your time. 

If you sometimes reach the end of the day and feel like the time has somehow gone missing, you’re not alone. We all struggle with this issue in the freelancing community. But time tracking solutions can help you stay on top of your working day.

DeskTime time tracking tool

Track everything job-related. When you know how much time you spend on certain tasks, it also becomes easy to estimate how long future projects will take. It’ll help you calculate your freelance rates and be more accountable in front of your clients. 

Minimize distractions

Did you know that it takes on average 15 minutes to regain full focus after a distraction? Now think about how many times per day you get distracted by social media alerts, emails, phone calls, and so.

You don’t need to always be available. Give yourself set times when you respond to emails, have scheduled calls with clients, and check social media intentionally. Social media is a necessary evil for your business. So, set your intentions each time you use a platform, so you don’t get distracted by all the surrounding social noise.

Bonus: Try the productivity technique that the most efficient people have in common – working in 52-minute sprints and then breaking for 17 minutes. It has some serious productivity-boosting side effects. 

Say no or outsource

Among the best time management tips for freelancers is the ability to say no and cap the number of projects you take on at once. As a result, you minimize the amount of unhealthy stress and bolster your productivity.

Often, it makes sense to outsource extra tasks. But ensure you have a reliable team you can trust to deliver quality work within a reasonable time.

#4 Consider other business opportunities

Freelancing can be hard. And sometimes even with the greatest set of tips on how to grow as a freelancer your work can dry up. So, what to do then?

It helps to consider other options and diversify your income sources. Here are some ideas for how you can do just that. 

Diversify clients

Relying on one client for freelance income could put you in a tricky position in the future. If, in theory, this client goes out of business, you could find yourself broke. Honestly, I’ve been in that situation a few times over the years.

Prevent potential freelancing dry spells by building a network of regular clients. Put your portfolio out there, connect with other freelancers in your niche, make use of online job boards, and leverage existing contacts.  

Diversify your skills 

Another useful tip on how to make more money freelancing & not end up broke is to add more skills to your skillset. You’ll find even more demand for your services. 

Just keep those skills in a similar realm. For instance, my main gig is long-form blog posts, but I also have the skills to do on-page copy, strategic content planning, content promo, and so on. These all fall under the content marketing umbrella.

You don’t have to break the bank to master new things. You can learn nearly everything online at no extra cost. 

If clients request you to do something new, take the risk. You could become their go-to freelancer for that particular task, and land additional clients looking for the same service. 

Sell digital products

You can make more money as a freelancer by selling the most in-demand digital products in your niche. This could be an online course, design templates, an ebook, etc.

If you have an audience for your blog or a good network of followers, create something useful for them. Then sell it via your website or a relevant digital store.

Coaching and consulting

Whether your niche is writing, digital marketing, or literally anything, people are willing to pay an expert to learn something new.  

Harness your skills and experience to offer coaching and consulting services – it’s among the best ways to grow as a freelancer. 

Coaching and consulting don’t just generate income. You also build a network of like-minded individuals. 

Service charges are up to you. But ensure your fee is enough to make your services worth your time and energy. 

The bottom line on how to grow as a freelancer

Growing your freelance career to the level you want won’t happen overnight. And it’s a helluva lot of work.

But with the right roadmap and level of commitment, you can take your career as far as you desire. Know yourself and your skills, be bold and run your freelancing business like it is just that, a business

Before you know it, you’ll be a freelance boss. Happy freelancing!

This is a guest post by Kelly O’Hara. Kelly is the founder of Copy Goals, an entertaining AF blog for content marketers, freelancers, and writers. As a freelance content marketing specialist, she’s the creative mind behind the content of many industry leaders.

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