In the course of your freelance business you may be asked to do a concept presentation for your more complex projects. A concept presentation is a pre-development or planning phase where you show your client a prototype or draft of what you’re going to deliver.
If you’re a freelance web designer, a design concept presentation is often referred to as a “mockup.” If you’re a freelance writer, it’s often two or three pages of copy and layout work, or an annotated outline of a planned article or report.
A concept presentation is where you present your development work and decide a particular direction before launching into full-work mode. There are three distinct stages of a concept presentation and you can excel in each of them.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a freelancer is to ignore building and promoting your brand. Starting my freelance business in 2010, I shrugged my shoulders at the thought of branding strategy. It sounded like something that only larger businesses engaged in, not freelancers.
Over the years, I’ve learned that brand promotion is actually a critical part of a freelancer’s overall business, no matter how small. With a little effort, you too can build a better freelance business with strategic branding.
Branding promotion as we see it used by big companies (e.g. Apple, Ben and Jerry’s, or Starbucks) and branding for freelancers are similar in many ways. Essentially, branding is everything you do as a business that makes others remember you. For freelancers, however, branding takes on a very special meaning. As a freelancer you are your business. So, in effect, you are your own brand. Continue Reading
As freelancers, we usually find ourselves neck deep in paperwork: invoices, project proposals for prospective clients, spreadsheets of to-do lists, and tax forms. The problem is that as we get buried under all this paperwork and try to wrestle all the administrative matters while juggling actual work, we often forget the one important document: our business plan.
You might think that your business plan is just the document you draw up at the beginning when you’re launching your freelance career. But the truth is this: your business plan is a living, breathing document. When was the last time you updated it?
Consider this new-and-improved version of your business plan as your business planning document. This business plan is a little different.
You’re probably familiar with your financial documents: profit/loss statements, balance sheets, and cash-flow reports. Whether or not you produce these yourself or hire an accountant to produce them, it’s important to understand that these documents are only snapshots in time. Continue Reading
Freelancers face more competition than ever. Competition doesn’t just come from other freelancers, but also from a slew of D-I-Y software and templates that allow people to produce their own websites, newsletters, publications, and logos. The result of this is that many clients view freelance services as just another commodity (the “Walmart effect”), which makes them think that the only difference between you and other alternatives is price.
Whether you’re prepared or not, the business landscape for independent work from web design to writing is vulnerable to commoditization. How you respond to these trends can impact how your business grows and attracts prospective clients. Will you be stuck working for rock-bottom prices? Or, will you be able to charge a fair freelance rate that reflects your expertise and experience?
Freelancers can differentiate themselves from the bargain-basement players by exploring four effective strategies.
Here’s a basic difference between products and services. The level of satisfaction of a product often has a direct correlation to sales: you offer a good product that’s well-liked, and most likely sales will go up; for bad products, sales dip.
That relationship is less transparent with services like the kind usually offered by freelancers. Freelance clients buying a service like web design or editing, will usually complete the sale unless you completely botch the deliverables.
In fact, there is a more nuanced spectrum of satisfaction when it comes to services than products, but the consequences are significant: clients that are dissatisfied with your freelance services will just opt for another provider. What’s at stake? A repeat project with the client and the opportunity to aim for bigger, better projects by improving your performance.
Unfortunately, gathering feedback can lead to some skewed results. If clients were a generally satisfied with your work, but not wowed, they may silently opt for another provider, and not bother giving you any feedback at all, even if you solicit them directly.
It’s frustrating: you probably only hear back from the joyously enthusiastic clientele and the ones with the biggest gripes. Small gripes usually get reported less.
Still, there are several benefits to spending the time getting a sense of what your clients think of you and your freelance services: Continue Reading
When you’re just starting to launch your freelance career, there are four functions of your business that you want to devote your time to:
- Finding and winning clients
- Development and delivery
- Staying “in the black” and balancing the finances
- and Marketing your services
For the most part, freelancers tend to focus on areas 1 and 2.
Most freelancers got into the business of working for themselves because they enjoy the independence and the creative freedom of choosing the projects they want and the clients they want to work with. Freelancers also tend to watch their bank accounts like hawks because they know that any mismanagement of their money will send their business into a death spiral quickly.
That leaves marketing (area 4) as the most neglected part of any freelance business.
To expand and continually build up your client base, finding bigger and better projects, a business has to do a little hustling — and do it consistently.
When I first started, I was clueless about marketing. I muddled through getting clients through the more reliable channels of word-of-mouth and existing networks. I even did a few stints on Elance to bolster our work portfolio in areas that I didn’t have too much direct experience in but I knew I could handle.
Even today, I admit that marketing is still one of my least favorite activities, not any more pleasant than going to the dentist or doing laundry. It’s a necessity, but the real joy of running my freelance business is the creative side — working with passionate clients, producing content that motivates and inspires, and pushing my own creative limits in the work that I do.
But through it all, the specter of marketing haunts me: I know I have to do it. To expand and continually build up your client base, finding bigger and better projects, a business has to do a little hustling — and do it consistently.
Here are two big mistakes freelancers make when it comes to marketing: Continue Reading
It sometimes happens: You get an unsolicited inquiry by e-mail, phone, or in person out of the blue, a prospect at your doorstep who was neither recommended by others or pursued by you—a surprise prospect.
So, how do you protect yourself and make sure you don’t waste your time on unsuitable clients? You know what I mean: the under-budgeted, clueless, and teasers who just want to pick your brain and that most freelancers should ignore.
While there is no sure-fire way to assess the ideal client—one who’s serious and willing to invest in quality work—wasted effort doesn’t have to be a part of the freelancer’s game. Here are four screening options to help you weed out prospects that add extra hassles to your already busy and over-stretched schedule. Continue Reading
Pricing is often the final factor that determines if a client you are pursuing will hire your freelance services.
When it comes time to pricing your services, how do you put together a package that provides your client with an accurate projected budget?
Too low a price won’t win everyone over necessarily (realistic, savvy clients are looking for value for their money, not simply the cheapest provider). In fact, many clients might perceive a low price as signal about quality and will walk the other way if they think you are over-promising or cutting corners on your services.
Budgets you propose for clients are the product of several factors: your labor rate, the effort that will be expended to provide the services for a project, and a variety of client indicators, such as the client’s experience with businesses like yours, his reaction to your portfolio, how “big” the client is, and if working with them is also a professional networking opportunity that may pay dividends later on. Continue Reading
One of the biggest challenges for freelancers just starting out is how to get more press and publicity for their business with few funds. As a one-person shop, you can’t spend a fortune employing your own PR rep or a marketing guru.
There are several D-I-Y strategies you can implement to generate positive publicity. What are PR opportunities for your freelance business? You may think PR is only for big companies, but even small freelance shops can benefit from taking advantage of newsworthy opportunities happening in your business, market, and industry.
Here are five ways to create PR opportunities for your freelance business.
1. Send press releases to relevant media outlets.
Drafting a press release is the easy part. Read tips for crafting the perfect press release. But before you write one, consider factors such as what industry you’re in and determine what the key trade publications and media outlets are in your industry.
As an example, if you’re a photographer that specializes in weddings and family events, then you need to draft separate press releases– perhaps one for a wedding or bridal magazine, and another one for parenting magazines. You’ll need to do some research for each publication, finding the relevant news team or section editor. When you write or call them, make sure you sell your story by getting to the point of how a mention of your services in a story would be of interest to the publication’s reading audience. Continue Reading
Freelancers often underestimate how they can use LinkedIn to build relationships with clients and colleagues. As a global professional network, boasting over 135 million people, LinkedIn becomes a virtual Rolodex of contacts making it a great way for freelancers to exchange information, ideas, and share and explore relevant issues.
As a business networking tool, it’s a natural social network for freelancers to explore. While you may associate social networks with time wasting sessions on Facebook or Twitter, LinkedIn’s value as a business generating tool is worth exploring.
Here are four ways to tap into LinkedIn for your freelancing business:
1. Engage your “Connections” for help.
LinkedIn can be useful for freelancers looking to outsource aspects of their business or seeking collaborators for projects. If you’re seeking someone with special skills, the first place to look for experts is on LinkedIn.
The site provides a trusted way to find the right people who fit your needs– a kind of digital word-of-mouth when you’re doing a search.
The site provides a trusted way to find the right people who fit your needs– a kind of digital word-of-mouth when you’re doing a search. For example, if you’re looking for someone with social marketing skills to help you market your freelance services, run a search of profiles on LinkedIn in a zip code or location near you. Narrow down your search with keywords and professional affiliations. LinkedIn’s advance search feature lets you filter searches by group affiliations, companies, location, seniority, company size, and so forth.
LinkedIn is also an excellent way to do a quick background check of your clients and other freelancers you work with. You can track what people have done and corroborate material on resumes that cross your desk. Continue Reading
Networking is more than just attending events and swapping business cards. Freelancers, in particular, can find fellow collaborators, future partners, prospective clients, and a tribe of fellow freelancers when they network. Networking is about building relationships and like all relationships it takes trust and personal contact built over time.
1. Do a head check first and look inward.
The first relationship to consider before you jump into networking is the one you have with yourself. Can you deliver commitments and handle setbacks in a professional way? Do you recover quickly when things don’t go your way? Do you truly enjoy your work? You’ll need to get comfortable with your lifestyle as a freelancer to have the right interactions with others. Learn how to lead a more relaxed freelance lifestyle and ask yourself if you should really be freelancing.
A more appropriate self-image for a freelancer is someone who is self-employed. Remember, you are, in fact, a business owner– with all the perks and headaches.
Establishing your self-identity (and confidence) as a freelancer sometimes takes time and practice. The term “freelancer” often has negative connotations that many people new to the business can’t shake. Leaving a well-established career and shifting into being a free agent can be both an ego boost and ego deflator.
A more appropriate self-image for a freelancer is someone who is self-employed. Remember, you are, in fact, a business owner– with all the perks and headaches. For one thing, you have to wear a lot of hats. Not only are you a professional in your field, but you are also a project manager, a customer service rep, a marketer, a sales agent, a secretary, and an accountant. Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking freelancing is an easy life.
So, the next time you present yourself to others, hold your head high, and remember that you are a professional. If you treat yourself with respect, the rule of karma will follow you into that room when you present yourself to others and network. Continue Reading
Savvy freelance editors often have a preternatural ability to zero in on dream clients and to steer clear from troublesome ones.
Ideal clients are those that are effortless to work with, straightforward and clear, and earn you the most money in a short period of time.
In contrast, challenging clients are usually those that ask you to work below your standard rate, demand a lot of changes mid-project, request frequent meetings, and seek to micromanage the way you work.
As a freelance editor, there are client situations you don’t want to find yourself in. When you sense a prospective client is going to be problematic, swerve quickly to avoid them.
1. Your client asks for unreasonable discounts.
If your client tries to talk you down from your standard rate, it can be fair to consider offering a discount if you think the project is interesting or could be an excellent addition to your portfolio.
But if you agree to an hourly rate and the client tries to undercut the proposed number of hours to pay you less, it demonstrates that he or she doesn’t understand the investment that is required on your part. Instead of offering an hourly rate, charge by the service or project. If the prospective client continues to balk during negotiations, it’s time to walk away. Learn a few pricing and client intake strategies to help you filter your client list. Continue Reading