Being a freelancer can be a roller-coaster experience. When you first start, your primary concern is likely getting your initial jobs and putting food on the table. But once things have had some time to stabilize, you quickly fall into a comfortable pace, one that works just for you.
You might think that since things have become relatively steady, the natural progression is forwards. However, unless you make some concrete plans, you may find yourself stuck in the same rut or even suffering threatening setbacks.
To give things a boost, you need to consider what steps will be necessary to take your freelancing career to the next level.
1. Think Business, Not Freelance
Caption: As a freelancer, you’re one person that’s integrating everything an organization needs to handle. (Image source: Venngage)
The most important thing to develop is a mindset that you’re running a business, not simply “freelancing.” Many of you might have already incorporated a company simply for better taxation. While that’s an important step, you also need to look at your business with fresh eyes.
As freelancers, we often work alone. Just because you’re a photographer doesn’t mean you spend all of your time taking photos and editing them. You need to factor in the cost of everything else you do as well.
This step is crucial because only by knowing those costs can you scale up the business. Unless you scale up, you won’t be able to develop much.
2. Carry Out an Assessment
In the beginning, we are often concerned about very granular things such as improving the way we produce specific work or even thinking about what antivirus is better to safeguard the computer we use.
Yet have you thought about what you need to achieve future goals? If not, consider doing a skills gap analysis to measure what’s missing between where you are now and the freelancing future you want to achieve.
If you aren’t sure of what the future of freelancing is for you, start with the skills needed for the business you’ll be running. The skills gap isn’t a one-time thing; you can do it again as your objectives change over time to ensure relevance.
3. Build Your Brand
Caption: Brand kits can help reinforce your professional capabilities and establish a more solid presence. (Image source: Avant Creative)
No matter how you’ve been freelancing, building your brand is an essential process to develop along the way. Carefully crafting a professional image and establishing a solid presence will help you pave the path to the future.
There are many things you can do to build your brand. Of course, some of it will depend on what exactly it is you do, but most will be at least somewhat relevant. For instance, you can;
Develop a brand kit - Logos, name cards, work templates, and more. Keep your branding consistent and uniquely you. It makes an impression on current and new customers alike.
Build a website - Many freelancers today extend their reach to cyberspace, and you should as well. It boosts your potential reach and is something you can carefully craft to fit your brand image. At the very least, establish a basic professional bio page online somewhere.
Establish a work presence - If possible, discuss with some of your key clients the possibility of introducing your brand to your work. Doing so can bring your name in front of a new audience and serves as a testimonial of sorts.
4. Increase Your Rates
As a business scales up, so too does cost. What used to cover your needs won’t go quite as far if you’re planning to expand things. The main reason for this is introducing non-revenue generation costs such as bookkeeping, administration, and more.
To take your freelancing career to the next level, you’ll need more clients. Hiring more staff to handle that extra work means more administrative duties - something you might want to also hand over to other people to focus on growing the business.
It can be challenging to increase rates given to existing clients, but nothing stops you from charging new clients more. You’ll find that as long as you’ve built a strong reputation and have the right skills, clients will be willing to pay well to get things done.
5. Consider Investing in Better Tools
One thing you’ll notice when advancing your business is that your work model will start to evolve. Eventually, you’ll need to develop from a “best cost-savings” point of view to one that maximizes your time. Often, that means the right tools for the right job instead of adapting to whatever is cheaper.
Some things you can save time include:
- Using a work collaboration tool to manage staff or sub-contractors
- Integrating various business finance areas with a Cloud accounting service
- Moving meetings online to reduce commute times
6. Expand Services Horizontally
Even if you’re a specialist in a particular role, moving past that stage often means offering new services. This expansion is horizontal and meant to broaden your business footprint. However, it doesn’t mean you have to move too far out of your core specialty.
For example, if you’re a writer, you can consider moving toward content as a whole. One way of doing this is to cover more types of medium, including basic image editing, video, audio, or anything else that retains core capabilities.
7. Expand Your Networking
Networking is an essential freelancer skill, but you need to adjust your networking a bit if you’re hoping for a change. Instead of only bumping heads with potential clients and pushing your skills, meet up with other business owners and talk about things at a more strategic level.
You’ll find many business owners are at varying points of their careers. Talking with them can help you discover what things have been tried and been successful or not. It can give you valuable experience without going through painful learning processes on your own.
By now, you’ve probably realized that taking your freelance career to the next level means expanding as a business. You have to mentally prepare for a fundamental shift in what you have been doing for that to happen. We often joke about being “a boss,” but that is what’s next for your freelance career.