Every freelancer I’ve ever met started at the bottom of the barrel. I did. So did James . I’m willing to bet you started at the bottom too. Maybe you’re still stuck there.
So how do you climb your way to the top?
Insecurity can hold you back
Figure out what’s keeping you at the bottom.
Maybe you don’t think your work is good enough. Maybe your rates are low because you don’t think anyone will pay you more. Maybe you haven’t contacted your dream client because you don’t feel you’re “‘ready” yet.
In short, you’re insecure about what you can do.
Know what? When you’re just starting out and you haven’t had a large number of clients, it’s completely natural to feel insecure.
What isn’t natural is to let it hold you back indefinitely.
If you aren’t confident in your abilities, how do you convince a prospective client you’re the person for the job?
So, what’s a freelancer have to do to get past this insecurity and climb to the top?
You gotta fake it ‘til you make it, that’s what!
Prospective clients don’t know your particular situation. They don’t know whether you’ve just finished a year-long project or just opened your freelancing business. When they look to hire a freelancer, they want someone dependable who’ll do an excellent job for an acceptable cost.
Letting people know you don’t have any work can give the impression that no one wants you to work for them. That’s probably not an accurate impression people should have of you, but it’s like walking into an empty restaurant at dinnertime.
It makes you wonder if the food’s any good. And why no one else is here eating.
Clients will feel good about working with someone who lets it be known that he or she just had a client spot open up and invites people to get in touch if they’re looking for a freelancer.
Don’t tweet about not finding higher paying jobs.
By complaining that you can’t find a better-paying job, you’re telling prospective clients that, well, no one wants to pay you more – so why should anyone else feel they should?
Plus, complaining about pay in a situation where you typically negotiate your own pay is a bit tacky.
Instead, tweet about what you do have and make it sound interesting. No one needs to know you’re being paid $5 for the work or that you’re writing it for a content mill.
Don’t talk about not having work.
Wax lyrical about the freelance lifestyle and how it lets you take the afternoon off. Or how much you enjoy it and the work you do. Or how it lets you work on your own projects.
Don’t have any client work or projects? No problem: Spend time preparing sample works for your portfolio and show them off through social media. That’s part of the freelancer lifestyle!
Unable to move past the low-paying freelance rut you’re stuck in?
Don’t beg your readers or potential clients for money just because you’ve hit a low point.
Try to figure out what you can do to get out of the situation you’re in. If you can’t think of anything, ask for advice or search the web for others who have been in similar situations and found ways to help themselves.
The good news is that faking success is temporary. If you do this next tip right, you won’t have to fake it for long.
Hustle, hustle, hustle!
Hustling isn’t about being dishonest. It’s about using what you’ve got and using it well.
It’s about doing everything in your power to climb to the top.
Don’t have good samples? Write them for free.
If the client hires you, he gets to use them and you get paid. If not, you can still add them to your portfolio. Either way, it’s a win-win.
Got rejected for a freelance job? Follow up after a month to see how the person they hired is working out.
Just don’t phrase it like that!
Have a prospective client you’d love to work with? Introduce yourself.
Send them an email, sing laurels about their work and suggest ways to make their content more effective.
Something as simple as: ‘Hi, I loved your post. It would make a great infographic, and there are more chances of it going viral that way too.’ can be enough to position you as someone who knows his stuff.
Don’t offer to work with them. Help them instead.
Be the person they can turn to for solutions to their problems, even if you have to refer them to someone else.
Can’t find clients? Offer to work pro-bono for a respected charity.
Charities and foundations are always in need of writers. Find a cause you believe in and contact them. Let them know you’re a freelance writer who’d be happy to help them out.
Not only does working for charities create goodwill, but you also get respectable samples for your portfolio and elevate its status in the eyes of prospective clients.
Treat your pro-bono work with as much care as you would a paying client’s work. And don’t forget to ask for three things in return:
- Confidentiality. Payment terms – or lack of them – stay between the two of you.
- A testimonial if they’re happy with your work.
Just one pro-bono client can lead to good testimonials, excellent referrals and paid work.
Channel your inner 007
Remember those dream clients you wished you worked with? Find and follow them online.
Where do they hang out? What topics do they blog and tweet about? What kind of links do they share? Who are their friends? Find out as much about them as you can and then…
Network (the right way)
Unless you’re a pro at cold-calling, you’re going to want to learn how to network the right way.
Talk to people and businesses in your niche. Comment on their blogs, share their content, email them to tell them how awesome they are and how much their post, tweet or book helped you. Show them the results you attained with their help.
Be honest about it, though. If you decide that one of your ideal clients isn’t worth your time, don’t flatter him just to get the work. Keep your integrity intact.
And no matter what you do, don’t expect anything in return. Instead, become the person they think of first when they want to hire someone with your specific skill set.
Once I helped edit a small business owner’s first blog post. All it took was her sending out a tweet saying how nervous she was about sending off her first guest post. I offered to edit the post, and she took me up on my offer. I edited it and then we both forgot about it.
Or so I thought.
A few months later when she started her own blog, guess who she hired as her blog’s editor?
Hustling doesn’t work without hard work
Hustling alone won’t make a success of your freelance business. It may open the door, but it’s your job to walk in, do the work and wow the socks off your clients.
So use your hustling abilities to make opportunities for yourself instead of waiting for them to come to you. Soon, you’ll have hustled your way to freelancing success.
And you won’t need to fake it at all.
What advice would you give to a freelancer who’s just starting out or who needs more work?