So you’ve been freelancing for a while now. You have a few clients that give you steady work and it’s enough to keep you financially secure. But let’s say you want more out of your freelance business than to just be able to pay the bills. How would you go about it? I’ll show you in this post that scaling your freelance business is not difficult. In fact, taking these next steps is the best decision you can make as a freelancer.
Focus on Long-Term Projects, Keep Short-Term as a Backup
If your freelance business relies on short-term projects, you won’t get very far. What you need to do is to cultivate some long-term relationships with your clients. Of course, as you probably already know from Upwork or some other freelance platform, getting a large project is not easy and it won’t just come your way whenever you need it.
So how can you start “milking” your clients for more work and more cash? Show them your skills and know-how are invaluable to them and their business. You can easily turn a short-term project into a long-term one by delivering high quality work to the client. Once you do, don’t hesitate to ask for more. It won’t hurt you to simply ask the client if they have more work for you. Or if not, if they can refer you to someone who needs someone with your skillset. If the client is happy with what you’ve done for them, they won’t hesitate to help you out and send more opportunities your way.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should completely turn your nose to short-term jobs. They still have their value in keeping the steady flow of money to your bank or PayPal account, but don’t rely on them as much as you used to. Instead, think of them more as a backup and something you can turn to if no long-term projects are coming your way.
Cultivate Strong Relations with Clients
Having strong relations with clients will be essential to the success of your freelance business. So the next step in growing your freelance career will be to build long-term ensure that your current clients are happy with your work and that they always come back to you with more projects. One of the common mistakes many freelancers make is cutting ties too quickly. Basically, what they do is they jump from one client to the next, without stopping for a moment to check if the previous client maybe has more to offer.
Unfortunately, many fail to cultivate strong relationships with clients, but if you want to grow your freelance business, you need to do this differently. For example, connect with your Upwork clients in other ways and not just via that site. Share your contact information with them. This way, the client can easily find you next time they need some work. I had a client that I worked with back in the days of Odesk (so before Odesk and Elance merged into Upwork) who reached out to me two years later with a reference to a colleague. All because he was happy with my work back then and we connected on LinkedIn.
Outsource What You Can’t Do Yourself
You may be thinking about freelancing as a one-man-game, and this approach might actually work for you, but only for a while. At some point, you’re going to learn the hard truth about this profession. No matter how good you are, you can’t do all by yourself. For instance, let’s say that you’re a freelance writer. What does this include? Of course, writing, but also other things related to it such as editing and proofreading. But it doesn’t stop there either. You also have to be a good project manager, especially if you have several clients in order to keep track of where each project is at the moment, a good negotiator when dealing with new clients, an accountant, keep track of taxes, and much more.
The paradox is that, more successful you are as a freelancer, the harder it gets. Well, only if you keep doing things the same way and keep thinking that you can do all by yourself. As your freelance business grows, you need to think about outsourcing some of your tasks. There are two ways you can do this:
- Outsource to someone else
One is to partner with someone to handle smaller tasks for you like bookkeeping, editing or proofreading. If a client needs you to handle his social media, find someone who can do this in your stead so you can focus on writing quality content for their website or blog. Or, if you have a lot of smaller, but easy-to-write articles, why not outsource these to someone else, while you take care of larger and more demanding assignments?
- Start using freelance tools
The second way is to start using some tools and apps. There are plenty of great online tools you can use and that can really help your freelance business that not using them is a crime. For every task you can think of, there is a tool. Whether you need to track time, schedule your content or social media posts, create invoices, or manage your projects better, there’s a tool for each of these and more.
Start Networking to Grow Your Freelance Business
Working on Upwork, or another freelance platform like it, is a good way to earn some income for an individual freelancer. But to grow your freelance business, you need to find some new avenues of reaching potential clients. I already mentioned LinkedIn as a great social media site for professionals and business-oriented so you should, if you don’t already have one, create a profile there and start building your network.
LinkedIn is just one way to network with potential clients and other people in the freelance market. Other social media sites, like Twitter, are also a great way to expand your network, so be sure to find out who the influentials are and start following them. Facebook groups, Google+ communities, even online forums and Reddit can all be invaluable to your network, so go out, find some that have a decent amount of people in them and offer good discussions and join them.
One word of caution before you start networking. This shouldn’t be a one-way relationship where you join a forum, a Facebook group or just follow someone on Twitter, without giving anything in return. You need to bring something to the table, not just take from it, so be a constructive part of the conversation and offer help to others where you can.
Tim Groot, made a great infographic over at Medium.com on how to network as a freelancer, so be sure to visit the link for some valuable tips by Tim.
Rethink Where You are Now
Finally, if you want to grow your freelance business, you need to stop for a moment and look at where you are right now. Think what else can you offer to potential clients, whether that is a new skill, more time or something else. Also, try to evaluate your main weaknesses and eliminate those, as well as areas where you can improve. If you can’t do this audit yourself, find someone whose opinion you trust. Sometimes, they will be able to point out your strengths and weaknesses to you much better. Of course, don’t forget to keep an eye on the feedback your clients send you. Which areas of your work are they satisfied with and which they’re not?
While you’re here, you should also start reviewing your freelance rate. As your freelance business becomes bigger, your rate also needs to follow. You need to ensure that you are charging appropriately what you bring to your current and future clients. Don’t be afraid to increase your rate, even if that means losing some clients. This only means that they don’t appreciate your value and is a good indicator to move on from them. Don’t worry, most clients will be happy to review rates with you, as long as they’re happy with your contribution to their business.
If you’re not sure where to start with your rates, here’s an infographic by CreativeLive that can help you out.
Finally, don’t forget to grow yourself as a freelancer and to learn some new skills. Take every free moment to read some books, join online webinars or take e-learning classes and expand your skill set. The more you can offer to the table, the better seat you’ll be offered.
What other ways to grow your freelance business can you recommend? Give us your suggestions in the comments below.