Freelancing provides creatives with the opportunity to work remotely, autonomously and earn more money than they traditionally would in an agency. In today’s ultra-competitive landscape, building your freelance business requires the use of existing and emerging digital platforms – plus exceptional communication skills to find new clients and keep them coming back.
Here’s how to grow your business in five simple steps.
What is a creative freelancer?
Freelancing refers to any creative service that can be exchanged for goods or money on a project basis. Freelancers work in a variety of creative industries including graphic design, videography, photography, marketing and more.
Freelancers are self employed so they reap the benefits of being their own boss, deciding their own hours and charging a higher than normal rate like most independent contractors working in other industries. In a study conducted by Forbes in association with Professor Gerald Cupchik of the University of Toronto, they found freelancers not only value the lifestyle available to them but the ability to meet with an array of interesting and different clients plus build expertise in several areas.
How to be a freelance creative
Whether you're a seasoned freelancer or making the leap to starting your own business, it’s important to understand your unique set of skills. This covers what you are able to offer clients creatively, and what you want to specialize in. Skills and expertise are your main resources and harnessing them is key to building a sustainable business model.
Successful freelancers are able to manage both the flexibility freelancing offers them and the responsibility of meeting deadlines, managing clients and marketing themselves. Check out Adobe's comprehensive guide on freelancing for creatives, and if you are an existing freelancer there’s plenty of resources on how to grow your business.
How to grow your freelance business in 5 simple steps
Here are 5 steps to growing your freelance business: 1. Build an online presence 2. Network, in person or remotely 3. Generate word-of-mouth 4. Market your freelance business 5. Be consistent and persistent
1. Build an online presence
Freelancers are often referred to as digital entrepreneurs, it’s no surprise that building a strong online presence is key to establishing and growing your freelance business. Developing a website portfolio is relatively easy with user-friendly software like WordPress being the preferred builder for most professionals.
Portfolios allow you to share case studies of your work, billing rates and information about your services. They’re supposed to show off your creative abilities and be visually appealing for potential clients.
Louise Brough is a Freelance Graphic Designer based in Melbourne who’s using a clean design that clearly navigates to points of interest. This illustrates how website portfolios should be a statement to your design capabilities and unique aesthetic, showcasing both your ability and personality.
If you’re starting out and don’t have many case studies, freelancers can show their work by producing mockups or presentation slides that mimic a finished project or offer a packaged deal.
Content marketing is essential for any business. Social media is an obvious choice, considering 55% of consumers discover new brands via platforms like TikTok, Instagram and Facebook. However you should produce and publish original content for your website, separate from your portfolio, to attract and engage potential clients. Consider using a content management system, or CMS, to manage this content, capture leads and showcase your expertise in a creative field.
2. Network, in person or remotely
Despite creative freelancers having the freedom to work remotely, networking is still a major factor to secure regular work. Studies have proven that networking is directly related to maintaining career success. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram are a great way to connect with clients and engage followers. These platforms allow you to join industry groups and communicate in real time about industry news and events.
Linkedin recently introduced new freelancer connection tools via the service marketplace. This allows freelancers to set their preferences, specialities and location for potential work. The centralized location means managing messages, advertising and discovery all in the one place—you can find work, share content and publicly track projects you're working on.
Although digital resources are at the forefront of the employment industry, keeping a business card handy is still a great way to network with others. They are affordable to print and look professional when handed over.
3. Generate word-of-mouth
Positive customer feedback is essential for any small business to thrive, think of clients as a soundboard for what might be lacking or excelling within your business. Not only do 77% of consumers value a business if they seek out and apply customer feedback, businesses who do profit 60% more.
Ways to generation positive word-of-mouth for your freelance business:
Ask for testimonials once you have finished a creative project, you can add these to your website or share via social media.
Send surveys using email and embed them in social media with software like Survey Monkey. This type of program also generates great metrics that can assist in your digital marketing strategy.
Maintain good relations with clients and create loyal customers. This could be through a small discount or some added value to the next time you work together.
Feedback is an invaluable resource for creatives to enhance their freelance business and discover what works over time. Reviews and testimonials build credibility and trust within the industry, generating a word-of-mouth appeal.
4. Market your freelance business
The emerging entrepreneurial or freelance marketplace is no doubt competitive and global. That’s why amazing reviews, testimonials and professional networks need to be integrated with a top tier marketing strategy. The primary goal for marketing campaigns is to increase awareness, sales and engagement, with 60% of marketers expected to increase their content marketing budget in 2022. The figures speak for themselves—investing in marketing is a smart choice for your business.
There’s plenty of options for how to grow a business. You can manage both Facebook and Instagram ads through the one ads manager, which tracks success, click through rates and important metrics. Not only are these platforms user friendly, you can set your budget. Linkedin offers a campaign manager, where users pay to target other professionals and boost their profile, posts and job listings.
Paid digital advertising is just one avenue for freelancers. Collaborating with other creatives on projects is an organic way to market yourself and reach new followers.
Email marketing has had a resurgence in popularity in recent years – with over four billion active daily email users, it’s an opportunity not to be missed. Setting up a subscribe button on your website or social media offering incentives or a weekly newsletter is a great way to start building your mailing list. This is the most cost effective way for freelancers to promote their content, creative projects and find new customers. MailChimp is an automation service that provides affordable options for anyone wanting to start their email campaign, they also offer guidance on how to get started.
5. Be consistent and persistent
Despite all of the perks, freelancing does come with downsides, many would know that the work can be inconsistent and hard to come by at times. That’s why hard work and consistency are the cornerstone of growing your business. You are in charge of regularly updating your portfolio and social media, and there’s a host of content management and social media automation tools at your disposal to make life easier.
Make sure you're actively posting on social channels and connecting directly with clients and followers via Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram or Facebook. Pursue new leads that show interest in your services via these platforms or in response to your marketing campaigns. This could include cold calling, email or messaging.
Your reputation counts, so deliver on each project you take on and communicate consistently with clients. This will establish credibility and reliability in the industry, which leads to more connections and positive testimonials.
Sales tax compliance for freelancers
If you’re a successful freelancer looking to stay tax compliant (and who isn’t?!), then check out how tax compliance software can help you master your accounts and take the stress out of managing finances. There’s also some handy invoicing tips for freelancers on the best way to get paid faster.
Ultimately, the benefits of freelancing are unparalleled compared to a normal 9-5 work week, but it requires significant work and commitment if you’re serious about building a career in your chosen industry. These five steps are guaranteed to take your creative freelance business to the next level, and can be implemented from the comfort of your own home at a relatively low cost.
Guest Author: Tian Hunt
Tian is a freelance writer for Envato. A creative writing graduate, Tian is passionate about words, writing and marketing. When she’s not writing for Envato, she’s working on her next writing project – a fiction novel.
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* At Quaderno we love providing helpful information and best practices about taxes, but we are not certified tax advisors. For further help, or if you are ever in doubt, please consult a professional tax advisor or accountant.
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