How to Get Ahead of Other Freelancers

Increasing your chances of winning more work and clients will result in a successful freelancing career. This is a competitive world and a healthy competition is a win-win for you in terms of getting more money and the clients in terms of getting high quality work.

Here are some tactics to get ahead of your freelancing peers:

Be Patient

It is not uncommon for new freelancers to not get any projects for first few weeks or even 2-3 months. Don’t let that dampen your spirits. Most of newbies give up at this stage. To verify this occurrence, just view the number of freelancers registered on a freelance marketplace who have not logged in for more than a year – this implies that they have just given up. For you, it is good news – it means less competition. You should be in this for the long haul. This advice is given everywhere, whether it is a job, a business, stock market or even your gym – if you are looking for a quick gain, sorry this is not it.

Increase Project Fee Gradually

If you are bidding low initially to win projects and consequently get ratings under your belt, it is understandable and an acceptable practice. However, you should not be afraid to increase the bid price as you keep winning more projects. So if and when you are too busy with lot of work it is advised to refuse all low paying jobs even if you are invited to bid on such projects and then you should stick to your high paying clients. Your bid is now “pegged” at a certain value. This will enable you to win even higher value projects.

Fire Your Clients!

What?! Remember Pareto’s or the 80-20 principle? It applies to your clients too. You will get 80% of revenues from 20% of your clients (by corollary 20% earnings from 80% of clients). This implies that you will earn most by retaining SOME of the existing clients. Here are some pointers for you to consider:

  • Ruthlessly cut down on 80% of existing clients who are a drag on you. Say no to that difficult client who always pays late, shortchanges you or extracts lot of work for less money. Of course you must exercise discretion in this e.g. some projects may be low paying (say, for a non-profit), but it might provide you a wide exposure and so profitable indirectly.
  • Concentrate on the top 20%. These are the ones who provide 80% of business either directly or indirectly (by referrals or testimonials etc.). Don’t miss deadlines, avoid being too friendly, provide regular feedback and yes, greet them on festivals. An email to your clients on say, Xmas or Thanksgiving is an excellent idea.

Don’t Spam Clients

In fact, you must ask for permission before including their email address in your mailing list if you have. Similarly, don’t badger them with unwanted advice or offers. If possible, only send emails relevant to their business, more specifically how a new product or offering can help grow their business or organization.

Provide Value Added Service to Your Clients

Give them more than what any other pro would. Those extras will delight them in hitting a gold mine (in terms of a valuable freelancer). Point them to information that is relevant to their business. e.g. Has your client heard of that new accounting software which will help them in their business? Who knows, it might just open another business avenue for you.

Consider yourself a stakeholder in their business

Unless you do that, you will fail to see what is required to help the business. e.g. Is the website good enough to meet the required sales target? How will my copywriting position the client’s brand? Consider this – almost all big clients ask for past references and projects done. They want to know what your contribution was to the previous clients’ business growth.

Increase Productivity

When you are too busy with projects, outsource some low paying work which takes a lot of your time. For example a website designer can outsource “slicing” of website designs (convert into HTML) which were created in Photoshop – it usually takes 2-3 hours and there are other freelancers who will do this for about 40-50 bucks. So in these 2-3 hours, you work on higher value projects or just take some rest and enjoy quality time with family and friends. You should organize your projects and clients using software applications. There are a lot of tools which let you manage projects, clients etc. Some of them are free and some of them are more than worth the money you pay e.g. Basecamp, Zoho and Freshbooks.

Increase Profitability

As you march along on this freelancing path, at some point you have to think in terms of increasing profitability. Here are some ways you can do this:-

  • Partnership. Try to forge partnership / Joint Ventures (JV) with other complementary business. e.g. if you are a writer, then you and a web marketing expert can pair up and offer web copy writing services. Think of which other freelancer can benefit from your partnership and ask them – yes, be prepared for rejections 90% of the time.
  • Package Deals. You should also offer packages. For examples, a website developer can offer 5-page website with Facebook cover and Twitter background, a writer can offer editing and proof-reading service at a discount, and a graphics designer can offer logo plus letterhead and business card design. Since you are almost on auto-pilot for such services, this will be very easy and you can make more money in a short span of time. There are other marketplaces for such ‘packaged’ services, which I will explain a little later in the book.
  • Expansion. You should learn to market your services. Get a Facebook page (not the usual Facebook listing), start a blog, get on Twitter, contribute on forums – do everything to spread the word around about your capabilities. After you have certain number of projects under your belt, register your business as a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP), Private Limited Company or a Proprietership depending on your country’s governing rules and regulations. Once you have the various tax ID / CST/GST/ VAT number etc. let your existing and potential clients know this fact. This will have a positive impact on your business as the clients now know that you have more at stake in the relationship with them. Get your business ID package which comprises a logo, letterhead, business card, brochure and web site. Get it designed from fellow freelancers who will be glad to help you out – of course at a price. This will present a professional image of your business and contribute to increased buyer confidence.

These are just a few important tactics to get ahead of the competition. Let us know more tactics in the comment section below.