Last Updated 5 months by Emily Standley-Allard
Becoming a successful full-time freelancer is a dream for many people. The possibilities to work on your own terms and on your own time is very enticing. It brings a sense of freedom and independence, and many people are eager to experience the ability to follow a career they are actually passionate about.
Having said that, becoming a full-time freelancer is not something that happens overnight, at least for most people. Success as a freelancer can be a long and steep road. The good news? You can get there if you seek to offer real value, and really put your mind to it. Keep reading to learn more about 10 secrets to becoming a successful full-time freelancer.
1) Focus on a specific niche and excel at it.
One of the biggest mistakes in the freelance world is thinking that you can do everything.
Even if you do have multiple talents, the idea of a “jack of all trades” is a bit frowned upon these days.
Look at it this way: would you rather eat a meal a great restaurant known for a small, yet excellent selection of amazing dishes, or would you rather eat at a nondescript diner, with a huge menu filled with subpar frozen stuff?
Customers expect a “boutique” experience from freelancer. They want the confidence of working with someone who focuses on a specific area and excel at it.
Instead of trying to do everything, focus on a limited number of services in a niche you are really good at.
Whether this is creating excellent content for businesses’ website, or if you are good with numbers, looking at how to become a tax preparer or a freelance bookkeeper, for example. This is the best way to start building a solid reputation for yourself.
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2) Get organized
Being an independent full-time freelancer requires a lot of discipline.
You won’t have a boss breathing down your neck, so you will have to be responsible for the quality and timeliness of your own work.
Being disorganized and completing tasks at the last-minute means that you will likely experience a lot of issues, and deal with very dissatisfied customers.
Learn the importance of being organized and start marking your to-dos and daily tasks in your calendar!
3) Learn the power of customer service
One of the most fundamental aspects of freelance work is the ability to deal with your customers.
It’s important to remain helpful, courteous and communicative in any situation, and go the extra mile to keep an open line of contact with your customers before, during, and after each project.
Your customers are the life blood of your businesses, and if you don’t take care of them, they might look elsewhere for other options! The harsh reality of being a freelancer is that you are going to be a drop of water in a small ocean.
There are many competitors out there, and the one key element to succeed over others is to develop killer customer service ethics.
More importantly, don’t lose your cool if you are dealing with difficult customers.
Be polite and helpful and refrain from responding to abusive behavior by arguing or being condescending to your customers. Even if you think you did a good job, you can’t convince an unsatisfied customer to like your work and be happy.
The truth is that even the best freelancers have unhappy customers, and you simply need to learn how to deal with it without escalating the situation to a time-consuming and potentially dangerous personal conflict.
Your reputation will be largely defined by how you treat your customers, in both good and bad situations.
Consistent customer service is a huge skill, that you will definitely learn to perfect overtime.
4) Go above and beyond
In addition to great customer service, you can also stand out by going above and beyond.
Your customer needs the finished work in 4 days?
Deliver it in 3. You got paid to write 500 words? Write 700.
While you shouldn’t feel obligated to do extra work, going the extra mile and throwing in some extras can be an amazing way to win over the heart of your customers and turning them into returning clients.
Having said that, watch out for customers who take advantage of your generosity!
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5) Discuss with your customers in advance.
Before accepting money and getting started on a project, take some extra time to really work out the kinks with your customers and discuss the project in advance.
Some freelancers want to get to a sale as quickly as possible, but this is actually an easy gateway to problems and misunderstandings.
On the other hand, discussing with your customers and working out the details of the project in advance is an easy solution to prevent claims or other issues, and to set the boundaries of a project very clearly.
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6) Know when to say no.
Many freelancers love to take on as many projects as they can, especially if they are just starting out.
However, it is important to know when to say no. If a customer has realistic expectations or if you have a feeling that they’ll give you a hard time, the best solution is to respectfully decline to work with them.
As a beginner, it might be hard to say no when you are hungry for new work but remember that quality is more important than quantity.
A bad customer can be a huge loss in terms of money, energy and time, 3 assets you are going to need badly, especially at the beginning of your career.
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7) Be clear and upfront about important project details.
As mentioned earlier, it is important to discuss with customers prior to getting started with a project. This includes establishing clear conditions concerning the project’s deliverables.
Pre-determine how much you want to get paid and the amount of work to be done, to make sure that you won’t experience any claims or other issues.
Keep track of all the conditions ahead of the projects, and meticulously store everything in your archives.
8) Invest in yourself.
As a freelancer, you are essentially starting a business, and like most businesses, you will need promotion. You should not skimp on investing in yourself, because this is how you can improve your career and reputation.
Invest money in good branding, CRM, advertising, or even specific education and certificates that can make you stand out from the crowd.
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Many people fail to realize that this is a very important step.
You can’t just create an account on a freelance platform and expect the money to roll in. Be active and truly work for yourself.
This is your career, and you should be able to understand the importance of professional growth. As the old saying goes, you have to spend money if you want to make money.
9) Collaborate with others and befriend fellow freelancers.
Many freelancers tend to work in isolation. However, teaming up with other freelancers can be absolutely amazing, especially if you aren’t directly competing with them.
For instance, if you are a back-end web developer, it might be useful to network with talented front-end developers or graphic designers.
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This way, you can recommend them to your customers, and perhaps even up-sell your services as a package, with the collaboration of your freelance “colleagues.”
Even without directly teaming up with another freelances, if you refer them to your customers, they might be really thankful, and in turn, refer you to their own clients.
As they say, “If you scratch my back, I scratch yours!” Supporting each other can be absolutely essential for freelancers. This also includes sharing resources, suggestions and ideas.
10) Learn to up-sell
Freelancers can make a lot more money and significantly increase their bottom line if they learn how to up-sell their customers correctly. Are you a blogger? You don’t have to limit yourself to simple article writing.
Offer extra services such as SEO-optimization, text analytics, alternative headline options, and so on.
Additional services that you can attach to your core offering are a little bit like the candy near the checkout counter at your local grocery shop: it’s an impulse buy trigger, and it allows the shop to make more sales!
Providing added services to your customers also means that you can be considered as a one-stop solution to the needs of your buyers.
Always keep learning, promoting and growing your skills! Word will spread that you’re a top-notch freelancer and the great reviews you receive means that you’ll be able to raise your rates accordingly!
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