A freelancing career is supposed to be liberating, not self-burdening. Yet I suspect that for many of us who choose to be our own boss, anxiety is a familiar feeling.
Life as a freelancer is tough. The pressures are constant and you can never predict what happens next. It’s a game of highs, lows, close shaves and epic victories. But give it time and the game gets easier. Once established, a freelancer can rely on regular clients and word of mouth referrals. When all sales come as a result of inbound marketing methods much of the stress and worry vanishes. The game becomes about thriving, not surviving, as a freelancer.
So how do we reach this level as quickly as possible?
The key is to effectively maximise your revenue streams, which may vary depending on the type of work you do. Typically, a freelancer makes sales through:
- Current Clients
- Social Media
- All other content
Discernible progress through these channels will ultimately contribute towards establishing that all-important, life-facilitating channel: word of mouth. To get there, a very proactive approach is needed.
Maximise revenue through current clients
A current client is your greatest source of business opportunity; keep them happy, gain their trust and encourage them to increase their spending. There are two ways you can do this: spot an opportunity or create one.
There is always more work on the horizon, and you need to make sure you’re top of mind when it comes into full view. How do you do this? By keeping in touch and reminding them of the skills and services you offer. This could be through promoting your latest piece of content (driving them back to your website) or even a ‘saw this and thought of you’ type interaction will suffice.
Alternatively, create a need. Be more thorough when you ask questions of clients’ business goals; get to the core of their product/service and demonstrate how your services add value. This is the time to upsell. If you’re as passionate about their product or service as they are, they’ll continue to use your services and spread the word.
Maximise revenue through referrals
All it takes is one solid from a client for doors to start flinging open. Business owners value each other’s opinions. They form communities and build trust by offering personal recommendations, whether during a business meeting or a round of golf. By consistently going above and beyond the level of service expected, you’ll get more and more referrals. When someone comes to you unexpectedly, remember to ask how they found you; it’s usually the result of a referral.
But you mustn’t simply wait for organic referrals. Remember, time is money! You need to be proactive. Don’t be shy in asking clients to refer you, if you’re sure they’re very happy with the service you provide. Offer to reciprocate the favour if your client is also a freelancer or small business owner.
Maximise revenue through Partnerships
Freelancers are more successful when they work together. Collude with a freelancer or small agency whose services compliment your own and outsource to each other when work comes in. If you’re a web developer, for instance, seek out a copywriter whose skills you can add to your portfolio, and vice-versa. As long as you can trust each other, there’s no reason not to join forces.
Forming partnerships in this way adds an incentive to help other people in your network. Agree on a commission fee for referrals and see how it goes. However, be careful about who you form a partnership with; just because their network is strong doesn’t mean they are promoting your brand to the right audience. Your business partners should be people who share and understand your business ethos.
Maximise revenue through Social Media
We often ramble about the mighty powers of social media here but there really is no other better way to get eyeballs on your brand. You should choose your social networks carefully; attempting to manage more than 4 alone is likely to have a negative effect. Which ones suit your product or service best? If you’re selling something visually attractive then Instagram, Snapchat or Pinterest are probably more useful. We manage various Pinterest accounts which generate a great deal of traffic for our clients’ websites. If, on the other hand, your product or service is less visual and more word processed, Twitter and LinkedIn may be worth more of your time.
Managing social media shouldn’t be treated as a chore; it’s your platform to show off your skills and expertise. So be bold. Blow that trumpet and do it often. 2 tweets a day are not enough. You need to post regularly and vary your content.
To optimise the management of your social channels consider using tools like Buffer or Hootsuite. We use Buffer and Passle to schedule and analyse our Tweets, Facebook and LinkedIn posts.
Maximise revenue through Content
Firstly, ‘content’, in marketing terms, is not just a weekly blog post. It is any piece of messaging intended for free consumption on the internet. This includes social media posts, free eBooks, white papers, website copy, landing pages, guest posts and indeed blog posts.
The more content you create the further you expand your reach. Content offers value and often the solution to a problem. It’s an opportunity to impress a potential customer at the very first point of contact. And not only is content marketing much cheaper than traditional outbound methods, it damn well works. Demand Metric reported that per dollar spent, content marketing generates approximately 3 times as many leads as traditional marketing. And just to reinforce that point, consider these statistics from the same report:
- 80% of people prefer to learn about a brand through custom content
- 44% of people ignore direct email
- 91% of internet users unsubscribe from company emails
- 82% of consumers feel more positive about a company/brand after reading custom content
Put simply, consumers do not want advertising shoved down their throats. They want to make purchases on their own terms.
The Final Word
Acquiring customers through inbound marketing gets easier with time. You just need to be patient and committed to maximising your revenue streams as effectively as possible. Eventually, you will be rewarded and find that most or even all of your work comes through content or word of mouth. Then you’ll no longer be surviving, but thriving, as a freelancer.