By Theresa Ceniccola
Do you have a gift for writing, graphic design, photography, videography, web development or some other marketable skill? Let’s talk about how you can put those skills to use as a freelancer and bring in some extra cash! I’ve been a freelance writer and marketing consultant for more than 20 years and I’ve experienced the highs and lows… the feast and famine… the pain and gain of the freelancer life.
Without a doubt, the best thing about freelance work is the flexibility. A freelancer can set her own schedule, choose the projects she wants to work on and say no to anything (or anyone) that doesn’t suit her needs. And, if she sets herself up correctly, she can enjoy a full-time income doing part time work…from home…wearing yoga pants…while the children are sleeping. (Sounds perfect, right!?)
I recently had the honor of sharing my experience as a freelancer with a group of bloggers at the Type A Conference in Atlanta by presenting a session entitled “How to Get Paid to Write.” I’d like to share some of the best tips here for you! While the focus was on writing, much of what we discussed applies to any type of freelance work.
Ten Tips for Getting High Paying Freelance Gigs:
1. Let go of your ego. When you freelance for a company or organization, you have to set your creative ego aside. There are no bylines, credits or awards for most freelance work in the corporate world. There’s no room for getting offended or defensive. But there is room for getting paid! So my best advice is to find some creative outlet that will feed your ego, and let your freelance work feed your family.
2. Stop charging by the hour. Successful freelancers will tell you that the best way to charge for services is by the project – not by the hour. This one shift in thinking can dramatically improve your bottom line and your efficiency. If you are scared to make the switch, talk to a friend or colleague who can remind you of this truth: YOU are worth it!
3. Narrow your niche. Freelancers make up 34% percent of the workforce, with more than 53 million people. So if you want to succeed as a freelancer, you have to figure out what makes you different. Define your niche either by industry or specialty. And don’t be afraid to put your stake in the ground as an expert in that niche.
4. Take yourself seriously. The concern most corporate clients have about freelancers is stability. “If I hire this person to build our website, will she disappear a month later and leave us without support?” Don’t be that person. That’s the kind of person who gives freelancers a bad name. Instead, be the kind of person who is all in! Establish a legal entity for your freelance business. Get an official business license. Open a business checking account. File taxes. Get serious. Be real.
5. Polish up your LinkedIn profile. If you’re “out on your own” you may be enjoying all the potential of Twitter, Pinterest, Periscope, Instagram or Facebook. But don’t overlook LinkedIn when it comes to attracting high-paying corporate clients. Make sure your profile is up to date, and join a few groups in your industry or niche.
6. Send warm letters. The number one way freelancers get work is through word of mouth. Like real estate agents and direct sales consultants, they thrive on the referrals of others. So when you are just getting started, you have to tap into your own personal referral network. Send a personal letter to everyone you know, telling them about your work and asking them to give you a referral if they know anyone who might be interested in hiring you. I know it’s uncomfortable. But it works.
7. Stay in touch. The second most common way freelancers get work is through repeat business. That means their clients continue to hire them for additional projects. As you begin to develop relationships with clients, you’ll want to find a way to stay in touch after your first assignment comes to an end. Do whatever feels natural to you – some people send newsletters, others make phone calls or send birthday cards.
8. Go the extra step. To secure that important repeat business, you’ll need to be better than your competition. Not only will you need to have exceptional skills but you’ll need to take the extra step that others are not willing to take. That might mean submitting your feature story along with ten tweets your client didn’t ask for but can certainly use to promote the article. Or surprising a client with 500 new business cards when you complete a website project. How can you impress your clients?
9. Hang out with clients. Think about the last conference or tradeshow you attended. Was it filled with colleagues or clients? Most of us tend to stay in our comfort zone. We attend events where we can network with peers and develop our skills. That’s important to do, but it doesn’t lead to clients. Try to determine which events your potential clients attend on a regular basis and make it a point to be there. Better yet, get a speaking gig at the event and position yourself as a resource.
10. Study your craft. As you build your client roster, you will soon discover that you are busier than you expected. Not only will you be doing your freelance work, but you may also be keeping the books, doing the administrative work and marketing for new business. Don’t forget to take time out on a regular basis to study your craft. Don’t lose sight of what your “real job” is and the importance of staying at the top of your field.
What did I forget? Do you have any suggestions for getting high-paying freelance jobs?
Theresa Ceniccola is The Christian Mompreneur—a Mentor to Moms Who are Running a Business that Supports Faith and Family. As the president and founder of the International Christian Mompreneur Network, she empowers entrepreneurial moms to build profitable businesses with wisdom and grace. Theresa has successfully run a home-based business as a freelance writer and marketing consultant for the past 18 years. She considers herself blessed to make a living doing what she loves and empowering other moms to create businesses that support their values of faith and family. Join the International Christian Mompreneur Network (it's free!) today and you'll receive Theresa's Mompreneur Toolkit featuring the Ten Commandments of a Mompreneur.