If you’re a freelancer, you’ll likely know what it’s like to find yourself in a feast or famine cycle, where you’re either swamped with work or looking everywhere for it.
But just because many people find themselves in this cycle, doesn’t mean it has to be this way.
You can grow a successful freelance business, where you’ll no longer need to worry about where the next contract or paycheck is coming from.
Scaling your freelance business to profitable and sustainable heights requires intentional work. Just like every other regular business structure, it’s difficult to move out of your current phase without a proper plan.
Here are six important steps you can start with, and how they can influence your freelance business for maximum growth
1. Consider your why
Having a strong internal motivation for growing your business is the first step towards achieving it.
Will it be hard to do what it takes to run a successful freelance business? Sure—if it wasn’t, everyone would be making six figures.
But knowing your why will help fuel your passion and desire to grow your business.
That means firstly knowing why you want to freelance. For some people, freelancing is important because of the flexibility it provides to be there for family. For some, the drawcard is being able to travel while you work. Others prefer the ability to work across multiple projects with dream clients.
These differences matter a lot. If you’re freelancing because you want to spend more time with your family, you need to ensure that your efforts to grow your business don’t encroach on that. If they do, it’ll be hard for you to sustain them—and you’ll be miserable while doing it.
Secondly, you need to know why you want to reach six figures if you can hope to remain motivated to scale your business. Otherwise, it becomes easy (and reasonable) to let gigs pass you by in favour of spending more time with your family or traveling more.
If you have a strong reason for wanting to grow your business, write it down and keep it somewhere close as a reminder. You’ll need it when your friends are going out on a Saturday afternoon and you stay in to craft new pitches to potential clients. When the daily grind feels like a never-ending hamster wheel, remembering your why will help you stay focused on your goals.
And once you know your why, it will help guide you in planning the step-by-step actions you need to take. If you’re excited about working with particular clients, you’ll want to grow your business in a way that focuses on allowing you to do that.
2. Improve your skills
It’s easy to get stuck in your own bubble when you’re working on your own, which means your skills can quite quickly become stale. And nothing will propel your income forward faster than improving your freelance skills. Before you can expect people to pay up big for your services, you need to make sure the quality matches the price. And if you’re going to charge more than the competition, you have to outperform them too.
Clients are generally happy to pay if they know the work is going to be top quality and will require little feedback or input from them, but they’ll want to see evidence that you’re worth what you’re asking for.
There are many courses out there that are specifically tailored to freelancers and can help you become an expert in your desired field. Fiverr Learn is a good place to look, particularly if you’re using the platform for your freelance gigs, as you can publish your certifications on your profile.
“Putting in that time to get better at what you do should be your first objective.”
– Jeremy Noronha, Head of SEO at Founder, Six Figure Freelancer Audio Course
Don’t make the mistake of feeling that you need to be skilled in every area of your field. In fact, specialising in just one particular skill could make you more sought after. Just as a General Practitioner doesn’t make as much as a Cardiac Surgeon, so too will a highly specialised freelance skillset warrant a higher rate.
For anything you are weak in, remember that there are tools online that can help you. Grammarly premium is worth it if you’re a writer needing to improve your grammar, for example, and there are many similar tools available, no matter what field you are in.
So, don’t stress out if you’re not skilled in every area, although as wonderful as technology is, you should still do what you can to improve yourself. After all, improving your skill set will allow you to remain competitive and command the higher priced contracts you’re after
3. Narrow your niche
If you feel your skills in your craft are up to date, there’s still plenty you can learn. By focusing on one industry, you’ll become a specialist in your niche and you’ll be able to charge higher rates as a result.
A finance client who’s looking for a copywriter will be much more attracted to a profile that specialises in writing about finance than a generalist, and will be willing to pay more for that tailored knowledge.
Once you build up your authority and reputation in your niche, your name will quickly make its way around the industry and you’ll be requested by clients willing to pay top dollar for quality work.
4. Charge more
It sounds obvious, but many freelancers are nervous about asking clients to pay more.
Sure, it can be hard to charge more in the beginning. But as you start to improve your skills and distinguish yourself from the competition, you’ll naturally be able to raise your rates without fear of losing potential clients.
As you grow your skills and experience, this should be reflected in your charges, just as it would if you were working for an employer.
Let’s say (for easy math’s sake) that you want to earn $120,000 this year. That works out to an even $10,000 per month. If you’re currently charging $500 per project, you’ll need to find 20 clients every month to reach your goals. But what if you doubled your rates? Now you’d only need to work with 10 clients each month.
You won’t be able to go out tomorrow and double your rates, but you can start small. The next proposal you put together, quote $600 instead of $500. Don’t apologise or explain yourself. If you find that clients gladly pay the increased rate and you’re able to get enough clients at that rate, you can try increasing it a little more for the next client, until you reach your goal rate.
If you’re able to get booked out every month, it means that you provide value and are in high demand. Let clients know that you’re busy but you can charge them a retainer if they’d like to reserve their spot. This helps you secure your income and stops you having to chase payments after the completed project.
5. Automate, delegate and eliminate
As a freelancer, you’re selling your time, so once you have enough clients to keep you busy all month, you need to reduce your time spent on activities that aren’t directly making you money in order to increase your income.
For your freelancing business to thrive, you need to be able to deliver on jobs fast. But don’t try to shave time off your work if it means compromising on accuracy or details. Where there are requests for modifications, you’ll be unable to proceed to other tasks at hand, and your clients will be left unsatisfied.
Focus on the activities that are bringing in the highest ROI for you, and automate, delegate or eliminate anything else.
There are a bunch of tools you can use to help you to automate repetitive tasks, and taking the time to set them up once can free up hours every month. Software like AND CO can help you automate the tasks you need to run your business—like invoicing and expense tracking. Boomerang and Right Inbox can schedule your email follow up. Tools like Zapier or IFTTT can be used to integrate your apps, devices or docs with other software in whichever way is most useful for you.
Outsource minor tasks that don’t need your attention to other freelancers. You can hire a virtual assistant who can assist with almost anything that needs human attention, as long as it doesn’t necessarily need to be your attention.
Eliminate tasks that drain your time and energy without providing worthwhile results. Conduct regular business audits to confirm which activities your results are coming from, and how much time you are spending on them. Maybe you once got a new client through Twitter, but now most of your clients are coming from LinkedIn. Do you really need to spend an hour a day on Twitter? Remove any activities that are not providing measurable results.
6. Set up strong processes for bringing in new clients
Successful freelancers set up strong systems, that ideally run automatically, to fill their funnel with their ideal clients.
Don’t become so focused on the projects that you complete them and then face white space in your calendar. Set up processes and routines that will continually fill your funnel with future clients, and book your calendar out in advance so that you always know when your next payday is coming.
Start by knowing the exact person you’re looking for as you pitch to prospective clients. Find out where those clients are. If you’re a marketer who specialises in working with the fashion industry, don’t spend your time in marketing communities on social media. Spend your time in fashion communities. Answer the questions that users have in relevant forums. Become a valued resource in that industry. Create a list of your dream clients and email one per day, letting them know something they could do to improve their marketing. If you provide value first, the clients will come to you when they’re looking for an expert.
Build a Six-Figure Business
Building your freelance business to six figures won’t happen overnight. But with the right road map and a bit of dedication, you will get to your desired destination and be able to sustain your six-figure income.
I discovered each of the points listed here from listening to the Six Figure Freelancer Audio Course. You can learn more about these and much more about how to grow your business by listening to it here.