Working as a freelancer can be super exciting. You’re free to set your own hours, pick and choose your projects, and find the kind of work-life balance that makes office workers envious.
But there comes a point in the life of all freelance business owners when they realize that it’s time to get a bit serious. In other words, if you want to scale up and make your business sustainable and secure in the long-term so that you never have to return to the 9-5 grind, you will have to put in a lot of work “behind the scenes.”
In this article, we’ll be giving you an easy-to-implement series of tactics and strategies that will help you take your freelance business to the next level so that it’s no longer a mere passion project—it’s actually a rock solid business venture with a bright future.
Focus On A Niche
Let’s say a client with a big budget is looking to splash the cash on a proven expert in a specific field. Money is pretty much no object, as long as they can find the right fit.
You put your name forward and they take a look at some of your samples. All looks good so far.
Then, the client Googles your name and finds that you’re actually a bit of a jack-of-all-trades. You’ve done good work in this specific niche, but you also work in multiple others.
All of a sudden, alarm bells are ringing in the client’s head. What they’re looking for is an expert who dedicates themselves to this specific niche. As such, they pass on you and go with someone else.
This happens often, and it can prevent a freelancer from scaling their business.
The key is to pick a niche, focus on it and develop your skills and your branding around it.
It’s all about positioning. Some of the most talented people in the world might have been better at something than someone else, but because they never positioned themselves properly, they never got the credit their talent deserved.
What’s more, when you become an expert in a specific niche, you will become an authoritative figure whose name gets passed around.
Increase Your Rates
All freelancers have to start at the bottom and work their way up. It’s just the nature of the beast. You’re new, you’re unknown—who’s going to offer you work except the low-paying clients?
However, it’s really important that, as you gain experience, complete more projects and attract more positive feedback, you increase your rates.
Scalability is, after all, about how we balance costs with profit. Unless you increase your rates, you will simply be spending too much but not making enough. Therefore, your freelance business will never grow.
How much you increase your rates depends on your niche, your level of expertise/experience, your talent, and your client feedback.
You can increase your rates when applying for new work, but you should also look at discussing your rates with existing clients. Could they, and should they—be paying you more by now?
Launch a Professional Website That’s Optimized For SEO
If you’ve got a website at the moment but you designed it yourself, it might be worth taking another look at it to see what can be improved.
It’s even better if you can hire a professional web designer, as well as an SEO expert, who can help you create a slick website that helps you stand out to prospective clients. This is exactly what your competitors are doing, and it’s what all freelancers who are looking to scale up their small freelance business need to do.
The benefits of a professional website are manyfold. Prospective clients who are interested in hiring you will always Google your name first, and your website is usually their first port of call. If they’re greeted by a professionally-designed, well-organized website, you’ve already made a good first impression.
Your website also needs to have the following elements:
- A professional headshot of you
- A well-written “About Me” page that outlines what it is you do
- Client testimonials
- Examples of your work
- Links to helpful resources
Why do you need an SEO expert, too?
An SEO expert will help you optimize your website so that it’s more visible on Google to the right people. Therefore, instead of you having to constantly seek out new clients, prospective clients will seek you out by typing in specific keywords into the search engine.
Does hiring a web designer and an SEO expert sound expensive? Don’t forget that in your bid to scale your business, you can always look at funding options.
Outsource Your Work
Outsourcing is hugely popular, with around 54% of companies outsourcing some of their work.
Time is of the essence as a freelancer, but it can be hard to manage our time when we’re essentially our own boss. It’s up to us to decide what hours to work, and it’s up to us to stay organized enough so as to be able to complete all our projects.
A spanner in the works is often taking on one-to-many projects. It happens: You’ve already got more work than you can handle before a new client gets in touch, makes an inquiry—and before you know it, you’ve accepted their offer and have even more work to do.
In such situations, it’s helpful to outsource your work.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with outsourcing your work. In fact, as a freelancer, it’s simply good business practice. It allows you to take on more clients and scale your business without leading to burn-out and missed deadlines.
Of course, it’s key that you find professional freelancers who are able to deliver high-quality work. You can use websites like Upwork and Freelancer to find remote talent, as well as LinkedIn.
It’s also a smart idea to build strong relationships with freelancers so that you can use the best ones time and time again.
And to help you (and your freelancers) stay on top of all your projects, consider using a Kanban project management tool.
Create a Digital Product
Lastly, creating a product might seem like something a freelancer wouldn’t do (after all, you’re here to sell your services, right?).
But if you’re looking to scale-up your business, it’s worth reiterating that, in order to scale, your business must be generating recurring income… and you need to find ways of reducing costs.
Creating a product is a smart way to scale your business because it’s a form of passive income. While you’re out there sweet-talking clients and delivering the goods on the regular, your product is selling in the background.
And that’s awesome for scaling.
The hard work, of course, comes first. You must first of all decide what kind of product to sell, then you must create the product, and then you must market it.
All of this will take time and effort, and for a while it might even mean you do less client work. In the long-term, however, it’s well worth it.
What kind of product should you create?
While this in part depends on your niche, one of the most obvious products that any freelancer can create is an online course.
Reverting back to positioning, which we discussed earlier, a freelancer who’s an expert in their field can draw on their years of experience and positioning to create a course that teaches others to do what they do. For instance, a successful copywriter can create a course that teaches others how to write copy.
You will need some more of the ingredients we discussed earlier in order to pull this off. As well as positioning, you will also need a professional website (no one will see you as a teacher unless you can prove you’re worth listening to), an SEO strategy (this will help people find you and your product) and a niche that you’ve made your own.
As well as everything we’ve talked about so far, you also need to remember to do the basics as a freelancer. That means meeting deadlines, providing exemplary customer service, and being communicative with your clients. On that note, if you use a messaging app, make sure to switch notifications on during working hours.
Other than that, scaling up your small freelance business will require time, effort and persistence, but as long as you bring others onboard from time to time (outsourcing) work with the right tools and manage your finances, it can be extremely rewarding.