Building a Solid Reputation as a Freelancer
Youâre tired of living in the rat race. Youâre sick of being taken for granted by your employer. For too long now, youâve felt as though your skills have been allowed to atrophy. Youâre no longer prepared to do repetitive, monotonous work that doesnât encourage you to use the skills you spent your education cultivating. No longer are you prepared to waste your days begging for scraps from the corporate table. Youâre ready to make a living doing what you love, and what youâre good at. And youâre going to do it entirely on your own terms as a freelancer.Â Here’s what it takes for building a solid reputation as a freelancer.
The life of a freelancer may seem idyllic on paper. Get up whenever the heck you like on Monday mornings, no boss standing over you, no tortuous commute through rush hour traffic. It may seem like paradise. However, the life of a freelancer comes with certain caveats. You can never again rely on luxuries like paid sick days or vacation days. No longer will you know for a fact how much money youâll make each month. And if youâre thinking of buying a home, youâll need to have at least 2-3 yearsâ worth of books to apply for a mortgage. Before you start out as a freelancer, youâll need to learn…Â
Why freelancers fail
The unfortunate truth is that many full-time freelancers fail in their first year, and are left with no choice but to run back to the world of salaried work with their metaphorical tails between their legs. There are many reasons why promising, talented freelancers find themselves faced with failure. Some struggle to manage their time effectively when they have complete autonomy over how they spend their days. Others burn themselves out biting off more work than they can chew. All too often, however, freelancers fail because they havenât invested enough in building a reputation. They get one or two clients who give them enough work to get by, and cling to them for dear life. This works just fine until one or both of them has to let them go. And because they havenât built a reputation outside of their own little bubble, they find that further work is much harder to come by.Â
Being a freelancer is just like running any other small business. You live or die by your reputation. Here are some tips to help you build yours…
First of all, charge what you know yourself to be worth
Itâs understandable that you may be tempted, when starting out, to drop your prices down to gain a market share. But the truth is that nobody built a great brand on being the cheapest game in town. Start out by undercutting your competitors and youâll constantly be on the back foot. Youâll have to take on more work than you can handle to stay afloat financially, and the quality of your work will suffer as a result (more on that later). Moreover, youâll be scared to up your prices for fear of alienating your clients. Remember, your clients (usually) arenât paying you from their own pockets. Theyâre paying you out of departmental budgets. And if you charge less than what you worth, this may cause them to perceive your work as âless thanâ your higher charging peers. So save yourself a lot of stress and heartache. Charge what youâre worth!
Start out before you quit your day job
The great news is that itâs never too early to start building your reputation. You can start work as a freelancer as a side hustle before you quit your day job. This will allow you the opportunity to start building a presence on LinkedIn, reaching out to prospective clients and taking on a few carefully chosen jobs which will help you to build a strong portfolio.Â
Just remember not to use work time or resources for your freelancing activity, as this may be a fireable offense. Donât forget that any income you earn as a freelancer is still taxable, even though you pay tax in your day job.Â
Focus on the quality of your work, not the quantity
When youâre starting out as a freelancer, the temptation to take on every piece of work youâre offered is completely understandable. However, it may set you on a dangerous path. Take on too much work, and youâll find that you struggle to meet your deadlines while carrying out the work to a high standard. And itâs that high standard that will grow your reputation and keep you in work for years to come.Â
Focus on the quality of the work you do, not the quantity of the work you take on, and youâll do just fine.Â
Impostor syndrome kicking in? Create the illusion of growthÂ
Many freelancers at the start of their career feel a twinge of impostor syndrome. They may feel that theyâre not perceived as professional enough or that they donât have a strong enough brand. Indeed, if your only contact details are a gmail address, a cell phone number and a residential address this may cause some clients to see you as small fry. However, you can give yourself a little extra prestige and create the illusion of business growth by using a Virtual Headquarters to answer your calls and provide the impression of a prestige office space. Itâs a small investment, but one that can help prospective clients to take you a little more seriously.
Master the art of networking
Using social media to your advantage is an important way to engage with prospective clients and establish the value in your work. However, savvy freelancers always supplement their online networking with attending networking events. These are a great opportunity for you to meet prospective clients and other freelancers, picking up useful tips and contacts. However, itâs important to do networking right. Networking events are not a place for you to pitch or hustle for more business. Theyâre strictly social events. Just relax (as much as you can- these events areÂ all a little awkward), be yourself and focus on making an impression. Thatâs a much more effective way to build a reputation and lay a foundation for future work.Â
Invest in a strong reputation, and youâll find that you never have to go back to the world of salaried work.Â