Whether you’re new to freelance work or you’ve been dabbling in it for a while, you’ve probably already learned that it tends to be a hit or miss type of situation a lot of the time.
There are days or weeks when work slows down, and months where there’s no stopping the influx of clients. Sometimes it’s easy to bag a job, other times you could be vying for an opportunity, only to lose out to one of many competitors out there.
It may seem like it’s the easiest job in the world but it’s far from it. You’re your own boss, which means you have to work on regulating yourself, being disciplined and focused in your approach, and constantly improving. There’s no room to slow down or get complacent because there will always be individuals who are more talented, more affordable, more skilled, more experienced, or more available than you are.
But that doesn’t mean you give up. It only means you work harder to prove yourself and set yourself apart from the sea of freelancers out there across dozens of industries and subspecialties.
So what’s the secret to becoming a freelance expert? Truth be told, it’s not so much about a magic formula or one-size-fits-all strategy; you still have to put in the work and go through bouts of trial and error. But at the end of the day, if you strategize well and keep the following tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a freelance expert:
1. Be confident in defining your expertise and services
To be considered an expert, you also need to be someone with defined expertise. This may seem obvious, but don’t let yourself fall into the trap of thinking that people will know who you are and what you do by title or definition alone.
Define exactly what your technical expertise is, what your title is, what your role is going to be, and what services you’ll offer. Be clear about this to yourself and your clients to avoid miscommunication, unnecessary expectations, and overpromising and underdelivering.
If you only edit, but you don’t proofread, be very clear. If you only offer bookkeeping services but not accounting, be precise about this. In the long run, this will not only carve out your niche but also manage client expectations and demands.
2. Know your worth—but also know what the market says
Don’t undervalue your expertise and charge exceptionally low rates just to be more appealing. In truth, devaluing your work to gain more clients does more harm than good, and also drags down the general average for a particular job. Clients will always find someone who’s offering cheaper services, but what does that say about quality, expertise, and other variables that are also important to consider?
Remember the impact of prices that are too low: clients will have less confidence in your abilities because people will assume that you get what you pay for. Plus, in the long run, it will also keep the bar for pricing quite low. You can’t jump from $10/hour to $40/hour overnight, even if the latter is what your skills are truly worth.
To price your services, consider different factors about your expertise, experience in the industry, your proficiency with the service, what the average rate in the market currently states, your client’s budget, among others. Use this guide to help you price your services and set rates that reflect all these variables, and adjust them as you move further along in your career.
3. Diversify your digital presence and outreach channels
Another very important factor to consider is that you need to diversify your digital presence and have a wider outreach. Don’t rely on just a single platform to help you get the reach you’re looking for.
Instead, work on building a multi-channel digital presence that allows you to connect with potential clients, create an online portfolio, connect social media pages such as on Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn to your freelancing account, and create a cohesive digital presence. People can connect with you across all platforms this way.
4. Use platforms, tools, and resources available to you
Speaking of platforms, websites such as Upwork are dedicated to helping freelancers connect with businesses and individuals looking to hire them. They’re streamlined and designed in a way to be more efficient and give you the right kind of access, and these tools, and resources are incredibly valuable as a freelance expert.
Connect with clients more directly, approach them for specific projects, view listings, and see all available jobs through these platforms. Plus with the ability to view multiple postings on a single website instead of searching through dozens of different sites and platforms is going to make your life easier. They’re an asset that you don’t want to miss out on.
5. Set up terms in a contract to maintain professionalism
It’s sometimes not enough to discuss over phone calls, email, or via messenger. Especially for long-term projects and returning clients, you should consider setting up contracts that clearly outline the terms of your agreement. From the duration of the job or project to the agreed-upon rate and prices, conditions for the service, ownership of the content, among other details, everything should be highlighted in your contract.
This may seem unnecessary especially as a freelance expert, but you’re not just an individual looking for no-commitment jobs. You’re an expert in your field offering services to clients, and deserve to have your rights protected as such. Similarly, clients should also know what to expect and draw up conditions if need be. If a client is hesitant about signing a contract, you may want to think again and reconsider working with them.
6. Communicate openly and frankly with your clients
Speaking of clients, you should be open and frank in all your communications to manage expectations. Clients shouldn’t have to chase you down to get an update on your work and the progress of the project. As a professional, you should establish a line of contact, keep them in the loop, and communicate any concerns that you have.
If something is beyond your scope of expertise, don’t take it on for the sake of it. Express that concern to your client and see if you can come up with a solution. This will also help you iron out any wrinkles and make your way around roadblocks, or any major changes along the way.
Be open to feedback and constructive criticism too, so you can always improve and brush up on your skills. Even as an expert you will have certain strengths and certain weaknesses—not everyone can be amazing at everything!
7. Network, ask for referrals, build connections as you go
Last but not least, improve your networking skills. Ask clients for referrals (after you know they’re satisfied), build connections across platforms, and learn to market yourself. This doesn’t mean you start a sales pitch at every party, but just that you develop enough confidence to offer your services where you feel they might be needed.
It doesn’t matter if your friend, not a stranger on the internet, needs a web developer—if you have the skills, then go for it. You only get work if you put yourself out there, even if it feels awkward or uncomfortable. That’s a part of growth and your journey toward becoming an expert!
With these tips in mind, work on expanding your knowledge base and skill set as you go too. This is vital for any type of freelancer regardless of the industry they’re in or the service they provide. The more current and up-to-date your practices are, the more you will be in demand, and of course, the more work and profits you will be able to generate.