Freelancing is a popular profession these days. There are contractors and gig workers in practically every sector of the business world.
The popularity of freelancing has been a powerful factor for a growing 21st-century global economy, but it has also been a bit of a two-edged sword. With tens of millions of freelancers out there looking for work, competition can get stiff at times.
If you’re looking for a way to gain a competitive edge over other freelancers, here are a few tips to help you set yourself apart, no matter what industry you’re working in.
Define Your Business and Brand
As a freelancer, you operate as a one-person show. This means your business and your personal brands are one and the same. As a freelancer, your personal brand brings credibility to your business and shows value to your potential clients. In effect, you’re a hardworking solopreneur who has to promote yourself and drum up work all on your own.
This business mindset is critical to embrace if you want to truly set yourself apart as an expert in your field. You can do this in many ways, such as:
- Building a website, launching a podcast, or creating other content focused on your personal brand.
- Hosting an online portfolio to showcase your past work.
- Setting up and filling out your professional social media profiles.
Throughout these various activities, you should strive to consistently reflect the strengths, values, and accomplishments that define your freelancing brand.
Learn How to Effectively Get Work
As a freelancer, there is going to be a lot of turnover in your professional career. The very nature of your profession indicates that your work will always be fleeting.
This is a very natural part of the freelancing lifestyle. However, what sets a good freelancer apart from everyone else is the ability to tenaciously hunt down work whenever that natural client lifecycle starts over. There are many ways to find new freelancing clients, such as:
- Working with friends, family, and members of your network.
- Asking for referrals from existing clients.
- Applying to job adverts with a solid website and portfolio ready to go.
Regardless of which option you choose, hone your work-hunting abilities. There’s a great post on this website that shares tips on how to get more work as a freelancer. Polish your pitch, perfect your cover letters, keep your resume updated, and always be ready for an interview. It’s the ability to put your best foot forward and make a solidly professional first impression that can help you truly stand out against half-hearted or less experienced freelancers.
Be Personable and Don’t Burn Bridges
As you move from one job to the next, it can be difficult to maintain professional connections. However, the temporary nature of freelance work doesn’t mean you should be flippant about your personal network.
On the contrary, as a contractor, your network is more important than it is to someone working a full-time job. You need your network to:
- Help you keep your finger on the pulse of your industry.
- Keep you in front of potential clients.
- Regularly generate referrals.
As a freelancer, your network is, in many ways, the equivalent of the coworkers that you would have in a traditional office. They are your lifelines to your industry. As such, you must learn to cultivate your network whenever possible.
This starts with maintaining a personable and positive demeanor with your existing clients. Always treat them with respect, be honest, come through on your commitments, and stick to the classic business concept of “underpromise and overdeliver.”
On top of that, always do your best to avoid burning bridges. In other words, don’t move from one client to the next without a second thought.
As you change work, always do your best to move on responsibly. Try to give a client a couple of weeks to find a replacement. Offer to finish all of the work that you currently have assigned. Whatever you do, do it to leave them as a satisfied member of your professional network that is sad to have you move on.
Along with past and present clients, it’s also a good idea to look for other freelancers to network with either in your own or a tangential field. This can help you sharpen your professional skills and instincts as you communicate with other like-minded professionals.
Setting Yourself Apart as a Freelancer
Freelancing can be a challenging, grueling, and exhausting lifestyle. You’re constantly looking for new clients, and all of the administrative and entrepreneurial work falls on you.
However, if you can stick to the freelance lifestyle long enough, you can begin to rise above the cacophony of new and half-committed freelancers that are always jostling for work in a sea of entry-level competition. As you learn to find your personal brand identity, differentiate yourself, highlight your skills, showcase your accomplishments, and maximize your network, you can begin to set yourself apart.
When that happens, you can tap into the glorious upside of the freelancing lifestyle as the work begins to flow in more freely and your client relationships prosper.