I ditched my day job in April of 2018 and haven’t looked back since. It’s been 8 months since then, and I’m astounded every day with the growth of my freelancer business. That’s why I think 2019 is going to be the Year of the Freelancer. Don’t believe me? You will after you read these tips to grow your freelance business in 2019.
Freelancing is already really big. The be specific, 50% of Millennial workers today are already freelancing. They’re also doing something right. There are endless benefits to freelancing, but a few of the most significant ones are:
- Future Proof – Freelancers are adapting with the workforce. The world is moving away from full-time work and towards contract labor and the “gig economy.”
- Flexibility – Who wants to feel like a slave to the 9-5? Not freelancers, for one. We make our own schedules and run our own businesses.
- Creativity – Workers today feel like cogs in the wheel. Freelancers retain creative autonomy over their own actions and projects.
- Earning Potential – Incomes are not rising. Freelancers don’t abide by strict income trends, and they have more earning potential.
Being able to run my own business as a blogger and freelance writer has been liberating. I’m not nearly as depressed, I get to work in my old t-shirts, and my only commute is from my bed to my desk.
No, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for everyone. I get why this isn’t the best lifestyle or full-time gig for every recent grad. But for those college students and recent grads looking to make money online blogging or freelancing, it’s an amazing opportunity.
Whether you’re just getting started or you’re looking to improve your earning potential, 2019 is your year. Here are 5 tips that will grow your freelance business in 2019. Woohoo, let’s get to work!
1. Sharpen the Saw
I don’t care if this is your first time freelancing or if you’ve been doing this for years, things are changing quickly around here. As someone who writes for a living about digital marketing and web development, I can hardly keep up.
We’re all at an all-out sprint to keep up with tech changes and everything new. Learning how to keep learning is the most valuable skill you can have. I covered this some in my post about the best freelancing tips, but it’s so important I’ll bring it up again and again.
This year I’m vowing to complete a web development course. I’m going to learn front end and back end development from scratch online. I found a too good to pass up deal on this course, so it was a sign I needed to get this done. My goal is to finish the course by April.
There are so many ways to sharpen your freelancing saw every day. Basically, you want to be on the cusp of the latest trends and news in your industry. If you’re a graphic designer, that means knowing what design trends are going to be popular in the next few months. If you’re a freelance health writer, you might stay on top of the latest research. Either way, try these daily/weekly practices:
- Podcasts – I love podcasts as a way to inspire myself and also keep up with trends in the blog-o-sphere. Also, here’s a shameless plug for my podcast, Offbeat Grad, which helps Millennials master their own blogging and freelancing skills.
- Blogs – No matter your industry, follow the latest blogs for breaking news, tutorials, and advice. I also love Medium as a collaborative space to hear from the best experts.
- Courses – There are so many great courses online, but be careful not to buy into one blindly. Too many online “entrepreneurs” make money teaching others to make money…like a pyramid scheme. I recommend looking for authentic reviews, teacher credentials, and actual results before paying for a course.
- In-Person Events – You can also find great local events about everything under the send. For example, my local library always hosts digital marketing boot camps. Better yet, these are usually free or really cheap.
2. Optimize Your Website
I’ve waxed poetic about the importance of having your own website before, and I’ll keep doing it. Your freelancer website needs to be in tip-top state to attract the right clients.
Let’s be clear: the right clients are always high-paying clients. If you have a dumpy looking website, you’ll attract dumpy, cheap clients. No thanks!
Your website doesn’t have to be expensive or custom designed. It’s as simple as purchasing a domain name (aim for .com addresses) and web space from a host like HostGator (my favorite host). I have a full guide to getting started with WordPress on HostGator here. It’s easy as heck, I promise.
From there, choose a simple theme that looks professional and is mobile-friendly. Mobile is key since most users today view the internet from their smartphone. Next, write some killer content that positions you as an expert in your industry. This might take some time, but it’s worth the ongoing effort.
Finally, make sure it’s easy for interested clients to contact you via a form or email. That’s it! You’re officially a freelancer, congratulations.
3. Manage Your Time (For Real)
I’m not a time management expert by any means, but I’m pretty good about getting stuff done. As a freelancer, one of the biggest challenges is being accountable for yourself. There’s no manager reminding you of your deadlines every day. You’re on your own.
If you’re like me (and you probably are if you’re reading this), that’s a good thing. You like to be on your own, and you know you can get the job done right and on time.
However, time management is no joke. If you’re working at home, there are a lot of distractions. Social media, your phone, Reddit, your dog, that loud neighbor who blasts Arianna Grande all day…the list is endless.
How are you going to manage your own time? Well, I recommend not trying to do it alone. While you don’t have coworkers or managers, there are some great time management tools that will take some of the stress off your plate.
Time Management Tools I Love:
- Forest – This cute app might cost a dollar on the app store, but it’s so worth it. You set a timer for any amount of time and can’t access your phone while the tree grows. Once your tree is finished growing, you can turn off the timer or set a break timer for some much-needed browsing time.
- Brain.Fm – This is another paid app but it’s only a few bucks a month. It’s ambient music backed by science to help you focus. I don’t know how to describe it…but it totally works. Thank you Amanda Cross for the recommendation!
- Trello – Trello is a visual planner that helps you set deadlines and keep track of projects and clients all in one place. Plus, it’s free!
4. Set Higher Rates
This is something I’m personally struggling with, but I did manage to see improvement over the past few months. I want to push this even further in the next few months.
Asking for more money is intimidating. I suspect it will never stop being intimidating.
Stop thinking about your freelancing rates like an in-person job. You can’t really go by “traditional” hourly rates because you need to account for the time when you’re not working. In a perfect world, you need to cover your expenses (and more) with your rate.
Charging more comes down to two things: knowing your value and finding better clients.
As I said before, this isn’t the same type of work you did at an office or in any other service setting. You have value. That’s why companies want to hire you. If they wanted a full-time staff member, they’d hire someone full-time. Because they only need you for a specific task or project, you’re expected to charge more with the assumption that they’ll gain something from working with you.
Additionally, you need to find the right clients. I’ve worked with bad clients. Let me tell you a secret: the cheapest clients will always be the hardest to work with. It’s easy to assume that because they’re paying less, they’ll expect less. Nope!
It’s some freakish law of freelancing that stats the cheaper the client, the more they expect you to deliver. Poor instructions followed by endless revisions and passive-aggressive comments? You got it.
Clients who are willing to pay more value your work more. I’ve never had a higher paying client ask for excessive edits or nit-pick. They’re also more willing to work with you to make sure the job gets done right the first time since they value their investment. They want it to work as much as you do!
However, don’t expect to magically gain those amazing clients overnight. They need to trust you before they’ll be willing to work with you. That doesn’t mean you need years of experience or a crazy portfolio, but you do need to have references, a strong portfolio, and the confidence to outreach successfully.
5. Promote Your Brand on Social Media
I know, there are only so many hours in the day. You’re expected to find clients, complete client work, AND market your business on social media? Sheesh, what gives?
Put simply, your clients are on social media. If you want to find your clients, you need to be on social media too. No matter your industry, you can leverage social media to work for you.
Building your brand on social media shows that you know how to talk to an audience. It makes you more human, and humanity sells. I know this because my LinkedIn bio includes the headline “Freelance Marketing Writer & Actual Human” and it has played out in my favor.
There are so many technologies encroaching on freelancers nowadays. Artificial intelligence can even write articles now, yikes.
Basically, our main way of combating the rise of artificial intelligence is to become more human and leverage this. Social media is all about sharing your humanity. Sometimes this is a bad thing, but it can also be a great thing.
You don’t need to invest in social media ads. Just post quality, professional content constantly. Use freelancer hashtags as a way to attract your audience. Finally, make sure your profiles are public.
P.S. LinkedIn counts as social media.
Grow Your Freelance Business in 2019
It’s time to make some moves for your business–and yes, freelancing is a business. Stop thinking of your freelancing as just a side-gig or a way to pay your bills. I mean, yes it does pay your bills, but it’s also a growing, thriving business.
These 5 tips above aren’t rocket science. Together, we’ve got this. Let’s make 2019 our year as freelancers!
What are your biggest goals for the New Year? Let me know in the comments. Oh, and follow along with my freelancing podcast to learn more about freelancing, blogging, and beyond.