What It Takes to Be a Successful Freelancer (During COVID-19)
By Jena Kroeker
Would you call yourself a successful freelancer? Although there are many definitions of success, the one we’re exploring here is the ability to grow a sustainable business that meets or exceeds your income goals. You may be experiencing ups and downs, but are you on an upward path to sustainability?
If you answered no, take heart and don’t give up. Whether or not your business is where you want it to be, it’s never too late to build success strategies. As American psychologist B.F. Skinner said,
“A failure is not always a mistake. It may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying.”
And to help you along, we interviewed our experienced Freelance University mentors and instructors to ask them what it takes to be a successful freelancer. They each provide valuable tips and strategies that have worked for them and can work for you too.
So, without further ado, let’s turn the mic over to the FreeU team.
What It Takes to Be a Successful Freelancer
1. Financial Management and Marketing
First charge your worth!!! I spent too many years undervalued and underpriced. Also, multiply your earning power with a team! By having a team I was finally able to hit new revenue levels. And know your numbers – update your accounting system regularly. (Don’t wait until tax time.) Reinvest where you can but also be sure to pay yourself as well.
Continually market your business! Whether you have your fill of clients or are in need of clients, continue producing content and marketing yourself via social channels, blogs, ads (if you want), online platforms and directories, networking, and referrals. Email Marketing is my #1 source for new clients. Don’t wait to begin email marketing (even if you only have a small amount of contacts). Define your “Buyer Persona” (ideal client) early; otherwise, you may stumble around searching and wasting valuable time trying to figure it out.
And finally, start with a Business Coach as soon as possible. (Don’t wait until you think you can afford it). Choose one that understands your values, goals, and eventual exit desired.
2. A Positive Mindset
Having the right mindset of believing in yourself with an “I can do this attitude” and “I DO have skills that are transferable” will be good to have when starting a virtual freelance business online.
Understand the difference between having perseverance and being determined. For example, determination can get you in trouble. Sometimes you may need to change course. For example, if we were sailing into the wind, and ocean swells are getting bigger and bigger, time to change course.
The current pandemic has not impacted my business, if anything NOW is a good time to have a business online. The pandemic situation is creating more opportunities than you can ever imagine. Think outside the box, find software apps that you can partner with, and create packages specific to people who have never worked from home offering 1:1 coaching sessions.
• Janice Hurlburt, Janice Hurlburt Online Management
3. Healthy Boundaries, Focus, and Networking
Working at home can be full of distractions such as doing the cleaning, children, friends dropping in, the TV. If you are working from home, let people know that you are not doing a hobby, you are a professional business owner. Let people know you are working and have a dedicated space. Put up a sign if you have to.
It’s easy to lose focus and to give up, especially if you have a partner who has a usual job that you can fall back on. Keep your focus on why you are doing this and be persistent in your ability to make it work.
It’s a bit hard to [network] in person at the moment, but this is the BEST way to build relationships. People like to work with people they know, like and trust. So build those relationships and over time you will reap the benefits.
• Anita Kilkenny, The Holistic VA
4. Transferable Skills and Relationship Building
My professional corporate career experience has always been relevant and valuable to the development of my freelance career. So even if you didn’t like your corporate role, and don’t want to repeat it, your experience is still valuable. It’s an important part of you and your story.
I gained early freelance success by being focused on a specific, unique niche with a software company, thanks also to an early course from VAClassroom as it was then. 🙂 I was a listed expert, and clients came to me. Several of the relationships I developed within that “tribe” have grown into brilliant online friendships.
Don’t be afraid to say NO to clients and opportunities that are not a good fit or fill you with dread. Leave space for better things that are in alignment with you and your business.
Finally, it’s OK to change your focus. I’ve done it several times and my current transition has been the biggest challenge to move away from service provision and towards creating and selling online courses – a different business model and focus, but an exciting journey which brings together all my corporate and freelance experience and combines with my podcast too.
• Susan Weeks, Stitchery Stories
5. Training Yourself and Subcontracting
I discovered early on that clients needed help with software to run their businesses. Don’t be afraid to learn new tech skills to advance your skills… That’s where Freelance U came in for me.
And working as a subcontracting Freelancer can give you a wealth of experience for your business. You become part of a team, meet great new team members and have the opportunity to work with a variety of clients.
• Theresa Scholes, Click Virtual Assistance
6. Selling by Helping
Change your mindset to focus on helping people with the solution to their problem instead of trying to sell to them. By focusing on what they value and how your product will solve their problem, you get the sale by helping them.
Say NO to bad opportunities and understand that there are plenty of customers who want your solution. Take on an abundance mindset and say no to jobs you don’t want and say no to discounting your rates. You will have less pressure and ultimately be more productive with your time.
• Barb Henry, BarbHenry.com
7. Branding and Continuous Learning
My previous life as a Director of Human Resources did not apply to the new life I was excited to build so I wiped the slate clean.
The key step I made when I started my company was to brand myself and my company. I positioned myself as the person who was very knowledgeable about social media. (OK, I was sort of knowledgeable!) I was the one who really cared about your brand, success, customers, and that I was extremely professional. In doing that, I made the decision that all of my social networks were no longer mine but that they were part of the public eye and my total brand.
Craft your brand and be consistent. Never stop branding. People do look at social networks, and I have made decisions to not work with people based on their personal social profiles. (Even if you set them to private you would be surprised what surfaces in a Google search.)
Never stop learning! Don’t let a week go by without learning something about your craft and how to run a business. Never think that you have learned enough. If you think that, you will put yourself out of business.
• Sabrina Espinal, Sabrina&Company
Some Additional Inspiration
So, there you have it – valuable wisdom and advice to help you become the successful freelancer you want to be! As Preston Lee says in his article, “16 Pro Freelancers Reveal How They Stay Booked for Months into the Future,” taking action is one tactic that’s “crucial in your journey to becoming a sustainable freelancer.” And our FreeU team members have certainly taken action to realize their business dreams and goals.
At the end of 2019, before we knew what was in store for 2020, we shared a blog post titled “How to Build a Success Mindset.” In it, some key advice we gave was “To build a success mindset, it’s important to remain hopeful of future opportunities. No matter what happens now, your virtual business story isn’t over until it’s over.”
This advice is more pertinent than ever now. Remember to be hopeful of future opportunities and keep moving purposefully forward. To learn more and connect with these amazing mentors, be sure to check out Freelance University.
And now we’re turning the mic over to you! What do you think it takes to be a successful freelancer, especially in the midst of COVID-19. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!