In some respects, starting a business and becoming a freelancer is very similar. You will in both cases be self-employed and entirely responsible for the success of your venture, both primary roles for any business owner or freelancer. However, a freelancer may assume they won’t have quite the burden of responsibility entailed in starting a business, in terms of business plans, marketing strategies, and the work involved in setting up a small enterprise. This is an erroneous assumption, because marketing and planning are just as important, and you will certainly have to work hard if you wish to become established and successful in your sector. How then should a freelancer approach the task of branding and marketing themselves?
What are you marketing?
In essence, rather than marketing a business, you are, as a freelancer, marketing yourself. It’s your personal abilities, attributes, skills, and knowledge that will need to be sold to potential clients rather than products, or a service with additional staff members. That means that your business plan revolves around being the best you can be as an individual, and creating a brand that separates you from all the other freelancers doing the same kind of work as you. You need to be objective about yourself, take a step away from what you think you know and be realistic about the skills you can offer. There’s no point overselling yourself because you won’t be able to live up to your promises. It’s equally inadvisable to undersell yourself, being modest or underplaying the value you can offer. Either approach will make finding and retaining good clients far more difficult. If you are honest and objective when you describe yourself, you’ll find it far easier to become established in your field.
How do you brand yourself?
Just as a business needs a unique selling point or proposition (USP), so you need to determine what your personal USP is, and use that as the basis for your branding. For a business, a USP could be something along the lines of being the only place in town that sells organic cosmetics. As a freelancer, you need to identify what your specialty is, so if you’re a writer it could be that you have specialist knowledge of a particular topic such as health or animal care; or if you’re a programmer, it could be that you specialize in Java. Once you’ve decided where your expertise lies, you then need to personalize it to you and add something that makes your service stand out from all the other health writers or Java programmers. That could be a unique insight you have, or experience in your field, for example being a health writer who has experienced the conditions they write about, or who has worked in the health services. Clients always prefer people who can do more than just the job; they are looking for someone who can give them an edge, so by personalizing your USP you are creating a unique brand that adds authority to your offering.
How do you market yourself?
A lot of the resources you would use as a freelancer are the same as those a small business owner would use. Having your own website and social media accounts will give you a legitimacy with prospective clients and help get your name more well-known. Using online directories, local service publications, and websites that publish your profile and portfolio are all good ways to increase your presence and make yourself available to more people. All these marketing tools need to be kept updated, regularly checked and added to and used to showcase your talents. You need to keep a close eye on all the places you’ve posted details about yourself because anyone searching for you by name will not be impressed to find accounts of varying quality and currency on the Internet.
How do you finance yourself?
Freelancing is commonly far less expensive than starting up a business. You’ll have the costs of setting up and running your home office and a few fees and charges for memberships and resources. The main cost will be the reduction in income you will almost certainly experience after you first start before you begin receiving sufficient orders to match or exceed your income requirements. You can plan for this period in advance by saving for a period of time while you are still working for someone else, or you could start your freelancing venture as a side hustle while you carry on working at your day job until you’re making enough to go full time. If you are short of what you need, or want to retain some contingency funds but have to finance a new laptop, for example, credit can be a way to resolve the problem. You should have your finances in order as far as possible before committing to your new job, and that means working on improving your credit rating by following the advice given on expert websites such as Bonsai Finance. A higher credit score means you will be offered lower interest rates on loans and a wider range of deals on all credit products.
You are not alone
Working at home as a freelancer, you will be on your own for a lot of the time. For some people, this is a far more comfortable way of working, but for others, it can be hard to be alone for so much of the time. Fortunately, there are some excellent resources online that will help you make contact with other freelancers and groups, so you become part of a homeworking community. The exchange of ideas and experience and the moral support can be invaluable in giving you the determination to keep going. You can also attend webinars and other training courses run by experienced and knowledgeable people in your field and general business topics of relevance, where you can pick up many great ideas for marketing yourself as a freelancer.
You may be one person in your own home, rather than a team in an office, but the principles of planning, marketing and branding apply just as much to you as they would to a business.