Running a successful freelance business is not easy. Anyone who tells you otherwise wants to sell you their course. The truth is, whatever your endeavour, you need to put time and effort into your business if you want it to work.
The good news is if you have a skill that you can use online, you are already half way there to running your own business. There could be photography, writing, design, translation, coding, or any number of jobs waiting for you.
Once you get started with freelancing, it is important to be clear about what exactly you offer. Aim to be as focused as possible. For example, if you are a writer, do you create website content or are you more of a blog and article writer? Are you technical or creative? Outline your exact services on your freelance profiles so that clients can know what to expect.
Long-term clients are the key to your freelance business. You can find clients on freelance platforms like Upwork, on online jobs boards, and through social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. If you are struggling, you can always “cold call” (or cold email) companies who look like they require your services.
However you get them, it is crucial to work up a set of long-term clients who can rely on you to deliver, and who you can rely on to provide a decent workflow. This greatly reduces the amount of time that you’ll spend chasing jobs and new clients who might cause more trouble than they are worth. The result should be a solid list of well-paying, respectful clients who make much of your business.
To reach this stage, however, you need to give every job your full effort. You need to become irreplaceable, or as close to it so that clients will always turn to you when they have work. There is no shortcut. Just be good at what you do and always bring your full effort to the table. You should also be constantly improving your skills and talents by reading about your industry, practicing, and taking courses and tutorials if needed.
When you first started your freelance business, it might have been tempting to undercharge for your services to gain clients. This is not a recommended strategy, but I understand that sometimes it must be done. As soon as you gain momentum, though, you should be looking to charge an amount that fits the true value of your work. You must gauge this for yourself; be honest about the level of your talent, but more than anything understand your worth to your clients. You might not think your homemade web application isn’t worth much, but it could save your client’s company millions and this should be fairly reflected in the pricing. Don’t undersell yourself.
If you have long-term clients who are paying an amount close to your true market value, then you pretty much have all the components of a successful online freelance business. If you are struggling to make it, then reflect on the story of Gonzalo Garcia-Pelayo who studied a roulette wheel and noticed that it was biased. With practice and skill, he became so successful at roulette that he could make money even when it seemed the odds were against him.
The online world seems scary and daunting, and it can feel like the odds of your business succeeding are slim. All you really need to do is find your edge. There is a place for you, so be confident, be good at what you do, and be consistent. You are bound to make it in the end.