Frazzled Freelancer: Seven tips to boost your freelance business

Getting a little more from your business can be simple and doesn’t need to cost any money. A freelancer can attract more custom – or make a better living from their existing customers – by implementing a few simple ideas. Here’s seven to get you started.

1/ Carry your business cards – everywhere.

You never know when you’re going to bump into someone who’s interested in your products and services, or who knows somebody who might be. Sure, this is likely to happen at a networking event, but it might also happen at the sandwich shop during lunch, on a sunny walk during your day off, or at the launch of a new music shop.

I learned this lesson early on and have tried to remember my business cards wherever I go ever since, but my friend – new to freelancing – recently got caught without her cards, so it’s worth a reminder.

2/ Brush up on your marketing skills

When you’re working for yourself, you need to be able to turn your hand to any number of skills, from sales to keeping your accounts logged. Marketing is a massively important tool – it’ll drive your sales if you’re doing it right – so it’s important to have a regular refresher.

This could be as simple as following some clued-in people on Twitter and reading their blogs, to ringing your local Chamber of Commerce and asking which free workshops they’re putting on in the near future, through to making contact with a local marketing agency and asking if they’re interested in helping you out.

And as part of this, learn social media. We’re past the point of it being fancy and new, it’s just a way of life for businesses now and there’s no excuse for not being easily contacted by your customers through their favourite medium.

3/ Memorise your pitch

Ever been asked what it is you do and begun with, “Well, it’s sort of, it’s a bit like, err?”

You’re not alone. Many freelancers become so engrossed in what they’re doing they just assume everyone else knows what they do and how they might benefit from it. But it isn’t so, you’re going to have to tell them. However, people have short attention spans, so you’re going to need to make it snappy. And cut out the complicated words, you can introduce those later when you’ve got their interest.

So that’s two sentences. What you do: “I design and build great websites.” And why people should buy from you. “You can update them yourself, even if you’re not technically minded, and I make them so everyone can find them through Google.”

Learn it. Rehearse it. Test it on a friend to make sure they ‘get it’. Now it’s handy and you can easily and effortlessly tell a stranger and hook them in.

4/ Get in touch with more people

Now that you’ve thought a bit about your pitch, put it to good use. Don’t wait for people to ask what you do, be more proactive than that.

Send out a few sales letters. Emails work, too, but beware that it’s very easy to end up in somebody’s junk mail or get deleted. Cold calls may not sound like much fun, but they certainly work.

Make sure you’re getting in touch with the right people – somebody who would definitely benefit from your service – and approach them in a friendly manner, but get the facts out there early.

The more people who know what you do, the more sales you’re going to make. And if your sales letters and phone calls haven’t worked out in the past, go back to point 2 and reassess your technique.

5/ Gather and publish testimonials

So you think your product’s brilliant? That’s great, but I expect you to tell me it’s brilliant. What’s really going to impress me is if somebody with no vested interest is a fan of what you do.

When a new film comes out at the cinema, it’s going to tell you it’s fantastic, but if it gets a great review in a newspaper that’s a bit more believable. And if your friend has seen it and recommends it, you’re even more likely still to go and see it.

Because people are thinking the same thing about your business, you should collect a few testimonials (ask a few regular customers, most people are happy to help) and put them on your website, your sales letter, your tender document…

6/ Stop competing on price

If you’re already really busy but you’d still like to boost your income, then put your rates up. It might be the toughest thing to do, but every business everywhere has done it and so should you. Space Raider crisps aren’t 10p any more, and houses aren’t £10,000. Things get more expensive as time goes by, and so should you – if only so you can still afford all the things you could afford last year.

On a related note, stop competing on price. Don’t win a sale because you’re the cheapest – win it because you’re the best. A colleague pitching for some work was recently asked why he was more expensive than the others. He said: “Because I do a better job.” And he won the work.

7/ Just do it

The number one thing holding most freelancers back is nerves. “But what if?” is the easiest question to ask and the most destructive to a freelance business.

What if you try to make a cold call and they put the phone down on you? What if you put your prices up and lose a customer?

But what really is the worst case scenario here – is it really anything insurmountable? And, on the other hand, what if that sales call leads to your dream job, or putting your rates up means you can afford a really nice holiday this year?

Exactly. So get out your chair and go do whatever it is you’ve been meaning to do for far too long now.

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