Full-time freelancers tend to enjoy greater work-life balances, but how do they sustain themselves financially?
In this article, we look at how experienced freelancers find work, how they make past projects work for them and which marketing channels they use.
This article is for freelancers with a few years under their belt. If you’re just starting out, have a read of how to get your first client and sign up to our course on how to set yourself up as a freelancer.
New vs experienced freelancers
If you think back to when you first started freelancing, you likely found most clients via your network.
And you weren’t the only one: 64% of freelancers consider word-of-mouth to be the most common way to find work.
You may have had your previous employer as a client and offered out work for free to build up your testimonials.
But there also may have come a point at which you exhausted your network of colleagues, friends and family, and looking for new clients became a full-time job in itself.
Depending solely on referrals for work can be a slippery slope, especially in times like these where unprecedented events can alter demand pretty much overnight.
It’s no surprise then that 54% of freelancers struggle with irregular income and some choose to return to full-time employment.
But then there are also others – those that persisted and found a new way to grow their freelance career.
According to a 2019 study, there is a big difference in income by experience, with more established freelancers making up to 91% more than new freelancers.
So what’s the secret? How do you get from fresh-faced newcomer to established freelancer?
The key is to diversify the channels that are bringing in new clients, and utilising digital technology is your best bet.
After all, almost 60% of freelancers say they use digital technology to make themselves more competitive.
If you’re ready to take the jump, it’s time to think about a more developed marketing strategy to help make your website work for you.
64% of freelancers consider word-of-mouth to be the most common way to find work.”
The power of past projects
When Harvard Business Review looked at freelancers earning $100,000 + per year, they found that 56% are experienced and aged 50 or older.
They also found that it was their reputation that set them apart from lower-paid freelancers.
Similarly, Marketing Science found that highly rated freelancers could expect up to 70% higher revenue.
So if reputation is the differentiator, how can you showcase it online? The best marketing tip is to use past projects.
Utilising past work experience is a good way to show the quality of your work and build up trust for your capabilities. And trust is a key component of establishing a reputation.
On your website, you can highlight your past work through carefully selected case studies.
You don’t need to list every project you’ve ever worked on, just show the ones that’ll be most helpful in finding your next job.
For example, if you’re wondering how to find freelance marketing work, pull out relevant projects that show your marketing accomplishments.
You’ll also want to include client testimonials and, as speaking often comes easier than writing, ask for video testimonials.
Video testimonials are actually more effective: almost 60% of people would rather watch a testimonial than read one.
And 37% of people believe testimonial videos are more authentic than your own pitch.
Effective marketing for experienced freelancers
Don’t let your case studies sit on your website, collecting dust.
If you want your past projects to work for you, use elements of content and social media marketing strategies to promote them online.
- Content marketing: creating content – particularly blog posts – is good for your SEO and an excellent way to drive traffic to your website.
Your past projects will have taught you a fair bit, and chances are you’ve got a good understanding of the kind of questions clients have.
Use these questions as a starting point and post answers to them on your website.
With time, when potential clients search for answers to their questions online, they’ll find your website.
If you include links to related case studies and video testimonials, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll start getting requests for freelance jobs this way.
- Social media marketing: here, the best way to utilise your social media accounts is to create short YouTube videos about your projects.
Brits spend a lot of time on YouTube, with the average adult online in the UK spending around 46 minutes per day on the platform.
Recent research by Google has found that the most successful videos are those that are ‘personally meaningful’ and drive a deep connection with their audience.
A ‘deep connection’ can be achieved in one of two ways.
First, when a video helps provide information, learning or helps to expand a worldview, it’s deemed to be personally meaningful.
It comes as no surprise then that potential clients are much more likely to hire you if they watch a video showing how you’ve helped another person like them.
Second, a video that shows a person trying to improve themselves and inspires others to grow, drives a particularly good connection – which brings us to our next point.
Don’t forget your flaws
Yes, you read that right. Behavioural science has found that showing flaws will actually make people like you more.
The Pratfall Effect notes that admitting weakness demonstrates honesty and makes people more attractive. Honesty, of course, makes you more trustworthy, which in turn helps with your reputation.
So when talking about past projects, you don’t need to spend a huge amount of time trying to make everything sound positive.
Be confident enough to talk about the challenges you encountered, how you overcame them and what you ended up learning from them.
According to Augusta Vivian, CEO of consulting firm Higson, the best way to learn from mistakes is to write down your ‘mistake of the week’ and what you’ll do differently next time.
Three points of advice
- Don’t just stick to YouTube: there are multiple video streaming services out there, and you can upload yours to any of them. Vimeo, for example, is known for having a more mature audience that offers constructive feedback. And with 240 million active monthly users, that’s not a bad shout!
- Host a downloadable: add your case studies to a portfolio and get it designed by a graphic designer. Then, host it behind a form as a downloadable and link to it in your blog articles. By asking people to leave their contact information to view it, you’ll have yourself a nice set of leads.
- Utilise email marketing: once you’ve got their contact details (and permission, of course) there’s no better way to nurture your leads than via regular newsletters. Sending them relevant blog articles to answer their questions is the best way to impress potential clients.
The secret to your success
Experienced freelancers are more likely to diversify the channels that bring in new clients to help them grow their freelance business.
Past projects are a great way to show your know-how and improve your reputation.
And adding case studies to your website and talking about what you’ve learnt through blog articles and short videos will set you apart.
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