7 Keys to Success as a Freelancer

You have had a successful career and after many years you have joined the ranks of your peer Baby Boomers enjoying retirement. But you are full of energy, passion and entrepreneurial spirit. If you have been thinking about doing some freelance work but unsure where to start, you are not alone.

1. Find your focus area

The first question that comes to mind is if freelancing is only for younger, more creative types that provide technology, graphic design or related services. Truth of the matter is that pretty much anything can be done by a freelancer these days, offering plenty of exciting opportunities. Small businesses have needs in many areas that go unmet every day.

In selecting your focus area, it is natural to fall back on what your core area of expertise is. This is great if you are able to think of your skills as something to be packaged as a service. But you may have to dig deep and think outside of the box to identify your "secondary" skills can also offer up freelancing opportunities. Perhaps these are areas that you feel passionate about or wanted to pursue but never got a chance. .

Don't be hindered by a notion that you do not have the necessary skills or experience to find a freelancing opportunity. A little faith in yourself and some thinking will help you to take your first step.

2. Build your brand

You are a brand. Once you have identified what you want to do as a freelancer, think about what would make you stand out in the eyes of a potential client. Small business owners looking for external help do not have a massive amount of time to search for the right person. Your online profile has to be to the point and comprehensive. When creating your online profile think about every experience that you are including and ask yourself whether it helps to highlight your focus area. If not, better skip it and keep your profile short rather than describe every small experience but draw attention away from key messages.

Sometimes nothing speaks better than seeing actual work done by a freelancer. Many small businesses are less concerned with qualifications and more interested in seeing what you have done. This may help them to understand and articulate their own requirements better. If you are able to post samples of your work as a part of your online profile, definitely do so. Of course, you need to make sure that all confidential information is removed or appropriately masked.

3. Understand the numbers game

Finding exciting freelance opportunities that meet your personal, professional and financial goals is directly correlated to the amount of effort you put into search for these opportunities. Winning engagements is the numbers game

Allocate some time to search for opportunities and understand how small businesses approach finding freelance work. If a project is not clear but you think you may be able to help, do not hesitate to ask clarifying questions. At the very least answers may help you to decide whether it is worth for you to bid. Your questions may also distinguish you from other freelancers by highlighting how you would approach a particular problem, helping you to win.

4. Set your price

Setting a price for your services is as much art as it is a science. In determining your rates or the amount you are willing to bid on a project you have to consider going rates in the market, small business buyers’ willingness to pay as well as your own opportunity costs.

If you set your price too low, you will inevitably feel that you are missing out on something. Be that time with your grandkids or family, travel time or simple leisure time – all will feel more valuable than the time you spend on this particular engagement.

If you price your time too high, you will not be winning and not developing your brand. Do your research and find out what are the reasonable rates in the market. If appropriate, you can set your rates at a premium but make sure your brand supports premium pricing.

5. Do not be afraid to say “no”

Perhaps the only thing worse than losing a perfect engagement is winning one and realizing it is not going to be a success. In agreeing to a particular engagement consider how it helps your brand, how well it fits with your skills and whether it meets your goals.

You may also want to consider whether your working style will mix well with the client. Can you manage your client? For example, if you prefer to work in close collaboration but the client is unlikely to allocate sufficient time, perhaps you should pass.

At the end of the day every engagement you do will result in a client feedback that will in many ways determine how your future clients perceive you.

6. Manage your time

As you bid on a particular project, carefully consider how much time you are able to allocate to your work. You are likely to have other priorities in life – family, grandkids, not for profit work or other activities that require your attention.

Spend some time and map out all the tasks/activities you will need to perform to deliver what your prospective client expects. You will need this to determine what the appropriate price for your services is. You may also want to share this with your prospective client – it will help to show that you have seriously considered their specific situation and have a realistic plan to achieve results.

Once you have won the engagement, use your time wisely and try to stick to the original plan as closely as possible. Keep track of your deliverables. If deadlines need to move, be upfront and engage your client so they understand why it is better for the engagement to take a couple of days longer.

7. Close out with positive feedback

So it is all done, you have completed and delivered what you have promised and your client is happy. Do not forget to ask for positive feedback. Your next small business client will be much more willing to consider you for their work if you have positive reviews from others. If there are negative points, consider what you can do to address them with your client. After all, their feedback is a big part of your brand.

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