700,000 white collar workers quit their job in May. Almost 60% of employees say they’ll quit if forced back to the office.
The Great Resignation is real and here to stay.
If you’re one of these individuals, have you thought about translating your skills into a freelancer career?
51% of freelancers say no amount of money could convince them to take a full time job. 75% are optimistic about the future of their work. These are just a couple statistics powering the shift from full time employment to remote project-based work we call the freelance economy.
How can you start freelancing? Try these three quick steps.
- Identify your freelance outcomes
- Find your ideal clients
- Win the deal
Step 1: Identify Your Freelance Outcomes
Freelance clients hire your outcomes, not your skills. Instead of expecting 5+ years experience in a relevant field, the lead priority is the outcome you can deliver, followed by how much you charge (bonus points if you can teach them your ROI).
Examples of Outcomes:
- 1,200 word thought leadership article
- 1 minute product demo video
- 15 slide deck for external presentation
How do you know what your unique outcomes are?
Analyze your past 5 years of experience. Deeper than your role, what outcomes did you enjoy and excel at? After 9 years at Nike, J Cheema realized his superpower was creating executive level decks. Now he’s a leading freelance presentation designer for Fortune 100 companies.
Now quantify these outcomes by scoping a time and cost. Lauren Detweiler, copywriter and content strategist scoped her outcomes into below.
Likewise, graphic designer Kemal Avdovic scoped his brand positioning outcomes below.
Step 2: Find your ideal clients
There’s a difference between clients and ideal clients.
- Clients pay you. Ideal clients make you part of the team.
- Clients tell you what to do. Ideal clients tell you what success looks like then trust you to make it happen.
- Clients look at you like a replaceable contractor. Ideal clients look at you as a trusted expert they’ll collaborate with for the rest of their life.
Ideal clients are the result of matching three variables.
- What clients need
- What you offer (step 1)
- Where clients express their need
There are four main places to find ideal clients.
- Your existing network
- Freelancer communities
- Social networks like LinkedIn or Twitter
- Freelance marketplaces, either general like Upwork or niche like Paro for finance and accounting
Each person is different. If you’re highly experienced, you might have 30 contacts that already hire freelancers and would be ready to hire you from a quick message. On the contrary, if you don’t have this network, indexing social networks with searches like ‘looking for graphic designer’ might lead to your first client. Or if you’re somewhere in between, both freelancer communities like Kitchen Table Community or freelancer marketplaces like Upwork, We Are Rosie for marketing, Instant Teams for veterans, or Parker Dewey for students to name a few are a great start. A simple Google search for ‘freelancer community for designers’ or whatever your niche is will show great communities and marketplaces.
Step 3: Win the deal
Typically, leaders hiring freelancers are different from traditional hiring leaders in three ways.
- They are ready to hire ASAP.
- They understand their problem, not necessarily the skills or inputs required to solve their problem.
- They don’t follow the traditional HR or Procurement processes. Think about the process to open headcount, or release budget for an approved vendor. The leader hiring you most likely won’t follow this.
This brings us to the most impactful myth that gets in the way of freelancers gaining interest versus closing a deal. Clients aren’t looking for the ‘perfect’ hire, they’re looking for the hire that their boss would hire too. A typical analogy is ‘no one ever got fired by hiring Accenture’.
So how do we close the client we found in step 2?
First, as soon as possible, show the exact example of you successfully delivering their explicit problem. Don’t show them your whole portfolio, just the exact examples.
For example, US coffee brand Puroast was looking for an animation freelancer with experience positioning brands with a technology and innovation lens. According to Alex Sachs, Puroast business development leader driving the project, “We needed more than an agency or a standard designer. We wanted someone whose passionate about innovation and sustainability and had worked on cutting edge projects in this space. What’s different about hiring a freelancer versus an agency for us is that freelancers are an extension of the team. They provide proper focus and dedication towards our specific needs with less overall conflict and corporate bias. It’s a continuous collaboration, not just one project, so having someone whose demonstrated our company values through their prior work is crucial. ”
Rather than showing his whole portfolio, Frederik Eksteen customized his portfolio to show a smart home automation and energy sustainability project.
Next, offer a low cost, low risk option to get started. Leaders hiring freelancers typically want to start small before they fully invest in a freelancer. As trust is built, they then increase the scope of responsibility for you.
Last, use an invoice tool like Freshbooks, Quickbooks or Payoneer to send the invoice to the client’s email right away.
The tools and platforms that you use are low priority. As a framework, these three steps work great whether you use a website, LinkedIn, a freelance marketplace profile, or even just email. For example, you might find a posting on Twitter, direct message the person, send an invoice and deliver the work through email without ever meeting.
For Frederik, he scoped his offerings into the below low-medium-high offerings, and once the client chose the outcome, an invoice was sent to the client’s email. Frederik used Forms in Google Workspace and Venture L to complete this process.
You got this. As a challenge, what if your first freelance client is 72 hours away? Go make that happen!
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