With the advent of digital technology, professionals worldwide are offering their services online. Remote work is no longer a perk but an integral part of doing business.
About 57 million Americans freelanced in 2019. That's more than one-third of the workforce.
Some choose this path because they want to break free from the nine-to-five grind. Others enjoy having the flexibility to work from anywhere.
Below are five of the most effective tips for freelancers who are just getting started. Here's what you should know about building a profitable business and expanding your reach.
1. Define Your Goals
First things first, decide why you want to pursue this path and then define your career goals.
Are you looking to supplement your income, build a side hustle, or start your own business? Where do you see yourself three or five years from now on? Think long-term when it comes to your career.
According to a 2019 report, 60% of professionals started freelancing by choice. About half of them see it as a long-term career choice. The other half thinks of it as a temporary way to make money.
Furthermore, 70% of respondents said that freelancing allows them to work from anywhere in the world.
Around 46% have chosen this path because they were unable to work for a traditional employer due to health issues or other personal circumstances.
Write down your reasons for starting a freelancing career. Consider where you're at right now and where you see yourself over the next few years.
If, say, you're working as an SEO manager for a private company, you may want to start a digital marketing agency later on. Think about the steps needed to get there.
For example, you could build a side hustle and then gradually turn it into a full-time job.
As your customer base increases, you may expand your services and outsource time-consuming tasks or hire staff. This would allow you to take on more clients and scale up your business.
2. Find a Niche Market
According to the above report, 45% of freelancers provide specialized services, like programming or consulting. Determine what you want to do, assess your skills, and then find a profitable niche.
Not every niche is worth your time and effort. Perhaps you're passionate about philatelic collectibles, but that doesn't mean you can make a living from it.
The key is to identify a niche market that's in high demand and has low competition.
The weight loss market, for example, is oversaturated. Instead of focusing on weight loss in general, try to find a micro-niche.
Think about your target audience and its pain points. Is there any way you could use your skills to solve those problems?
Browse forums, Facebook groups, chat rooms, and Q&A platforms to identify problems in specific niches. Google Trends and keyword research tools may help too.
Once you've found a profitable market, try to further divide into smaller niches based on:
- Location (residents of a certain city, state, or country)
- Customer behavior (buying preferences, interests, and values)
- Product quality and characteristics (organic, premium, low-cost, etc.)
- Demographics (age, gender, education, income)
- Price (discounted products, luxury products, and more)
The fitness apparel market, for instance, has different niches. There's yoga apparel, aerobic wear, competition bikini suits, sports shoes, and everything in between.
Any of these niches can be further broken down into several other niche markets, depending on your customers' age, location, buying power, and so on.
3. Research Your Competition
Try to figure out who you're competing against and what makes you stand out.
For example, if you're a freelance writer, you're competing against millions of other professionals from all over the world.
One way to differentiate yourself from the competition is to offer highly specialized services. Think about your skills and professional background.
If, say, you're passionate about computers, you could provide content writing services for tech companies.
Someone with a background in nutrition or sports can reach out to business owners in the healthcare or fitness niche.
The more specialized you are, the more you can charge and the less competition you have to deal with.
4. Hone Your Skills
Running a freelance business requires continuous learning. According to the World Economic Forum, the half-life of a professional skill is around five years. Simply put, the skills you have today will decline in value over the next years.
Continued education will help remain competitive and relevant as the job market evolves.
The SEO landscape, for example, is constantly changing, with new trends emerging every year. SEO techniques that were once popular, such as building as many links as possible, don't work anymore.
This doesn't mean you need a Ph.D., though. It's enough to take courses in your field, attend webinars, and participate in workshops.
Read studies, white papers, and reports in your niche and keep an eye on the latest trends. Follow industry influencers on LinkedIn and other social networks to stay up-to-date with what's going on.
5. Build Your Portfolio
Think of your online portfolio as a virtual business card. It's a reflection of your skills and should include your best work.
If you're just getting started, volunteer yourself for projects in your niche or take on smaller jobs.
A freelance writer, for example, can publish content on Medium or LinkedIn Publishing to build his portfolio.
Another option is to publish content on your blog and share it online. Later, you can set up a website or create an online portfolio on Clippings.me, Contently, or Muck Rack.
Make sure your portfolio also includes an engaging bio, as well as your studies, major accomplishments, and any notable clients.
Communicate your specialty and skills, list your services, and display customer reviews.
Get the Most Effective Tips for Freelancers
Now that you how to start and grow your freelance business, build a side hustle, see it works, and take it from there. Be patient and don't expect overnight results.
It takes years to achieve success as a freelancer. That's why it's important to validate your business idea before quitting your job.
Not sure what to do next? Get the most effective tips for freelancers with our guide on how to scale your business. Remember to join our community to market and sell your services!