freelance businessThis post is a brief description of how I have grown my freelance business, and how you can too. I talk about the sites I read and post on, how the people I’ve met have helped me, and how you can possibly find the same success. This is really aimed at people just starting out, but it may be helpful or interesting to established freelancers and businesses. Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Blog, read & post on blogs and forums related to your business.

You probably either know that already or have at least heard it before. It’s really basic – these things connect you with people who can help you, and if you know what you’re talking about and can communicate well, then posting in these places will give you credibility. One month after I started doing this, I met more people who were interested in working with me than I met in the previous three months combined.

Personally, I have found that joining sites like LinkedIn has been profitable. In the Answers section of the site, you can find questions that people are asking about your niche (whether it’s web design, development, graphic design, etc.). Answering and asking questions on that site is a good way to meet people and show that you know what you’re talking about. This gives you credibility, and with that people are more likely to offer you a job or accept a proposal you make. So, networking with professionals and prospective clients online is one potential avenue for finding new business. (But this doesn’t mean you don’t have to do the same thing “offline”.) Another good site to read (with a forum to post on) is FreelanceSwitch.

Don’t lower your rates – if anything, raise them.

There is a tendency to worry about the competition, and whether or not you’re not getting work because others are doing it for less money – especially if you’re first starting out or if you’ve hit a dry spell in your incoming jobs. But you have to charge what you know your service is worth. If you’re too cheap, you look unprofessional. People will assume that you’re a noob. Clients who don’t want noobs, but want professionals, are more likely to be good clients who pay you on time and give you less of a hassle. Charging what you’re worth is crucial. Once I started charging what I was worth, I felt better about what I was doing and I had a renewed passion for finding business, as well as for getting projects in on time and with excellence.

Connect with people who can help you.

I work part-time for a dot com that sells home improvement products (PlumberSurplus). Pretty different business than what I spend most of my time doing – web design. But the people that work there are very good at what they do. I’ve learned things about SEO, marketing, sales, and ecommerce that has helped me immensely in my own business. Also, I know people who work in the brick and mortar world (that sounds so lame) who have taught me a lot about people and what they want in a product or service. And it’s always translatable to what I do. Listen to people who are good at what they do, no matter what business it is, and apply the principles to your own business.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a job.

Depending on your personality and experience, there can be a general timidity about asking for a job. You meet someone you know needs business cards (let’s say you’re a graphic designer), but you know they’re already talking to a big graphic design firm. It’s easy to feel intimidated, thinking to yourself things like, “They don’t want me; I’m inexperienced; they’ll go with the firm.” Or you might be afraid to ask for the amount of money that you want to ask for. Listen, (yes, like Nike) just do it. Ask. Don’t be a pussywillow. What’s the worst that’ll happen? They’ll say, “No thanks” or laugh in your face? So what? Move on. It’s their loss. Don’t even think about it again. Sometimes I ask for jobs I think I have maybe a 5% chance of getting. Because I lose nothing. I can only gain. Once I started offering my services to people, asking for jobs, making proposals, guess what? I started getting more business. Wow.

Lastly, never stop growing your skills.

None of this means anything if you’re not good at what you do. Take a night class or practice the kinds of jobs that you want to get – then when you get them, you know you’re ready. When I started getting really good at what I do, I had a renewed confidence and that made everything else much easier. Suddenly I knew how I wanted to market myself, I wasn’t afraid to ask for jobs, and to ask to be paid what I’m worth.

Don’t you want to feel that way too?