When you’re competing with a whole range of talented freelancers on the open market, you can’t rest on your laurels. You need to be pushing boundaries and riding on the crest of a creative wave! This should be something you are already embracing as a freelancer. Part of the motivation for going freelance is usually the desire to break loose any creative shackles and push forward with your unique skill set, doing the work you love and are passionate about.
How do you show that you are riding this creative wave? How can you stand out on the open market? For a start, act like the individual you are. This isn’t dating advice, I’m not telling you to ‘just go out there and be yourself’; instead, I am stressing the importance of a little individuality. Don’t just copy the strategies, branding, and websites of other freelancers. You want to bring something new and exciting to the table, or why should people look to work with you? That said, you will still want to be looking at the strategies and websites of other freelancers, if for no other reason than learning how to stand out! If everyone tends to follow a similar formula, can you break the mould? What are you doing better than they are? Use this to define your brand and the value you offer clients; this should ooze out of all of your marketing and communications.
I’ve said it before, but while we’re thinking creatively, how about you stop only applying for freelancer-specific jobs too? This might sound odd – and of course you can still apply for some freelance positions – by why limit yourself to this? There are plenty of people who are looking for someone to add to their team who don’t realise that a freelancer (YOU!) could do the job even better for them. You need to take responsibility for making them realise this. If someone is hiring, show them that it would be in their best interests to consider you! You’re obviously convinced about freelancing, that’s presumably why you’re reading this, now convince the employer too.
Well, it’s not all about ‘kindness’ per sé, but it’s more generally about being a friendly and approachable human being! Don’t retreat back and hide in your hobbit hole, don’t let people forget about you, and while you’re working with them show that you are a positive addition to company culture as well as the working team. For the sake of your working life – and for your ‘brand’ –show that you are worth remembering. I realise I have said that phrase which makes a lot of freelancers cringe, talking about yourself as a ‘brand’, but when you’re going solo it can be a necessary evil. It doesn’t mean having an alter-ego who assumes the role of ‘working-you’, it just means demonstrating some core values and skills in your work and communicating these with clients. It means being clear on who you are, what you do, and the quality you deliver.
The same goes for networking. It can feel a little peculiar to get used to, selling yourself to people rather than discussing a company or concept (although there is no reason why you can’t do a little of this), but it really can be necessary. The working world moves faster than a-mile-a-minute and no matter the quality of your work, if you’re not there talking to people and making sure that you are at the front of their minds, you risk being forgotten. This doesn’t mean you have to constantly walk around shoving your CV or past projects in people’s faces, but make sure you are still meeting people and reminding them both of your existence and your work.
This is actually why it can be a good idea to spend some time fully employed in your field before going freelance, or to work consistently with a team on a large project in order to command the same presence. This can help you to develop a solid foundation of friends/colleagues in hiring positions, allowing some work to come from word of mouth and referrals when you ultimately go freelance.
The basics have always been the same though: be kind and work hard. The harder you work the better, but people won’t want to work with you if they don’t like you. If you’re not friendly with people, don’t expect consistent work from them. If you make a positive impression with your work and your presence people will like working with you more, so you can expect to find more work coming your way.