Freelancing, for me, is possibly the best profession there is. Maybe this is because I consider myself part of a legion of agents of change. Freelancing is a job where you can decide how to make a difference, how to stand out, how much you’re going to work, where and how you’re going to do so. You work for a living (the money factor is involved) but, moreover, you work to be happy doing what you love. That is, you choose yourself to the fullest extent.
Freelancing is a way of life where you need no one’s permission, only your own drive. There’s no one there telling you exactly what to do and how to do it. This involves great responsibility and also a great opportunity. You decide exactly how much of your own time, effort, passion and interest you put into it. The outcome hangs on this.
How to set the difference as a freelance worker
This post includes a number of practices that could be the fuel you need for your freelancing work to stand out, tweaking whatever you feel needs changing. After all, it’s up to you:
- Create your own personal / professional brand: a freelancer without a personal brand is like the weatherman without a Meteosat satellite. You can find some tips, here.
- Ask yourself three direct questions (or more): 1. Choice: why do you want to start freelancing? (Tip: here are some valid answers: being master of my own time; not obeying orders, but leading; working on what makes me happy; living the life I always wanted to lead). 2. Change: what are you going to do differently from other freelancers? (Tip: look for your answers in the micro-segmented services offered to specific online communities). 3. Grabbing attention: how am I going to discover you? (Tip: use your creativity).
- Communication: everything you do has something to say about you, so you must align your online and offline activity to convey a unique, cohesive, human and truthful message.
- Choose your clients: be careful with what you do, say, share, respond to, sell or discard.
- Use connected marketing: find your audience (those interested in what you do and say) and ask them or research how you can add value and be useful for them. And then, do just that!
- Show your vulnerability: be yourself, mix what you do with your own peculiarities or eccentricities. Counteract criticism by doing your best work and openly talking about what you do best and the results you get. Find an opportunity to face your most critical audience and present yourself to them the best way you can. This wouldn’t be wrong; quite the opposite: it can lead you to meet people who value what you have to offer and who want to do business with you because something in you resonates with them.
- Social media can help but isn’t creative: if you don’t have an idea, project, initiative, product or service that changes things in your target market, one that is really worth taking the plunge for, then my advice is don’t bother working on the social media aspect: it won’t fix anything. Continue working on something that is at odds with the world. Social media helps to show yourself to the world; however, your creation is what you have to show the world.
- If you generate waste, you’ll amass waste: if you spend your time talking about others’ failures, pointing your finger every time someone makes a mistake, sending tweets complaining about the lack of professionalisation in your industry or gossiping about the poor work your competition is doing, then waste will be creeping up on you at home. Your own cynicism and negativity will prevent you from seeing all the ways you can fail and how you can get back up to grow further and stand out.
- Online reputation: As long as you don’t decide that it’s a good idea to show up to a meeting with potential clients stark naked; as long as you don’t appear shirtless in photos, “cross-eyed” or kissing a girl who isn’t your girlfriend; or as long as what you say and do causes no harm or suffering, or can’t be considered to be stalking other people or breaking the law in any way. As long as you don’t do any of the above, don’t worry about online reputation; worry only about achieving results.
- The best marketing: keep your promises. If you say you’re going to do something, then do it and keep your word. The worst marketing is doing otherwise.
- Your goal is what matters: the great drawback to being self-employed is the responsibility involved. Working freelance requires a much higher level of responsibility than being a hired worker. Essentially, this is because you go from being the person who does whatever their boss or area manager tells them to, to being the person who has the drive, takes the risk, plunges forward and makes things happen. You need well-defined objectives for this.
- The new king or queen: it isn’t content but the result you achieve. So leave content aside for a while and focus on your work to exceed market expectations or to get your product to your client in less than 24 hours. If you do all this well, results will speak for themselves and get everything else rolling.
- Build your digital empire: you must establish your online operations centre. Attacking: traffic, leads, conversations, branding and connection. Defending: active listening, monitoring and community. Use the platforms and tools that best suit your purposes so you can get your message and history out there, finding the drive that will get people to find you.
- Work flow: organise your workload. Freelance workers are their undertaking’s own managers, administrational staff, bosses, interns and technical staff. Productivity is essential. Find ways to be efficient and prioritise your workload in a way that allows you to move forward.
- Work structure: define the tasks you need to carry out weekly and monthly so that all areas involved in your work are complete. Take into account the deadlines of the different projects you’re involved in, meet up with people who can collaborate in your projects, think about their part in the project; and remember to invoice your work, prepare sales pitches, retrain professionally, get your brand going (posts, podcasts, videos or any actions you define), etc.
- Learning process: find the best way to learn about your field of specialisation at all times, spending at least one hour every day (two if you don’t sleep much) staying up to date with any developments that interest you. Tip: be careful and try to be strict in regard to places and contents, the blogs you subscribe to, hangouts or webinars you attend. Otherwise, you will be overwhelmed and can end up spending more time reading and handling all this information than working!
- Blog: my opinion, experience and results, and that of many other work colleagues who have at some point or other been freelance workers (or who still are): Juan Merodio, Carlos Bravo, Paco Viudes, Víctor Martín, Aitor Contreras, Álex Rubio, Berto López, Amel Fernández, etc., is that you should create a blog to expand on your personality, skills, attitude and specialisation beyond the people who you are in contact with in real life.
- Productivity: find tools that make your work easier, either by investing the same time to create more or working less to live more.
- Leverage: if you’re a freelance web designer who’s been working long enough to have gained ample experience and your personal brand has been developed in such a way that a considerable amount of people are interested in what you do, then you can use your influence to develop projects that are leveraged by your current work: for instance, training, writing a book or starting a consultancy company.
- You don’t work for everyone: since you have to meticulously choose where you invest the limited, valuable time available and your limited resources (compared to any organisation), this is the time to work only for the people you feel at ease with, those who value your work, the jobs you enjoy doing and that you feel can contribute to change (and viceversa).
- Keep your ego in check: no one escapes this. Perhaps being self-employed, making it ‘on your own’, not having anyone run your life, control your time or supervise your results (clients aside) may make you fall in the trap of making you believe you’re better than anyone else. You could pay for such mistake but it will be interesting for you to run into that wall!
- The rule to success: you want to make it? Get to the top? Get it all under control? Then you must be prepared to work without a rest, without a break, holidays, days off and work more nights than you’d ever wished for and over Christmas for the next 5 years. Being ready and willing to go through all of that is getting there!
You’re self-employed and you have one of the best advantages life has to offer: being master of your own time. Stand out and set the pace, decide what it is that you feel like changing, find out how and then do it.
Photo credit: Steve Kodis.