How to Become a Six-Figure Freelancer (in just 9 steps)
Do you feel stuck on a 9-to-5 hamster wheel? Does your “dream job” suddenly sound more like a nightmare? Do you feel completely wiped and burnt out at the end of every day, only to dread getting out of bed the next morning?
You’re in good company: I was you a few years ago.
On paper, I should’ve had the dream life. My career was thriving, my professional network was growing, I had a nice house to go home to and a fancy car to boot. But deep inside, I felt hollow. The professional life that once had me buzzing with excitement felt more like a rut. I didn’t feel fulfilled, I felt bored. My work didn’t challenge me but rather stifled me.
I tried everything. Drinking to break the rut, shopping to fill the hole inside, acupuncture, therapy, and naturopaths to find the root cause of what was “wrong” with me. The only thing I ended up with was debt and snowballing feelings of depression and anxiety.
Eventually, I realized I had to make a change. My well-being, my life was on the line and if I wanted to live long enough to enjoy it, I had to do something.
At the time, I wasn’t at the point where I was ready to address my drinking problem, but there was one thing I could change. I quit my corporate job and went freelance.
Giving up the stability and the well-known, comfortable environment of my old job felt daunting, but mostly exhilarating. I was choosing freedom: setting up my own hours, taking on the tasks I wanted to tackle, working from home, and never, ever having to sit in a meeting again.
I jumped head-first into what sounded like the dream business. I envisioned great clients and fun projects that also happened to pay the bills. But truth to be told, I had no idea how to find freelance clients, how to manage them, or how to turn my freelance career into a profitable business.
In fact, my first freelancing gig earned me about $1.50/hour once I took into account all the work I put in, the time I spent managing the client, and the learning I did on the job. Not a very good deal for someone coming from a well-paying corporate job with a 401K and killer benefits.
Starting my freelance business was definitely not easy for me. For years, I repeated the same pattern:
- Try to find new freelance clients.
- Land a couple of freelance projects, mostly with clients willing to pay pennies.
- Realize I will have to work 100 hours a week to pay my mortgage.
- Find a high-paying job.
- Suffer burnout.
The one silver lining is that, after each attempt at freelancing, I got a little bit better. I picked up valuable skills, honed my craft, and got a tiny bit closer to cracking the code, but I still wasn’t there.
In the meantime, I earned my Master’s degree in Business. I took on a few jobs, working for start-ups which opened my eyes to the amount of work that goes into starting a business. So, when I found myself burnt out in 2015 again, I decided it was time to get serious.
This time, it worked.
Within a few months, I landed a $20,000 contract. Since then, I’ve never worked for anyone else but myself.
What was different? I had the skills–not only those relevant to my freelancing business but also client and business management skills, as well as the experience I’d gained working for and observing other start-up businesses. And while the journey might’ve been bumpy, I’m glad I made that first jump.
Had I avoided that leap of faith, I would’ve probably had a much better retirement plan, but I would be far less fulfilled. I most certainly wouldn’t have gotten sober or learned how to build websites. I wouldn’t have spent three years traveling the world or discovered coaching. Instead, I would be stuck in management, hitting the snooze button every morning, dreading my commute and day-to-day tasks at work, and dreaming of the day I would finally build up the courage to go freelance.
If this feels like you right now, I want you to know two things:
- Hang in there. Burnout sucks, and I feel you. But you’re stronger than you think and you can get through this.
- You’re never going to feel ready. The timing is never going to be perfect. If you want to start freelancing, start NOW while you’re motivated.
To help you get started, I’ve outlined the key steps to becoming a successful freelancer in this super long (8,000 words!) article. Hopefully, this will help you avoid the obstacles and challenges I faced the first time I choose to go freelance, and get better results.
If you’d like to get this article and more like it in your inbox, get the freetraining & quarterly newsletter here or get the Secrets of a Six Figure Freelancer ebook here.
If you read this and start implementing the principles and key steps, you will already have the foundation for a successful six-figure freelance business. But first, you need to make “someday” happen today. Take a step forward and set off on your journey!
HOW CAN A FREELANCE BUSINESS HELP YOU GAIN FINANCIAL FREEDOM?
It’s no secret that freelancing has taken over the world. Still, you might doubt whether starting a freelance business would replace your salary… let alone bring you close to the coveted goal of making $10K or $20K a month.
“Is that even possible? Can I actually make more money doing freelance work? Can I achieve financial freedom as a freelancer? Or will I end up doing grunt work day and night to make ends meet?”
If you’re asking yourself those questions, you’re not alone. Doubt is normal, especially if you’ve tried freelancing before, but it never quite worked for you. The reality is, however, that you probably made some mistakes along the way. This article is here to help you correct these and equip you with the tools to make freelancing work for you.
Let’s start with some quick stats: according to [source], the majority of the U.S. workforce will be freelance by 2027. In fact, the freelance workforce is growing three times faster than the traditionally employed workforce. That’s pretty amazing.
The reason for this is that as a freelancer, your earning potential is unlimited. You are no longer tied to a fixed salary or a single client. What’s more, you get to enjoy more creative freedom and greater flexibility, as well as a better work-life balance. And to top it off, you can earn a multi six-figure income working from your home office, the kitchen table, or even the couch.
The Six-Figure Framework: You’re Just 9 Steps Away From Landing Your First Client:
I say this to everyone: getting started as a freelancer is perhaps the simplest way to start a business. Simple, however, doesn’t mean easy and definitely doesn’t mean you’ll get rich overnight.
To start freelancing, you don’t need inventory, complicated corporate structures or a lot of space: all you need is an LLC to protect your assets, a reliable laptop, a strong internet connection, and a service that can be monetized.
The key to making money out of what you do is to look at it as any other business. After working with thousands of small business owners over the years, I created a 9-step framework to help you build a strong foundation for your business and leverage your skills to land high-paying clients.
As proof of concept: I used the same framework to grow my own UX design business to $120k/year in revenue while working part-time from my living room. The same 9-step framework also helped me build a six-figure coaching practice while living as a digital nomad and has helped one of my coaching clients develop a $400K solo business.
If you think “oh, great, I’ll just give this article a quick read and then I should be getting that $1M this month”, stop. The Six-Figure Framework™ is a branding and marketing strategy designed specifically to help freelancers find high-paying clients, but like any other strategy, you need to put in the work to reap the benefits.
This blog is a thorough guideline for aspiring freelancers as well as established freelancers who want to connect with more high-paying clients. Why do I put “high-paying clients” as the pinnacle of my Six-Figure Framework™? Pareto Principle, also known as the 80-20 principle, states that 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort. In the business world, this means that most of your revenues will come from completing a few vital tasks. In simpler words, the bulk of your income as a freelancer will come from 20% of your clients–high-paying clients, that is
If you’re ready to learn how to find and land those clients, keep reading. Caveat: I wanted to make sure you don’t miss out on valuable tips and advice, so this article turned into a bit of a behemoth (almost 8,000 words!) Make sure to bookmark it in case you want to come back and revisit some of the tips in it.
Pillar 1: Master Your Mindset
The freelance industry is booming. In 2020, when the world came to a standstill, demand for digital services skyrocketed. Businesses began outsourcing more and more of their work to freelancers–remote workers who could offer the skills organizations desperately needed from any point around the globe.
If you have a skill that fills a niche in the market, you can turn it into a profitable freelance business. To do that, the first thing you need is a mindset shift.
Your mindset is the single most important thing when you start freelancing. If you fail to realize your worth or undersell the value you offer your clients, they will do the same. Many aspiring and even established freelancers don’t turn low-paying clients away out of fear of losing business. But if you’re not being paid what you’re worth, is that project really worth your time?
The first step to building a successful freelance business is eliminating the fear of losing clients just for charging the amount of money you deserve. Stop thinking like an employee and start treating yourself as an actual business owner.
You MUST master your mind if you want to make money fast. twitter
In fact, 8 out of 10 freelancers struggling to start their freelance business still cling to their employee mindset. Once you’ve shed that off, you’ve already won half the battle.
What do I mean by ‘employee mindset’? Here’s a short, non-exhaustive list of thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors that might stop you from succeeding as a freelancer:
- You sell your service as a commodity instead of a service.
- You’re waiting until the time is “right” or the “right” client arrives.
- You’re trying to be a perfectionist.
- You’re not putting enough (or any) effort into marketing your service.
- You’re spreading yourself too thin by juggling too many different projects rather than focusing on your niche.
You need to invest your time, money, and energy into areas that will boost your business’s growth. Ditch any activity that brings no value to your business.
Now that you’ve identified what’s stopping you from launching a successful freelance business, let’s move on to how to fix the thoughts and behaviors keeping you back.
STEP 1: Envision Your Future & Find Your Why
Before you embark on a journey to build your dream career, you need to have a clear picture of your “WHY”.
In the words of Ted talk speaker and author Simon Sinek, your “WHY” is the foundation pillar of any successful business. It boils down to three core points: what you do, how you do it, and why you do it. Most people focus too much on the “what” and neglect the “why”, but your “why” is what sets your business apart from the competition. Often, it’s the reason why your clients choose your service rather than someone else’s.
If you’ve neglected to understand your WHY, you will find it tough to keep moving when things start to go south. What’s more, people seldom buy from a business whose owner lacks the clarity of why they do what they do.
So, ask yourself WHY you want to start freelancing. In other words, WHAT is your purpose?
For most freelancers, it’s all about quitting the 9-to-5 rat race and finding fulfillment from their work. You might be turning to freelance because you’re dreading getting up on a Monday morning or because you want to enjoy working without worrying about external pressure. See how having a clear vision helps you also get clarity of your goals and where you want to take your business? Once you know what you want, it’s much easier to map your journey to your dream destination.
And, if you want to attract loyal, high-paying clients, you need to give them a reason why you’re a better fit for their needs than your competition. We, people, thrive on connecting with others, and your WHY is critical for building that sense of connection with your clients.
If you can vocalize your WHY to your potential clients, you’re paving the way to your ultimate goal.
Step 2: Kick Out The Old-School Belief
“Promotions and raises are scarce, and managers keep valuable information to themselves.”
“Making a six-figure income is impossible nowadays.”
“I can never be rich as a freelancer. Perhaps I can make ends meet, but I can definitely not earn millions from it.”
Do any of these thoughts hit close to home? If so, you might have what’s referred to as a “scarcity mindset” or scarcity mentality: the idea that resources are scarce and life is a finite pie, so if one person takes a large piece, there’s less left over for everyone else. When it comes to freelancing, a scarcity mindset can lead to the notion that earning millions is impossible and discourage you from setting any large goals for yourself.
The scarcity mindset is quite common. I grew up in a family that was somewhere between poor and middle-class. We rarely went hungry, but we never seemed to have enough either. My father was notoriously stingy with money, while my mother is a spendthrift, and money was one of the driving factors in their divorce. As a result of my upbringing, I adopted a somewhat conflicting attitude towards money. While I earned a great salary, I was also a frivolous spender–after all, why save the money since I’ll never be rich? Because I was stuck in my scarcity mindset, I tended to prioritize short-term goals and happiness (as most people with a scarcity mentality do), which in the end made it impossible for me to pursue any long-term goals.
I’ve since come a long way, effectively banishing the old-school scarcity mindset that held me from reaching my vision of a dream career.
Our beliefs guide our actions, which directly correspond to our results. Twitter
Our inner beliefs play a major role in achieving success. If you believe you have the power to control your actions, you already have all the tools you need to achieve your goals.
Most of us start with a scarcity mindset, but the truly successful freelancers and business owners have focused on replacing that with an abundance mindset. Contrary to the scarcity mindset, the abundance mindset prescribes that there’s enough out there for everyone. And while the scarcity mindset keeps you focused on what you lack, the abundance mindset promotes personal and professional growth by making your goals seem within reach.
People with a scarcity mindset tend to favor traditional employment and focus too much on hard work as opposed to smart work. Their mindset places roadblocks in front of them that make it impossible for them to break through their conditioning and take risks because they’re overfocused on potentially losing money. Those with an abundance mindset, on the other hand, are not scared of branching out, exploring new options, or trying new things. They’re also less likely to micromanage others as they feel more comfortable delegating tasks to other people. In turn, this creates more job opportunities and boosts the economy.
Do you see how a single mindset shift brings tremendous value to society?
While the abundance mindset promotes personal and societal growth, the scarcity mindset stunts both. If you’re curious and want to learn how to unlock your abundance mindset, I can’t recommend ‘Think and Grow Rich’ enough. It goes into more detail about how to foster an abundance mindset and “trick” your brain to shed off the old beliefs.
However, for now, let’s focus on how an abundance mentality helps your freelance business. A scarcity mindset is usually tied to your attitude towards money and a maladaptive sense of perfectionism. Because we are afraid of losing a precious, finite resource such as money, we tend to hold ourselves back and avoid risks. This can easily translate into perfectionism, one of the most common killers of growth.
Many freelancers assume everything has to be on point when they start their business. That they need the perfect website, the perfect portfolio, and they must be perfect at their job–no mistakes allowed–in order to succeed. But while you most certainly need to hone your skills, perfectionism kills potential.
It puts you in the backseat of your own life and diminishes your chance to leverage opportunities.
You don’t need to be perfect to start. You don’t even need to be perfect to succeed. But if you want to be successful, you need to start somewhere. Don’t let a scarcity mindset hinder you from pursuing opportunities, even if you’re not 100% ready–just prepared enough is more than sufficient. Master your life, rather than allowing perfectionism to master you. Take action and make the best use of every opportunity.
Step 3: Create a Plan That Works For You
Now that you’ve figured out your “WHY’ and mastered an abundance mindset, the next step calls for a simple and actionable plan to start your business.
When I say simple, I really mean a SIMPLE plan. You don’t want to be overcomplicating things at the beginning (and complicated plans might additionally feed that devilish perfectionism that will drag you down). If you’re starting a freelance business, you really don’t need a 45-page business. All you need is one that answers the core questions:
- What kind of business do you want to build?
- What’s your vision about your business?
- What’s the first-year revenue target that you want to hit?
- Who’s your ideal buyer persona?
- How are you going to stand out from the competition?
- How do you want to fill the gap in your market and delight your customers with your service?
It’s absolutely fine if you can’t answer every single question about running a freelance business from the beginning. Learning is part of the process. But knowing the answers to those six core questions is key to developing a strong brand for yourself and positioning your freelance business to attract high-paying clients.
And if you’re not sure how to get started with writing your plan or want a bit of inspiration,get my 30-minute business plan template & more templates in the book.
The first pillar of the Six-Figure Framework™ has to do with envisioning your goal. The next step is to master your marketing so you can bring that goal to fruition. Read along to find out how to do that.
Pillar 2: Master Your Marketing
Marketing is one of the fundamentals of every successful business. Without marketing, your product or service, as stellar, life-changing and amazing as it might be, would simply not reach its target audience. If you’re starting as a freelancer, you are the product and you need to market yourself the right way.
80% of the time, when I talk to a freelancer who is not seeing enough exposure or struggling to find high-paying clients, the reason is that they’re not marketing themselves. Every industry has a pool of talented professionals working day and night–and competing for the same high-paying clients and massive deals you want to land. Some of those freelancers are constantly looking for new clients. Others have their DMs flooded with client requests and their schedules are booked months in advance.
What’s the difference? The way they market themselves.
When clients are reaching out to you, it means you’ve created a strong enough presence that makes you and the service you offer a valuable commodity, one that clients compete to hire.
But how do you figure out the right way to market yourself as a freelancer? Fret not. I’ve created a video that outlines the foundations of successful business marketing, helping you develop a strong brand and connect with the right clients. In your business, you should be focusing on three key aspects of marketing:
- Generating Potential Leads & Traffic (Marketing - Lead Generation).
- Qualifying & Capturing Leads (Marketing - Lead Capture)
- Talking to Potential Clients and Converting them to Clients. (Sales)
First, let’s break down the terms ‘lead’ and ‘prospect’. What are they and how do we attract them?
Leads & Prospects
Often used interchangeably, leads and prospects are quite similar, but there’s an important technical distinction made between the two. A prospect is someone who might be interested in your services, for instance, someone who visits your website or fits your ideal buyer persona. A lead, on the other hand, is someone who has expressed specific interest in the service you offer. See the higher level of commitment a lead is already demonstrating? Because they’re explicitly interested in what you offer, they are much more likely to want to work with you over a competitor of yours. But how do you get leads?
(An important thing to note is that, while a lead is a prospective customer who shows interest in your services, a “qualified lead” has also given you explicit permission to contact them.)
To succeed as a digital nomad and freelancer, you need leads. You need to be able to convert prospects into leads and get in touch with the people who want to buy your service.
Warm Leads vs Cold Leads
Not all leads are alike. A “warm lead” knows what you do, is connected to your business or displays high interest in your services or a willingness to buy. “Cold leads”, on the other hand, are people who have never interacted with you and are not aware of your services, but are still interested in the type of service you provide. Naturally, warm leaders are easier to convert than cold leads.
The first step to turning someone from a prospect into a lead is taking their contact details–this is known as “capturing leads”. This part is easy but relies on your ability to network. You need to reach out to people in the same industry and people who are interested in using the services you offer–these are your ideal clients. Interact with them, get their contact information and follow up. Then do it again, because you need to capture as many potential leads as you possibly can.
To get you started, I’ve created a simple freelance funnel that will help you move the lead down to create conversion (aka secure a freelance project). Here’s how lead generation and conversion happens:
- Connect: A prospect visits your website or meets you in person (Lead Generation).
- Compel: They’re compelled and qualified by your message and express direct interest in buying or learning more (Lead Capture).
- Calendar: You invite them to schedule a call or a paid consultation.
- Consult: You diagnose the problem or pain point that brought them to you (Trust Building).
- Convert: You create a proposal that positions you / your business as the solution and they become a client (Sales).
Bonus point 6: if you do a good job and deliver an outstanding service, chances are your client will recommend you and refer other potential leads to you. Word-of-mouth marketing like that is one of the most effective marketing strategies and it requires nothing extra from you–just keep providing the amazing service that brought your client in the first place.
The lead capture and conversion strategy hinges on one important detail–knowing your ideal client avatar. If you’re marketing a set of fancy steak knives to a vegetarian, you probably won’t make a sale, and that’s why knowing your target audience is essential.
Step 4: Understand & Identify Your Dream Client
Knowing your ideal customer is tied to finding the right niche to position your services in. Ideally, you should specialize in a particular part of your industry. From then on, you can narrow down your offer and make it more targeted towards a particular buyer–that is, your ideal customer. You know what they say, “Jack of all trades, master of none”.
Let’s consider a fictional example of Emily, a marketing enthusiast. Emily’s great at a lot of things–from content marketing to PPC (pay per click)--but no matter how hard she tries to capture qualified leads, it simply isn’t working. That’s because Emily’s website where she promotes her services lists examples across every field of marketing. When her ideal customer, an SEO agency owner, lands on her website, they’re looking for an SEO expert but what they’re seeing is someone who offers a little bit of everything. “A little bit of everything must mean they’re not really good at one specific thing”, they might say. And boom, there goes Emily’s chance of landing a high-paying client.
The same is true about landing the type of projects you love. If your passion lies in writing about beauty and fashion but you’re advertising to clients in marketing, real estate, personal finance and whatnot, chances are you’re not going to get a project you’re truly excited about. And after all, getting started as a freelancer is all about doing what you love, right?
To figure out your niche and narrow down your service, consider the following questions:
- Who are your favorite people?
- What are your favorite industries?
- What are your favorite projects?
“When you speak to everyone, you speak to no one.” – Meredith Hill Twitter
Once you have an idea of your niche and target market, it’s time to do some research. Research can help you identify the size of your target market and get a solid idea of the demand for the service you provide.
Is your market growing and is there space for you to join it? If so, congratulations–you’ve successfully visualized your ideal industry. However, this is only the first step of many. You still need to identify the ideal buyer and create an offer that makes them simply beg to work with you.
Remember: clients don’t just buy a service, they invest in the results you provide. What they’re looking for is someone who understands their pain, struggles and goals and offers them a targeted, custom solution.
I, for instance, am a UX designer and consultant. When a client hires me, they’re not only looking for a consultation or a UX design–or rather, that’s not the only thing they’re getting out of working with me. Instead, what they receive is:
- An excellent customer service that ensures they’re content and much more likely to recommend me to other people in their network.
- Low support costs that save them a ton of money.
- The confidence of having a roadmap to build a successful business.
- Freedom from the corporate shackles to enjoy their life as a digital nomad.
Most of the time these “adds-on” the clients receive earn them more revenue, help them scale their business and frees up their precious time so they can allocate it to passion projects or spending time with their loved ones. In short, the service I provide doesn’t just solve a problem–it adds value to the client’s life.
Decide what are the problems you want to solve for your ideal client. Get into their head: what’s plaguing them during the day and stopping them from having a peaceful sleep at night; what are the obstacles that hinder them from achieving their goals; what is their vision of the future?
Make it your ultimate goal to provide an outstanding service tailored to be the solution to your clients’ problems.
Step 5: Create Your Position As a Subject Matter Expert
From a potential client’s perspective, when they choose to buy your service, they’re also choosing to trust you with their money, time, and business. So to turn a lead into a customer, you need to establish trust. As we tend to naturally trust authority figures, one easy way to do that is by positioning yourself as an expert in your field. That’s where your social media comes into play.
Your social media account is a 24/7 client-attracting platform. What you post and share and who you engage with speaks volumes about you as a person, your business, and your approach to a potential client, so mindfully curating your social media is of the essence.
Content marketing has emerged as one of the most effective strategies to establish a rapport with ideal customers and build trust by showcasing your skills and highlighting your expertise. In terms of content, consider the most common problems professionals in your industry–or in the industries of your ideal customers–regularly face, and provide solutions. This immediately telegraphs your knowledge, expertise, and your problem-solving skills to anyone who’s checking your posts. By sharing valuable, informative content that empowers, educates, or inspires your audience you’re also indirectly encouraging them to trust you with their business and their time and money.
The first step is, naturally, to share that content on platforms your target audience frequents. If your ideal customers are in their 50s and above, they’re unlikely to be scrolling through TikTok, right?
Once you’ve identified the best platform for your social media account, it’s time to set up a solid presence. Your business social media account should be professional but also approachable. Start by writing a bio that explains who you are, what you do and why you do it (remember, clients are looking for a connection with the person behind the service).
Work on your tagline. You only have a couple of seconds to impress a chance lead, so make every word count. Here’s an easy exercise to help you nail down your tagline: take a paper and create two sections. Write what you do in one of the sections and the direct benefit of that service on the other side. For instance:
I help …………………… ← your ideal client
With ………………………. ← what you do for them / help them do
So they can ……………. ← The most desirable benefit to the client
Experiment with the format and the wording until you’re happy with the end result, and update your social media profile with your new tagline. Some good examples include:
- From apps to websites, I bring your ideas to life so you can focus on your business (see how the benefit is clearly spelled out for a potential client?)
- I’ll write copy that converts cold traffic to clients and makes my clients ca-ching (specificity and an emphasis on the benefits make this tagline shine, and the choice of wording resonates with the intended audience)
- We run promotions for healthcare practitioners who can’t stand boring marketing (again, a focus on the specificity of the offering, as well as a great example of narrowing your service down to a specific niche)
Make it clear, concise, and compelling. If you need more punchy examples with templates, download my ebook.
Now that you have your message, let’s move on to building your personal brand.
Step 6: Build Your Personal Brand
When I say “a bitten apple” or “swoosh”, what are the first things you think of? Chances are, it’s Apple and Nike. That’s the power of a strong personal brand.
A brand represents what you do, but also how your customers feel about your service. A brand is more than just a business name: it’s connected to the visual representation and the wording used to describe your company. As a freelancer, the service you provide is directly tied to you as a person, which is why personal branding is so essential.
Think about how you want your clients to describe your brand. What do you want people to say about your brand when they don’t think you’re listening? Some questions that can help you narrow down your personal brand include:
- What’s your vibe?
- How do you speak?
- What color reflects your personality?
- What kind of person are you?
- What are you best known for?
These will already give you an idea of your brand voice and what you want to be known for. Spend some more time thinking about the aesthetics of your brand and put together a brand board that includes:
- No more than 3 fonts (ideally consistent with the answers to the above questions)
- 3-6 colors
- 3 images
- (optional) logo or brand elements
Consistency is key when it comes to strong brand identity. Nothing conveys a lack of professionalism and a chaotic mindset more than a social media profile that’s completely different from the business website.
Oh, yes. If you’re serious about starting a freelance business, a website is a MUST. Your clients should be able to find your website when they start typing on Google, even if your website is a simple one-pager with a couple of links to your social media profile. However, if you really want to see results, you need a sales page. Your website acts as a 24/7 salesperson who can inform a lead about your services and the person offering them, and then guide them to the sales page or your contact details if they want more information.
Make sure the branding on your website is consistent with your social media. If your ideal customers prefer bright colors and a casual tone, don’t go with a dark theme and formal wording for your website. You don’t need anything too fancy. Keep it simple with a website that has a section about your services, a section about you, contact details and ideally, a sales section. Make sure the messaging is clear, concise and to the point. You can use Squarespace, Wix, or WordPress to set up your website. They have free options available as well.
Pillar 3: Simplify To Sell
You’ve worked hard to build a strong foundation for your business–great job! Now it’s time to figure out how to price your service.
Remember step 2: change your mindset? This is where your shiny new abundance mindset will come into play. Your mindset determines your future earning potential. If you focus too much on the negative, if you let your fear drive you, or if you undervalue the service you provide, you will be stuck making pennies. So your first job is to shed off the last bits of your scarcity mentality and embrace the abundance mindset (if you haven’t already).
Done? Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of setting the right pricing model.
Step 7: Construct a Pricing Model
As an employee, you were likely paid a fixed monthly salary, or you were paid by the hour. The beauty of being a freelancer is that you get to set up not only how much you’re paid but also decide on the pricing model. Some of the more common approaches are:
- By deliverable
Most freelancers favor charging an hourly rate or by deliverable when they’re starting out. I, however, advise against this approach. Let me explain why.
Charging by the hour or by deliverable limits your earning potential with time. If you’re good at something, it’s likely because you’ve spent a lot of time honing your skills–you’ve invested in yourself as the product. This means you’re likely quicker than someone who’s just starting out as you have the expertise, as well as set processes and workflows in place. Why should you be paid less because you’re working fewer hours?
Paying by the hour goes against the idea that as a freelancer, you bring value. It shouldn’t matter how long it takes you to finish a project (within reasonable boundaries, of course), as long as you put your focus on delivering value to your clients.
You should also consider how your work will impact your client. If you’re writing copy for a business that will generate $1 million revenue, is it fair that you’re only paid $40/hour? Your pricing schedule might change depending on the needs of the client. Think about the value you’re bringing and price your services accordingly.
“But a competitor of mine is charging X. Should I do the same?” I hear this question so often. Many freelancers make the mistake of setting their prices based on what their competition is charging. But that’s another mistake. You don’t know the value your competitor is offering to a client, or the effort or the costs associated with providing the service they do. It’s good to gauge the competition to get an idea of supply and demand, but don’t base your prices on someone else’s math.
So, how should you create your pricing model?
“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” Warren Buffet. Twitter
Ask yourself the following questions:
- How much does the problem I’m solving cost my client?
- How much value am I providing?
For instance, imagine you’re a content marketer and a marketing and advertising agency has hired you to create a content strategy for them. They want to grow their social media channels organically, and you’re just the right person for the job.
First, consider what a good content marketer does. What about a bad one?
- A good marketer understands the company’s needs and their target customer. They make a roadmap that leads the business to the desired outcome. They focus on creating valuable, informational content that attracts the target clients like a magnet, generating more traffic and leads.
- A bad marketer follows a strategy that doesn’t align with the company's needs and goals. They pump out content that doesn’t connect with the audience. They might try a number of strategies but because they fail to consider the business’ goals and their intended audience, none of the strategies bring any results.
By focusing on the hows, whys and whats of the company, the good marketer helps them attract high-ticket clients. As a result, the marketing agency ends up signing 15 major clients at $10k/month ($120k/year).
Thanks to the good marketer–your–efforts and hard work, the agency generates consistently high revenues and scale their business organically. Now imagine you worked 40 hours on that project: does it seem fair to charge less despite bringing hundreds of thousands of dollars to your client’s company?
If you want to avoid this, don’t charge by the hour or by deliverable. Instead, bill by the project and price based on expected results.
Now let’s throw in some psychology in the mix. When you charge a higher rate, you end up making more money. How? Remember the 80-20 rule, where you make 80% of your revenues from 20% of your efforts (or 20% of your clients)? By charging a higher rate, you work on bigger projects, sell more products and services and end up realizing greater profits than if you offer lower prices. It might seem counterintuitive, but this strategy works.
While pricing per project is a great solution, what’s even better is retainer pricing. With retainer pricing, you’re effectively working long-term for the same client or clients. They are probably someone you’ve worked with before or you’ve come heavily recommended by someone they trust.
With retainer pricing, the easiest solution is to set up three separate pricing packages. Because you’re looking at a long-term collaboration, charging by a project might not make much sense, and we’ve already established you shouldn’t be charging by the hour.
I recommend a three-tier system where your middle tier is your actual rate. Your top tier is a little higher, but you add a few extra benefits to the standard package. Your bottom tier, on the other hand, is a little lower (while still ensuring you’re paid fairly for your work) but has fewer benefits than your standard package. Psychology says most people would always go for the middle option–this is known as the “Decoy Effect”.
Another psychological trick is to use discounts. Who doesn’t love a good deal after all? Throw in some added benefits for free or sweeten the deal by taking a few bucks off your standard asking price. You can also upsell services, in the same way product-based businesses do. Savvy freelancers actually take the time to hone their upselling skills rather than focusing on developing their cold pitching or seeking out new prospects, simply because they end up making more money this way.
Want to get some tips on setting your rates and high-converting prices?Download The Book Now
Step 8: Create A System to Drive Qualified Leads
Content is king. You must’ve heard the phrase (or have you been living under a rock)? Businesses are increasingly going all-out when it comes to content creation and marketing and the reason is that it simply works. Content is everywhere around us–funny videos, infographics, informative articles and in-depth exposes, catchy captions, gorgeous photographs… They all have one thing in common: they bring value.
You can bring value by empowering people, educating them, or making them smile. The problem comes when you try to do everything at once. Freelancers often jump head-first into the content creation part of their marketing strategy, trying their hand at blogging, producing social media content, creating Youtube videos, running their own podcast… As a result, because they spread themselves too thin, they end up not generating any visible results.
This is a BIG mistake that I see in most new entrepreneurs (not just freelancers). I made it too when I switched to coaching.
Focusing too much on marketing and promoting your content is not a sustainable way to bring more clients, especially if you’re starting out. It takes a lot of time and leaves you burned out, and the results are rarely worth it.
So what’s a good strategy to generate qualified leads?
Create content. But rather than mindlessly pumping out content across every platform or channel you can think of, create a strategy. Focus on the platforms your ideal clients are likely to be on. Consider what type of content they want to see and start with one, only moving to other forms when you’ve perfected your timing.
Cold emailing is a very popular way of landing clients, but building a business based solely on cold reach out is extremely difficult. That’s why I recommend focusing on warm leads when you’re first starting your freelance business. Leave the cold emailing for later, definitely after you already have a killer system in place. Once you have a content creation and marketing system and a website your marketing efforts will take your prospects to, you can start turning your cold leads into warm leads.
Along with focusing on your warm leads, the first thing you want to perfect as part of your lead capturing strategy is your pitch. I know, pitch is a scary word and I feel you. But knowing how to pitch your service is essential for building a successful freelance business. And the good news is that, with dedication and practice, it gets easier.
When working on your pitch, consider the contents and the timing. You won’t propose to someone on a first date, would you? The same holds true for a business relationship. If you approach someone too aggressively, chances are you’ll push them away. Find the prospect’s pain points first and offer a tailored, targeted solution via your pitch. Take the time to nurture the relationship and only when this is established, pitch your services in a subtle manner.
Imagine you’re in a room filled with professionals from various industries. As you’re chatting with someone, they mention they’re dealing with XYZ problem at work. It’s really hitting their pockets hard and frustration is building. Seize the opportunity to ask them “So, you’re looking to hire someone for this, right?” That’s your opportunity to pitch your service. Mention what you do and how you helped a client in the past with a similar problem. Be specific about the results they received.
Sounds easy, right?
In order for this to work, you need two things:
- A clear idea of who your ideal client is and an offer they can’t refuse
- Knowing exactly where you can find them so you can connect
Once again, we go back to the importance of knowing your ideal client. The best lead generation strategy identifies who your dream client is, along with the places you’re likely to meet them, both offline and online.
In-Person Lead-Generation Examples
The goal here is to meet your ideal client offline, so what you can do is:
- Attend networking events or business lunches
- Volunteer for local events, charities, or related groups
- Join meetup groups
- Put on a workshop
- Attend tradeshows and conferences
- Take on speaking engagements
Online Lead-Generation Examples
The goal here is to drive traffic to your website. Once there, your copy will start a “conversation” with your ideal client and capture their contact information (with a sign-up form and an incentive). Some good online lead generation strategies are:
- Content marketing
- Funnel Hacking
- Facebook pages, groups, LinkedIn Groups, quota, forums, etc
- Advertising, SMM
- SEO / Inbound Linking
When I moved to Savannah from Portland, I made a list of all the local tech and startup-related organizations, and I researched when and where they had their monthly meetings. I went to one each week until I found an organization I liked, and offered to volunteer with them. This created an opportunity for me to learn their pain points and offer them a solution in the face of my services. As a result, I generated more than $30,000 in business that year, all while in a new city.
I also did a fair amount of networking over LinkedIn. I added all relevant keywords my ideal client might be searching for to my profile, included a clear call to action, and started connecting with people in my target market. I always recommend starting with ONE in-person and ONE online marketing strategy and mastering it before moving on to others. One-on-one and direct promotion are going to be your fastest and most reliable ways to generate business.
When it comes to your online lead generation strategy, make sure you’re consistent, both in terms of the type of content you post and the timing. One of the biggest mistakes I see freelancers make is lose their patience when they don’t see immediate results. Content marketing–and lead generation in general–take time.
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Step 9: Send A Proposal And Land Your Dream Client
Bravo! You’ve made it to the last step. Remember what I told you in the beginning? You’re just 9 steps away from landing your dream client.
You might have a stunning website, an amazing portfolio, you might’ve perfected your pitch and content strategy, you might have your pricing models on point, but until you have a client, you’re not a business. The minute you land that first client, the minute you sign that first deal, you’re officially in business.
So how do you get that first client? Call on your network–let them know you’ve started a freelance business and ask them to recommend you to anyone they know who might be looking for your services.
It’s scary, I know, but trust me, you need this step in order to launch your business. Word-of-mouth marketing is extremely powerful, and a recommendation for a service by someone you trust goes a long way. Start reaching out to your friends, family, or acquaintances in your industry. They are your warm leads.
Some ideas to get you started:
- Send emails to your friends and family and let them know about your new freelance business
- Send messages on social media to your existing connections
- Reach out to past / existing clients
- Call a friend and casually ask, “Who do you know that might [need X]?”
- Follow up with existing leads that have been sitting in your contacts list for years, unanswered and unnurtured (or is that just me?)
- Share the exciting news on your existing networks
Follow this simple strategy to get the conversation where you want it to go:
- Start a conversation
- Invite them to work with you
- Ask for recommendations
- Ask if they have any work they want to delegate
- Land clients
Start with making a list of 100 people you want to reach out to. Ask them for a reference or for the contact details of anyone in their network who might be interested in your service. Invite them to work with you.
Pick the 5 best candidates from that list: they would either be the people most excited to work with you, or the ones who know people you’d like to work with.
Stay in touch with them.
Remember: never go straight into selling mode. Build a relationship first, show them that you care about their problem. Bring value to the table. Only then can you offer a solution that gives them quick results.
Ideally, you should start working on this even before you launch your business. This way, when you’re officially “open”, you will already have some warm leads in the pipeline.
Ready to take your freelance business to six figures?
Congratulations, you’ve covered the foundations of starting a successful freelance business. Now you know how to find out who your ideal client is, how to create a mindset that helps you grow your business and how to communicate your value, market your services and reach more clients.
It’s time to scale your business and put the marketing and networking theory into practice. During the first 3 to 6 months, you will spend about 80% of your time on marketing, lead generation and other revenue-generating activities. This is one of the most critical stages of a freelance business–without it, your business will simply fizzle out. Devote the other 20% of your time to build and strengthen your brand.
A word of advice: you might feel insecure or experience Imposter Syndrome. That’s entirely normal. Remind yourself of the value you provide to your clients, and persist. That’s really the only way to move forward. Don’t get tempted to spend a lot of time or money on perfecting things that won’t generate revenue, like an expensive website. Instead, focus on the work that is actually going to bring you more clients.
You don’t need expensive tools or software; in my case, LinkedIn has worked wonders to get me in touch with potential leads.In fact, I landed a $90,000 job and a $60,000 client from LI, both of which found me via the keywords I added to my profile. They also immediately booked a sales call which helped me sign them faster, because I made it easy for them to do so (I teach my clients how to do this inside Six Figure Freelancers).
Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get results overnight. Freelancing is a long-term game and these always take time. In this case, it’s the patient bird that gets the worm. Make sure you follow the nine steps outlined in this article and work daily to get your business closer to where you want it to be. Consistency is the key when building your freelance business.
More resources to start your freelance business.
I’m helping freelance business owners across the globe gain financial freedom, scale their business, and end DIYing their career roadmap. This article has given you a solid foundation for creating a business plan and strategies to kickstart your freelance business, but if you’re interested in learning more, make sure you get my ebook “Secrets of a Six-Figure Freelancer”. In it, you’ll find templates and in-depth exercises to create your brand, tips on how to manage your time, and step-by-step guidelines on how to land high-ticket clients.
When I first started as a freelancer, I made a ton of mistakes that cost me a lot of opportunities. It wasn’t until I connected with a coach who directed me to the right path that I started earning what I was worth. I’ve gathered all the lessons I learned during my journey in the “Secrets of a Six-Figure Freelancer ebook” to help you achieve your goals faster and hopefully, by avoiding the same mistakes I did.
By purchasing my ebook, you will also get access to my free training videos, as well as special offers on upcoming coaching and training programs.
If you’d rather receive personalized advice, learn more about my coaching programs here.
Now, get to it and go start your freelance business. You’ve got this!
If you found this article helpful, don’t forget to give it some love and share it so your fellow freelancers can also leverage the advice.
And feel free to ping me–@kbagoy on Twitter–with any questions or suggestions.