5 Things I wish I knew before I started Freelancing

Preparation is key

5 min

July 17, 2023

Blauw Films

The Gleaners by Jean-François Millet (1857)

First a Personal Note

My first encounter with freelancing was when I was 9 years old.
I designed a Christmas card on the computer and got paid 5.00 EUR for it!

After that I have freelanced throughout high-school by providing graphic design, visual effects and odd job “creative” services.

Freelancing has opened many doors for my personal career and was essential for the initial growth of Blauw Films.

However, I have my personal gripes with freelancing :)

Here are 5 things I wish I knew before I started Freelancing

Hopefully they provide some insights that help you out!

1. Find your ideal client

It’s important to always ask yourself if the clients you are working with are the right ones. Even if you have few leads and don’t feel like you are in the position to change clients, it’s good to know what you’re looking for.

For me, I asked myself:

  • Do I want to build more expertise in this niche?
  • Am I learning as much as I want from my current projects?
  • Is the reward relative to the value I’m providing?
  • Do I enjoy the relationship between me and the client?

I usually keep a notebook in which I’ve answered these questions many times before. Every time the answers are slightly different.
And as time goes on you’ll gain the clarity you need to make your decision.

But what about actually finding the ideal client?

• Be clear about your value proposition

• Define and explore your niche

• Provide the value your clients deserve

• Keep networking, networking and networking

• Optimise your strategy by making small adjustments

• Repeat until it works (don’t give up, it takes time)

2. Automated Content-strategy

Hey! I thought this was about freelancing?
Why should I care about content strategy?

It’s about reach. And it’s a numbers game.

As you grow your freelancing career, you’ll gain more analytics on your clients. But it’s important to wonder who your ideal clients are, and try to reach them directly.

Ok, time for some simple math.

Let’s say you have a Click-through-Rate of 5% on your marketing strategy.
And let’s say on average, 1.5% of your viewers is interested in your services and reaches out.

With 100.000 unique viewers on your marketing you’re looking at:
500 visitors on your landing page, and 7–8 people reaching out.

Having 100.000 unique viewers is a lot. That will stay true for a while.

And that’s a good reason to dedicate some of time in your week to building a content-strategy. Learn about your target market and your communication towards them.
Then start by automating your socials through, for example, Buffer.

Don’t let social media take away too much of your time needed to improve your skills, network and personal development.

Consistency of posting and marketing is essential to growing your reach.
And within that expanded reach, there is a high probability you’ll find your ideal client.

3. Learn a new language

Opportunities are plenty in the world. Especially if you can expand to international markets. This makes learning a new language a powerful hack for freelancers.

Sometimes —

  • The niche you work in is more established in a different country.
  • The market leaders and thought leaders of your niche speak a different language.
  • Your primary audience is outside of your country.

Learning a language is a long-term objective that has invaluable returns.

Personally I speak Dutch, English, German and Portuguese.

English brings me the most value for simple communication.
However, being able to speak in someone’s native language at an event or a festival is one of the most effective methods for breaking the ice.

Many projects and collaborations I’ve done, have been established from down to earth communication. Not selling or cold-calling.

Simply talking to someone and getting to know them.
You never know what tailored value you can offer a client, until you know their needs and wants.

If you happen to speak their language, the cards are in your favour.

4. Elaborate to yourself what your objectives are

What do I want in my life?

Think of this as personal grooming.
Be sure to do it every once in a while. It is often that you have unconsciously driven away from the path you intended.

This is often not a problem. It’s how most people’s lives go.
But checking in on yourself is the necessary reflection to align your goals.

Think about the bigger picture.

  • Where do you want to be in your career?
  • Is freelancing going to take you there?
  • Are the jobs you’re currently doing bringing you closer to your objective?
  • Is your network providing mutual value that aligns with your goals?

These are some simple examples of questions to ask yourself.

It’s good to elaborate to yourself what your objectives are.
Repetition brings clarity, and clarity brings focus.

I’d like to end with a simple quote that puts this all together.

“Ocean views, small circle it’s the chosen few.
I wrote it down and I followed through” — Nipsey Hussle

5. Never underestimate Word-of-Mouth marketing

Depending on the field you’re Freelancing in, your lead funnels might look very different. For me as a Visual Effects artist and Filmmaker, we would get most leads through social media or our website.

However, as we built expertise and trust from our customers, word-of-mouth became our primary source of quality work.
I don’t mean to say other work wasn’t of quality of course :)

But it is often that the jobs you do in the beginning of your Freelance journey, haven’t been curated to what’s mutually beneficial for both parties involved. They might not be in the niche you want to evolve in, or they might not have the budgets you are comfortable working with.

Projects that come in through word-of-mouth have a certain level of trust embedded in the negotiation. At this point you have more leverage in your negotiation. And both parties can be more open and direct about their needs.

Aim to build trust and a solid reputation in your field.

Patience is essential to this process.

Patience…

Once you’ve established yourself as someone who delivers expert quality on time, you’ll organically enter a curated customer-base.

Negotiating however is a big topic on its own.
But I’ll definitely write a guide on that too.

These are the 5 things that come to mind when thinking about Freelancing.

These are not the fundamentals (calculating your rate, contracts, expertise, confidence, etc.) but less talked about skills that have helped me personally.

Good luck with your career as a Freelancer! I would love to hear your thoughts and what has helped you in your career.

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