I am fascinated by the way the freelance economy works. Particularly the way that we independents pool resources to compete with the big boys. Partly powered by technology, we are linking up and sharing in many different ways and it’s beginning to look like the way we’ll all work in the future.
Of course you are proud of your independence. I am not advocating that you ditch your solo status. But even independents and freelancers need to woo new customers and clients with a great first impression.
You may have a great product or service, but to be taken seriously, clients need to believe that you’re as good as the established companies, possibly even better. Regardless of how, where and why you work the way you do, you’ll need to position your offer in a way that inspires confidence. I’ve learnt the hard way that your independent status should be of no relevance to your prospective clients.
There are loads of ways that you can do this, but here are some of the tips I’ve learnt. And they are very affordable too.
1. You, online
You simply must have a website. There’s no excuse not to these days, with plenty of website-in-a-box solutions that are free or very cheap and easy to implement. I use WordPress.org for KindredHQ.com, which allows for some customization, but WordPress.com, SquareSpace, Moonfruit and even GoDaddy are just a few of the other platforms that you can use.
Design your site thinking about the type of client that you want to attract, rather than what you like or as a vehicle to show off your ego. Your website will work like a resume/CV/profile – you only have a few minutes to grab attention and for people to find what they need. Try to be different to your competitors too. Use different language and invest in some good stock photography that isn’t all cliché.
If you need help, use another freelancer to do some extra coding for you. If you get together a good brief and are clear about what you want, it needn’t cost the earth.
Choosing the right web domain (URL) is really important. Your main URL should be no more than 10 characters in length, and avoid dashes if you can. Also, use a URL with a .com extension alongside your country extension. So we are KindredHQ.com but we also own kindredHQ.co.uk. Don’t be tempted to use .tv or .net. It’s rare that the big companies use extensions like these.
2. Your office headquarters
At KindredHQ, we believe that your office should be wherever you are that day, although even the most experienced of freelancers will say that having a regular address that sounds ‘company-like’ is very important.
Most coworking spaces and virtual office companies offer a mailing address and that you can use for a small fee. In addition, you can opt for mail receiving and forwarding services, receptionists and even occasional meeting space.
3. Telephones and conference calling
One of the beauties of working for yourself is that you can conduct most of your business on your mobile or cellphone, anywhere that you are.
Consider using a virtual assistant to answer your calls when you can’t, which will give the illusion of a reception desk. There are VA services that act like Digital Receptionists, using dedicated, direct dial numbers and IVR technology. Very professional.
4. Virtual assistants
No matter how efficient you are, there are only so many hours in the day.
One of the best investments that we have made is hiring a virtual business assistant who is always ready to work, but only when we need them? They even provide secretarial services from their own home or office, using their own equipment.. A VA frees up your valuable time so you can concentrate on the important things that only you can do in your business.
Just think how much more efficient and professional you will look with someone else looking after the admin, chasing emails, following up with prospects and meetings etc.
5. Your calling card
No, LinkedIn hasn’t rendered the business card obsolete yet. If you only invest in one thing, make it your logo and brand identity. Do not, repeat not, use a tacky theme that you can download from the web. Think of all those smashing freelance graphic designers out there who can help!
Avoid using white, standard size business cards. Choose a thicker card stock with a high quality finish, like these from Moo.com. Customers want to do business with companies that demonstrate their ability to provide high quality services, and a creative business card will send them that message.
6. LinkedIn and your social media profiles
Talking of LinkedIn. Even for the naysayers out there, LinkedIn has become a necessary evil. Don’t assume that the minimal profile is any use either. You do need a professional profile on which you’ve spent as much energy as you resume/CV.
Some will say that the LinkedIn recommendations aren’t worth anything either, but client testimonials are a good thing to have in your back pocket anyhow.
Always refer to yourself as part of a company or collective on social media, and keep your personal opinions and rants to your personal accounts. Actually, try not to rant too much…
7. Associate yourself
Become identified with other, respected freelancers. It’s a great way to gain credibility when you are new to freelancing. Actively seek projects where you can work together in a complementary way. It also allows you to brand yourself (even if it is for a short while) as an Associate or partnership.
8. Develop your thought leadership
Just getting out there and speaking about the subjects that you are passionate about will give you an air of authority and greatness. Re-use talks and presentations on your website so that it’s clear that you are prolific in developing content that is useful for people.
Now don’t get me wrong. There is nothing, repeat nothing, wrong with being a one-person-band and deciding how you want your work to work. I’m just suggesting that the rest of the world hasn’t quite caught up with the wonderfulness of freelance freedom yet and that’s when the art of illusion becomes important.
Good luck with the new business-getting everyone. What do you do to look bigger?