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The ultimate guide: How to become a successful freelancer

written by

Divya Sundaraju

Zoho CRM Freelancer at SoftwareSupport

Freelancing is a great opportunity if you want to have a flexible schedule, freedom to work from anywhere and liberty to decide what projects you want to take. As much appealing it sounds, there are few things you need to know in order to become a successful freelancer. Our ultimate guide will be very valuable for beginners in terms of finding some useful tips and hacks.

How to start freelancing: 6 tips for beginners

It’s never easy to be a beginner, but everyone has to start somewhere. Every successful professional in the world started where you are now. You do, however, have the benefit of a ready-made, ultimate guide on how to start freelancing and precise steps to follow.

1. Start with part-time freelance jobs

It's hardly news that the most difficult aspect of freelancing is getting started. You most likely want to quit your normal work and become independent immediately, but still have an income. It's not as simple as it seems, because the work of a freelancer is heavily dependent on your personal brand and relationships you built. All of this takes time, so the best thing you can do at the beginning is to have some part-time freelance jobs and small side projects. It will allow you to establish yourself as an independent specialist while yet maintaining a cash flow.

2. Define your assets and sell them

You need to understand your most valuable assets as a freelancer and how much you will charge for your work. You sell the clients your time, knowledge and experience. Without a doubt, your hard skills are essential here, but don’t forget that customers are individuals as well. The way you approach them is also important. As a freelancer, you have to be an excellent communicator and seller. If you’re not sure what your strengths are or how to develop them, you can utilize an online tool – CliftonStrenghts Assessment – often known as the Gallup Test. It might help you to determine how to improve your career depending on soft talents you have.

The time is valuable. You know things clients don’t know, and that’s what you charge them for. – Carla Rodriguez, HubSpot & Pipedrive CRM partner

3. Use connections you have

Do a little research to see if someone in your circle needs assistance. Find a person who knows you and reach out to them. Also, don’t be afraid of posting on LinkedIn. It’s often undervalued, yet it may turn out to be an excellent approach to find a work opportunity. Even if people from your network are not seeking for a freelancer, they might share it further. Because of the power of networking, about 85% of job offers aren’t even listed. Take your chance and put yourself one step ahead. You can also use 3 tips from our certified experts to find out more how to find a freelance work and get more clients.

4. Specialize in a certain area

By doing everything at once, you will probably never become an expert. In order to achieve that, first you need to focus on one area of specialization and then move to another one. Also, when customers look for a professional, they usually search for someone to fix a particular problem. That should be a hint for you to concentrate on a narrow expertise.

Start with platforms (or software) you like and feel comfortable with. I spent a lot of time specializing in many platforms, and I lost a lot of time on that. For example, you show on your LinkedIn profile that you are an expert on Pipedrive and Asana. So, that is what you’re going to sell and focus on that. – Carla Rodriguez, HubSpot & Pipedrive CRM partner

5. Develop your skills

Once you’re in the game, it doesn’t mean you have to win every competition. Technology is developing, software is evolving, and customer demands are changing on a daily basis. You need to be up-to-date and constantly improve your skills. There’s always something new to learn, and the more you know, the more issues you can solve for your clients. Join communities, attend business events, take courses, read news on industry trends, and most importantly – listen to your customers.

There’s always learning. There is a constant learning process we have to go through to understand new functionalities and stay updated. I join a lot of conferences because I want to understand market gaps and what I have to learn. – Divya Sundaraju, Zoho CRM Admin

6. Build your personal brand online

Update all professional profiles and publish your experience over there. Customers always want to see projects you delivered first.

Websites and platform where you can share your experience:

  • LinkedIn
  • GitHub
  • Behance
  • Stack Overflow
  • your portfolio website

SoftwareSupp also gives the opportunity to build a personal brand and showcase your best projects. If you are a registered network member, you get this extra space online, where you can promote your freelancing services.

Publish your experience on expert communities and platforms like SoftwareSupp. Join the affiliates partnerships and start from there. – Carla Rodriguez, HubSpot & Pipedrive CRM partner

Treat the online space like it was your portfolio when applying for a job. The way you introduce your work says a lot about you as a freelancer. So put a lot of thought and attention into how you demonstrate and describe it.

6. Find a perfect network

Searching for a job can be frustrating for freelancers and clients. Every day and every hour, there are hundreds of offers published online. Using many communities and platforms to promote your services may increase your exposure, but it will certainly consume a lot of time. In fact, the time is what you sell, so focus more on quality not a quantity. Choose one or two platforms where you feel the most comfortable and begin there.

If you are a beginner freelancer, but you are a professional in your field, you might be interested in joining SoftwareSupp. We are an elite network of freelancers delivering top-quality services. You can register, get certified and have access to work opportunities from all around the world.

Effective communication: 3 rules how to talk to freelance clients

The golden rule of a successful deal is a communication. If you don’t set up the goal clear, you might end up with the project your client doesn’t want, and you just spent a few days working on it. To avoid it and save your valuable time, follow these 5 tips from experienced freelancers. Make it a work habit and get benefits from the effective communication between you and clients.

1. Invest your time to build trust

There is a lot of pre-sales job that you need to do. You need to invest your time, because after the first call you probably won’t get a project. Maybe after two or three meetings, you receive an actual offer. – Carla Rodriguez, HubSpot & Pipedrive CRM partner

Compare your freelancing services to those in another industry. When you walk into a luxurious store, they ask you many questions to find the finest product for your needs. You probably remember at least one situation, when the cashier was very attentive, suggesting different solutions and after that you didn’t want to go anywhere else. Try to apply this idea onto your services and build trust with customers.

The scope is really important, but most of the time I work on requirements gathering. I write down the scope and give it to clients because they really don’t want to invest their time in preparing it. – Divya Sundaraju, Zoho CRM Admin

2. Talk in details

Make sure your clients understand everything you’re going to do. Explaining might take more time at the beginning of the project, but you will save it later. Talk in details about what they struggle with to understand what they really need. Establish goals and describe what exactly you’re going to do and why.

Sometimes I have to explain things to customers in the most detailed way possible to make sure they understand what’s the scope of the work and that I’m not going to do anything extra beyond that. Otherwise, the project might keep on extending. – Divya Sundaraju, Zoho CRM Admin

Also, estimate the time of the whole project and each particular task. By doing so, you avoid a situation in which your client might leave unhappy or unwilling to pay once the job is done.

We give the customers terms and conditions, because in general freelancers don’t have any regulations. Clients assume we will do everything they ask for, but that's not the case. There have to be clearly defined terms of what we’re going to work on. – Divya Sundaraju, Zoho CRM Admin

3. Create a detailed scope of the project

You need to scope the job you’re going to do very well. Sometimes the person that contacts you, isn’t ready for that, so in that case write down everything about the project or define the goal. – Carla Rodriguez, HubSpot & Pipedrive CRM partner

The scope of the project is more than just an outline of main goals or tasks. Consider it a contract you’d sign with the customer. A detailed scope saves you time and avoids situations when the client expects you to do something you didn’t talk about before. Moreover, it shows the customer that you are the professional who knows what is doing. Remember that clients are not experts, and they don’t need to be – that’s why they hire you.

If the scope is not there, it’s very difficult to get the job done, because when you’re halfway done the client might come and change things. It’s better to establish what is going to be done at the beginning because it’s much easier later. – Divya Sundaraju, Zoho CRM Admin

How to find more freelance clients

You might wonder where to find your new freelance clients and how to contact potential customers to make a good impression. Even as a more experienced professional, who already made some contacts, probably the worst thing to do is to stop looking for opportunities to grow. There are cases when cross-selling or up-selling are not going to work for you, and that’s why you need to think how to successfully develop your customer base.

1. Use your network and get a recommendation

They say go big or go home. However, in this case, before you go big – start with people you already know. For example, friends you made in college, former employers or colleagues from your past jobs. You never know, maybe they are looking for someone to hire, or they know someone else that offers a freelance work. Also, don’t be afraid of asking. Some clients don’t even realize there is a way to improve their work. Be one step ahead and come up with an idea how to help them grow their business.

“First find a person who knows you and try to do the first implementation, build trust and the sale is going to come.” – Carla Rodriguez, Hubspot & Pipedrive CRM partner

2. Build relationships

Go slowly but surely. Don’t forget to be persistent and patient. It takes time to grow a freelance clients base and build trust. In the end, it’s all about relationships. Happy clients will come back and probably recommend you to other people.

“Some people say freelancing is awesome – it is. But it’s also difficult because you need to keep on finding your clients all the time. Sometimes you are very busy delivering, and you’re not haunting or talking to new clients. There’s a point you struggle because you don’t see a cashflow.” – Carla Rodriguez, Hubspot & Pipedrive CRM partner
“It took about 8 months for me to build a client base and work from there. Right now, it’s been almost a year and a half and I have a set of clients that I regularly work with.” – Divya Sundaraju, Zoho CRM Admin

3. Use platforms and expert communities

If you want to get more freelance clients, go where you can find other freelancers and experts. Engage, share your experience and knowledge, show your projects and ask for opinions. There are platforms like SoftwareSupp that can connect you with a customer or expert communities, for example on Facebook, where you can also find clients looking for an answer for their problem.

“SoftwareSupp has been very helpful with finding clients. I’m not doing marketing by myself, and I’m actually not spending time on finding projects, but still there are projects coming.” – Divya Sundaraju, Zoho CRM Admin
“The most difficult part is to start the freelance with a client. Platforms like SoftwareSupp allow new people to start. They don’t have to quit their job, they can have a fixed amount of money and new projects on the side.” – Carla Rodriguez, Hubspot & Pipedrive CRM partner

Clients’ point of view  – customer’s pain points you should know about

To find freelance work opportunities and get more clients, try to put yourself in their position. If you know better what customers are looking for and what are market gaps, it will be easier for you to outstand from other freelancers.

Where to find skilled, reliable expert freelancers for my bsiness?
Customers’ pain points found on Reddit

Clients very often don’t have enough time to look for freelancers in various places. They are busy with developing their business, and they want to hire experts on-demand for short-term projects as fast as possible.

Quality freelancers are very rare and usually booked long in advance.

Sometimes when customers look for professionals to hire, they are sent away because of the long waiting time. That’s why they often go for platforms and websites that offer a freelancers’ base full of experts ready to start working. For example, SoftwareSupp allows a client to publish the project and wait until the best, most matching, certified freelancer is assigned to it.

Where to find good software engineers?

Let’s be honest, who’s not scared with trusting people met online, especially when money is involved. Seeing that customers are careful when choosing a freelancer to work with, use platforms that allow to verify your identity. Also, make sure that all your professional profiles, for example LinkedIn account, are transparent, easy to view, and they demonstrate your skills.

How to increase productivity as a freelancer

When you’re a full-time freelancer with regular customers, it’s time to think how to boost your efficiency, work smarter and better. Below you will find 3 hacks from experienced CRM freelancers on how to improve your work and stay motivated.

1. Hire another freelancer

You may be wondering why you should hire and pay another freelancer, but the answer is actually rather simple. Hiring an assistant, accountant, lawyer or other professional can help you save time and keep clients loyal. There are cases when the customer may ask you to do something you don’t feel specialized enough in, yet it’s still worth to invest in hiring someone else than deny the client.

Sometimes I hire other freelancers that I know, or I go to some platforms to find them. If my client wants something I don’t know how to do, I don’t want to lose them, so I hire another freelancer to work with me. – Carla Rodriguez, HubSpot & Pipedrive CRM partner
You need a project management view. That’s why I hired a Project Management Freelancer to work with me. You need to be organized because sometimes clients don’t have a knowledge, they ask questions on the way you’re doing the project and that’s when you lose the time and money. – Carla Rodriguez, HubSpot & Pipedrive CRM partner

2. Keep a work-life balance

When you are self-employed, it’s extremely difficult to set limits and respect them. As a freelancer, you work for your own success, but remember that maintaining a good work-life balance makes you more effective and motivated to do your job well. Spending most of your time at work can lead to frustration, burnout, and even health problems. To avoid this, pursue your interests, spend time with your loved ones, take care of your condition and don’t forget to go offline from time to time.

Every 25 minutes I take a break and then go back to work. I don’t work on weekends. That’s a strict no-no. If I had to work on the weekend, that would only be for the customer that is not available to meet during the week. – Divya Sundaraju, Zoho CRM Admin

3. Take breaks

You might not believe, but actually breaks increase your productivity and professionals know about it very well. Usually, it’s recommended to take a break every 60 minutes, but you need to figure out what suits you best. Sometimes when you feel the flow you can work for a few hours straight, but otherwise don’t forget to move a little, go on the fresh air or take a nap if you need it. As a freelancer, you don’t have core hours, but you certainly need to set some rules.

Once I finish a call, I always take at least a 15-minute break for myself and those who are around me. I make sure I have enough time for lunch breaks with family. That’s what I’m very particular about. – Divya Sundaraju, Zoho CRM Admin

4. Don’t waste your time and use reliable platforms

There are many websites with job offers and platforms that connect freelancers with customers. It’s usually very time-consuming to actually find a project and start working on it. First you need to browse through hundreds of work opportunities, send offers to clients, wait for the reply and then proceed with next steps that will eventually lead to get hired.

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SoftwareSupp saves your time and energy by matching your expert profile with the project and customer that is looking exactly for a person like you.

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written by

Divya Sundaraju

Zoho CRM Freelancer at SoftwareSupport

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