freelance

4 simple ways to get clients

It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting to freelance on the side, you’ve moved your business into the full-time spectrum or you’ve been a business owner for a few years. As entrepreneurs, it’s smart to always be open to new client-getting activities. It’s ideal to get to the point where you can be booked out months in advance and even the simplest of strategies can help.

1. Tell family and friends (who will tell their friends…)

Word of mouth referrals are the best. I’ve had them from the time that I started freelancing and now, as a full-time business owner, I still do work for some of those original referrals. Referrals lead to more referrals. As soon as you get connected to someone and do a great job, they will hire you for more work OR at least tell others about you. It’s a sweet cycle — as one of my former bosses used to say, “good work begets more good work.” To break it down even more, you can just send short and sweet emails to let people know what you’re up to and what work you’re available for. Ask that if they wouldn’t mind, to please forward your info onto someone who might need it. You will be surprised at the positive responses! And, you’re not losing out on anything by taking 5 minutes to write and send an email. You never know whose inbox it might get forwarded to!

2. Check Craigslist, local job boards, LinkedIn + setup profiles on freelance sites

You never know what opportunity can lead to the next. I once got a job through LinkedIn because I had a profile setup and it fit the description of what a local agency was looking for at the time. That original email led to a phone call, which led to an in-person interview. The rest is history. As crazy as it sounds, I’ve even searched Craigslist for design postings, as long as they seemed legit. If you’re a member of a local chapter of a national organization that pertains to your career field/area of expertise, you should be able to have access to a job board where they will often host listings (and not just for full-time opportunities, but also remote/contract ones.) Other freelance sites like Upwork are great ways to connect with companies needing your services. 

3. Make it easy for people to find you  

Have a nice and visually pleasing website that is easy to navigate — and social media platforms in place. Show up consistently and grow a following. Have a blog setup on your site and post regularly. You will eventually form a community that visits your site and reads your blog frequently — and who also follows you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Have your email address or a contact form readily accessible for inquiries. Interested parties should be able to quickly find you, if they need you.   

4. Engage in Facebook groups

This wasn’t something that I did even two years ago, but now, it’s all the rage. It’s free, easy and should only take a few minutes of your time each day. You will make connections, build relationships, offer free help and collaborate with others. Someone will need your services and in time, they’ll already know, like and trust you enough to hire you. Request to join private groups that pertain to your field — whether that’s female entrepreneurs in general, health and wellness coaches, Etsy shop owners, jewelry makers, web designers, online business strategists, etc. And, don’t be “sales-y.” Get in the groups, participate, be of service and offer genuine value. Connect with people who can benefit from what you offer, as well as those who can be of service to you. Build others up! Spend a few minutes each day doing this — not a large amount of time. (You have other things to do, of course.) And again, you never know who you will meet! 


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
I got a question for ya. How is your branding looking? Do you have a logo, website and more that you absolutely love…or…not so much? If you’re not a design professional, branding might be something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, so let someone else take over! Sign-up below to receive the link to download my new and free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz — and if you can DIY some of it or if you should hire that professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more!

3 things that I wish I knew as a young freelancer

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This time in my career eight years ago, I had been a college grad for almost a year. I was a fresh-faced 22-year-old, working as a contract designer for the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (the parent company of Nationwide Insurance) where I had spent the previous summer as in intern. I had also just completed a separate design internship with the Columbus Blue Jackets, an NHL team, located in downtown Columbus, just around the corner from OFBF.

And, while I was working both of the above jobs, I was spending my late nights freelancing — trying my hand at building a list of clients who would pay me to do design work for them. I took any and every single project that came my way. I was eager to grow, willing to design anything and building up my savings account. Not bad for 22 — and today, I am really proud of myself for working that hard back then. While I have no regrets and learned so much about myself and the kind of work that I wanted to do and become known for, I also learned how not to do a few things. I’ve outlined these below — leave a comment at the end of this post and let me know which ones you can relate to! 

1. Don’t work SO much for free.

Work for free if you feel strongly about the cause or project, or if you’ll get good exposure and overall experience. And, if you can afford to. Hopefully you already have a full-time job or internship that pays and you do not have to scrimp and save literally every penny to pay your rent that month. But, don’t work for free EVERY single time. Maybe you’re trading your services for another hopeful entrepreneur’s services and helping each other. That can be fine. However, there are people who will try to take advantage of you being fresh out of college, young and “looking for experience.” You don’t have to charge high premium prices until later down the road, but definitely charge something to make it worth your time. After all, you are educated or trained in some way and you’ve invested in yourself and your budding business. Don’t let people walk all over you. I once traded business card design work for pizza gift cards. And, while the client was perfectly lovely and enjoyable to work for, I would probably tell my 22-year-old self to not do that again.  

2. The work will be there tomorrow.

There are only so many hours in the day. You can’t be everywhere and everything to everyone. I would often work my 9-5 design job, come home and take care of my horses or spend some time with family and friends — and then stay up super late doing freelance work for the client base that I was building on the side. While I’m glad to an extent that I did that — because it showed me that I was driven and passionate (and several of those same clients are still with me today) — I also stressed myself out. And, I didn’t get enough sleep, which led to a lack of productivity at my “real job” the next day. Not smart.

3. Start putting systems in place now that will benefit you later.

I used to create individual invoices for each client, at the completion of each project. To this day, I still have several hundreds of those InDesign files and PDFs. It used to take up so much time! Now, I use FreshBooks, an online accounting system that lets me more easily and quickly send invoices and track my expenses. This helps me to stay more organized and take care of my tax prep more efficiently, at the start of each new year. To this, I would have also setup a PayPal account back then, so that people could have paid me quicker, instead of always having to wait on checks to arrive in the mail. I had a simple portfolio site to show off my work and explain who I was, but I never had a really nice website that I liked directing people to. My advice is to start now and setup a website that you’re proud of — AND start blogging and working to build an e-mail list — a community of followers who want to see what you’re up to, how you can help them and will possibly buy from you later. I’m still getting the hang of taking care of these platforms now, but I could have started a few years back and been further along now. Finally, establish your own branding. This way, you look more legitimate and professional and people take you more seriously — they won’t just look at you as another post grad paying their dues. (Because although you are, you are also an educated and formally trained professional. Don’t ever forget that!)


Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
Here we are, 2017! How is your branding looking for the new year? Do you have a logo, website and more that you absolutely love…or…not so much? If you’re not a design professional, branding might be something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, so let someone else take over! Sign-up below to receive the link to download my new and free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz — and if you can DIY some of it or if you should hire that professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more!

The 3 steps for starting a freelance business

It doesn’t feel like that long ago that I was sitting in a Mac lab inside Ohio University’s School of Visual Communication, on the third floor of Seigfred Hall — first learning my way around Adobe InDesign during the spring quarter of my freshman year. Not only had I never even been in the program before (I had only been trained in old-school Adobe Pagemaker on an ancient PC from my days as editor of my high school newspaper) but I hadn’t sat down at a Mac since my Oregon Trail playing days in elementary school. I felt lost. Hopeful, but lost.

While my plan during the next four years was studying design and ultimately becoming an art director at either a magazine or PR firm (which ended up happening right on time, little would I know, seven years later) — I still had a slightly “lost” feeling. Only this time, it was due to the confusion and wonder of where I would actually end up after graduation. I always felt a tug towards owning a design business and being an entrepreneur, but I also knew that I needed to pay my dues, make money and learn how to work for someone else, with others, first. I wanted to really be in the field, on deadlines, challenged creatively, learning the tools of the trade. (In case you missed it, I wrote a blog post about this exact subject that was published on the Huffington Post last summer.) And, while the first few years of my career worked out perfectly in giving me great experiences and teaching me what I needed, I always knew in my heart what direction I would eventually go. So, I took steps early on (I mean, literally after I graduated) to help me get there. You simply can’t wake up one day and decide to start a business, without some kind of goal or plan in mind. For me, I always freelanced on the side of any full-time design job or internship that I had. Nine years later and I still have clients who I’ve been doing work for off and on since I started. So below, I’m sharing with you some simple and specific things that I did and hopefully they will help you — regardless of what kind of side gig that you want to start, in addition to your day job. And, these steps will also help to lay a solid foundation if you think that you want to go at it full-time one day. 

1) Setup some marketing platforms, so that people can find you.
When just starting out, you might have a small budget to work with — or really nothing at all. And, time is limited when you’re working for someone else full-time. I totally get it — been there, done that. However, the beauty of being in this digital age means that there are countless free marketing resources at our fingertips. Setup a website using Squarespace, Wix, or another similar platform that allow you to customize sleek and professional templates. You don’t need to know how to code or hire someone to do it (for now.) You should also setup social media profiles wherever your potential clients might be hanging out. Create a Facebook page, or Twitter and Instagram profiles — and post and share your information often. It’s important to setup a LinkedIn profile as well. I got a full-time job once (and a few freelance projects) thanks to this online community. This is because people are specifically looking to hire for jobs and projects — so, you stand a greater chance of getting connected to work if you’re at least out there. Get some business cards designed and printed — and be sure to always carry a few, because you never knew who you might meet or network with one day.    

2) Find clients in a variety of ways.
The most popular question that I get asked is, “how do you find clients?” And, while I’m still experimenting with this and haven’t perfected it, I know a few good ways to grab your first ones. These might be people you do one job for and some might end up sticking with you for years (these are my favorites.) First of all, marketing yourself via social media, as mentioned above, will be a great way for people to at least find out about you and what you do. In time, you will start getting referrals, many of whom will be friends of friends or Facebook “friends of friends” and connections. And, eventually, you will become more and more connected to people who own businesses and others who work within departments of companies, who might need to outsource work. You can also look into things going on in your community that you might be able to lend some services to. If you’re in the creative field, check area art/design organization job board websites (they often list freelance opportunities, in addition to full-time jobs.) Also, definitely setup some profiles on websites like Upwork and Elance — they connect clients in need to service providers and vice versa, if you’re looking for work.  

Something else that I want to touch on quickly is that it’s OK to work for free (at first) to establish a client base and gain invaluable experience. Often times, people who don’t have big budgets to afford professionals will look to college students or post grads to complete work, in exchange for non-monetary items. If you’re already bringing in money at your day job, this might be worth doing throughout the first year, from time to time. I did work in exchange for getting credit on designs that were seen throughout the community and even gift cards. But, those initial small connections eventually led to either those people hiring me again down the road (and paying me) or meeting other people who also wanted to pay me. It really is about “who you know” and not always “what you know.” You never know with who you might be dealing, who they know or who might see what you’re doing — and need the services that you provide.  

3) Learn how to price your services or products.
As I just said, it’s OK to work for free to start. But, otherwise, you also have to establish yourself as a professional and get used to pricing yourself and billing clients, if you’re going to be successful with your side business — especially one that you eventually transition into a full-time business. The longer that you work, the more experience that you gain, the more education that you have and the more that you invest in yourself and your business = all the more that you get to charge. In the first 1-3 years, it’s so difficult figuring out “how much to charge” — whether you’re providing a service (like me) or making and selling physical (or digital) products. And, because everyone is different and doing different things, I don’t have a great solution to this. My advice is to either price hourly, or come up with a one-time, flat fee, depending on what it is that you’re doing. Figure out how much time that you spend on something, any expenses that you might incur, the resources that you own and need to use and the timeframe involved to get it all done in. It’s not super fair to charge hourly if you’re going to spend a ton of something (because you work slow or you’re not sure what you’re doing) — but it’s also not ideal to charge hourly if you work really quickly. When you’re a professional, know what you’re doing and can work fast, you deserve to make a good amount of money because of your speedy and awesome skills. In this situation, you might want to charge a flat fee. Connect with other professionals who do something similar to you and see how they price themselves. I can honestly say that in time, you will just know what feels right and what is fair to both you and your client. And years from now, you will look back on what you’re charging now and simply laugh — because it will look like pennies. Running a business, whether on the side or full-time, is not easy and it’s not for everyone. It takes a lot of trial and error, making mistakes over and over again — and a lot of hard work and tears. But, the longer that you keep at it, the better that you will get at landing clients and charging not only what you deserve, but what will also help you be profitable.

What other issues do you struggle with within your side gig? Do you plan to keep it on the side or eventually take it full-time? I would love to hear your dreams and goals. Leave a comment below or contact me to shoot me an email!     

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Branding 101 - Free Downloadable Guide
Here we are, 2017! How is your branding looking for the new year? Do you have a logo, website and more that you absolutely love…or…not so much? If you’re not a design professional, branding might be something that you don’t love to do for your business or you simply don’t have time for, so let someone else take over! Sign-up below to receive the link to download my new and free PDF tool “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t and why you need it” — right now! This quick and simple guide will walk you through why it’s important to establish consistent and memorable branding within your biz — and if you can DIY some of it or if you should hire that professional. If you have any questions after going through it, let’s connect and chat some more!