Switching from a full-time job to freelancing is a difficult yet fascinating endeavor that needs careful planning. The very first thing to consider is what abilities you can use and profit as a freelancer. These are the building blocks of your freelance business.
Becoming a freelancer seems very exciting, but the road to becoming one is paved with many difficulties. Despite having a set of skills that you will render to potential clients, your discipline must be strong as steel. No one will push you into doing the work, planning, and organizing your time.
You must work hard to persuade your clients to select you and your services. The best way to show off your skills and your previous work experience is by building a rich portfolio. It will take a while to gain their confidence and form meaningful business relationships that will start to bring you a steady flow of income.
Initially, Paige didn’t plan to become a freelancer. She started her career in the corporate world, where she worked as Head of Marketing for a few highly recognizable companies, such as Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola. Her appetite for success was big, and she pictured herself on the cover of the Fortune 500 CEO, so she decided to make it happen!
Read our short interview with Paige, where she elaborates on her freelancing journey and how she became the CEO of a successful marketing agency.
Q: Please tell us about yourself, your expertise, etc.
A: My name is Paige, and I am a Marketing, Communications, and Branding expert. I am the founder and CEO of Mavens & Moguls. I started doing branding and marketing independently 20 years ago. I did not plan on becoming a freelancer. I have always wanted to go work for a large multinational business and be a Fortune 500 CEO.
Q: Please describe your previous work as an employee.
A: When I was a student, I looked at leaders like Meg Whitman & Ursula Burns as my role models. I started my career on Wall Street in the 80s and had a successful career in Corporate America at companies like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola and worked at 3 different startups as the head of marketing.
Q: What was the point where you decided to become a freelancer?
A: I became a freelancer and took the leap right after 9/11 when the company I worked for cut their marketing. I had nothing to lose, so it gave me the courage to try it. There were no full-time jobs but several projects, so I took them and have been at them ever since. I love working for myself and could never go back.
My first client came from a talk I gave to a professional networking group. Someone from the audience came up to me after and made an introduction which resulted in my first project a few weeks later. I felt great that my talk was so well received and generated meetings and referrals as a follow-up, I knew I had a real business.
I still give lots of talks (mostly virtual/online now), which is a great way to generate leads and business. I think having a good reputation is incredibly important to building a strong B2B business.
Q: What are the challenges you’re facing as a freelancer?
A: You do not exist today if you cannot be found online. As a freelancer, you must have a website, and I’d argue you always need SEO because the whole point of having a website is to make it easy for customers to find you.
Being invisible online is a terrible strategy, so ensuring your site is keyword-rich, mobile-friendly, loads quickly, and produces meaningful content today is the price of entry. That also happens to be a great foundation for effective SEO.
Q: What can you advise a beginner freelancer?
A: As a freelancer client, quality matters more than quantity, so attracting the right audience is the goal. I think leadership is the best foundation to build your brand long-term.
Activities like hosting webinars and podcasts, speaking at online and offline conferences, writing articles, and building your social media following increase your awareness with potential customers and build your credibility with a larger community.
Instead of trying to start my own blog or newsletter, I have had success regularly contributing to existing well-trafficked blogs in my industry or newsletters of like-minded organizations reaching the same target audience as me. I make sure to put my URL or contact info on it so they can find me and follow up if they are interested.
When your articles or talks become available online, I send them out to all my friends, followers, and contacts via social media. Don’t let social media drive you crazy, you do not need to be everywhere, it does not matter which platform you choose just pick one or 2 that are authentic to you. It should look and sound like you and the brand you have built.
Whether yours is polished or more informal, chatty or academic, humorous or snarky, it is a way for your personality to come through. Everyone is not going to like you or hire you, but for the ones who would be a great fit for you, make sure they feel and keep a connection and give them a reason to remember you so that when they need your help, they think of you first.
For professional service firms like mine, LinkedIn is a priority. If your customers are not looking for you on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, then find the platforms where you can stand out.
Q: How to handle inflation as a freelancer?
A: I handle inflation by increasing my rates by 1-5% for every regular customer. This works for me because I always give my absolute best to execute every project, so I have a basis on which I can demand an increase in the cost of my services. If your services are superb, you’ll be able to demand more for your hard work.
Q: How are you getting new clients?
A: For networking and finding clients, I think freelancers need to be on LinkedIn so that they can be found. It adds credibility and transparency when you know the people you are meeting or working with knowledgeable people in common.
LinkedIn has become more than an online resume or Rolodex, it is the foundation for building trusted relationships in the digital economy. With LinkedIn, you don’t have to wait for a networking event to make meaningful business connections.
You get one chance to make a great first impression, so make sure every section of your LinkedIn profile is complete, with no blank spaces or gaps. Include a professional headshot and powerful headline followed by a summary highlighting your personal brand, what you do well, and how you can benefit potential clients or employers.
Keep this section brief and easy to skim for the best results. Keywords are a great way to help professionals and recruiters in your industry find your profile, and strategic keywords in your profile give you an advantage in networking too.
Q: Name one mistake you made as a freelancer.
A: I recommend NOT spending money on things like fancy brochures, letterhead, business cards, etc. Until you know your business is launched, I would say to put your budget into things that help fill your pipeline with customers.
Getting your URL and website up and running is key. I created online stationery for proposals and invoices, ordered my cards online, and made downloadable materials as leave-behinds for people looking for more information to help me find clients more quickly.
I know other business owners who spent thousands of dollars on these things and found it was a waste of money. Your story will evolve as you find your market, you need to look professional and have a website to be taken seriously, but embossed paper with watermarks and heavy card stock will not accelerate your sales cycle.
Find those reference customers quickly, and use them to get testimonials and referrals. There is plenty of time later to dress things up! This advice is not fancy and does not require big budgets, but it does take time. It is a smart investment to get this right. This has helped me grow my business.
Freelancing is attractive for many reasons. As a freelancer, you are your own manager because you set your own working hours. Furthermore, you’re in control of the projects you work on since you’re picking your own clients. You no longer work for a fixed monthly paycheck, meaning you can earn much more than a traditional job.
For many people, freelancing wasn’t their initial plan. It was usually an unfortunate event that threw them off track and forced them to find a different way to earn money. It could be getting laid off from a job, the latest crisis with the pandemic, or a family emergency.
Getting fired from her marketing position after the unfortunate event of 9/11, and following the dotcom crash made Paige pursue freelancing. From her point of view, she had nothing to lose, so she went all in. Paige was good at giving talks at professional events, and that’s how she got her first client. She thinks giving talks on a subject you’re proficient at is an excellent marketing tool.
Furthermore, Paige advises beginner freelancers to strengthen their online presence by creating an SEO-friendly website where you’ll present your portfolio and professional services. And what better way to promote your website other than social media? She further says that you shouldn’t be omnipresent but pick the ones that do the trick for you.
Finally, Paige point’s out the most widespread mistake of both beginner freelancers and business owners. You don’t need fancy brochures or business cards printed on ‘bone’ colored paper. A functional website is more than enough to help you kickstart your freelancing journey and attract your desired clients.