For entrepreneurs wanting to go down the freelance route, here are five tools and tips to build a successful career.
When people think of an entrepreneur, often they conjure up a founder of a newly launched startup, a veteran business owner or someone running a franchise. But the term includes so many other folks, one being the freelancer.
Many entrepreneurs have found success as a freelancer providing various services including data mining, designing, producing and writing, among others. But to build a successful, prolific freelance career, you need more than luck and access to clients online.
Here are five key skills that will go a long way in helping you find success:
1. Market yourself. You might have rock-star design skills, a knack for storytelling or coveted coding chops, but without a personal marketing strategy, no one will know you are open for business. All good freelancers should have a robust online presence — everything from public social media accounts (keep it professional, please) to a personal website and a digital portfolio. Having a well-defined personal brand can go a long way towards boosting your professionalism for both current and future clients.
Tools: Social media management applications such as HootSuite and Buffer help keep your online presence organized and up to date. Custom-built websites are always best for showing yourself off in a unique way, but LinkedIn, Wix, WordPress, and About.me enable you to create a professional online presence in minutes.
2. Set a schedule, goals and expectations. Whether you’re working on a last-minute project or have all the time in the world, it is important for freelancers to establish deadlines and manage expectations with clients. Determining what the final product will look like, when it will be delivered and how it will be done helps freelancers stay on track and allows clients to know what they’re getting.
Tools: Visually’s Project Center incorporates a custom timeline for each project, clearly establishing deadlines and deliverables. There is also Podio and Asana, both of which provide management tools for collaborating with a team and staying on top of project goals.
3. Keep track of all your great ideas. At any given point, you might be working on a number of different projects at various stages of completion. Keeping track of all of the ideas and inspirations associated with each one can be tough and top-notch organization skills are a must for any freelancer’s arsenal.
Tools: The gold standard for organization tools and apps is Evernote. No other tool has as many features, as simple of an interface,or is as easy to use as Evernote. With full-featured integration across a variety of desktop and mobile platforms, the tool can be accessed virtually anywhere inspiration strikes.
4. Communicate effectively. It sounds like a no-brainer but effective communication builds a foundation for business success. This is even more applicable for freelancers. Going the extra mile to stay on top of communication can help eliminate the physical distance between you and your client. Being available via email, over phone and on video chat is a must, but don’t be afraid to also check out screen sharing apps too, as these can be helpful for walking clients through more intricate and detailed work.
Tools: The go-to app for communication is Skype. Its simplicity is unmatched and universally adored. While Skype offers basic screen sharing, dedicated tools such as Screenhero and join.me are best for power users.
5. Follow up, build a network and grow your freelance business. You’ve finished a project and sent your invoice to the client. This might seem like the end of you and your client’s working relationship, but it’s not. Follow up with the client a week or two after the project has been delivered, and ask for feedback. If it’s positive, ask for them to recommend your work to others, endorse you on LinkedIn or provide a short testimonial for your website or portfolio.