7 Simple ways to build your freelance business in 2014

Jun 25, 2014

We’ve entered the second half of 2014, and it’s a perfect time to evaluate what’s gone well so far -- and how you can improve your business before another year passes you by.

Today, sit down and pick out one or two of the items below to help recharge or streamline your business. All of them should take 5 hours a less and cost less than $200 (most are free), and I guarantee you’ll see the impact for a long time.

1. Outsource low-level tasks

The sanity-saving technique popularised by Timothy Ferriss may not get you working only 4 hours a week, but it will save you a ton of time -- that you can use for doing better work and planning future projects.

Do you really need to do your own invoicing? What about doing research for a client proposal? Are you really still filing taxes in 4 different states?

Try to outsource your work to other freelancers or virtual assistants. You can find many firms and websites that provide these services with a simple Google search, though a recommendation from another freelancer always works out best.

2. Have one career coaching session

Even if you’ve already “figured out” your career, I guarantee that a 45-minute or hour session with a quality career coach will give you at least 5 or 6 things you could be doing better.

Many assume that you need to have multiple $200/hour sessions with a career coach. While of course you’d be getting more benefit from more sessions, a good career coach will be able to give you a good advice in a just one.

I find that the process of just explaining what I do, and openly sharing my revenue model, what I charge, how I deal with clients, is worth the money itself. How many professionals can you share what you charge with? How many will give you honest, knowledgeable (they know what other people like you charge!) advice? That piece of advice alone will pay for the session.

3. Help other freelancers or business owners

Many small business owners forget how valuable it can be to include other small business owners in their network. It’s becoming a more widely accepted idea that cooperation is more benefitial to your business in the long run that cut-throat competition; giving builds stronger networks than taking.

Try one of these ways to help fellow freelancers, like buying local, sharing how much you get paid, and offering to connect two people you know.

4. Reevaluate your marketing message/job title

Is your current business plan -- how you market yourself, your job title -- bringing you the kinds of clients who will pay more for you? Are you underselling yourself as a copywriter when you really have the ability to be an expert product marketer or a lead workshops about copywriting?

We get better at what we do all the time. Make sure you’re communicating your business’s true value.

Could you redefine your business either in specificity (expert vs. generalist) or level of experience? At least twice a year, you should spend an hour reflecting or chatting with a close friend about how your business is going and what you feel that you could do better. Chatting with a friend is especially useful because they may reflect back to you a value you’re offering clients that you’re not communicating.

Often reevaluating your business will lead you to the conclusion that increasing value should mean increasing rates…

5. Raise your rates

This is one of the simplest -- but certainly not the easiest -- ways to improve your freelance business.

I write extensively about the process of increasing your rates here. Just remember that this is not an arbitrary increase, but a true increase in the value you’re providing to clients.

6. Stay in touch

Sit down right now and send an email to every (OK to good) client you’ve had in the last year. This is one of the #1 ways to get repeat clients.

Just say hello. Do a little research beforehand and see if they’ve tweeted or shared anything interesting recently, so you can say “I saw your blog post / that article you shared and I feel it’s so true that…”

Or let those previous clients know that you’re now offering a new service. Just make sure it doesn’t feel like a mass spam email and more like a personalized, tailored-to-them service.

7. Find a partner or start subcontracting

Often you’re working in a field where it’s clear that clients don’t have the time or knowledge to hire 3-4 freelancers for a project; they assume you can do it all. For instance, they hire you because you have “web designer” on your business card, and they don’t understand that for a great website, they also need to hire a graphic designer, a back-end guy to design the online store, and a web copywriter.

If you’re recognizing a market opportunity that you can’t fulfill alone, this is where the relationships you’ve developed in #3 come in extremely useful.

Either partner with another freelancer (formally or short-term) or subcontract work. Hopefully you’ll be finding a partner or subcontractor that complements your skills and interests.

Hopefully this helps spark ideas for your business plans. What do you want to accomplish in the second half of the year?