The road to top-level freelancing isn’t paved with copy-cat formulas and fool-proof strategies (they don’t exist). It takes a strong will, excellent business sense, and a deep understanding of the people and organizations you’re working for.
But if you’re looking for guidance, I’ll tell you this: While one guru’s “sure-fire strategy to get from point A to point B” might not always work you, it doesn’t mean that the top-level freelancers out there - the ones we all aspire to emulate - don’t have a few things in common.
Take a look at the websites of ultra successful freelancers like Nathan Barry, Liam Veitch, & Brennan Dunn. What do you notice about them? What traits do they all possess?
I call these traits The Five Truths. And these Five Truths should guide your business strategy and your perspective on the work you do.
Top level freelancers:
- Freelance full time and regard what they do as a real, serious business
- Charge premium prices in exchange for premium work that solves a business’ problems
- Automate repetitive or time-consuming tasks and outsource work they don’t excel at
- Project complete authority and authenticity across all mediums
- Create and sell digital products and have profitable blogs
These 5 Truths aren’t just about the big guys, they are about you now.
So let’s learn a little more about them.
1) They freelance full time and regard what they do as a real, serious business
When your freelancing job is just a side job, it’s not really your job. A side hustle is fine, but to achieve top-level status and ditch your crappy 9-to-5, you need to be dedicating 110% of your energy to your business. Not someone else’s.
If you want to join the roster of freelancers delivering super awesome, premium, referral worthy work to big name clients, you need to be focused entirely on doing that. If freelancing isn’t your “real job”, it’s never going to yield anything other than occasional cash on the side.
There is a caveat, of course, and that’s when you’re trying to build up a cash reserve in order to start freelancing full time. Moonlighting is a good way to save up a few months of living expenses quickly so you can hit the ground running as a full time freelancer.
Climb to the top with a little help from your friends (it's free!)
2) They charge premium prices in exchange for premium work that solves a business’ problems
Top level freelancers aren’t charging a measly hourly rate, they are charging premium prices (I’m talking upwards of $5 to $10K for individual projects) for really high quality work and they have clients lined up to work with them.
That’s because they are thinking in terms of the value they are bringing, and charge accordingly. That’s called value based pricing.
Clients don’t care about the number of hours it takes you to do something or about how difficult something is or how much expertise or experience is needed to do something. All clients care about is the value you are bringing them.
You have to remember that. You have to eat up that way of thinking until you’re more full than you would be after eating a double burrito at Chipotle. Only then can you accurately price your work. Only then can you have truly candid, insightful and helpful conversations with your clients. Only then can you see what your client truly needs and deliver exactly that.
3) They automate repetitive or time-consuming tasks and outsource work they don’t excel at
These are some of the ways top level freelancers automate, optimize, and outsource aspects of their businesses:
- They don’t waste infinite amounts of time scoping clients - they create systems for promotion and referrals that funnel clients to a sale
- They partner with other freelancers who excel in related areas to offer well rounded services to their clients
- Their bookkeeping, taxes, and finances are organized and automated, and they get professionals to help manage these as their business grows
- They use templates for proposals and contracts and customize as necessary
- They create killer sales funnels for their digital products that help sell them automatically
- They use affiliates to help market their products and grow their audiences
Start thinking about these things and how you might incorporate them into your own business. How can you create systems that do the heavy lifting for you?
4) They project complete authority and authenticity across all mediums
Top level freelancers don’t hide themselves, they put themselves on display. Prominently.
They aren’t afraid to show their faces, their personality, and give glimpses into their lives. They speak publicly, they engage with other people in real life and on social media, they unabashedly self promote when it’s relevant.
Freelance VIPs also find areas where they are experts and they become the loudest, clearest voices in these niches.
This type of authentic, true-to-thine-own-self behavior is what fosters genuine personal connection and trust: the key components in audience building and client acquisition.
Being afraid to show yourself means that you’re always going to be holding back. You’ll never shine if you are afraid to be seen.
5) They create and sell digital products and have profitable blogs
A key part of creating long term wealth for yourself is passive income. Top level freelancers understand this and contribute to their income through the sale of digital products. This can be an app, a course, an ebook - there are a million options.
The bottom line is that top level freelancers don’t stop at sharing their expertise with clients, they share it with other people in a way that earns them revenue over and over and over again.
This is no easy feat - let that be known - but it is a key part of their business model and it should be a key part of yours as well. It’s never to early to start thinking about how you can incorporate a passive income model into your business.
So there you have it - those are the 5 Truths of all top level freelancers. Give each of these some deep thought and start considering how you can integrate them into your business.
Ashley Livingston: Front end developer, digital designer, crafty person, loves popcorn, cheese danishes, and goats. Find me at ashleythedeveloper.co