Sure Fire Advice on How to Make It as a Freelancer
Whether you’re unemployed, partially employed or fully employed, you’ve probably come across articles and posts stating that “freelance” is the future of work. You then started asking yourself:
What does it really take to make it as a freelancer?
Can a single person compete against an agency?
What’s more to it?
Is it real or simply a fad?
Fortunately, I’ve had the chance to sit with Marc Chémali, Senior Account Manager & Branded Content Manager at VineLab to get the inside scoop on what it takes a freelancer to succeed.
Chemali has extensive experience and expertise in branding, marketing and social media.
He was also the main speaker in one of the ChangeMaker event’s workshop entitled “The New Jobs created by digital Marketing”.
Here’s what he had to say.
How to go about Freelancing
First off, if you’re still new, it is recommended that you have at least some experience in the field of your choice. “Leveraging on previous experience is the first step towards becoming a successful freelancer, says Chemali. “ It helps you to stay organized easily; usually we don’t expect this from a fresh graduate for a fresh graduate doesn’t know the relationship between an agency and a brand, or an agency and another, or how the PR agency works with the creative and media agency to achieve the client’s objective. There are also certain communication skills a freelancer should know. That of course stems from corporate experience ( 1–2 years) ; unless of course the fresh graduate has taken several internships of the sort.
Identifying what you really want to be
Second, it’s good to know where you’re headed. Are you going to be a freelancer? an Influencer?
“There’s a lot of misconception around these terms. Bloggers have power on their blog; influencers on the other hand push people to do stuff or buy stuff, while a freelancers push businesses to consider them for certain jobs.
Freelancers should not necessarily be bloggers. They should certainly know how to promote their freelance work; however, it’s not a must to have a blog. Freelancers and influencers are similar though. They differ in the fact that freelancers use social media platforms to promote their services while influencers use social media to promote their personal brand, i.e. themselves”.
One more distinction to make is that an influencer is not necessarily a blogger. Kim Kardashian for instance is more of an influencer than a blogger.
Platforms geared to freelancers include: Upwork, Freelancer…. These platforms ease it for the freelancer to find customers. Platforms geared to influencers include Trellis, Aspire IQ, Upfluence, Neoreach, etc…
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Zeroing in on a niche
Regardless of what one chooses to be, trying to do everything at the same time is a recipe for failure. Any influencer, blogger or freelancer is best of defining their value proposition to their target audience or client. Own your niche, Master it, and then try to expand on it.” For instance if you blog about entrepreneurship you could start covering digital trends, attend events, etc… At the beginning stay under the umbrella of your niche but don’t start defining verticals until after you know what content is driving your audience.
Ensuring your Future is Not Bleak
As a new freelancer always look to build trust. Try to lock one year contracts with your clients. The process is slow but it pays in the long run. Be consistent, persistent and always show the client that you offer value. There is no such thing as an overnight success.
Setting your Rates
Make sure to set your rate appropriately. Have self-confidence, and know what you bring to the table. You don’t want to price too high or too low. Aim for the middle ground. Price less than agencies but higher than others who don’t provide the same service.
Remember you cannot charge as high as an agency because an agency provides account management. This means an agency provides its clients with dedicated resources like a single account manager to handle its brand. Of course it helps to check market price, competition, etc…
Do your research into market rates. For instance some freelance writers charge by word, by hour, or by article/ assignment. It all depends on how confident you are, and able to deliver what is required.
Diversifying your portfolio
At the beginning, diversify your portfolio to decrease your financial reliability on one or two clients. Later, when you’re much more established you can select your clients better. Additionally, if you’re a new blogger don’t stick only to one social media channel. If you’re not sure which channel to focus on, experiment on all platforms and then decide where to apply your focus. Make sure you have the latest content on all platforms.
Staying Up to date with current trends
Even if you can leverage on previous skills it’s important to stay up-to –date. Keep reading about your industry what works and what doesn’t.
Expanding your “know-how”
Not only should you read about your industry and its trends. It also helps to learn new skills. Strive to acquire sales skills, communication skills, and even design skills. If you’re a freelance writer for instance learning Photoshop and Illustrator could help you reduce costs and gain in the long run. Additionally, whatever freelancer you choose to be you should work on sales skill, and branding “know-how”. So it helps to attend seminars, trainings, workshops or even learn online.
Bringing your A-Game Forward
Again it’s not only a matter of researching your industry, knowing your clients, and setting your market rates. It’s also a matter of exceling and showing that you’re among the top. As a freelancer you’re always seeking more clients; as an influencer you’re always on the lookout for more people to influence. That’s where social media “know-how” comes in handy, so does having a strategy to follow through.
There are many digital certifications out there but it’s best to choose the ones that come directly from the source. For instance if you use Facebook a lot to market yourself, it helps to get a Facebook Blueprint certification. Other beneficial certifications to aim for come from YouTube, Twitter ( Twitter FlightSchool, or Google ( Google Digital Garage for Google Certifications) .
Working on your Content Strategy
Regardless which platform you’re promoting yourself on it’s important to have a content strategy. A sound content strategy answers four main questions:
What- How- Where & When
- What as in what are you saying?
- How as in your language and tone of voice
- When does not only mean the frequency of your posts but also the quality and consistency of your content
Examples of influencers with great content are: Dana Hourani, a lifestyle influencer with 110K followers on instagram. Dana covers lifestyle as in style, sounds, and sights. Another example of an instagram influencer is Bloggerwanabe who posts funny content relating to our lives. She’s a fashion and a lifestyle influencer.
“As for what type of content to post, it all depends on your objective.
Bear in mind that there are five types of content:
Informative, engaging, seasonal, promotional, and inspirational.
Informative content educates and appeals to rationality. Engaging content is short in form. An example of engaging content could be asking followers what they think about a new trend in the business industry, and having them comment on it. Seasonal content is content posted on certain seasons like Fall, Winter Christmas, Fall, etc… Promotional on the other hand is content that highlights the promotion offered.
Hence, if you’re planning to offer your services, your content would veer more towards the informative. If however, you’re working with an influencer, you would strive more towards engaging content.
Last, but not least, monitor your content with analytics. If you’re always posting on Facebook, or instagram check your Facebook page insights, and instagram insights. If however you have a site, make sure to monitor it with Google Analytics. Knowing your readers’ demographics, age etc.. can help you deliver better content that caters to your target audience’s interests.
At more advanced stages, you could master the art of retargeting with pixels or hire a media buyer to reach more clients.
Learning from Real Life Examples
It helps sometimes to have someone to look up to, or someone to emulate.
Naming a few freelancers who made it in real life are:
- Roy Nawfal , CTO/Managing Partner at xtnd, Roy started out freelance coding and then ended up having his own company. It took him five years to establish his company, and now his work is doubling every single year.
- Sandra Younes, instructor at NDU and creative director at SYDAS, has been teaching advertising for ten years. She also has extensive experience with international advertising agencies. This enabled her to establish her own design and art studio as well as her own pearl jewelry design “Loulicious”.
- Talal Morcos, a make up artist and fashion designer, built his make-up clientel during week ends when he had time off from his full time fashion design job at Zuhair Murad. Talal hosts workshops in GCC and has thousands of followers on instagram.
Mostly what made them all succeed is their hard earned portfolio and reputation in the market.
Summing it all up
It takes a highly adaptive attitude and a consistent drive to succeed. Not only do you have to adapt to environment changes, but you also have to constantly self-develop yourself to build a strong portfolio. This will take you time; as a full time employee who free-lances on the side, it took me five years.
Finally I would end it by saying: It’s okay to make mistakes.
You cannot be a perfectionist in the digital age. The industry moves so fast that by the time you perfect your task you’re out. Keep trying, keep taking chances, and working hard; you can only become a star performer by going the extra mile.
Originally published at .