Whether you’re new to self-employment or a seasoned freelancer, the onus is typically on you to find clients, develop relationships, and continue the sustainable growth of your business. Not to mention handling your finances, training, marketing, and so on… Easy, right?
When it comes to winning work, the best place to start is by answering the same four questions most business owners will face:
1. What problem do you solve?
2. For whom do you solve it?
3. How much would they be willing to pay?
4. How do you reach them?
One of the many benefits of freelancing is that you get to choose how you answer these questions. IPSE, The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed, provides some ideas for tackling these questions in their guide Winning Work.
Once you’ve answered these questions, the popular idea is to focus all your time and effort on creating a website and marketing materials instead of hitting the pavement and talking to people. But maybe this isn’t always the best approach.
Not to say websites and marketing plans aren’t important, but the act of simply launching your website won’t bring in a sudden rush of new business organically. To find that business you need to venture outside, and while this can seem intimidating if you’re not a born self-promoter, you don’t have to be a hardcore salesperson to win business. There are options to suit different styles, such as these three tried and tested ways of reaching clients relatively quickly, of which a more in-depth summary can be found in the guide:
1. The agency method
There are many recruitment agencies that specialise in matching freelancers or contractors with roles and they can be a very effective and quick route to finding work. Examples of these are: PeoplePerHour, HomeTouch, Talmix and more. In some cases, it’s also the only way of reaching big clients, because there are many that won’t work directly with freelancers.
2. The direct method
This method takes a bit more leg work, as you’ll have to invest more time in finding opportunities for yourself. But, with the agency’s percentage out of the picture you can charge your client a higher fee, while still saving them money. You also have more control over your relationship with the client, the rate you want to negotiate and the contractual terms. A bit of advice, IPSE has contract templates for their members that you can use to ensure you are IR35 compliant. Winning Work also provides top tips for email prospecting (just be careful about complying with GDPR).
3. The referral method
If you ask self-employed people where most of their business comes from, frequently they’ll say that it’s through word of mouth. Many freelancers rely on their personal network as the base for developing their professional network. Draw up a list of every person and organisation you know (seriously, everyone), including those you have worked with in the past, whether as a client, employer, colleague or supplier. Contact them to let them know you’re working for yourself and what you’re doing. Use these conversations as an opportunity to develop your answers from those first four questions – what are their frustrations and problems that you want to solve? Developing rapport - especially through non-business conversations topics - will help you maintain better relationships, rather than directly asking for work.
This may all seem a bit awkward at first, but Winning Work provides top tips for asking for referrals and recommendations.
So, what’s next?
Obviously, you’ll want to keep growing your business, and as circumstances change you inevitably won’t always have the same list of clients you started out with.
As discussed in more detail in the guide, you will need to work on the 5 Ps:
· Your pitch: refine your pitch to outline who you work with, what you help them to achieve and how you help them to achieve it.
· Your publications: whether it’s a best-selling book deal or something small tailored to a specific niche, having something published will help get your name out there and give you more credibility.
· Your products: Develop a product strategy.
· Your partnerships: Partnership can help you sell more, attract the right people, and help you build your brand.
· Your profile: Raise your profile by taking advantage of promotional opportunities such as public speaking and posting content.
It takes a lot of bravery to go out on your own and do what you love. While you may often feel the keen sting of rejection as a freelancer, it’s important to remind yourself why you did this in the first place and never give up.
With thanks to our friends at IPSE for creating this blog post for us. IPSE, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed, is the voice of the UK’s self-employed population who make up one in seven people working today. Find out more via www.ipse.co.uk.