Freelancing, especially in the editorial world, is as competitive as ever. What factors differentiate successful full-timers from the rest?
- Irresistible branding. It's true that companies aren't people. But the very nature of freelancing forces people to think like businesses. Your job title and website tagline are great opportunities to integrate branding. As a writer and editor, I was just Marissa Brassfield. But when I became a ridiculously efficient content producer, I was able to land higher-paying gigs with far more frequency. The phrase "ridiculously efficient" became something inextricably associated with me -- so much so that I've since registered it as a trademark.
- Distinction. How does your work differ from that of an amateur, hobbyist, intern or up-and-comer? Crunch some numbers to see what statistics you can gather on your performance. Work with high-profile clients to get testimonials or recommendations from influencers. Subscribe to industry mailing lists like HARO (Help a Reporter Out) to get quotes in published media.
- A knockout website. As a freelancer, your website is your virtual billboard. It should be modern, on-target with your personal brand, and easy to navigate. While you're at it, audit your social media profiles to ensure they're similarly up-to-date.
- Relationships. The best gigs are unadvertised. Your most lucrative work will likely come not from a job board, but from those who follow your career, clients who refer you to others as they network or move jobs, friends and colleagues. Seek these relationship out, and nurture them.
I often hear from freelancers who are having trouble charging the rates they want; as a result, they've got plenty of work but lackluster earnings. Last week, Seth Godin wrote a great post on how professionals must differentiate themselves from freelancers. This quote is particularly fitting:
[If you want to get paid for your freelance work] then you need to develop both skills and a reputation for those skills that make it clear to (enough) people that an amateur solution isn't nearly good enough, because you're that much better and worth that much more.
Once you establish your expertise, you'll have a much easier time charging the fees you need to thrive.