Secrets top freelancers aren’t telling you
Can you hear that?
It's the sound of a top freelancer celebrating a big win.
Off in a corner of the freelancing universe, a top freelancer is enjoying yet another great outcome — another proposal accepted, a successful project launched, or a huge referral landing in their inbox.
You might be thinking, "Why isn't that me?"
I'll tell you why.
In the world of freelancing, most of the population struggles to reach the high ranks of the top-most freelancers. And those top-most freelancers seem to be having all the fun.
They don't suffer from the pains that most freelancers have come to know well:
- They don't have communication troubles with their client.
- They don't do work that's out of scope or out of budget.
- They don't go through stressful droughts of no work.
- They don't wait around for months before receiving a long-earned check.
Most of the time, those problems are null to them. They're singing, "I got 99 problems but freelancing ain't one!"
So, how do they do it?
Let's take a look at a few of the secrets that top freelancers know well.
1. FEAR IS A THING TO BE MANAGED
This may be something you didn't expect to read on Guerrilla Freelancing, but it does — more than you think.
When you're in a drought and don't see any new clients coming your way, what do you feel?
When you're smack in the middle of a project that's going over budget, what do you feel?
When you're being asked to do extra work for free, what do you feel?
You feel fear.
Fear of losing the client. Fear of not paying your rent. Fear that you're not good enough to be a good freelancer.
Fear, fear, fear. We all feel it. What makes us different is how we deal with it.
Top freelancers feel fear, too, but they do something different: they manage their fear.
Pro tip: Write a weekly journal entry that covers what went right and what went wrong. This will help keep the important aspects of your freelancing business top of mind. If you have trouble remembering to do this, set a weekly reminder to sit down and write the thing. (The reminder works wonders for me.)
The biggest way to manage fear, though, is the next secret...
2. ALWAYS MOVE UPSTREAM
A friend of mine recently told me about a few of her new clients. Boastful at first, she told me about how her free work for one client ultimately led her to a new paying client. As an afterthought, she added, "They won't pay much, but at least it's something."
I wasn't surprised at all. I told her as much, saying, "That makes total sense. Clients who want stuff free will refer you to clients who are similar to them. If you want to get clients that pay more, ask your clients that pay well for referrals."
Top freelancers live and breathe this one concept:
The only way to improve is to move up-market with every new project.
How does it work?
Clients beget other clients — especially the best kind of clients.
Pro tip: If you want to move upstream to better clients, go back and talk to the best clients you've ever worked with. Ask them for referrals. Good clients will get you other good clients.
3. YOU'RE NEVER "NICHE" ENOUGH
It's common knowledge that defining who you serve will get you better work. All over the internet, you'll find articles that suggest asking yourself questions such as:
- What kind of freelancer are you?
- What clients do you serve best?
- What industry do you know best?
While those are all well and good, top freelancers know that they aren't enough. Because you can never, ever be niche enough.
Once they find their niche, top freelancers define it even further. Here are a few examples:
- Ruby on Rails developer that serves bootstrappers
- Financial consultant that serves Gen-Y
- Designer for established startups in the Bay Area
- Fitness coach for "nerds" who are just starting to exercise
This is made easier by our previous point about moving upstream. Once you become nice enough, your clients can lead you to others who are like them, also within that niche.
Pro tip: Identify your ideal client and your favorite services to offer. Once you define those, make an effort to drill down even deeper. If in doubt, ask your favorite client what they enjoyed most about working with you.
ARE YOU TOP FREELANCER MATERIAL?
Now that you've heard some of the secrets that top freelancers know, I hope you're ready to start implementing a few of them to take your freelancing to the next level.
If you do, you might just be the one celebrating a big win for your freelancing business.