Diving into the freelance world is scary, but it’s always the more rewarding path to take.
It builds your character, critical thinking and pushes you to be an entrepreneur. Most people say you need loads of experience first or don’t jump in too early as a freelancer.
I did the internships I worked for agencies; I tasted the corporate design life.
I’ve learned more in the last five months than actually working in an office. It makes you see the long term and forces you to hustle to achieve your goals.
The benefits of financial freedom and work flexibility are worth the investment.
You can work whenever, choose the clients you love and work on projects that make an impact in your career. It’s a challenge, but there are always opportunities with the internet.
Success is a process, not a destination.
1 — Build a personal Brand
Your first step should be to increase your online presence and not just have a beautiful portfolio. Your name should reflect your personality and be well designed — this will give you higher perceived value.
It take’s time growing, so start early, and you’ll reap the benefits sooner. The key to this is to show up every day and make mistakes, this is the fastest way to grow, you can always adapt as you learn. Create resources that will help others reach their goals and build trust with your audience.
When I started designing my brand, I lacked clarity and found it hard to find the right message. I niched down on one thing and found it easier to target one audience and have the right messaging. It took weeks of tweaking, mind-mapping and asking questions from the design community. Put your audience first, find out their needs and what they’re are struggling with so you can be a solution to them.
Building a profitable personal brand online is not a sprint and something that happens overnight. Don’t aim for perfection early on. Instead allow your brand to evolve naturally over time and focus on providing massive value and over deliver to your target audience. Then you will get clearer over your message and brand as well. Always remember that!
Your brand is all about attracting the right audience and connecting with them. It becomes easier to sell products and build long-lasting relationships. The good thing is that you can always stay small and have a deeper connection with your audience.
One way I brought value to my audience was creating an email list; I would send weekly blog posts or video updates. Don’t get discouraged when you’re not making progress. Always have faith and be persistent; opportunities come when you least expect it.
2 — Create revenue streams
Income streams need to be your priority; money is needed to run your freelance business and pay your bills. Creating sources of income consumes more time but is most rewarding in the long-term. I currently have four streams which bring in a decent amount of income every month but has also helped me get new clients.
Some Passive income streams:
Plan out a path to identify what streams would best benefit your brand and what area you could dominate in. How can you increase your monthly revenue? What’s the one thing I can do bring value to people and make a side income? What platform will help me get to my long term goals?.
Not everything will work for you; everyone has different goals and experiences. You might have awesome products to sell on Etsy or know a specific niche skill you could teach on Skillshare. Have a self-awareness and see what you would be good at doing.
I find it easy to teach and create products; I also have the equipment to do that so I know that’s an area I could dominate in. Figure out what you do best and which platform will best sustain your business.
Creating digital products is an excellent way to expand your growth as well as teach you about marketing. It’s a win-win, you learn and make money at the same time.
At the start it can be frustrating but learn from others, see what works. Invest in courses so you can years of time and increase your chances of selling.
I recently finished the passive income for designers course from Dustin Lee and it’s boosted my confidence. I have a step by step process and guide to create products that will sell on the creative market. I can continue to apply that knowledge over and over again for different products and build that revenue stream.
3 — Create Every Day
Content is no longer an option; you have to be producing content on a consistent basis to be on people’s radar. The one rule that everybody should know is to teach everything you know.
Shift your mindset from a consumer to a producer. Create information that your audience will resonate with, help them get to their goals. Everybody loves content especially if it’s free; it builds your influence in the industry.
When you produce content, you position yourself on a higher level as a thought leader. When you do it right and are consistent, growing a community and following becomes a simple task.
The best thing to do is create every day or on a weekly cycle. Put out content like blog posts, videos, dribble shots, GIFs or designs into the world. Post imperfect work, process over perfection.
To be known for something you need to show up and create daily. Focus on quantity and quality will follow. Create something; it doesn’t matter what it just does it and stay consistent. You can read tutorials all day, but you only improve by doing.
One habit that will make creating content easy is writing. Write down your thoughts or start with documenting your process like a journal. Doing this for 20 minutes each day will help you create that habit.
Writing can be translated into videos, products, classes, podcasts, blogs, guides and even checklists. I love writing guest blog posts, it enhances my writing ability and helps my brand gain traction.
Leverage other audiences to increase traffic to your portfolio, product or whatever you’re focusing on at that moment.
4 — Leverage Relationships
The majority of work comes from referrals, friends, previous clients, past agencies and even family. If you don’t take risks and ask for work, you will never know what you could be doing.
Get involved in communities where you can connect with like-minded people. I love doing this because it has expanded your contacts and allowed you to collaborate often.
Relationships are leverage. If you give value to someone else first, you have leverage.
There are opportunities everywhere, be optimistic and give people value. The rule of reciprocity works and I apply it when I’m dealing with people. Put in the extra effort and always provide as much value as you can to any client.
If it’s a free job or a paid job it doesn’t matter, they’ll always come back to you with more work because you did an excellent job and they could trust me. Give value, be honest, and people will always reciprocate.
If you’ve worked in an internship, or for a friend keep in contact with them, give them a certain call or email. Showing that you care, they will always come to you if they need help with a project.
Local community meetups are a great way to connect with other designers. I’ve always had someone wanting to collaborate on side projects. Building relationships are important, if you want people to support you, care for people and don’t neglect your audience.
5 — Side Projects
Creating side projects whether they are big or small will boost your brand beyond what you’ll expect. Work on personal projects which can to gain attention and build up your style of work. It helps you to gain momentum and attract new clients.
I remember reading a post on Medium from the guys at crew; they started the side project Unsplash. If you don’t know, it’s currently the best free photo stock site for high-res photography.
The team built it just to store their photos on there not expecting to blow up. It turned out to be so popular they received 50,000 visitors within 10 minutes. They now get 11 million unique visitors a month and have a dedicated team to update it, which is crazy.
Even Jessica Hische said,
The first (side project), was pure eye candy and helped jump start my lettering career. Since then I’ve used side projects to exercise parts of my brain that go unused during client time, and have had a blast creating fun resources for other designers.
Start a side project whether it’s a simple app, a digital product or a tool that designers will find useful. These types of projects are a win-win because you both learn and increase your work opportunities.
Think of projects that would develop your technical skills but also bring value to the community. Fit them into your schedule even though it may not bring in quick cash, over time you will reap the rewards.
- Create a brand not just a portfolio
- Make creating a daily habit
- Build multiple passive income streams
- Make time for side projects
- Give Value and put others first