The Freelancers’ Secret

Posted on 30. Sep, 2009 by in Clients, Lists, Marketing, Motivation, Workspace

The Freelancers’ Secret

Look around yourself and notice the world. You will find that the majority of the people of this world prefer to have a ‘boss’ as opposed to being self-employed or a freelancer. This is because they do not know how to unearth the secret of success.

Mankind is such that when we gain success, we must ensure that no one else discovers the path to our success. A mature mind, however, will rise above this petty mentality and know that there is enough success to go around for all of us.

Take an Indian restaurant, for instance. In my city, when the first one opened up, it saw outstanding success. This lead many people to want the same success for themselves and within five to ten years we had tens of Indian restaurants. Ask yourself this, did the business of the first restaurant crash and burn? No. They remained the daddy of restaurants and maintained their success while others also became successful too, despite more competition.

The world of freelancing is the same. Reaching a degree of success does not mean in any way that we should become selfish and secretive. Perhaps we shouldn’t reveal every tiny detail of our success but we should not be entirely selfish with what we have found. It is for that reason that in this article I will show you the secrets which make a freelancer successful. I will show you the path to success by using the wise pearls of wisdom from the most successful people to have passed this world.

1. Belief

Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact.
William James (1842 – 1910)

Everything around us is a manifestation of the beliefs which we have. If a doctor did not believe in his ability to practice medicine, he would never have succeeded. Similarly a freelancer will never attain success until he/she has utter conviction that they will succeed in the end, even though they may fail at times.

If you believe that you are worthy of the success which you wish to have, then you will think about it and eventually you will begin to change your behaviour, work pattern and habits such that you will start heading toward the success you wanted to achieve.

When I started off, I believed I would have an amazing house and a car. I printed off a picture of a spacious house and my favourite car and pinned it on my notice board next to my monitor. I was forced to look at it again and again every day and I convinced myself that I needed it and I deserved it. Since the thought of achieving my goal was on my mind all of the time, my brain began making the connections and I eventually sat on the road to grasping my dream home and car.

I achieved my goal because it was somewhat realistic for a very young adult. I didn’t want a Rolls Royce and a Manor house, I wanted a Peugeot and a normal house. I poverty_wideweb__430x387would like to point out that I find that there is nothing wrong with wanting to achieving material things, however, maturing over the years has taught me that there are some things which matter more than wealth and possessions.

Now I have this picture on my wall. You may think of it as an absurd thought, but my goal in life is to eradicate world hunger by a significant amount. It may seem a little off topic, however, it is a goal which I want to achieve. There is nothing wrong with me wanting this, and I know that just like everything else which I have believed and prayed for, this will be achieved in the same way.

2. Preparation

Fail to plan, plan to fail

When I say preparation, this covers a vast spectrum of areas where you can prepare. Initially you should train yourself to be mentally aware. The last thing you want is to become overwhelmed with the extra work load as this could cause many detrimental problems in the not-so-far future.

Winston Churchill said:

We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire…Give us the tools and we will finish the job.

Notice that in order to not fail he said “Give us the TOOLS…”. You must be fully equipped. If you are a budding freelance web designer and do not have Adobe Photoshop or the like, then you have not prepared yourself and you will find it an uphill struggle from the beginning.churchill

Think of this as if you were preparing for an exam. If you do not revise, you will fail, and if you do happen to pass, it will hardly be a mark worthy of showing off about!

Preparation also includes organisation. This is so important that I could have made this into a point of its own. I would advise you to organise your workspace and clear it of all the clutter. A cluttered workspace will leave you with a cluttered mind and that will hardly help inspire you to success!

Organisation does not only apply to your actual workspace around you but your virtual workspace. Clean your desktop and organise things into folders. Also use a client management system such as FreshBooks to organise your clients, invoices and time.

3. Marketing

Next to doing the right thing, the most important thing is to let people know you are doing the right thing.
John D. Rockefeller

You need to market your services or else no one will know of them. I have read many books and attended several seminars on marketing and that is what I am basing my advise on, along with my personal experience.

I would push you to seek out the potential client and market to them, as opposed to randomly marketing to everyone. Try to be specific for your own customers and use ways of manipulating clients.

A few of the many points are:

  1. Create and distribute a sexy business card.
  2. Design fliers advertising your business, print, and distribute.
  3. Create a portfolio site
  4. Optimize your portfolio for the search engines (SEO)
  5. Start a blog and write relevant interesting articles aimed to your potential customer.
  6. Cold email/call potential clients, explaining your services and why they need them.
  7. Create a mailing list of all past clients.
  8. Create a newsletter and send it out on your mailing list. I would send this newsletter out fortnightly and perhaps every two months send a newsletter in the post to your clients.
  9. Register to forums and job sites. Have a link to your portfolio on all forum signatures.
  10. Use social networks – Twitter, LinkedIn.
  11. Give past clients coupons and discounts in order to get them to choose you again.
  12. Pitch to potential clients using specific thought-provoking words and speaking in the interest of the client

4. Honest Work

Honesty descended from the Heavens and settled in the roots of the hearts of men.
Prophet Muhammad (saws)

Action is the foundational key to all success.
Tony Robbins

There is no joy in work unless it is honest work. Leaving a task unfulfilled will not only make you feel guilty but the money which you earn may not entirely be ethical. A clear fact of honest work is that only those who have ever been honest to their cause and work were successful.

Honest work also entails the idea of working in the right proportions. Many freelancers suffer from procrastination and will not reach their success simply because they are too busy watching a funny video on the Internet when they should be concentrating on their work.

If the problem seems extremely bad then I would suggest a parent blocker to block particular sites from your computer. You could let someone other than yourself set the password to the blocker so you can’t take it off yourself. There are other ways of solving this problem, such as working in small chunks as opposed to a large project all in one go, which makes any project seem much, much easier.

Writing a to-do list may ease the strain of mounting work but I feel that there is no motivation like your own competition. I would push you to go to other freelancers and see what they are doing and try and rub some inspiration onto yourself.

Overworking can be as drastic as procrastination. Lack of management with your time will cause you to become exhausted and frustrated. This can leave you feeling abnormal emotions which do not reflect your normal self such as beginning to hate your work or changing your behaviour around the ones you love.

Personally, I use a simple solution to counter overworking and that is to schedule everything. If I have prior knowledge that I will have a large workload, I aim to schedule even the time I spend with my daughter. I feel this is a necessary step, as if you do not schedule anything, you will be working into time which you should be giving to your loved ones.

5. Strong Professional Bonds with Clients

Talk to people about themselves and they will listen for hours
Benjamin Disreali

As a freelancer you need to be able to please your clients because a happy client will come back in the future, recommend you to others and most importantly feel a sense of completion due to your input.

Whenever you speak to a client you should try and place yourself in their shoes and speak from their perspective, look out for your client and automatically a strong bond will be in the making. This may involve giving your client free advise.

Sometimes even just listening to them when they waffle on as opposed to trying to talk too much about yourself will make them think better of you and make it easier to have a bond with them. Make the client more comfortable by making them feel important by talking about them. Try honestly complimenting something about them or their business (or their kids!).

I try and remind clients that I exist around a year or so after I have worked for them. Sending a card or just dropping a “how are you?” email can do the trick. This will significantly increase your chances of future work with that client and they may recommend you to friends and family who require your services.

6. Criticism

To avoid criticism do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.
Elbert Hubbard

Elbert Hubbart was right, the only way to not get criticism is to do nothing and say nothing. If you want to do something, open your ears and listen to the criticism you receive. Regardless of how much you may hate to hear criticism you can never be successful without honest criticism. The first step to honest criticism is to criticise yourself.

Try thinking out of the box when you assess your business and services. Try not to think “I like red so I will create my landing page to look like different shades of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. You may enjoy a colour, style or price, however this does not mean that it will appeal to your client.

A great way to achieve good self-criticism is to completely remove emotion and sentiment from everything you do, from the services you provide to the way you market them. Once you have gotten rid of “But I like it…” as an excuse, you will be able to actively self-criticise.

Criticising ones own self is easy, but to hear criticism from others can often be uncomfortable and difficult. If you find yourself listening to honest criticism from a colleague, friend or family member, try and remain calm and keep your temper. It is extremely easy to offend when you criticise someone and that is why it is highly likely that they will offend you. Ensure that it does not affect you, or else you will be taking a step off the road to success.

I would however like to share with you an experience. When I was starting off as a freelancer and saw the beginning of my success, I was criticised heavily by one of my closest friends. Initially, I took what he said to heart and it affected my productivity, work ethic and motivation. On close examination of his criticism, however, I found it was unfounded and stemmed from jealousy.

Criticism with honest intent can help you save your business and make the difference between making or breaking you. Criticism founded on jealousy and envy will never benefit you and have negative consequences on you. I would advise you to listen to hate criticism through one ear and let it out from the other! In fact, do not have a reaction to it because often their motive may be to achieve a dissatisfied expression or anger from you. Rise above it.

7. Grow

The strongest principle of growth lies in human choice.
George Eliot

A business has a ceiling on how much it can offer until it begins expansion and similarly you have a ceiling on what you can offer until you attain new skills.

Whether you are freelancer who is directly involved with the web such as a freelance programmer, or you are a freelancer who doesn’t as much, such as a freelance writer, you need to be constantly updating and developing your skills. The internet is very dynamic and things are constantly evolving, thus concluding survival of the fittest. You need to adapt and grow your skill-set to keep with the times.

Just imagine if you are a freelance designer and have learnt how to design back in 2000 and never updated your skills. You would have been brushed to the side by a smelly teenager who actually kept with the times (no offence intended to teenagers, you are not all smelly). Even if you are a freelance photographer or writer, you still need to keep with the game. There are always new and exciting ways you can develop your skill-set, such as learning a new programming language or technique.growing_070813

Your ‘business’ is you because you’re a freelancer and will grow as you grow. There are, however, other ways to grow your business. Usually you may want to only do this once you are getting a substantial amount of clients and are having to kindly turn down many of them. If this is the case, you need to look toward expansion.

You could become an actual firm and start charging more for your services, although you would start drifting away from the core idea of freelancing into another realm.

Final Word

That is my summary of what I believe to be the secrets of a successful career in freelancing. I know that these methods work because they worked for me, however, this does not mean that they will work for you or other methods will not work more effectively.

The best final tip I can give you is to read what other successful people have to say about success and try and mould this into your life. Never become arrogant but hold strongly to your beliefs.

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18 Responses to “The Freelancers’ Secret”

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  3. cypherbox

    01. Oct, 2009

    Great article. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

  4. Cesare

    01. Oct, 2009

    A very inspiring post. Thanks for writing it. Whenever I feel down I will read it again.

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  6. Barbara

    01. Oct, 2009

    A very interesting article! Yes, the Secret works. Sometimes in ways that are hard to explain. Every time I order something, it comes true almost instantly. Often in ways that I didn’t expect. Also, I feel that the longer I practice using the Secret, the faster it works. This book has definitely changed my life in a very positive way :)

  7. Roger

    01. Oct, 2009

    Very useful article, the best one I’ve read of this kind.

    Thank you so much!

  8. David

    01. Oct, 2009

    Inspiring and motivational. Something else that could be added is to keep things simple, when things get complicated or even when we try to do a whole lot at once it sets us for failure.

  9. Dan Perndl

    01. Oct, 2009

    Great article!

    I would add one more thing, time management. As a freelancer you normally work at home, so private and business life tends mixing up. Best way to avoid getting stuck in your work is to track your time. As a web developer, use an online service. I like, but any another works it too. Don’t forget, for managing your time, you have to track it first!

  10. [...] The Freelancers’ Secret [...]

  11. Shoaib

    05. Oct, 2009

    Barbara – I have read the book and although there are some very good ways of self improvement, I feel that the “Law of Attraction” is utter baloney. Simply because of the fact that “the universe” will return things and that “we are a god”. I just don’t settle well with those ideas. But as you said there are some great pointers in the book, mostly.

    David – True, biting off more than we can chew is a definite issue.

    Dan – Fantastic point, thanks a lot for that point, much appreciated. Time management is key to success.

  12. Frank M Hansen

    06. Oct, 2009

    Great post. Thank you very much for taking the time to do this.

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  17. tom

    03. Dec, 2009

    This is a great article. I love the part about belief. Thanks

  18. Vincent

    28. Oct, 2011

    Excellent post! Belief and honest work are the keys!!!

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