Millions of people are joining the gig economy, doing task-based work. While companies like Uber, Lyft and Shipt offer easy ways to make extra income, going it alone in skilled work is the most lucrative way to earn money from your side-hustle.
Whether you are a writer, graphic designer or bookkeeper, running a side gig on your own is a great way to pay down debt and build up your savings. But working for yourself, rather than with a company, presents unique challenges. You have to handle marketing, client outreach and accounting on your own. Below are tips on how to get clients, establish your presence and build your business.
Launch a Website
If you are doing freelance work, a professional-looking website is a must. It’s a location you can send potential clients to see samples of your work, share testimonials and post your resume.
But you don’t need to spend a fortune to get a site up and running. If you’re familiar with WordPress, you can purchase a custom domain and launch your site for just $18. They offer hundreds of free templates you can customize.
If you prefer to have a professional handle the setup for you, Wix and Vistaprint offer affordable options to build and host a site for you.
Your freelance website should include the following:
- Headshot: Since most freelancers only deal with their clients via email or over the phone, it’s important to have a headshot on your site. It helps clients see the person behind the work. Skip the selfies and post a photo of you dressed professionally.
- About section: Instead of posting a biography, your “About” section should be about what value you can bring to clients. For instance, if you are a writer who specializes in increasing conversion rates, that’s a major selling feature. Identify common issues your customers face and how your work can address them.
- Samples: If you work in a creative industry like writing or advertising, include samples of your past work. If possible, link directly to your work on external sites; it gives you more credibility if clients can see other companies have used you before. If your work doesn’t lend itself well to a portfolio, such as if you work as an accountant, link to past clients or write up case studies about how you helped manage problems and streamline processes.
- Testimonials: As you get more clients, ask them for a testimonial to include on your site. Having other companies vouch for the quality of your work will make you more appealing to potential customers.
If you do not have enough samples or testimonials to flesh out those areas, don’t stress; you can still build a strong site and land clients with a barebones version. When you are starting out, include as much as you can. If you don’t have enough samples, you can create mock clips instead. For example, if you are a writer but don’t have published articles, you can write blog posts and link to them on your site to use in your portfolio. As you build your client base, you can replace the self-published work with real samples.
Identify a Niche
While it might be tempting to take on any client when you’re first starting out, you will be more successful if you target your services to a particular field or industry. Focusing your efforts in one area will help you build a network and clients will recognize you as an authority in your field. If you are a web designer, you might specialize in creating sites for startups or real estate firms. If you’re a writer, you might specialize in healthcare or construction. By carving out a niche for yourself, you can market to new clients more effectively.
Master Cold Outreach
While sites like Upwork and Guru can connect you to potential gigs, you shouldn’t rely on them for your income. Freelance sites tend to be a race to the bottom; so many freelancers are competing for the jobs that they each quote lower and lower prices. Jobs that would normally end up costing hundreds of dollars can end up paying just $20. While these sites can be useful when you’re just starting out and learning the ropes, to make real money, you need to reach out to clients on your own and master cold calling.
To find clients, consider the following:
- Where is the low-hanging fruit? If there are new small businesses in your city in your niche, they are potential new clients. Many of them don’t know that freelancers are available to take over their pain areas, so by reaching out to them directly, you avoid the competition and can score a much more lucrative client than if you applied on job boards
- Who do other freelancers work for? Search on LinkedIn for other freelancers like you, such as searching for “pet care writers” in your area. By researching other writers’ LinkedIn profiles and websites, you can see who their clients are. If companies have hired freelancers in the past, that’s a good sign they could be a new customer.
- Can other freelancers help? Some of the best gigs you’ll get will come from other freelancers. Connect with other freelancers in your area or industry, both online and in-person. If they have too much work or are approached by a company that doesn’t fit their expertise, they may send work your way.
If you’ve decided to start a side-hustle, getting started can be frustrating and overwhelming. But rather than waiting for clients to come to you, be proactive and build up your online presence. By developing a website, doing customer research and cold-calling potential clients, you can get ahead of the competition and earn a sizable income on the side.