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According to estimates, approximately 57 million Americans participate in the gig economy. This group ranges from those who have a small side hustle that they manage in their free time after school or work, to those who freelance on a full-time basis.
Of course, not all freelancers are able to achieve the same level of success. While many are able to reach income levels beyond their peers that are employed in a traditional workplace, others still struggle to earn enough to support their lifestyles.
So what accounts for the difference? For many, it comes down to their online reputation.
This became especially clear during my recent interview with Laura Belgray, founder of Talking Shrimp, who turned her freelance copywriting practice into a business that now generates $60,000 each month. With a strong online reputation, you’ll stand a higher chance of growing your personal brand (and hourly rates). Here’s how to do it.
1. Strengthen Your Portfolio
For many clients, the most important thing in deciding to work with a freelance copywriter, is determining whether or not the writer will deliver quality results.
As Belgray explains, “In the online world, it’s not just a matter of how much revenue your copy can bring in. Sometimes it’s a matter of the business owner wanting to be proud of their copy, of their branding. It’s a matter of branding and pride.”
What’s the best way to prove to potential clients that you can deliver results they’ll be proud of? Build up your freelance portfolio. Use your website to highlight past projects and the results they’ve generated for clients. If you can’t add to your portfolio due to an NDA (a common occurrence for freelancers), consider creating sample work for your site, so prospects can see the quality of the work you create.
2. Bolster Your Background
Prospective clients want to have confidence that they’re working with a reputable service provider. They don’t want to work with a writer who plagiarizes, or a freelance developer that’ll abandon the project when it’s only half way finished.
This means you need to demonstrate a clean, reliable background. For more insight on this, I spoke with David Daniel, founder and CEO at CheckPeople.com. “It’s always a good idea to start with client testimonials and reviews—these will give confidence to potential clients,” he shares.
Daniel continues, “However, clients who are paying a lot of money will want to dig deeper into your background. Checking your public records and ensuring that there isn’t any erroneous information out there could very well keep you from losing a sale.”
Even something as simple as adding client testimonials to your site or providing referrals when communicating with a prospective client will build trust and help you grow your business.
3. Showcase Your Expertise
Like it or not, clients aren’t always going to find you through your website. You’ll often be doing a fair amount of cold outreach. For Belgray, raising her public profile through a variety of means has ultimately allowed her to go from charging $250 per hour to an incredible $1,450 per hour today.
As she explains, “I’ve gone out and pitched my story to different publications and have gotten in them. That gives you a lot of credibility. Podcasts are a great place to get your name out there and showcase your expertise—and also speaking on stages. The more you elevate your own profile, get out there and show yourself as an expert, the more you’ll be able to charge.”
Demonstrating your authority with the help of reputable third parties will lead to a natural increase in demand for your services—and this’ll allow you to raise your rates over time.
4. Foster Continual Engagement
When asked about her number one piece of advice for freelance writers, Belgray shares, “Focus on email. Build your email list and write to people. Get your list really engaged. It’ll sell your services to them, and it’ll allow you to pivot and sell them something else when you branch out from just client work. Use your skills to sell not just for your clients, but for your own business.”
As Daniel also notes, this continued level of engagement can do much more than just help to win repeat business from past clients. It keeps you top of mind—a valuable thing when their connections ask for help. “More often than not, the people who already know and trust you will be your best source for further strengthening your brand,” he explains.
“Earning someone’s trust is no small thing,” Daniel adds. ”By continuing to engage with these individuals, you could earn more business from them or gain valuable referrals. Word of mouth will ultimately be the best way to strengthen your personal brand on a one-on-one level.”
By building a strong online reputation as a freelancer, you’ll have far greater control over your schedule and workload.
You won’t have to constantly struggle to find new clients. Instead, you’ll place yourself in a position where you can charge the rates you deserve and work the schedule that best fits your lifestyle. With a great reputation, your other goals will fall into place.
March 6, 2019 at 01:52PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs