I’ve been having a great series of conversations the last few days with another freelancer who’s been struggling to get more work. I’m not even fully where I want to be yet, but I must be doing something right, because I have other folks coming to me on a fairly regular basis for freelancing advice about how to get started or how to “go upward” in their freelancing (hence the name of this site). After nearly 10 years as a freelancer and an untold amount of experiences, I have a few key things that I’ve found that separate the professionals from the losers. The interesting thing is, a professional designer needs to do these things, even though they are not design-related.
1. Learn to write
good well. I shouldn’t be so surprised that the legion of graduates coming out of college these days aren’t typically strong spellers nor especially great at articulating ideas well on paper – they grew up texting “omg lulz” nearly 24/7. The fact remains though, that everything you write that will be seen by others will help them shape their impression of you before they even meet you. Most freelancers get notified by email about a possibly project before they even meet the client. Take the time to run spell-check and have your English Major of a roommate check it over for you. Trust me, it’s a habit worth developing.
2. Put a priority on meeting new people. It’s a well-known fact that people usually buy from people they trust. If you know the kind of clients you want to attract, get out to where they are and meet them. Attend community mixers and events, join groups that look promising, and hit them up on Facebook or Google+ – focusing on building relationships will turn them into happy and comfortable customers later. Or even if you don’t get a gig out of it, you’ll meet some really interesting people. I certainly have.
3. Write down a personal mission statement and some professional goals for yourself. This sounds dumb, I know. Mission statements? So ‘eighties, right? No. A personal mission statement will help you solidify the work you want to do, the people you want to do it for, and more importantly, it will keep you from veering off into unknown territory too quickly. Your mission statement will keep you in line and on the course you chart for yourself. If you want to explore another opportunity that’s fine, just be sure it matches with your mission statement.
Same thing for goals – the difference in a dream and a goal is a plan. Goals are how great things happen. Without goals, you’re doomed to becoming a wandering generality and will not accomplish a lot with your life or career because you’re not heading anywhere in particular. You need a roadmap and a destination. Goals will help you get there. Set goals for writing your blog, gaining new clients, working on your own portfolio, learning a new skill, etc. Set goals for everything! Money, family, health, knowledge – all of it can be enhanced by setting goals for yourself.
It’s funny how some of the most important things we can do for our careers have very little to do with our field. I’ve found though, that most of the time, making sure I’m growing in one area or another will affect more than just my job. Discipline begets discipline.
Question: What are you going to do this week to be better than you were last week?