Freelancing is a career path with a broad range of benefits. You have the opportunity to contribute to your field of expertise while also enjoying the flexibility to set your own working schedule. You’re not restricted by geographical location, either, meaning that it can be a way to support your global travel adventures. However, the growing list of advantages also makes freelancing subject to a lot of competition.
This means that alongside your day-to-day working activities you also have to learn how to stand out. Doing this successfully is challenging for established freelancers, and there is a whole extra layer when you’re just starting out. Not to mention that freelancing is more popular than ever — a report from the Freelancer’s Union noted 57 million Americans worked this way in the past year — and the need for distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic has caused numbers to swell further.
So, how can you best set about navigating competition as a freelancer? Let’s take a closer look at a few key areas of focus.
Creating a Portfolio
Building a solid portfolio is essential no matter what field of freelancing you engage in. If you’re new to the game, this can certainly be challenging. However, it’s far from impossible to stand out from the competition even if you have very little experience. Remember, it’s not quantity you’re shooting for but quality. Creating a minimal portfolio is fine as long as the focus is on your best possible work — don’t throw in lower quality pieces just to make yourself look more experienced, as this just calls the consistency of your quality into question. Don’t be afraid to use your personal projects too. Just make sure that everything is presented clearly, and if you’re using an online portfolio make sure it’s easy to navigate through the menus.
If you have a decent volume of work under your belt, you have a little bit more to play with. However, this isn’t from the perspective of bulking up your portfolio but making it more dynamic. Create different portfolios that highlight certain types of work, styles of execution, and intentions. This allows you to send a portfolio that focuses on the most relevant work for the client you’re pitching to. Your ability to be agile here gives you a leg up on the competition.
Connecting meaningfully with clients in the industry is often key to rising above the swollen crop of other writers. This isn’t everybody’s strong suit, though. Indeed, it can be common for writers to choose the freelance approach because they aren’t comfortable with the personal interactions of the staff-writing space, and work most effectively when independently driven. This is understandable, but without some focus on making not great connections, you can lose attention.
In the beginning, your primary form of making connections is likely to be through sending out your resume to potential clients and employers. You aren’t likely to make an impact with a standard list of employment history. Rather, treat it as an opportunity to sell the best aspects of who you are. Making a descriptive phrase for your resume does more than eloquently and efficiently highlight your most valuable skills, it also showcases your all-important writing chops. Be cognizant about how this is best applied, though. Don’t overwrite, but use language that evokes both your abilities and the soft skills clients value. Remember to inject some personality in there too — after all, while the potential client needs to appreciate your skills, they should also want to work with you personally.
Beyond this, don’t forget that other freelance writers and professionals in your industry aren’t just competition. They can also be sources of great relationships. Make the effort to attend local and online conferences or conventions. Get talking to people that are more experienced than you, and start to build a diverse network. Don’t be afraid to confess your lack of experience and ask for advice. Yes, they can help track down leads and recommend you to their clients when they can’t personally take opportunities, but it goes further. Having comrades who understand the difficulties you face means that you can develop a strong mutual support network. You can also be more effective working together to build more agile strategies to help each other rise above the competition.
Developing a Reputation
As a freelancer, one of your most vital tools in navigating a competitive environment is your reputation. This comes in a couple of forms. Firstly, when your existing clients are confident that you can deliver quality goods on time and in a hassle-free fashion they are more likely to return to you rather than beginning the lengthy trawl for an untested writer. Secondly, a good reputation spreads, generally leading to new clients coming to you based on your profile, rather than your having to submit your portfolio or pitch.
Whether you’re new to the industry, or an experienced professional, it pays to keep a close eye on your methods. These inform your productivity, your mental wellbeing, and your organization, and as such have a direct impact on the aspects clients care about. Taking time to review your workspace to understand how it helps or hinders your productivity can be vital. Select seating and desks that are both comfortable and ergonomic. Make sure the lighting is easy on your eyesight and helps you maintain a sense of calm — natural light is particularly effective here. Putting in place even these basic elements has an impact on the quality of your writing and the way you operate your freelance business. This in turn can be instrumental in building and maintaining your stellar reputation.
Freelance writing is an increasingly competitive field. As such, you need to place focus on creating a high-quality, dynamic portfolio that reflects your potential clients’ needs. This, alongside taking time to develop an effective network and adopting behavior that bolsters your good reputation can help you to stand out above the crowd.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ainsley Lawrence is a freelance writer with an interest in the intersections between wellness, education, and technology. She loves traveling to beautiful places and is frequently lost in a good book. Reach her on Twitter here.