A discussion about starting and building a successful freelance business… even if you are an introvert
Notes from the Austin WordPress Meetup Deep Dive Discussion March, 14, 2016
Last month we discussed the tools and processes that can help our members build an efficient, effective Freelance business. Several members contacted us and asked us to follow up that presentation with a straight forward conversation about how to find and build a profitable client base. So in this month’s Deep Dive Discussion, Nick and Sandi Batik will focus on how to find and on-board clients for your freelance business, even if you are an introvert.
We understand that it can seem rather daunting to start your own WordPress freelancing business. The Deep Dive Discussion will address where to start; what specialized services you are best suited to offer; and how to find clients. Our goal is to examine how to build a healthy freelancer practice that supports you and delights your clients.
We looked at how to to find and on-board clients for your freelance business, even if you are an introvert, by focusing in those specialized services you are best suited to offer.
You can find the slides for this presentation at: http://www.slideshare.net/sbatik/the-introverted-freelancers-guide-to-finding-clients
Here is the transcript of the slides:
The WordPress Ecosystem offers an amazing diversity of Freelance opportunities for:
- WordPress back-end developers
- WordPress front-end developers — UX /UI
- Plugin developers
- Theme designers
- Graphic designers
- Content creators, curators, managers
- Information architects
- Inbound marketers
- SEO managers
- Social medial managers
- Site security specialists
- Site maintenance heroes
- with new opportunities being added all the time
Becoming a full-time Freelancer
- The choice to become a full-time freelancer in the WordPress Community needs to start with some serious soul searching
- Freelancing sounds friendlier and a bit more approachable than entrepreneurship —its not
- Building a successful (read profitable) freelance practice is the hardest jobs you will ever have
- Done right, being a successful freelancer can be the best professional experience you have ever had
Where to start doing it right
As you are your Freelance Business — It makes sense to start with YOU!
Introvert or Not
In the Final Analysis Your Freelance WordPress Practice
IS ALL ABOUT YOU!
For an introvert the following questions and action steps will be uncomfortable, but necessary…
You can’t communicate to a client, either within your site’s content, or in person, what you have not yet clearly defended in your own mind
What is your Personal “Super Power”
- The things that come to you easily, you may tend to under value
- But in reality that innate skill or passion is your personal superpower
- It is the differentiator that makes a client want YOU instead of another Freelancer
- The business management name for your personal “Super Power” is your “Value Proposition”
- It describes your target client, the problem you solve, and why you’re uniquely a better choice than other freelancers.
Your Personal Value Proposition
- Your value proposition is your personal positioning statement that explains:
- what benefits you provide
- for who
- and how you do it uniquely well.
Your ‘Super Power is at the core of your Freelance practice’s value proposition
- What problems do you understand uniquely well?
- What unique solution can you deliver?
- What kind of personal super power can you bring to solve a client’s problem?
Valuing and communicating your personal “Super Power”
- Your personal talents and abilities make you a thought leader in your part of the WordPress Ecosystem.
- Being an introvert does not mean lacking confidence in our skill set
- It’s just hard for us to talk about ourselves
How to define the value proposition for your Freelance business
Build your professional value proposition by answering the following questions
- Why would a client choose you?
- Who am I best suited to help?
- Why would clients choose me over another Freelancer in my field?
- What business problem or issue am I uniquely qualified to solve?
- How do I proceed? (Your action steps to solve a problem)
- Which area should I focus on, based on my current skill set?
- What results can I deliver?
- For what improvement?
Develop a simple, concise sentence that states your unique value proposition as it relates to your current skills.
Review it once or twice a year to keep it current as your skill set and client base evolves.
What is your compelling vision
- Invest the time it takes to define your compelling vision
- You are a self-identified Introvert who has chosen to pursue a WordPress freelancer’s life
- What is the compelling vision that is driving you to build a full-time business?
- What is your personal “why”?
Your compelling vision should …
- Make you willing to live on the edge of income insecurity during your startup
- Help your friends and family understand your commitment to building your business
- Inspire you take action even when you are tired
- Give you the focus and energy to you pull an occasional all-nighter
- Drive you out of your comfort zone to build your ‘Tribe of Supporters’
- Help you clearly articulate your life goals and objectives
Questions you need to address about your compelling vision
- How will your WordPress Freelance Business help you achieve the goals and dreams in your Compelling Vision?
- How much are you willing to sacrifice to achieve those goals and dreams?
- How does your significant other feel about your compelling vision as it relates to your freelance business?
- Is that personal partner “All-In” to support your dreams and help you reach those goals?
Before you answer…there is somethings we need to examine closely
- Really knowing and understanding your personal strengths and weakness is crucial to your success as a freelancer
- You need to set your goals based on your current skill set, your experience, and your compelling passion
- Some hand on-line tools to assess your personality, passions, strengths, skills and expertise
What specialized services are you best suited to offer?
- What do you do best?
- What do you love to do?
- What experience and training do you have?
- What type of client fits your unique set of skills?
A smart start for your Freelance business
- The best way to start is part-time and build your WordPress Freelance business on the side with the safety and security of your day job.
- Before You Quit Your Full Time J.O.B — Get your finances in order
- Know to the exact dollar — your REAL monthly expenses
- Ruthlessly cut unnecessary expenses
- Honestly assess and strengthen your emotional support system
- Honestly assess and sharpen your skill set
- dentify the ideal clients that match and need your current skill set
- Research your ideal client base — where does this type of client hang out online and IRL?
- Work to build and enhance your skills everyday
So what happens if you didn’t leave your J.O.B — But your J.O.B left you?
- Do all of the above only FASTER!
- Think like a Gazelle!
- Run like your life depends on it – because it does
How Introverted Freelancers can land their firstclient
- Start by building the very best site you can — for your self
- Apply the Dave Ramsey’ Debt Snowball’ to building your freelance business — start small and steadily build up to big jobs
- Look around for your first clients
- Make a list of who you know and who needs a web site or a design
- Beginning Bloggers
- Small business you love and want to support
- Start somewhere — Anywhere —but get that first freelance client
- Build on that first client job — It’s you first small snowball
- Use it to get a happy customer testimonial, an example for your portfolio — which will you get addition and better work
- With each small job, build on your client snowball to learn more, get better and be paid more
- When you are starting out — take whatever you can get
- Design and promote your own pet projects
- Put those projects in your portfolio
Building a professional portfoliois critical
- Your portfolio sells your services
- The quality of your work determines:
- How much you get paid
- The type of clients that are attracted to your freelance business
- Repeat business and client referrals
Best way to build your marketing funnel
- The goal of your content marketing strategy is to create a demand your work
- The more demand — the higher your fees
- The most successful content marketing funnels focus on your identified niche clients
- Identify and reach out to those target customers that best fit your experience and skill set
- Invest the time to build a powerful online presence — your site will consistently bring you opportunities to help new clients
- Build your website content strategy completely around attracting those folks that have problems you are uniquely positioned to solve
Building your personal brand
All in-demand freelancers in the WordPress space have three things in common:
- A powerful, unique personal brand
- A reputation for great work
- A powerful online presence that guarantees a steady flow of new business
How do successful Freelancers attract clients online?
- A website that sets them apart from other freelancers in their space — that very specifically states what they do and how
- An impressive portfolio
- Testimonials from happy clients
Use your portfolio to reinforce your personal positioning
- Your portfolio is your opportunity to boost your personal brand by:
- Practicing your niche skill
- Building your own ideas
- Exhibiting your technical chops
- Representing your very best work
- Defining your “place” in a crowed marketplace
- Helping clients self-select, saving you from getting proposal requests for work you are not interested in, or cannot do
Provide easy-to-find contact information on all your site’s pages
- This may include your:
- Contact Address
- Phone Number
- LinkedIn URL
- Twitter Handle
- Any other social media that your clients use
Testimonials can give your reputation as a Freelancer a major boost
- After completing a project, get a testimonial from your client
- If given permission by client include the client’s name and company
- Prospective clients want to know more about your experience
- Ask for and include testimonials received from your volunteer and charity projects in your portfolio
The Introverted Freelancer’s favorite tool — ‘The Content Marketing Sales Funnel’
- Build your content funnel to attract your target- market clients
- Blogging is an important tool to help you establish a unique presence online
- Blog about your area of expertise and show off your best work samples
- Write solid ‘Cornerstone’ content pages and link to them internally
- When you write, reveal your personality, have an opinion – you have unique mixture of quirks, and interests. Let your clients know you!
- Make sure you have a picture of yourself as part of your blog bio or on your about page
- Use social media to promote your blogs
- Twitter and LinkedIn are great in our market
Developing a winning content strategy
We have talked about this before, check my handsonwp.com blogs from previous WPATX classes
Here is a fast content development process review
- Structure your content development plan
- Install a content calendar plugin and use it
- Create an editorial plan (what you will write about and why)
- Start with headlines that solve your target client’s problems
Finding inspiration about problems that are plaguing your target clients
- Google Alerts (by topic): Set a key term for each of your important and secondary topics
- Google Analytics (keyword traffic section): This is a proven, invaluable tool for inspiration
- Twitter (with Hootsuite help): Within Hootsuite search for a specific key term and then save the search to a separate feed
Use your process to write your content
Go solve a vexing problem in 300-1500 words with a great headline.
Get your publication schedule in your editorial calendar
Deadlines are deadlines — even of your own making
Keep a high standard
Proof your work and use your pre-post checklist to get the most ‘Google Love’ for your effort
Track your successes and your failures
- Follow your analytics like a hungry hawk looking to snag lunch
- Seriously, those clients are your lunch, also your mortgage and car payment – focus folks
Content development process conclusion
- Creating good relevant content is never easy
- But with an actionable plan it gets easier to attract your ideal client into your sales funnel
Getting site visitors to enter your sales funnel
The difference between a subscription and a registration
Develop ‘Content Goodies’ To encourage clients to register or subscribe to your site’s special offers
The content you offer has to specifically address the issues of your targeted client
- eMail newsletters
- Video tutorials
- Free webinars and seminars
- Discounts and special offers for ‘Your Tribe’
Building your WordPress Tribe
Be an Online Contributor
- Take part in online discussions related to your area of expertise
- Interact online by answering questions on forums and sites like StackOverflow, Genesis forums, WordPress Slack channels etc.
Contribute To Open Source Projects
- While many potential clients don’t have a WordPress development background, others may, so might prefer freelancers with cool-code experience.
- Working on an open source project establishes your credibility
- Contributing to open source projects, can be part of your Value Proposition, and can give you an advantage over other freelancers.
Here are a few open source contribution pointers
- Start with newer projects that have fewer lines of code and less complexity than more mature projects
- Once you’ve selected a project, look through the project’s issues list, then pick a small bug and try to fix it.
- Create a personal project or utility and open source it on GitHub. If it appeals to other developers, they’ll request new features or updates. As your project gains recognition – so do you
- Be sure to mention your open source achievements in your portfolio and your LinkedIn Bio
Contribute to the Community
- Be a WPATX Volunteer
- Answer questions at WPATX Office Hours or on the WP Forum
- Attend technical meet-ups outside the ‘WordPress Bubble’
- Interact with people — Let them know who you are and what you do
- Meet-ups give you a chance to share your knowledge as well as learn new things from fellow attendees.
How can an Introverted Freelancer get better connected?
Most of us are more comfortable connecting on- line than IRL
Use Social Media
- Social Media connections can have a drastic impact on the growth of your Freelance business
- The better connected you are, the more likely you are to get projects
- Our Tech-Tribe and likely client base is most likely using one or more of the big Four:
- Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook
- Scouting your social media is probably a way that buyers might quickly and easily check out a perspective contractor
- Most business use LinkedIn as a way to connect and vet fellow professionals
- We in the WordPress Bubble tend to use Twitter: Follow me at @sand_batik
- Google+ is also popular with WordHeads for publishing technical posts
- There are numerous private FaceBook pages for WordPress Special interest like WProsper and PressNomics
Why all Introverted Freelancers need to spend more time learning LinkedIn
- LinkedIn is overwhelmingly the dominant source to evaluative prospective business associates
- LinkedIn’s professional focus and the range of relevant information, makes it important to your Freelance strategy
- Check out a client’s LinkedIn page
- Peruse the profiles and updates of possible team members
- Explore their contributions to relevant LinkedIn Groups
- Reach out to folks you need to know
- LinkedIn a particularly important place for Introverted Freelancers to make their expertise visible
- Don’t think about LinkedIn as a ‘marketing channel’ — it is a business environment, very much like an ongoing, online professional conference
Look For partnering and joint venue opportunities find members of the community that might need your skills for a client project
- Offer to ‘White Label’ your services to them
Look for opportunities to sell retainer-based services for on-going projects
- Site security and maintenance are always good options
Use video tutorials as part of your content strategy
- Clients love video blogs and tutorials
- Google will share extra love on your site
Make your proposals professional and your invoicing prompt
Review the February 2016 Deep Dive Discussion Tools and Processes for Freelancers Notes and Slides.
Constantly look for opportunities to get better at what you do
- Take classes
- Exercise your chops at hackathons
For the introverted Freelancer, your website – particularly your portfolio is you biggest “selling point”
Places To Find New Clients… Even For Introverts
Sometimes Your Freelance career starts with a J.O.B to build your portfolio
For a free copy of the freelance resources of job sites and places to find freelance projects go to https://handsonwp.com/join-library/
GET CONNECTED — Join and contribute to the Austin WordPress Tribe at http://www.meetup.com/austinwordpress. We look forward to seeing you at a WPATX meetup soon.