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How To Scale Your Freelance Business

7 ways to capitalize on opportunities and increase your client base.

If you’re a successful freelancer, you might have too much work to handle on your own. Or you might realize that you can expand your reach by teaming up with others in your field or who have complementary skills. Whatever the reason, scaling can help you meet your market’s needs and keep burnout at bay.

Keep in mind that scaling differs slightly from growth, although the terms are often used interchangeably. Of course you want to grow your business, increasing your revenue and staffing up as needed. But the old adage “You have to spend money to make money” applies here. If you hire someone, your increased profit is offset by the salary you pay them. Scaling is about increasing your revenue while keeping those offsets in costs to a minimum.

Independent marketing consultant and Business Minds podcast host Tim Grandjean is based in Berlin, Germany. A Mailchimp partner, Tim has been freelancing for 5 years, helping clients create email campaigns, CRM strategies, and inbound marketing programs. He has scaled by focusing on efficiency and marketing.

“I set off on a freelance path after a full-time position ended,” he says. “But scaling my business is a big plan of mine, and I do this by always looking for ways to improve processes and find better clients.”

Sheilah Crowley is the founder of The Summit, a Brooklyn, NY-based career coaching consultancy for high-net-worth women ages 40-55. She fueled her client support in part by building partnerships with experts who can provide what her clients need most.

“Since many of my clients turn to entrepreneurship, I team up with freelancers who specialize in areas that I don’t have expertise in, like social media, content writing, and editing,” she notes.

Tim and Sheilah shared these tactics to increase the scope of your freelance business.

1. Choose a specialty.

Having an area of focus doesn’t mean you’ll get pigeonholed into doing one type of work or miss out on sales. Just the opposite. Zeroing in on certain areas of expertise will actually make you more compelling as a freelancer. One of Tim’s specialties is working with B2B clients in sectors such as engineering. His industry understanding is a differentiator. “My clients create impressive technology but might not have a digitized marketing strategy to attract qualified leads,” he says. “I can help them optimize the valuable customer data they have.”

2. Promote your brand.

Raising your profile is an important part of scaling. The first step is to create a professional-looking website—this provides credibility and establishes a place where people can find samples of your work and details about your business when they search for you. Next, determine which social media channels your audience uses so that you can raise your visibility through engaging social posts. Another opportunity is email—create content you know your audience wants and reach them with just a click. Sheilah publishes a monthly email newsletter. She shares a personal take on the typical struggles of her target audience and links back to her website to encourage people to get in touch.

3. Learn a new skill.

If you’re getting a lot of work requests for a particular service, consider expanding your skill set to meet the need. Your experience may dovetail nicely with a new offering, which is why clients are asking you about it. For example, a graphic designer who mostly works in print may have clients who want digital work. Sheilah got certified in using the Myers-Briggs personality assessment tool to help clients looking for guidance in matching their career objectives with their personalities. “I also got certified in career coaching because many clients wanted more granular help getting hired after figuring out what they really wanted to do,” she says.

“I am continually building the expertise and experience that I bring to clients. I increase my prices to reflect that. It’s a good way to scale.”

-Tim Grandjean, TGJ Marketing

4. Team up.

If you don’t want to or can’t realistically acquire a new skill yourself, consider partnering. A freelance marketing writer, for example, could join forces with a marketing strategist to offer their combined services to clients. If you’re booked solid and passing up opportunities, you can also consider subcontracting to another freelancer or agency with similar skills. Teaming up or subcontracting can lighten your load and show your clients that you’re available when they need you. And, partners will likely return the favor and bring you in on projects at some point. “I do this all the time,” says Tim. “I have a range of people in my network like graphic designers, SEO specialists, and IT professionals, and we work together in teams on projects.”

5. Evolve with your market.

The needs of your existing and prospective audience will change over time. It’s important to stay on top of how your market is shifting so you can continue to serve your clients even as their needs change. For example, a service that matches babysitters for parents of young children might recognize that its customers will evolve to be more interested in tutors or school admissions counseling as their kids grow up. Or a website design company might find that search engine optimization (SEO) is an integral part of what its customers look for when they build or update a website.

6. Monitor pricing.

As you continue to serve your market and build expertise and increased value as a freelancer, be sure to remember to raise your prices. Some freelancers resist price hikes for fear of losing work, but a well-justified price change with plenty of notice rarely results in the loss of good customers. Over half of IT freelancers in a recent survey said they reevaluate their rates with every project. Whether you charge by the hour or by the project, periodic price increases are an important part of protecting your bottom line and ensuring that you’re fairly compensated. “I am continually building the expertise and experience that I bring to clients,” says Tim. “I increase my prices to reflect that. I often raise my prices for new clients. It’s a good way to scale.”

7. Join or form a network.

Networking—either in person or online—with people in your field and the markets you serve is an effective way to make new contacts and find work opportunities. Investigate professional networks on social media websites like LinkedIn and Facebook to see if there are local or national groups in your niche. Many groups are free to join and provide online and in-person networking and educational opportunities. In Massachusetts, for example, Boston Content serves as a hub for content marketing professionals. If there isn’t a group for your specialty, be a leader and start one. Tim stays active on social media and leverages his personal network in the coworking space he uses, which can be an excellent source of new work.

Maintain balance as you grow

As your freelance business scales, remember that taking time to relax and recharge is important for you and your success. This downtime is essential for maintaining your health and the creative problem-solving energy you need to scale as a freelancer.

Sheilah focuses on family, friends, and exercise to maintain her equilibrium. Tim protects his personal time by keeping his work hours to weekdays between 9 am and 6 pm. “I keep the weekends free for interesting, educational things that feed the brain like reading a book or watching a course,” Tim says.

Being part of a community is an excellent way to scale your business and showcase your best work. Check out Mailchimp & Co—our community specifically for freelancers and agencies—and market what you do to millions of Mailchimp customers.

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