How to Stand out as a Freelancer

I started freelancing full-time when I was 21 years old. Today I have my own company and work with many freelancers to run my business. Therefore this article doesn’t just give you insight from the freelancer’s perspective, but also from the (lady) boss perspective who has to regularly choose the one outstanding freelancer among dozens of job applicants.
You want to stand out to get the jobs you want? Then follow these 5 important steps to get there!

Build an outstanding portfolio

Spend as much time as you can building a great portfolio. Education and special training often don’t matter as much as hands-on experience. Present your work in a way that gives potential clients a great picture of the awesome work you do.

Let’s take graphic design as an example. There are tons of graphic designers out there, but many companies will tell you it is still very hard to find someone great.
So take your chances and design whatever you can, whatever you are passionate about and attach it to your portfolio. If you don’t have the customers yet, why don’t you design a few layouts for an imaginary project and show them in your portfolio as a sample work?

In my opinion, a portfolio isn’t always about jobs you have actually done for a customer. In fact, it is hard to get those dream jobs at the beginning of your career. So just show your potential to customers, show them what you COULD do for them. Especially if you are new to the industry, just make something up to demonstrate your ability.
This tip is essential for all kinds of freelancers in creative fields, such as Writers, Graphic Designers, Web Designers, Developers, Artists, Journalists and so on. If you apply for a specific job, your potential customer needs to see that you are the perfect match for it.

Build a website

Since you are already working on your portfolio: Why not show your passion for your work by publishing it on your own website?
As a beginner, you don’t need to spend hundreds or thousands of euros/dollars to get a perfect website. There are many great website building tools out there to help you build a solid site for a low monthly fee (to name a few: WordPress, Wix, Jimdo). These website builders are also SEO friendly, which means it will be easier to actually find your site on the web, if you spend a little extra time with the setup.

Your very essential “about me” page will also give your potential customers a personal picture of who you are and what you do.

Select your clients

You only can deliver great work if you are passionate about it in some way. Of course, you can’t be expected to be overexcited about every project that comes along, especially in the beginning when your focus might be on earning money. You might have to take on a few projects you’re not thrilled about to start out. But as soon as you have a little bit of freedom, you should think about your target audience.

In the first year of my work as a freelancer I took on all kinds of projects, basically everything I could get. So for example, I did work for a car dealer, a vitamins and supplements seller and a supply chain service. I just thought “Well boring, but why not?”.
Not too long into this “why not?” mentality a client approached me who wanted a website for his escort service. During the first meeting I just realized, that this wouldn’t work. Nothing for me, I’m out.
Finally I started thinking about what clients I was really looking for. Which projects would help me to develop a great portfolio?

Ask yourself these questions as soon as possible, because “doing everything” not only looks a bit desperate in your job references, it also does nothing to open possibilities with your target audience.
To come back to our example, if you are a graphic designer who wants to specialize in corporate identity designs, filling your portfolio with website and flyer designs will probably not attract the desired corporations.

Remember, clients are not only looking for training, but also a passion for the work you do.

Try to be the best

Regardless if the project is small or big, try everything you can to be successful in your project. You never know where a project might lead you.

As for me, I’ve gotten many jobs through good recommendations from earlier clients. To be successful in your project, you should be confident about the work required of you and feel also comfortable with the client you’re working for.

Become a good networker (even if you aren’t)

I’m definitely not the type of person who is good at this and I’ve never gone to networking events. But you don’t have to look far. . . your friends, your family, your ex-colleagues, your neighbor, probably even your hairdresser and doctor are going to ask what you are doing – and you are going to tell them! 🙂 As soon as they see the excitement in your eyes, they will be curious.

There are many examples I could give, but one of the strangest situations was when I had to get my foot x-rayed after an injury. The doctor asked me what I did for a living and next thing I know he asked if I could send him an offer to build his website. You will find yourself in situations like this all the time, therefore be prepared.

How are you going to reply, if you get asked what you do?

Prepare 2 or 3 sentences to describe your work and make yourself interesting!

People often tend to get shy replying to this kind of question, but it could always be a great opportunity for you.
If you aren’t prepared your answer might be: “I’m working in IT” or “I’m a writer”.
That’s a great answer to end the topic right away.

If you’re instead prepared for this question, your answer gives the people a clear idea of what you do and they will remember it:
“I’m self-employed and work as a developer. Mostly I work for other freelancers or small companies to build their websites.”
You should mention that you’re self-employed, otherwise people won’t know that they could actually hire you. You should then shortly describe what you do. Which brings me to the next point:

Make an easy and understandable job description.

You need to be aware of the fact that you are a specialist in your field and most of the people you’re talking with aren’t. Don’t confuse them with industry or tech descriptions. They’ll let you know if they have experience with the topic.
This isn’t just a tech issue either. Lot’s of people don’t know what a Copywriter or CI Designer does.

I would love to hear about your experiences and would be happy to answer your questions. Please use the comment box below!

Katarina Fischer München Entrepreneur & Designer,
Founder of the home decor brand Katie Fischer and Blogger @katie.fischer

Looking for more inspiration?
Follow me on Instagram! @katie.fischer

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How to Stand out as a Freelancer