New decade, new career options, am I right? In this post, I want to talk all about the skills freelancers should master if they want to earn more money and make more sales.
Challenges Faced by freelancers and service-based Entrepreneurs
Whether or not you’ve been in the freelance game for a week or a decade, you might have encountered a few challenges that are keeping your business from growing:
- High competition. Let’s be real: there are countless other entrepreneurs with similar offers as yours – how do you stand out and win more customers?
- Difficulty finding new prospects. It seems that everyone and their mother is looking for someone with your business, but why does it seem like you can never find them?
- Proving your expertise in the industry. Not everyone might see the value of your work right away. How do you convince them you know your stuff more than anyone else they’re looking to hire?
Even a decade from now, I’m sure these will all still be very relevant challenges. I mean, it’s expected that over half the U.S. workforce will be freelancers in just a few years – imagine other kinds of businesses that’ll come up by then.
My advice? If you truly want to stand out, get more customers, and grow your business, you need to master a few important business skills.
OVER HALF OF THE U.S. WORKFORCE ARE PROJECTED TO BECOME FREELANCERS BY 2027, MAKING IT ESSENTIAL TO STAND OUT IN EVERY WAY.
SKILLS FREELANCERS SHOULD MASTER IN 2020 AND BEYOND
1. Decision Management
Forget time management; you need something better.
One reason I’m not a huge fan of using the phrase time management a lot is because I think it’s a little incomplete. Now it’s not enough to manage what we do with our time – that’s only one part of being a creative entrepreneur.
Instead, I propose focusing on decision management. I like this phrase more because it takes into account prioritization. And prioritization is an incredibly important skill a creative entrepreneur has to master.
With prioritization, we’re not just talking about time. We’re talking about processes, action steps, and even roadblocks that might keep us from making the most of what limited time we have.
With decision management, you have to weigh which tasks, clients, processes, etc. are most worth your time. In business, there are a million and one things everyone is saying you should do – social media marketing! video! TikTok! Which ones are really essential for your business to grow?
It also means considering the roadblocks that are holding you back or causing friction in your business. Being able to identify these is part of the skills freelancers should master, especially since we do so much work as it is.
These roadblocks are things like distractions that keep you from doing more quality work in the best time. What can you get rid of so that everything in your business (including your mental load) runs smoother?
HOW TO PRACTICE DECISION MANAGEMENT
Do regular checks on how and where you’re spending most of your time, energy, and resources.
Get rid of distractions that keep you from getting more work done. You can read up on 18 ways to stay productive throughout the workday here.
Create streamlined systems for your business. If you’re a freelancer, here’s how you can set up a time-saving freelance system for yourself.
Automate certain tasks to free up mental space. Read more about these 13 everyday tasks you should be automating to save hours each week.
Have set routines and schedules to avoid decision fatigue. Learn how you can create a productive work week using Google Calendar here.
more on decision management:
2. Creating High-Value Offers
Next, as a creative entrepreneur, it’s not enough to just have an offer. You need high freakin’ value offers.
With so many people out there offering similar services or products, you need to stand out. The best way to do this is creating an offer that’s so hard to resist, it doesn’t make sense buying from anyone else.
Creating these high-value offers is one of the important skills freelancers should master. You don't want to be just like everyone else, yo.
Look at your current offers and see how you can add more value to them. If you’re selling goods, think about improvements or bundles you can introduce. If you offer services, think of added bonuses or project scopes that will really put the cherry on top of the cake that is your offer package.
CREATE AN OFFER THAT’S SO HARD TO RESIST, IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE TO BUY FROM ANYONE ELSE.
HOW TO CREATE HIGH-VALUE OFFERS
- Opt to create high-ticket packages that combine several tasks or deliverables instead of one-off deliverables. You can read more about making high-ticket freelance packages here.
- Stay up to date with new innovations and trends in your industry to see if you can use them in your offers.
- Get your name out. Sometimes you can increase your offer value just by getting your name in big publications or working with big companies.
- Don’t be afraid to try new things for your business. Some of the most successful businesses started out as crazy new ideas.
- Keep learning! The best way to create high-value offers is keeping your ear to the ground and applying what you learn to your business.
3. Lead Nurturing
If you really want to grow your customer base, you need to get people on your email list.
Say what you will about email marketing, but it still makes a ton more conversions than social media. Case in point:
(Data and image from Convertkit. Click here to sign up for Convertkit for free and start getting your first 1,000 leads.)
No matter what business or niche you’re in, you need to master your email marketing skills. Lead nurturing involves getting people on your email list, then nurturing that list so you stay top of mind when their need for your offer arises.
And, really, email marketing is just another one of the most essential skills freelancers should master if they truly want to turn their skills into a sustainable business.
How to Improve Your Lead Nurturing Skills
- Start an email list. For first-time email marketers, I recommend Convertkit as your email service provider because of their gorgeous opt-in form designs and no-fuss email editor.
- Use this link to sign up for Convertkit for FREE and start collecting leads with their free landing page builder.
- Make an effort to send regular newsletters and broadcasts to show off your expertise to your audience. You can read more about how to grow and nurture your email list from scratch here.
- Join Facebook groups where your audience might be, and offer free value regularly.
- Start an informational blog or YouTube channel where you can show off your expertise. Send them out to your list for free. (The logic being, if people see how awesome your free content is, imagine what they get from you when they buy your paid offers!) Here’s a step-by-step guide on starting a brand new business blog from scratch.
Want to start getting your first 1,000 leads for free?
Sign up for Convertkit below and use their free landing page builder to start collecting email addresses and making sales.
4. Asking for referrals
In my business, I now rarely do cold outreach to get new clients. That’s because most of my leads and customers come in through referrals.
The key is definitely delivering great work first, yo! You can’t expect someone to refer your business to anyone else if you aren’t delivering what you promised and wow-ing your client.
After your client is thoroughly impressed, they’ll be more than willing to sing your praises.
Consider impressing clients so much that they'll be willing to refer you as one of the top skills freelancers should master this year (and the next decade). Your business will run itself on referrals.
And I believe existing clients and customers are the best people to get the word out about our business. It’s not spammy, it’s authentic, and – let’s face it – people trust other people’s opinions and reviews, even if they’re complete strangers.
How to Practice Asking for Referrals
- Create a script you can copy-and-paste over and over requesting for a client referral. If you don’t have an existing client yet, read this post that shows you how to land your first paying client.
- You can start by asking trusted colleagues, mentors, and coaches for character references in the beginning too. This also helps you practice your referral-requesting skills before you actually reach out to clients.
- Create a Google Form with questions to capture clients’ testimonials. I like to display testimonials on my website using Thrive Ovation (WordPress-only plugin). (It takes me a minute to capture, sort, and display testimonials with this tool!)
- Experiment with offering an incentive for clients who give a testimonial. Be it a discount on their next renewal or an added service to their package, people are always more than willing to do something if they get something for free – bonus if the free thing is highly valuable in itself.
more tips for freelancers:
5. Collaborative Work
Your business’ success relies on how well you can collaborate with people.
And this goes beyond, say, being a freelancer and joining your client’s team. It also means being able to manage a team of your own.
I remember when I first started recruiting and handling a team for my growing freelance business. It’s tricky at first, but over time, I was able to create and adapt to better workflows that helped my team operate at its best.
Your business does best when your team is on the same page when it comes to projects, goals, and deadlines. I like Richard Branson’s quote on the topic most:
CLIENTS DO NOT COME FIRST. EMPLOYEES COME FIRST. IF YOU TAKE CARE OF YOUR EMPLOYEES, THEY WILL TAKE CARE OF THE CLIENTS.
How to Get Better at Collaborative Work
Use collaboration apps like Trello to keep progress of projects accessible for everyone. Even if you’re a solopreneur, you can still use project management apps to keep your clients up to speed on your project together. Sign up for a free Trello account and explore your first Kanban board here.
Communicate using apps like Slack (messaging) or Zoom (video conferencing). Adapting to tech is just one of those essential skills freelancers should master too.
6. New Media Literacy
Last but not least, one skill that absolutely every creative entrepreneur ought to master if they want to grow their business is new media literacy. There are a few aspects to this.
First is on new tools and platforms that pop out every so often that can make running your business easier.
These could be new apps, social networks, and communication tools that emerge – and you probably know just as well as I do that new stuff comes out all the freaking time.
Tools like email marketing or appointment scheduling could fit in here. But things like website-builders (here’s my go-to website builder that I used to design my website and blog) and social media schedulers should also be on your radar.
The second aspect is using new media as a way to market your business. I already mentioned tools for building a blog and website, but this also means being sensitive to new platforms that might be valuable marketing spaces for you.
Of course, this doesn’t mean jumping on every new social network or app that comes to market. But if you truly believe a new media platform can benefit your business – and falls into your business’s existing goals already – then there’s no harm in being an early adopter and trying out new platforms.
Get better at adapting to new trends – put that on your list of skills freelancers should master this 2020 and beyond.
How to Be More New Media Literate
Be sure to set clear goals for your business to know which tools and platforms to invest in. Here’s one of my most popular blog posts about 6 kinds of goals aspiring entrepreneurs should set each year.
Follow industry leaders to see where they’re branching out. For example, my partner is in the coffee business, and he learned that many influential people in the industry start their own Telegram channels instead of Facebook groups.
Observe what related businesses are using for their operations. See if you can find out which tools they’re using and for what to determine whether or not they’re worth your time and money. Want a list of all the tools I use to run my business? See my free resources vault here.
What Skills Do You Want to Master as a freelancer?
There you have it: all the skills you need to master as a freelancer if you want to grow your service-based business. Just like any skill, these will take some work and time before you get better at them – but there’s no time like the present to get started.
As a special bonus, I have a free Freelancer Kit for aspiring and current freelancers looking to get more clients.
The free kit comes with my invoice and service proposal templates that you can use to increase your close rates, especially if you’re pitching to cold prospects.