The following excerpt is from Shelby Larson’s book Moonlighting on the Internet. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes
Shelby Larson presents the most reliable and proven ways you can create an extra paycheck for the short term and establish a continual revenue stream for the long term with your own website. In this edited excerpt, Larson provides actionable advice for making your online service business a success.
When pursuing a career as an online freelance service provider, it’s of the utmost importance to brand yourself, particularly in the online market. Think of it as your online persona. This persona needs to be professional, attract employers, find work, and be exceptional at what it does. You’re in the business of selling yourself and must be remembered to build clients and gain a favorable reputation. It is most difficult in the beginning because you have no feedback. One place you can start is on freelance job sites.
But it’s not enough just to sign up for a bunch of freelance sites -- you’ve got to stand out and make a name for yourself. Here are a few tips to get you noticed in the crowded freelance world:
1. Have a catchy title. Just saying your name or job title isn’t enough. Grab their attention in some way -- be funny, be creative, be you! I’ve seen multiple people list out their titles and one of them is “part-time Super Hero,” “part-time Rock Star,” etc. You can do a search on LinkedIn and you’ll see some creative titles.
2. Talk about what you can do as opposed to who you are. Don’t waste all the allotted space on explaining where you’re from, how old you are, etc. Tell the client what you can do for them -- they are the ones scanning your profile and selecting you, so make it count!
3. Treat every client and project like they’re important. Most sites allow for feedback from clients, and if you don’t work hard on little projects and get bad reviews, bigger project clients are going to see that and hire someone else. Every client is important.
4. Sell yourself. If you went to school or earned certificates or accreditation in some area, make sure your profile reflects it! Even though it may seem irrelevant, it shows the client that you can accomplish your goals.
In addition to establishing an online profile via freelance sites, you should also beef up your social media presence:
5. Be active on Twitter and Facebook. Use hashtags to track tweets and Facebook posts about freelance writing gigs that fit your niche. For example, if you want to write in the blogosphere, use #FreelanceBloggingJobs to see what people are tweeting/posting about.
6. Guest post on blogs. As a guest blogger, you establish yourself as an expert in the field and potentially drive traffic to your site. (By the way, this is great for search engine optimization.) It also allows you to get your name or company name in front of potential clients. To find guest blogs, do a Google search on blogs related to your specific niche, then contact the person in charge of the blog and present a topic idea. If you want to gain clients and not SEO rankings, stick to blogs your potential clients will read.
7. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date. LinkedIn allows you to find groups with prospective clients and answer questions, which puts your name out there. Be sure to fill out the profile completely. You need to have as much information as possible on this site. Also get recommendations from everyone you’ve worked with. Recommendations are gold for the LinkedIn community. Finally, follow groups and answer questions. You need to be an active part of the community to get your name out there and make those all-important connections.
8. Participate in online networking. Networking with your target audience both online and off is a good way to reach potential clients. Additionally, content marketing and presenting yourself as an expert will help you convert your audience to clients. You can also join freelance organizations that have busy job boards to find new clients.
Maintaining your freelance street cred, especially online, means you must provide value. Content in the form of reports, audio or video programs, webinars, and online courses are all great ways to provide value to potential prospects. It’s also a great way to build a lead list. Provide the content for free and then market your business consulting services to your subscribers in subsequent messages. The content helps position you as an expert and gives you access to qualified prospects.
Then focus on your word-of-mouth marketing. Once you’ve gotten the ball rolling with your first few clients, embrace a referral or affiliate business model to drive more business in your direction: provide some sort of credit or incentive if clients refer new clients to you.
Tips for Successful Client Management
Over the years, I’ve discovered some things work better than others when doing a client consult. For example, when I take control of the conversation and tell them what I do, it tends to go poorly. I’ve found it is much more effective to take a passive role and ask the client what they’re looking for before I do much talking. This allows the client to feel listened to and understood from the very beginning.
Be sure to listen carefully. You’ll want to understand what the client’s needs are and honestly evaluate whether you can meet them right from the beginning of the conversation. Keep accurate notes and refer to them whenever speaking to a client.
I can’t stress enough how important great communication is. Everything you do is being judged, and if you want the client to come back, you need to be professional from the moment you accept the assignment until you deliver the finished project. You can do this in five easy steps:
1. Confirm the job and tell the client you will have it finished by the due date. This lets them know you have received the job and are starting.
2. At the halfway point, confirm with the client the date of completion and assure them everything is going as planned. At this point, get answers to any concerns you may have.
3. On the delivery day, let the client know you will be completing the project on schedule.
4. Deliver the job on time.
5. Follow up with the client to make sure everything was received and completed as expected.
Here are three more fail-safe tips:
Provide solutions. Ideally, everything will go as planned, but that’s not always the case. When something does go wrong, bring it to the client along with a solution to the problem. If you’re designing a website and the WordPress theme doesn’t allow you to do what the client wants, you should present ideas to fix the issue.
Learn from projects. Once a project is over, take time to reflect on what went well and what could have gone smoother. This time will help you better organize your company and give you valuable feedback for the future.
Get feedback. Ask for feedback from the people you worked with. If things went well, great! If things went askew, then it’s a prime opportunity to learn.