Get Professional: 20 Ways to Step Up Your Freelancing Career

20 ways step up freelancing

It’s the start of the new year and you’re ready to do some spring cleaning. You’ve worked hard on your freelancing career—looking for clients, landing freelance work, building your reputation as a solo professional—for the last 12 months, so it’s time to do some prepping up to get your freelance biz rolling strong.

Why do so? Taking time to do a year-end review will help you determine what needs to be done to raise the bar higher.

You want to establish yourself as a professional. You are serious in improving your freelancing career. If you are all the above, these tips will help you move towards all that.

Online

  • Update your contractor profiles on oDesk, Elance, Freelancer, etc. Change or add information that you think is outdated, incorrect, or that would fit in nicely with your online presence.
  • Create your very own freelance website. If you have one, take a look and see what needs improvement—if it needs a redesign, if it’s missing a few pages, or if the copy is effective enough to deliver your message.
  • twitter finding clientsAre your social networks professional enough? You can create a custom background featuring your freelance business, a new header to complement it, or change your username (e.g. Twitter handle) from @sparkypancakes to your name or brand.
  • Have a LinkedIn account? Spend some time cleaning it up and adding useful information for potential clients to see. They’re out there, trust me.
  • In line with this, ask your connections for recommendations and endorsements. These will really help boost your LinkedIn presence and your authority as a freelancing professional.
  • Think over the purpose of your blog. Is it a tool to establish your presence as a freelancer, or your personal outlet? Clarify its purpose and take steps to either integrate it to your freelance business or separate it entirely.
  • Forums and online groups are a great way to network online, but you may want to focus on active communities that house professionals and like-minded individuals. Leave the spammy ones and focus your efforts on groups that make a difference.
  • Change your profile picture into a nice, professional, and decent-looking portrait. Clients will notice the difference.
  • If your bank of choice allows clients to open an online account (e.g. BPI Express Online) for viewing and handling your funds, open one for yourself.
  • Start the year strong with web apps and tools to help you freelance productively and effectively. Look for useful tools for time tracking, project management, invoicing, and team collaboration.

Offline

  • broken-computerBeen using the same old hardware that you’ve spent hundreds of pesos on repair and upgrades? It may be time to buy some new peripherals.
  • Buy a more comfortable office chair and a good table lamp. Your back and eyes will thank you for it.
  • Dedicate this year to saving up. Cut down on your credit card consumption and focus on building up your savings and emergency funds.
  • De-clutter and live minimalist. Sell or donate old stuff to either make room for new stuff or to add more space to your home office.
  • Sign up for events and conferences where you’ll meet other freelancers, potential clients, and people with the same interests and passions.
  • Need some fresh air? Get yourself a pocket wifi/dongle and take freelancing to your favorite outdoor spot. If you prefer free wifi, a coffee shop or small resto would be nice.
  • Get cracking on those business cards. There’s an enormous untouched client base out there that you can tap into.
  • Check out books that can teach you new skills, improve old ones, and that increase your value as a freelancer.
  • Think it’s time for a real vacation? Every freelancer needs some time off. Plan your vacation and prep up your freelance business for when you’re off traveling.
  • Get yourself a planner to take with you wherever you go. Note down important dates, deadlines, client notes, project notes, etc.

Finally, continue working towards a stellar freelancing career. Work hard, offer solutions for your clients, and aim high.

What else can you do to prepare yourself and your freelance biz for the new year? How else can you establish yourself as a professional? Leave your ideas in the comments!

Photo credits: tokerud and stuffwelike
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  • http://www.travelingfreelancer.com Aleah | TravelingFreelancer.com

    Hi Stef! Again, a very nice post. I have a freelance website, but I haven’t updated it much. This year, I hope to work on it more. I should also remember to buy a lamp. I’ve been meaning to buy one since last year!

    • http://stefgonzaga.com/ Stef G.

      Thanks Aleah! I got my trusty lamp from the SM Department store. It’s more expensive than other lamps, but it’s lasted me for three years. :D

      Looking forward to seeing your freelance website up!

      • http://thepetitepenwritingservices.com/ Jovell

        Got mine at CDR King :)…I use it when working while the children are still asleep or when they’re off to bed but I still need to work because my office is in a small corner of their room.

        Thanks to your post, I was reminded to change my Twitter username. It’s a small and easy change to do but does have a big impact on how clients see us and our services. I actually was hesitating to change it last year because my surname is hard to pronounce (especially for foreign clients) but I can’t do anything about it..it’s my married name and I can’t change it. :)

        • http://stefgonzaga.com/ Stef G.

          Hi, Jovell! Since you’ve established a brand name for yourself, you can actually use that as your official handle for your social networks. I’d say it’s more effective, and you have your personal name to use for a more personal network.

          Re: married name, I know what you mean. But in my case, it’s struggling to keep my married name short enough to remember. :)

  • Dawn

    Hi Stef,
    I have been following your blog for a few days now, and have found it incredibly helpful! I love your writing style, and desire to help other freelance writers, like myself, get started and become established. I am fairly new to freelance writing – my first paid writing job found on oDesk last December. As I’ve read through this post, and browsed around your official website, it raised a few questions for me.

    I, too, would like to start my own website for my writing services. Currently, most of my writing is for product review articles (which I enjoy doing). As I was looking at your website, I was in awe at the professional design, more specifically, with your portfolio.
    My questions are: 1. Do you have a suggestion on where to go to create a website (is freewebs.com a good start)? 2. What about portfolio set up on a website? Is that a feature included on certain website back-ends, or is that an add-on feature I’d have to find and import to the web page?
    3. When you talk about using business cards… how are you using them to help gain clients?
    4. How do you find out about local events and conferences? (I live in the United States, so I know the techniques you may use I may not be able to use, but it’ll put me on the right path!)
    5. Do you have any suggestions on books to help new freelancers?

    Also, I see that you have some experience with other sites similar to oDesk. I have been considering looking into other sites like elancer and freelancer, however, I was hoping to be able to read some real feedback from users on those platforms before making the jump. Any insight?

    Your help is much appreciated!

    Thanks,

    Dawn

    • http://stefgonzaga.com/ Stef G.

      Thank you, Dawn, for visiting and reading my blog! I’m glad to hear that you find it the posts useful for you.

      To answer your questions:

      1. If you already have a domain name and hosting subscription, you can already set up a professional-looking website for your freelance business. Mine’s built on WordPress and the theme came with a bundle I bought over at Mojo-themes.com. It took me about 5-6 hours to set up, if I can recall correctly. The portfolio section is part of the theme.

      2. If you don’t have the budget for a domain and hosting, you can try https://contently.com, http://www.weebly.com/, or any of the six business card-like websites in this roundup. So long as your content is easily accessible to visitors, you’re already off to a good start.

      3. Business cards can be useful when you’re meeting and networking w/ other people, though it seems they may not be the type of people who’d hire you. I once visited the Bureau of Internal Revenue (for taxation purposes) and encountered a man who’s registering his food business. He asked what I do, I told him I write content for businesses, and he asked for a business card. I was sorry to not have one at that time!

      4. I have Twitter/Facebook/Google+ friends who share and spread the word about local conferences and events. By this alone, I was able to attend Mashable’s Social Media Day, the 2012 Wordcamp PH, and oDesk Contractors Appreciation Day. Of course, this is just one of many ways to be in the know about local events and conferences.

      5. The Wealthy Freelancer. Hands-down one of the best print books for freelancers. ;)

      I hope this helps! Let me know if you have other questions. Thanks for reaching out. :)

    • http://stefgonzaga.com/ Stef G.

      I forgot to add, I’ve actually kept from using other freelance marketplaces because they (i.e. Freelancer) require a monthly subscription to make the most out of the features and benefits, while cutting costs. While the purpose is to increase quality and ensure user dedication, I haven’t gotten around deciding on these investment.

      There’s no harm in trying Elance and other sites out, and if you can work w/ the free options and the fees, they should bring you more work.

  • http://www.copysparker.com Lui B.

    Stef,

    What an awesome post to kick start the new year! Thanks for reminding me about business cards and social networking. I was never a fan of Twitter or Facebook but now that I decided to embark on full-time freelancing, I have realized that building your professional network is as indispensable as running your own blog.

    I want to “get involved’ more this year. Thank God for my little improvements.

    For me, Linkedin is a growing site that every Filipino freelancer should not take for granted. In fact, I got two job offers just by regularly updating my Linkedin profile and participating on specific Linkedin group discussions. For business cards, I’ve been hearing a lot of good reviews for Vistaprint so it’s definitely worth a try.

    In my own opinion, your “offline” tips deserve to be included on every freelancer’s must-do list. Having an emergency fund, getting a real vacation and improving one’s skills are three of the strongest factors that could keep a solo business afloat.

    All the best for TFP!

    • http://stefgonzaga.com/ Stef G.

      Awesome. I got several projects on LinkedIn as well. I plan on tweaking my profile once I get the chance.

      Thank you, Lui!

    • http://glorisurban.com Glori Surban

      Hi Lui!
      I’m still trying to get a hang of LinkedIn. What groups can you suggests for writers?
      I feel like most of the groups I’m currently a part of are full of spammers, so I got discouraged. I religiously update my profile though and I’m always looking for ways to improve it.

  • http://glorisurban.com Glori Surban

    Thanks for the great tips Stef!
    I have to ask something about website though. I’ve always felt so insecure about using Blogger for my online portfolio. I keep telling myself that it doesn’t matter but i also wonder if potential clients may not take me seriously because I’m not in WordPress even though I have my own domain and professional email address.
    What do you guys think?

    • http://stefgonzaga.com/ Stef G.

      Hi, Glori. Thanks for bringing this up. The way I see it, it isn’t so much as using a popular CMS like WordPress for your portfolio site than it is to have actual portfolio items that display your skills and expertise. So long as the website is working, functional, and the prospective client knows where to look for samples of your work, you can stick with whatever platform you think suits your needs as a freelancer.

      Of course, it’s always nice to have a nice-looking portfolio website to display your work. If you’re going for this direction, you can install WordPress (it’s easy to do) and there are plenty of portfolio themes you can use and tweak to do this. :)

  • http://stefgonzaga.com/ Stephanie

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