As a small business owner when you first set up your business you naively think that the only important thing is being really good at what you do, whether that is training, creating jewellery, providing physio etc. In fact, to be a successful freelancer you need to be good at so much more. Here are just some of the areas I have come up with.
If you are not great at communicating you cannot chat comfortably with your customers or communicate effectively with your clients. People then won’t understand what you do or build up the rapport. They may think your job is about something but its actually something subtly but significantly different.
Half of good communication is listening. We need to listen to other people to understand what they need and then work out how we can help them or provide them with what they need. If people know we are interested in them and what they have to say then they are more likely to become interested in us too.
If you can’t sell yourself or your products then how can you survive as a freelancer? Unfortunately, they don’t sell themselves (unless you have something very visual which can be different – lucky you). This all goes back to communicating your products or services in an interesting and accurate way, building up a rapport, that leads to trust, that leads to sales. This selling could be by email, over the phone or face to face. It could be in a shop, at a stall, at a networking event or a prearranged meeting whatever works for you and your business.
How can you sell if no one knows you are out there in the first place? Marketing well can lead to brand awareness. Brand awareness can lead to sales. No one wants to be bombarded with sales message after sales message. The trick is getting the balance right. Some of your content should be informative, some fun and some selling. Using packages like Canva can produce some interesting on brand graphics for anything digital to support the content you create. Finding the social media platforms that work for you is vital too. I only use LinkedIn and Facebook to promote my business because these work well for my market and I have the time to post regular content, rather than spreading myself too thin across multiple platforms and not doing a good job with any of them. For many businesses, hard copy works too. Business cards, fliers and good old word of mouth!
Fab with the Figures
This is the nemesis for a lot of self-employed individuals. However, much you shy away from it at your peril or the tax man will come knocking at your door! Fortunately, there is a lot of accounting software that is straight forward to use that works out the figures for your tax return and provides you with useful reporting features to help you understand where your business is going. You will still need to find the time to input the data (or get someone to do it for you).
Yes, this is all about paperwork!! I, for one, often feel overwhelmed with all the paperwork and administration involved with running a small business. The tasks will vary to some degree with the business but there are always countless emails to deal with, meetings to arrange and attend, follow up phone calls to make, invoices to produce and send and payments to chase. In addition, in my business, it’s collating and scanning evaluations, booking travel, getting hold of course materials and customer details, timings and other requirements. The list can go on and on!! I think that one of the tactics here is to keep on top of it. I’m sure we’ve all had some jobs, that through no fault of our own, have been put to the bottom of the to-do list for a while. When we finally get round to doing it, the task we didn’t really want to do in the first place, has now become a major issue. We worry about it and put it off some more but when we get round to doing it it’s a weight off our shoulders and we wonder what all the fuss was about. Just do it!!
No Ordinary Organisor
To complete all these jobs you need to be organised. We all have our own ways to make this work for us. It may be a list or a diary or notifications. You need some sort of procedures in place to help ensure you don’t forget anything. Trying to store it all in your head works for very few of us successfully with the busy life being a freelancer is, even without any outside pressures. I diarise a lot of things, not just meetings but also tasks I should perform by a certain date. Do I hit all these targets? No!! But at least having everything in one place I don’t forget to do them totally. Social media scheduling software now enables me to post evergreen content in advance so I don’t need to think of new content on the spur of the moment too.
There will be plenty of knock backs along the way but you need to learn not to take them personally. If something goes wrong one day then dust yourself off and start again afresh the next. If something doesn’t work then try something else.
I’ve been a freelancer now for almost 20 years and you would think that after all that time I would be really good at all these things. Well, I’m not!! I’m better at some than others. But that’s the point. In large organisations, there would be a specialist team of people in each of these roles and we are expected to be great at it all. I’m always learning from people who are experts in these fields and one of these days I will relinquish my control and get one of these experts to do it for me but I’m not ready for that yet! I’m a bit of a control freak and it’s my business and I need to do it my way at the moment.
I hope you have enjoyed this post and it makes you realise that there is a lot to becoming a successful freelancer. If you need any Microsoft or other IT training to help you manage any of these more easily then email email@example.com and let me know how I can help support your business.