Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Ten Things You Should Do Before Going Freelance

Going out on your own is equal parts exhilarating and terrifying. We all have notions (for better or worse), about what it will be like, but what's the reality? I went out on my own almost 10 years ago and here are 10 things I'm glad I did, wish I'd done or learned along the way.

1) Moonlight while you're still at your current job.

The most successful entrepreneurs spent a couple of years working full days at their regular job, and early morning, nights and weekends on their new business. It's not for the faint hearted, but laying the groundwork before your income depends upon it significantly increases your chances of building the business you want to have.

2) Do your research before you make the jump.

A successful and fulfilling business doesn't happen by accident. You need to know what makes you unique, who your ideal client is, and what they struggle with.

3) Craft your compelling pitch.

Now you know all of the above, it's time to craft your compelling pitch. Instead of thinking of a pitch as a 30-second synopsis of everything you do, think of it as a conversation starter. As Seth Godin puts it: "The best elevator pitch doesn't pitch your project. It pitches the meeting about your project. The best elevator pitch is true, stunning, brief and it leaves the listener eager (no, desperate) to hear the rest of it"

4) Have a couple of clients lined up.

Starting out with a few clients helps take the heat off in those first few months. If it's not a conflict with your current position, take prospects out for lunch and pitch your services. Remember to make it all about them and how they will benefit, not about you and your new venture.

5) Work it. Every Day.

Being an entrepreneur means doing everything (at least in the beginning) - including things you hate and things you're not good at. Does the idea of making a cold call send shivers down your spine? Push through the fear and pick up the phone anyway. It won't be as bad as you think. And even if it is, you're no worse off than if you didn't call.

6) Don't take yourself too seriously.

We tend to over-think things, and that's often driven by a fear of what others will think. Remind yourself often of Eleanor Roosevelt's wise words "You wouldn't worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do."

7) Get an accountability partner.

Going it alone can be isolating, so support is crucial. One of the best things I do for my business is participate in an accountability group. We set 90-day goals and meet via Skype every week to share our intentions are for the week, what we need help with, and to offer resources and support to each other. At the end of the week we check in via email and share what we achieved. I swear I do most of the stuff on my list because I told my group I would!

8) Network, network, network.

Now I realize that networking is not something most of us get excited about, but I've come to realize that once you 'get' the rules and find your tribe, it's actually really fun. Modern networking is built around starting conversations, forming authentic relationships and focusing on giving, rather than getting. The great thing about this type of networking is that you can be yourself, release any negative emotions around 'selling' and feel great when you connect with someone who has a genuine need for your services or knows someone else who does. This is not about short-term gain, but slowly building your relationships and your reputation. It takes time, but the pay off is truly worth it.

9) Build your list.

I cannot overstate the importance of building a list of good quality prospects. Your subscribers are people who are genuinely interested in what you have to say and will potentially buy or refer your services to others. So how do you go about building a quality list?

a) Newsletters, blogs and social media are a great way to share content that builds the 'know, like and trust' factor. Not sure what to share? Focus on your client's challenges or aspirations and offer solutions and inspiration.

b) Be consistent. Whether you decide to send out a newsletter weekly, bi-monthly, monthly or quarterly, be clear about how often people can expect to hear from you and deliver when you say you will.

c) Share great content. Remember, this is about your audience, not an opportunity for you to share your random thoughts and observations. If you wouldn't submit it to a publication, don't send it to your list.

Etiquette tip: never add someone to your list without their permission. If someone gives you their business card, follow up with an email saying how great it was to meet them and that you'd love to stay in touch. Briefly describe what you share in your newsletter and ask if they'd like to be added. Be sure to give them an out so they can graciously say no if they don't want to be included.

10) Be persistent.

No one said it would be easy, but if you're doing something that adds value and meaning to the lives of others, it's worth it. Know when you need to push through the tough times and when you need to take a little break (which could be as simple as going for a walk or treating yourself to ice cream cone). And don't forget to celebrate the small wins along the way.

Good luck!

Successful freelancers and entrepreneurs know that planning is foundation of a thriving business. Justine Clay is a business coach for creative professionals who need help positioning themselves more effectively to their ideal clients. Click here to receive her free video series: 6 Ways To Get More Dream Clients

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