It’s never been easier to pack up your desk job and become a freelancer. Since it’s birth, the internet has evolved into such a usable and dynamic machine that today, 3.5 billion of us have access to it. Social networks such as LinkedIn and freelancing platforms like PeoplePerHour have drawn in millions of hard working individuals who have something to trade and have made it possible for them to work from home while juggling other life commitments like kids and housework.
Self-employment in the US and the UK is growing at an average rate of over 3% and is predicted to continue to grow at an annual rate of up to 3.5% over the next five years. Given that over 30% of the American workforce are now freelancing, you can only imagine what that means for future trends.
But what does it take to go from ‘just getting by’ on a freelancing wage to becoming a sought-after candidate for the hottest jobs on offer? After all, with a rise in freelancing popularity there’s bound to be strong competition in every major field.
Ilise Benun – Marketing consultant, entrepreneur, and online educator at Marketing Mentor, advises that focus is one of the driving forces for success. She says, “You can’t be everything to everyone. Focus is essential to success and builds your competence and self confidence.”
When we talk about focus, we don’t necessarily just mean concentrating on the job in hand. Focusing on your individual skills and finding your niche can allow you to become more specialised. If you’re an expert in one particular area of your field, this is where the focus needs to be.
Think about it. If you were looking for a portrait to be painted for your home and you had a lot of money to spend on it, would you hire the man that lives next door who fancies himself to be a bit of an artist amongst many other things? Or would you look for someone who lives and breathes painting? The likelihood is that you’ll trust the passionate, full time painter far more than the man who generally dabbles in art.
It’s the same in the freelancing world. If a client is specifically in need of specialist writer for an article about ERP software implementation and they find themselves someone whose speciality is ERP, then that client will approach the expert writer first and foremost. It’s that simple.
You might be nervous about specialising because it narrows the pool of clients available to you. But to offset this anxiety, remember that specialists are easier to find. If a client knows what he or she wants (and they usually do), they’re more likely to type a specific job title into their search engine (i.e ERP writer) rather than ‘general writer’ or ‘tech writer’. If you have crafted your online presence with SEO in mind, they’ll be directed to your profile as a priority and seek you out. Your competition will be sparse, thus maximising your chances of being offered the job.
As a side note, you don’t need to be an SEO expert to create for yourself a popular online presence. But it helps to know the basics. By using online resources like Search Engine Guide, you can learn how to integrate specialist key words into your portfolio that relate to your niche in order to drive relevant traffic your way.
But remember it’s not just your online presence that’ll help you out once you specialise. Word of mouth is still a critical component in finding new business.
In 2014, 84% of freelancers earning above $100,000 a year relied primarily on word of mouth for their new business. That’s quite a big chunk!
Very often, a specialist is recommended by one client to another as an ‘expert’ who can “achieve A, B and C”. This is exactly what you want. Once you’ve got onto the right side of a client, they’re likely to be a real driving force for your future business in one way or another.
While it can be daunting to go from being a jack of all trades to the master of one, it’s generally considered to be a step in the right direction. Becoming an expert in your field gives you superiority over the majority of the competition and can land you a great client that generates even more work for you in the future.
The general principle is ‘quality not quantity’. If you’re good at a particular aspect of your job, that’s what you should be selling as a priority.
About the Author
Matthew Murray is the Managing Director of Notable, a business solutions firm based in Singapore. Notable helps businesses start in Singapore and matches them with clients looking for their services.
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