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Taking Your Business to the Next Level, Part 1: Creating Connections

If you’re anything like me, when it came to growing your business you decided to enrol in several – *cough* MANY *cough* – online courses, started reading all the recommended books and websites by your peers. But after all that, you were still stuck on exactly how to get to that elusive “next level” in your business.

And what does that next level even mean, or look like? In my opinion, it’s different for everybody – and there’s no cookie-cutter solution that will work for everybody. For myself, getting to that next level meant finding ways to reach a larger audience and to get more 1:1 design + branding clients. For you it might mean raising your prices to match your skill-set, creating more freedom for you to work from wherever you want to or any other number of things.

If you want to grow your freelance business, you've got to take advantage of connecting with other creative freelancers. Here's how to do it easily and make it work for you.

But there’s one thing that’s essential to levelling up: it is the time that we truly step up, treat ourselves as the business owners we are and start owning every single part of our business. It’s about becoming more successful at what you do, whatever the definition of successful means to you.

This is where I believe that branding comes in. As a freelancer you are one of the most powerful types of business owners – and it’s time to see your business as a powerful force. As a freelancer, you have the unique ability to experiment with new ideas + ways of working…with the ease of being able to pivot + change quickly. This means you can easily take the ideas you have + put them truly into action – much quicker than a traditional business.

I believe that there are three elements that create a powerful brand – and if you master these, you’re well on your way to soaring heights in your business.

These three elements are:

  1. Connection
  2. Consistency
  3. Credibility

This series is going to focus on each element individually, so that we can dive deep and figure out how each of these offers us ways to level up, grow our business, get more clients + reach that “successful” level that we’re dreaming of. These are techniques that I’ve put into practice in my own business (both over the years before + after starting my biz!) as well as recently – and each has had HUGE impact for me and the growth of my business. Let’s kick off with the first element.

Why focus on connection?

Creating connections in your business is all about connecting with REAL people. As freelancers it’s very easy, particularly if you work from home, to get absorbed into your own little bubble and not speak to a real thing (your dog or pet doesn’t count!) for days on end.

By creating connections in your business you not only help yourself – but you build your business by creating meaningful relationships with people. I did this BEFORE I ever started my business. I was one of those that joined Twitter when it had only just started to become popular and I wanted in.

I then started connecting with people that I had seen in design magazines, that were illustrators, fellow designers, writers, photographers. The connections + then relationships that I managed to build in the past have been vital to the growth of my business since then.

Focusing on creating meaningful connections also means that you focus on the RIGHT things. Yes, it’s important to build up your email list numbers and social media follower counts. But it’s also important to build genuine relationships and connection into your business – because at the end of the day, the numbers don’t count for anything if you’re not connecting with people on a level where they trust you + will buy from you – or in worst case, refer other people on to you.

Who to Build Connections With

I believe there are three types of people you need to connect with most. You can connect with other types of people of course – but these are an absolute necessity. They are:

  1. Your audience
  2. Your customers
  3. Mentors + Mentees

Your Audience

The people that make up your audience are anybody that has connected with you in some way – whether that’s your email list, they follow you on a specific social media channel and so on – but is NOT a customer and has not purchased anything from you, whether that’s a product you created or a service you offer.

Your audience is the group of people that you need to take the time to understand. Your audience can help you shape everything you offer – from products, through to blog post topics, through to services.

When you look after your audience, they are more likely to stay connected with you. Putting it simply – without an audience you have no chance of growing your business to a new level, because you have nobody to convert to being a customer.

Your Customers

This group of people is the type that you need to nurture most. They are the people that can easily turn into your biggest fans and convert more of your audience into customers.

Your customers are your most important asset as a freelancer, particularly as one that is looking to level up and grow their business. If you treat your customers well and offer a stellar service, not only will they keep coming back for more – but they are more likely to recommend other people to you.

Word of mouth and referrals are the biggest portion of my work. Building connections + meaningful relationships with my customers, treating them well + being respectful of their work has meant that time and again I’m recommended to others.

Mentors + Mentees

This is, for me, one of the most important relationships you can look to build in your business. For so long, I tried to do everything myself. But when you have mentors that you can look up to, who can offer support, advice or give you tips on how to do something better – that is invaluable. You can’t put a price on someone being able to save you from making the mistakes they have, or giving you a new perspective on an issue that you’ve never dealt with before.

Take the time to reach out to people that are further ahead on their journey than you + that you respect and admire. At worst, you’ve sent a genuine, lovely email that compliments somebody and you hear nothing back – and in that case, you are no worse off than when you began. At best, you can grow a wonderful relationship with somebody that can offer you advice or help when you need it most.

At the same time, I also feel like it’s important to act as a mentor for people that aren’t as far along in their journey as you or are going through tough times. Everybody – and I mean everybody – will be able to give their unique insight and perspective, and I have found that people I choose to help or give advice to have often helped teach me something new along the way.

Action Steps

It’s all well and good knowing WHY it’s important to connect – and who to connect with – but without taking action, you’ll get nowhere. For each part in these series, I’ll give you some recommendations that will help you to start moving forward with this element of creating a powerful brand.

This week, you have two choices!

  1. Reach out to 5 people over the next week.

    These could be people you want to work with, whose work you admire or who you’ve noticed might need a little help or advice. Simply take the time to let them know why you’re emailing, who you are + what you do. It can be scary, but stepping out of your comfort zone is something that happens often when we’re moving up to a new level in our business.

  2. Reply to every social media comment you receive.

    This could be blog comments, tweets, facebook comments, instagram comments – the list is almost endless. Hopefully this won’t get overwhelming, and I’m of course not advocating spending all of your time doing this and not your real work, but take the time to truly start connecting with your audience on a deeper level. Don’t be afraid of asking questions + getting to know your audience more. Building connections takes time – but it’s always worth it in the end.

In Part 2, we will talk about how getting consistent in all areas of your business can help you create a more powerful brand + take your business to the next level.

Rachel Shillcock Rachel Shillcock is a designer specialising in creating brands and websites for ambitious entrepreneurs ready to step up to the next level in their business. A huge believer that incredible design has the power to change the world, Rachel has made it her mission to start a revolution of incredible brands in the entrepreneurial world. Rachel is the creator of The Revolutionary Brand Club, a community to build more powerful brands with purpose and alignment. She is the creator of the Revolutionary Brand Toolkit, the Revolutionary Brand Workbook and is launching a course “Create Your Powerful Brand with ConvertKit” later this year.

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