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Are You Freelancing, or Building a Business?

When speaking with creative clients or attending networking events, I’ve noticed freelancers whose sole purpose for leaving their job is to be in control of the work they take on and be able to set their own schedule. The problem I’ve seen with this approach alone is that, they’re still doing work that feels like, uggh work, they just happen to be doing it at a coffee shop during the hours they choose.

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I believe we all left our jobs in an attempt to create a business that sustains our lifestyles and makes us jump out of bed in the morning. Instead of performing tasks according to someone else’s vision, we should strive to cultivate our own vision and be known as the expert at _________ who does it differently than everyone else.

I advocate that you instead build a livelihood that really fuels you and your creativity. What’s the point of not working for someone else if you’re still doing the kind of work that doesn’t fuel your purpose?

If these scenarios sound all too familiar…

You do your work according to someone else’s deadline and process outline.
You are at the mercy of what your client wants; you feel like you take orders instead of having a say in the outcome.

You STILL dread getting out of bed in the morning, and can’t wait until the work day is over.

…it’s time to build a business.

Here’s what to focus on to create the livelihood you quit your job for:

Clarify who you want to serve.

Who do you dream about working with? Hint: Anyone who needs (the service you provide) is not a good answer!

This is the most important step in building a business you love, but is, admittedly, one of the most difficult tasks.

Get started by asking yourself the following questions to uncover who your ideal clients are.

Who do you see yourself helping on a daily basis?

What kind of people do you share similar traits and a common language with?

What core values do these people share? What is most important to them (and you)?

What traits of past clients really excited you and inspired you to push past your boundaries?

It’s also best to do a little thinking about who you DON’T want to work with. This can help you recognize red flags in the future!

Decide how you can best serve them, and how to sell that.

Instead of waiting for them to come to you with what they need, craft packages that show them the possibilities.

Listing your services doesn’t always go far enough to connecting the dots, and we don’t always know what we’re looking for when we are searching. We just know it’s the right fit when we find it.

When a potential client lands on your site, make it as easy as possible for them to hire you. Designing packages according to what could improve their own business is a great way to do this.

Get started by writing down the answers to these questions:

What skills do you have that will specifically benefit the people you want to get to know better?

Have you worked in their industry before? Are you knowledgeable about their niche and understand how to make their businesses even better?

What will the transformation look like? Describe each step of the process and what they can expect to gain by working with you.

How do you differ from other service providers, and how can you use this advantage to stand out?

Decide how you can group together your expertise for the people you discovered in the first exercise, and craft 2-3 service packages around that. Bonus points for naming them in a creative and fun way!

Create a short phrase or tagline that explains what you do and who you do it for.

Having a succinct tagline that lets your audience know what you’re about right away is a great step to set yourself apart as an expert in what you do.

Look over your answers from the above prompts and insert the best terms into the following statement, or one like it:

[What you do] for [adjective] and [adjective] [what they do].

For example:

Graphic designer for posh wedding photographers.
Copywriter for bold and elegant fashion designers.
Marketing strategist for organic, purpose-driven food bloggers.

When you get super specific about what you do and who you do if for, there will be no contest when your people are searching for an expert that speaks their language!

Add your new tagline to all your social media accounts, email signature, and your website.

Now get in front of your people, they’re waiting for you!

How can you reach them both online and off?

Crafting content like blog posts and letters to your email list that speak directly to them will position you as a professional to be listened to. Learning the language of the people you want to serve is key to proving you are the expert they need. Go out of your way to have one-on-one conversations with them and learn about their struggles. These conversations will inform the content you create and your client process to a point where they will feel like you are reading their minds!

Some ideas for getting in front of your people:

  • Attend local meetups and join Facebook groups containing people that are both similar to you and could fit within your ideal client profile.
  • Ask them questions and listen, listen, listen to what they struggle with. Help them out on the spot with advice, and always leave a line of contact open.
  • Take what you’ve learned and write blog posts and other content that has one purpose in mind: to be as helpful as possible to this specific group of people. This will instill trust with others and showing that you are passionate about your skills can actually be the deciding factor in them hiring you!

Taking the leap from employee to freelancer is a big step, and we should all be so grateful we had the guts to do it! But taking the next step of building your own livelihood as an expert in your field is a truly rewarding one.

Are you freelancing or building a business? Let us know more about your journey in the comments!

Trista Dedmon Trista is a brand and web designer with a fashion and beauty background. She uses her love of aesthetics and sophistication to craft one of a kind online presences for creatively driven entrepreneurs. She’s semi-nomadic and currently living in Austin, TX, but hopes to be slow-traveling around Europe in the next few years. You can follow along with her blog The Creative Flow to get more actionable advice for building a purposeful livelihood online. WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER.

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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • I’ve been working on growing my business and appreciated these questions. Updating my “hire me” page has been on my mind and I’m definitely going to add service packages to my website now. Thanks for the tips!

  • Ohhh man, this is good.

    Your run-of-the-mill below-average-Joe-Freelancer asks himself, “What service do I want to sell?” Then he proceeds to go dumpster-diving for $40 projects to pay the cable pill. Not a good day.

    But High-Value-Harriet, she asks herself this article’s question, “Who do I want to serve — who needs what I have to offer the most?”

    Totally different ball game. Like Brighton West said in the video on your first video, focus on solving your target market’s burning pain as (1) quickly (2) effectively and (3) as easy for them as possible.

    Harriet has a real business that supports her, but Joe has a nightmare of a day (and night) job that he can’t escape.

    Delightful article. I’ll be back for more.

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