Dream Big: How To Scale Your Freelance Business
As a freelancer, you’ve always got plans for moving forward.
Maybe it’s necessity - what you’ve tried hasn’t worked out, or you’re bored with it. Maybe you dream of doing something completely different.
Or maybe you’ve built a successful little niche and now you’re ready to add another string to your bow.
Freelancers are creative, visionary dreamers. We’re always imagining and planning.
And if you’re thinking and wondering about the next step, maybe it’s time you scaled your freelance business.
What does scaling mean?
It simply means to build your business. Usually you're "scaling up" or growing it. Scaling involves consolidating one part of it to grow another.
Take me for example, I do lots of different things under my freelance hat. I started as a features writer, then I branched into website copywriting, and then to designing websites. Since then, I’ve added SEO copywriting and social media management. I’m also currently working on my first e-course.
Every one of those steps meant scaling my business. Branching out, pushing the existing boundaries.
And every one was scary as hell.
Sound familiar? If you’ve got an idea of something you’d like to do to move your business forward, then read on. I can help. This post is all about...
How to scale your freelance business
Here’s my top tips...
1. Plan your next step
Oh yes, there’s a lot of planning involved. Because unless you really know what you want, how you’ll achieve it and if people need it, the path to success will be pretty rocky. So, save yourself some heartache and sit down and think things out a bit.
Here are some things to consider when planning your freelance scale...
What skills do you already have? Maybe there’s something you’d never thought of packaging as a service
This happened to me 3 years ago when as a copywriter, I had a epiphany one day that I could bundle my writing skills in with some existing web design skills too. I'd only ever designed sites for fun. But I gave it a try and my web design business completely took off!
Does your new venture already complement your current business? It’s way easier to move sideways than start out in a completely different direction. It’s also an easy way to up-sell as clients often prefer to hire the one person to do multiple things.
Do you feel passionate and excited about your new offering? If not, then maybe it’s not the step for you. You don't want to feel completely bored 3 months after announcing your new service.
Do you already know how to do stuff but don’t know the market term for it?
When I did Kate Toon’s SEO course last year, I discovered to my delight that I could market myself as an SEO copywriter. I’d been blithely doing that exact services for ages without realising there was a cooler - and much more in demand - term for it!
Then, once you've decided on your direction, it's time to plan the actual scaling. And that involves...
Set fixed milestones for organising, preparing and achieving your new venture
Set aside time every day to work on your new offering. This needs to be a priority in your calendar or you'll fall behind on your milestones
2. Put your current business in cruise control
This is really important. We all know what it's like to get excited about trying something new, only to find that you haven't quite let go of the old first. This has happened to me so many times, and then I find myself trying to do both things at once and not fully achieving either.
In order to move into a new venture, you need to put your current services into cruise control. Here's how:
Automate as much as you can. Scheduling tools are great for posting social media updates and blog posts in advance
Outsource general, repetitive tasks to a VA. Don't get caught up on the treadmill when there's someone else who can do all this stuff for you
Hire someone to help you manage the stuff you can't do alone. Maybe this means signing up to a new online software or platform, engaging a marketing gun, or contracting a graphic designer to make your offering look swish and professional.
RELATED POST: 21 Reasons Why You Need To Hire A Virtual Assistant
3. Find some potential customers
Don't worry, I said potential customers. It’s way easier to scale your business if you have some possible clients in mind. And it’s a great way to suss out whether there’s interest in your new business idea.
Here’s how to sniff out these potentials:
Ask friends, family and peers as to whether (hypothetically) they would use your new service. These people are your biggest supporters because they know you best and care about you. So, you can get some honest feedback. Maybe they’ll say yes, no, or that they heard Jane from work was asking about this just the other day. Bingo!
Contact your former clients, tell them you’re planning to start offering XYZ and ask them if they’d be interested
I did this when I started my SEO services; I contacted a few former clients to ask how their businesses were going, and added that I now offered SEO copywriting and content audits, and were they interested? Several of them jumped at the chance because they already knew and trusted my work. It was a massive reward from a simple email.
Post a message on social media - on your own page or in a group - saying that you’re planning/thinking of starting up this service and would they potentially need it? You may be surprised by the results!
4. Get skilled up
Nothing makes you feel more confident about scaling your business than being dead sure you can do the job. So, before you make this step, consider…
Are you capable of delivering your new service, ie, do you have the necessary skills and experience now, or do you need to obtain them?
How long will it take you to get things up and running? If your answer here is in days or weeks, then you’ve chosen right; if it’s something that may take months, then it sounds like you’ll need to pick up some new skills.
Can you take a short refresher course? There’s loads of online courses that can get you up to speed if that’s all you need.
5. Start small
You don’t have to scale up big time. There's no need for sleek packages or fancy branded downloadables right off the bat.
Instead, rein in that enthusiasm and start small. It can reap big rewards, build up your confidence and provide great market research.
Start by offering a simple service that you can niche down to a certain audience.
Say, for example, you want to start offering graphic design services. So offer logos. Don't be tempted by trendy marketing materials or social media templates, sold out of your brand new Etsy shop. Just stick to logos for a small clientele in an industry you're already familiar with.
Get a feel for how this works, and use your time to develop your general business skills, and do some market research. What are other logo designers doing? What do your clients ask of you?
And when you feel confident that you're a logo gun, scale up a little more to, say, small business branding, of which logos are a big part. So, it’s just like shuffling a little further along but you’re still on safe ground.
And bonus! Another great part of starting small is that you can more easily rack up testimonials, a very essential part to any successful business. Get them, keep them coming, and post them loud and proud on your site.
6. Don’t worry (be happy)
You’re already a freelancer, which means you already have the self motivation, belief and capability to build your own business. That in itself is huge! You're way further along the track than most people.
So, of course you can scale your small business into new horizons too.
The key is to not spend too much time in the planning and can-I? phase that you start to psych yourself out. You are probably way more prepared for this than you know.
You learn by doing and you already know how to do this. Start small, dream big.
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About the author: Lilani Goonesena is an Australian freelance writer, SEO copywriter and Squarespace web designer based in Vientiane, Laos. She loves boosting freelancers and small businesses with web design, SEO content and digital marketing strategy. She writes an awesome weekly newsletter on digital marketing, social media, blogging, web design and "all that online stuff". Lilani also blogs at the delectable Eat Drink Laos, just for fun.