Freelance competition is hotting up. Freelance competitors are everywhere. The more people learn, the more you’re competing. Quick, run for the hills! Danger, danger!
You’d think we’d been hit with a deluge of freelancers falling from the sky recently from the way some corners are discussing the freelance industry.
There’s no denying that we’re often one of many choices potential clients can choose from. And yes, having marketing ducks in a row or focussing on SEO or working out cool ways to skin the freelance cat do help.
But are we really heading towards a no-holds-bar fight to the death with eBidding websites and other freelancers?
I’m not convinced we are.
Here’s why it’s a great idea to stop focussing on what your so-called freelance competitors are doing and keep a clear head.
Your experience and background are different
Experience and background defines how we operate a lot more than we give it credit for.
We sometimes scratch the surface when the debate between university trained and self-taught comes into play. But for the most part, we forget the rich tapestry that is individual experience.
The way you process is informed, the style that you have, the way you do work and more- these are all things influenced by your unique experience. Where you’ve worked, what your motivations are on a working level, what your education level is, your aptitude and personality also influence how you work. Your creative influences, taste and techniques add to this.
That’s some special territory right there. Territory your freelance competitors would be hard pressed to emulate.
No one can take the minutes spent learning, problem-solving and working away from you. This is your background and experience. It’s up to you to make that shine through your marketing and business endeavours.
FREELANCE PRO TIP: Think about the highlights of your background and experience. Share it in your ABOUT page as a way of getting to know you. Stand out by using the unique areas of your working life. Explore it further in your marketing via behind the scenes glimpses on social media and your blog.
What you sell is different
One of the most bemusing conversations I’ve ever had as a freelancer was the assumption that another freelancer had a market sewn up. It was like the ecosystem of opportunity was allegedly owned by a supreme being. It took all my strength not to let my eyebrows knit in confusion.
Yes, some freelancers are marketing dynamos. They do inspire us by holding court in their field.
But is there really room for more than one contract SEO copywriter or freelance graphic designer or self-employed theatre director?
The answer is always yes.
What you sell is different. How you sell it is different. It’s those differences that count.
Take my situation for example. I am a wide achiever, which is a naff sounding term for someone that doesn’t specialise in one area but pulls the strings of product development, marketing, writing, social media and events together. I bring together a larger picture.
There’s no point in me claiming to say I’ll rank you number one in Google or that I am Australia’s most talented content creator.
I hold my own. But my strength is in my versatility.
What I can claim though is that I am great at strategy and can bring a lot of moving parts together. I can save time and money and headache by being a central point of call that can work autonomously across my core areas.
Clients eat that up with a spoon. It’s what makes me different.
What about you?
Are you serving aces as a high achiever or do you bring a patchwork of services together? How is any of that achieved? What is it about you that makes you special? What makes you stand out from your freelance competitors? Is it your skill set? Your attitude? The work experience you have? Uncover what is unique and let it shine.
FREELANCE PRO TIP: Think about the gaps you fix for your clients or the compliments you regularly receive. These form your point of difference. You may be well connected, reliable, top-flight in your field, faster than Usain Bolt with turnaround, build projects that last and more. Highlight that time and time again in the marketing of your products and freelance services.
What professional means is fluid
Let’s reclaim the word professional from those that think it involves a suit, tie and attending every coffee meeting. It’s not dress up or a form of rules given by some business finishing school. Professional is an engaged, qualified person that exudes confidence and ability in their chosen area. The rest of the stuff is window-dressing.
Freelance work is about skill and reliability. It’s also about personality and approach. This is what makes up a professional freelancer. It’s the stuff that your freelance competitors can’t touch.
That doesn’t mean you have to be a cuddly care bear or say yes to the world. It simply means you are easy to get along with. Or that you’re trustworthy. That you are a knowledgeable person. That you own your skill set. You give your clients a feeling they can count on you to make the right decisions.
My professional stance and what I am known for is that I speak up when I know a project is running off track. My area of capability is being able to find linkages others seem to miss. I can tell a story that ignites imagination.
There’s not a suit, coffee meeting or lead generation tactic among that list. There doesn’t need to be because those forms of presentation don’t matter when it comes time for professional me to answer a question or give advice.
People want to buy your version of professional. Their values and standards must align with yours. If they view themselves as professional in terms of deadlines, process and appearance, fine. But it may also mean capability, creativity, being cutting edge, being agile and adaptable and the other traits we admire in business.
FREELANCE PRO TIP: Define what your version of professional means. What is at the core of your creativity and ideas? Are you the Swiss watchmaker style of worker who labours to create quality? Are you exacting and focussed on detail? Do people instantly find you warm and approachable? Can you write, draw or film other people under the table? Do you deliver on specification, on time, all the time? Find your version of professional and produce services that reflect you meeting the standards you set for yourself via your copy and presentation.
Your freelance journey is about you
Getting caught up in a race with other freelancers doesn’t help you move forward with your business. Instead of chasing the alleged competition, work on presenting yourself on your own terms. Heighten the aspects of your skills, personality and abilities that would attract the client to you.
And invest time and energy into creating confidence through reaffirming your uniqueness through exploring your processes, sharing your work and scooping out your big, squishy brain to share with potential clients.
The more you know how you fit into the freelance scheme of things, the easier this self-employment gig becomes.