Freelancing can be tough, especially when you first start out. We know because we’ve been there, done that. Navigating the world of starting your business, creating proposals, finding clients and closing them is a lot to manage, and likely something you haven’t done before. But many freelancers fall into pitfalls or make mistakes that can hold them back from success.

You’re going to have moments where you are frustrated, exhausted, confused and questioning why you decided to strike out on your own. This is normal. Entrepreneurship is a roller coaster, but it’s one that I will keep riding and never get off. Avoid some of the most common mistakes new freelancers make and you’re ride will be a lot smoother sailing than mine was in the beginning!

Don’t fail to identify your target market.

Before you drive yourself too crazy with prospecting, you need to identify your ideal target client. Trying to sell anyone and everything is a recipe for disaster. 

  • Who are you pitching?
  • Do you know who you want to work for?
  • What niche is it in?
  • What industry are you going after?

Too many freelancers make the mistake of working for anyone and anything when they start out that they end up burnt out and extremely unhappy. Don’t make this mistake. Most freelancers worry that if they only open their service offerings to specific groups they will miss out on potential business from other areas. Sure, this might be true in the beginning, but it will pay off in the long-run.

We all have specific skills, experiences, and interests that are best suited to solve specific problems for a certain type of client or industry.

You want to find this intersection and determine three things.

  1. What problem you can solve?
  2. In what industries/niches?
  3. What solutions can you offer this target client?

If you’re clear on this, you’re already way ahead of most freelancers. You’ll be able to find more business when you specialize and focus on one or a few areas.

Don’t forget to have a unique value proposition.

If you were to walk into a job interview and were asked what makes you a great fit for the role, or why they should hire you, you would have an answer to these questions. In this sense, freelancing is no different.

It’s essential that in your freelance business you understand what your unique value proposition (UVP) is. This will become a core feature when you’re pitching your services to potential clients. If you’re just like everyone else why would they want to hire you? You need something that sets you apart and dazzles them.

Your UVP could be your specific experience (and track record of success) in their industry or a unique way you approach projects that gives them an edge over their competition. Think about what your skills are, your experience, your process, and what you deliver to come up with your UVP.

My UVP is that my marketing company always takes a strategy-first approach to marketing. I believe marketing without a strategy isn’t really marketing at all and I bring this philosophy into my business to benefit my clients. This coupled with my record of success sets me apart. Each client gets a research and discovery phase before we begin retainer work with them and during this phase, we work on strategy first and foremost. 

Have something that separates you from the rest. Be valuable. Period

Don’t just apply to jobs and wait for referrals.

You can’t build a successful freelance business by sitting back and hoping clients and work will come to you. There is no paycheck or direct deposit arriving in your bank account every other week. You have to get out there and create your own income. This sounds like common sense, yet I meet new freelancers every day or don’t realize how responsible for their own income they really are.

Listen, I know that prospecting and cold pitching is something that’s probably out of your comfort zone. But the reality is, freelancing, in general, is out of 99.9% of people’s comfort zone when they start out. If you come from a traditional 9-5 environment, you’ve most likely never had to hunt for clients or business.

Most new freelancers neglect the sales side of their business. They focus too much on websites, logos, and pretty marketing materials and therefore neglect prospecting, the art of cold outreach, and actually selling their services. I used to be frightened of sales, cold outreach, all of it… you name it, I feared it and most importantly, I hated it. But as time went on, I got more comfortable with selling and so will you.

We have a few really good resources available for cold-pitching, prospecting, and finding freelance clients. Read our article “Where To Actually Find Freelance Clients” if you’re not sure where to find prospects to cold pitch.

The art of cold outreach is the most important sales tactic for you to master as a freelancer. To generate leads and create a reliable source of revenue in your freelance business, I strongly recommend using LinkedIn.

To generate leads I strongly recommend getting on LinkedIn and connecting with decision makers in your industry. Make it your duty every day to get an hour of prospecting in. You can also explore freelance job boards and do some good old fashioned networking at your local community at the chamber of commerce when you’re new to freelancing. 

Avoid common newbie mistakes at all costs.

Being self-employed is no easy task, but with the right information, resources, and a strong work-ethic you can make this work and build a successful freelancing business in under a year. Download our FREE 55-PAGE E-BOOK to get started today. Let us know if you have any questions in the comments below!

How To Actually Freelance is an educational platform that offers invaluable resources and tools for aspiring freelancers, entrepreneurs, and side-hustlers. Founded by six-figure freelancer Linzi Martin, How To Actually Freelance is focused on teaching the next generation how to thrive beyond the traditional 9-5.