You've been on the 'treadmill' for long enough to know that low-quality clients are something you could do without. They pay less than anyone else, they demand way more, and they're a complete drain on time and energy.
Only until you're at that comfortable stage where you're busy and can pretty much pick and choose who you work with can you ditch this type of client. But how do you get there, so you can earn more money for less time and effort?
It's not easy – and it involves lots of hard work, but you can become a profitable freelancer with higher quality clients while reclaiming some of your life back. I'll show you how to get there with the following tips.
Lessen your risk
Keep your personal and business overheads as low as possible. Don't get seduced by big fancy office space or beautiful cars. Don't go nuts on spending. When you freelance, you need to lessen your risk. It takes the pressure off earning so much money and means you can be fussy about the work you take on. But if you want to retain that professional image, get a virtual business address, a virtual secretary and anything else that helps you to look 'top dog'.
Sort your branding
To attract higher quality brands, you have to act the part. Refresh your logo and branding, so it gives an impression of quality. Write enticing, intelligent copy for your website, detailing the depth of your skills and expertise. Wear the right clothing – look expensive. There's nothing more powerful.
Believe in yourself
Be bold, be assertive, be confident – believe in yourself. Because if you don't think you can be a success, then you'll go nowhere. You'll keep working with those naff clients as long as you want to. But if you suddenly get fire in your belly and want more, you'll start to attract larger clients. What you put out is what you'll attract, so go for it!
Only take on the right kind of work
Whenever you consider working with someone new ask yourself this: "Will this client boost my own business and lead to bigger and better things?". Because if it's just a small, local company with few prospects – then you have to wonder whether it's going to benefit your reputation long-term. However, if Barclays or TopShop want to hire you – these are the kind of brands you want to work with.
Keep diversifying and learning
The creative industries are always changing, so stay ahead of the game. Beat your competition by striving to learn new technology, new attitudes and demands. Because the more you know, the more skills you have – the more skills you have, the more you can sell yourself at a higher price.
You are the product. You are what people will buy. Learn to sell yourself and your skills. You are worth something to others. You have skills people will pay for. Did you once do a little something for the BBC? Shout about it! Do you sometimes write for Computer Arts magazine? Tell everyone! Sell your strengths and believe in them.
It's always 'who you know', so make an effort once or twice a week to go to launch events, networking nights, business breakfasts – even encourage contacts on Twitter to meet up for a coffee. Yes, that's right – once or twice a week. Because meeting new people always leads to new opportunities. And getting your name out there will only attract new leads. It's the most effective way to find higher quality work.
Increase your day/hourly rates
The next time someone approaches you, increase your normal day/hourly rate. And the next time, add a little more. Keep doing this, and you'll be surprised at how quickly you can boost your profits. As for existing clients, give the clients you want to get rid of plenty of warning about 'rate increases' and then send an email/formal letter detailing the changes. Remember, a 12% rise should be your absolute maximum. Then, it's up to the unwanted client if they decide to stay or go. If they remain, at least you'll be getting more money for the hassle.
Make yourself look bigger than you are
To attract the bigger client, don't call yourself a 'freelancer'. It sometimes has negative connotations. Instead, call yourself a 'consultancy' or small firm. That's what you are. A 'consultant' who helps other businesses. Now ditch the 'I' language on your website and during conversation and start saying 'we'. Make your business appear larger than it is, and you'll have a better chance of attracting more prominent clients.
Once you've won the client, you can be honest – but only when you've had a chance to impress face-to-face. Read these tips on how to make your small business appear larger.
Sell the 'small' benefits
If you've attracted a larger client and they're worried about the size of your business, point out the benefits of them hiring a freelancer. Explain why your rate is less than larger agencies. Be honest about how you operate and why you can offer a more personal service. Those larger clients will love to know they're getting more for their money. Read these tips on how to sell yourself when your business is small.
Team up with others
If you want a better chance of winning larger clients, team up with other local freelancers who can complement your skills. Create a sort of 'agency' offering that reassures larger clients that you're capable of delivering a lot more than they thought possible. So if you're a designer, you might hook up with a local web developer. Or if you're a marketing professional, you might find great synergy with a PR executive.
Gain added credibility
To offer extra reassurance to those larger clients, join a professional body within your industry – something that proves you're certified in your profession. If you've won awards, call yourself an 'award-winning consultancy'. If your work has been featured in top magazines, always mention 'as seen in' to highlight the media coverage.
Don't worry about looking like a show-off – all of these things give you credibility. And don't forget to add testimonials from existing, happy customers either, particularly if they're from credible brands.