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Do you want to create brand for yourself or your business, win more clients and make more money? This is the goal of personal experiment I’m going to start in following weeks. I will get the knowledge and tips provided my piles of books and put them to test. Then, I will share the results and suggestions with you so you can apply what works without risking anything. I will do the dirty work so you don’t have to. Are you ready to take your freelance career or business to next level?
The Story Behind
Let me start this article with couple things I think you should now. You can take this part as some kind of a full disclosure if you want. First, two days ago I decided to completely re-design my website, clean up (i.e. delete) my portfolio on Behance and start from scratch. Why? There were couple personal reasons for this decision. One of these reasons was that my website and portfolio on Behance sucked. It was painful to look at it and I was ashamed to mention it. When someone would ask me on my website (that didn’t happen very often), I had a strategy.
I would always say that I’m in the middle of re-design of my website and, unfortunately, have not enough time to finish. You know, all my time was devoted to work on client project. This was a lie only in part. Yes, I was working on projects for clients. However, saying that there was no time left for another stuff would be ridiculous. How could I explain the time spent reading articles on the Internet, books and going out on a walk here and there? You are right! I couldn’t. The truth was that it was simply easier to lie to everyone and also to myself than doing something about it.
As you may already guess, this comedy is not sustainable for a long time. Sooner or later, couple things will happen. First, you will run out of clients and soon also money because you are not promoting yourself and your business. Second, it will (hopefully) make you sick of yourself. In my case, both of these things happened at the same time. Well, that’s not true. The second came sooner. The first one has not reached the peak yet. I still have some cash on my account and can afford to buy food. Please, this is not supposed to be bragging. If I would tell you how much I have on my bank account at this moment, you would either erupted in laughter or tears.
These two were the main reasons to doing this little bit radical step of deleting everything and starting from scratch. Wait … There was one more reason. Believe it or not, it is quite hard to promote yourself as an expert and skilled designer and developer if your portfolio sucks. I know … Naïveté in its purest form. On one side, you (read I) was always talking (I still am) about my work as high quality craft with highest standards. On the other side, I had nothing to prove my words. Well, I could get done some demo project to demonstrate my skills and prove my words.
Unfortunately, many companies and clients were actually not interested to give me a sample project. What a surprise, right? The reason is quite obvious. Doing so, they would waste their time. Let’s take a look at the situation from their perspective. Imagine that you have about four weeks to take a project from initial idea to real product. There is not so much space for any unnecessary activity. In case such as this one, wasting even couple days just to test someone with a big mouth, but crappy portfolio would perfectly fit that unnecessary activity. This is not in your interest.
Conclusion? Don’t bother with that guy. There are many professionals just waiting for such an opportunity. Just take a look elsewhere and you will quickly find one. This scenario happened to me more than four times. Yes, I was that stupid. So, if you want to take any takeaway from previous lines, be it this one … You should always do your best to make it easier for potential clients to see your skills in action. Don’t try to force them to waste their time on “testing” projects. Don’t do the same stupid mistake as I did. Remember, you are a professional so act like one.
Will This Work for You
Before going any deeper into this experiment, we should discuss one thing … Will the results of this experiment applicable to your work, career or business? Will you be really able to create brand, win clients and get more money? The problem is that different people start at different positions and have different resources available. As a result, you might not be able to either apply everything word by word or achieve what they achieved. In order to assuage (what a weird word) your fears and doubts, I will tell you some bits of my story, how I began.
So, here it is. I taught myself design and development by reading books, watching videos and attending online courses on websites such as Treehouse and Codecademy. I did this while studying communication, multimedia and technology on ČVUT, which I left after one year. Then, I studied business and economics for two and half years. I left this as well just one month before bachelor’s exams. All this happened while I was living either with my grandparents in a small city Sušice (population – 11 257) or on a campus in Prague. I also did couple side-projects for my clients while still at school.
After dropping out of school, I tried couple jobs, but never stayed for a long time. The longest time a stayed in one job was about three months. The reason is that I always wanted to do things in my way. I also didn’t get along with authorities. Here is the thing. If something is stupid, I will rather stay honest and say my opinion. It turned out, a lot of people don’t like this type of honesty. After these experiences, I decided to strike my own path and use my coding and design skills to work for myself. Unfortunately, I had no friends or connections from school or work to offer my services.
In other words, I was on my own. No network or connections or potential clients. My contact directory contained only four numbers – mother, grandmother, grandfather, sister and 02 help desk. As you may already guess, I also had no money. So … I ended living on state benefits. That didn’t stop me. I started to work and study every single day in the week, from early morning till evening. What I lacked in connections, I had to supplement with hard work. By the way, I’m still doing that. I still hustle hard seven days a week.
Anyway, what am I trying to say is that just because you don’t have to have a large network of people to start. You may consider my or your situation as a misfortune. That’s not true at all, at least in my case. In a fact, I was incredibly lucky. I had grandparent willing to give me a place to stay. I had a notebook to work on. I had an Internet connection to publish my work and prospect. I was also healthy. I have eczema, scoliosis and signs of kyfosis and I was obese. However, all these things are my advantage over others. Why? These conditions make me stronger and disciplined.
Do you have any health “issues” you think are your disadvantages? You had better change your point of view. Think how these “issues” can benefit you. The same thing applies to social network. The lack of connections can help you become more self-reliant. Also, if you will succeed once, you will know that you can do that again and again.
What Will You Get from This Series
Let’s get back to this article. Now, I will tell you what exactly this series of articles will be about, what you can expect and what will you get from it. At this moment, the plan is following: Do a pile of experiments focused on three topics – how to create a brand, how to win clients and finally how to make more money. All of this while keeping your sanity and roof above your head (I hope). Luckily for you, all these experiments will be done by me on my own responsibility.
In order to make it easier to track how individual tactics work, I will always begin by presenting some theory or assumption. Then, I will introduce at least some basic tactic or strategy to test this theory (or assumption). In the end, I will write in detail about the process of testing and the result(s) I got. Whether the theory and result part will be in the same article – after the testing is done – I don’t know yet. At this moment, I’m more inclined to announcing the theory part as first, then bringing it to the battlefield and in subsequent article write about results.
Since one of the reasons for this series is to help freelancer all over the world to turn their freelancing and passions into highly profitable business, I would love to hear your ideas. You can either use comment area under this article or contact me via links on about page of my blog or my website. Doing so, you can let me know what approach is more interesting for you. That way, I will be able to fit this article to your needs and make it easier for you to learn from the information and, most importantly, apply it in your own freelancing or business.
As mentioned a while ago, this series will be focused on three main how’s: how to create brand for yourself and your business, how to win clients without under–valuing yourself and how to make more money from your services. Let’s now take a look at each of these topics individually.
How to Create Brand
The first topic this series will be about is how to create brand for yourself and your business. There is one thing I want to make clear at the beginning. When I say create brand it doesn’t necessarily mean to become someone famous. It’s not about transforming yourself from zero to Internet superstar over-night. Well, I write twice week … So, it’s not about building your star persona in a few weeks. What I mean by create brand is to build your credibility, to create strong competitive advantage that will help you differentiate yourself and your work.
Put simply, people should be able to recognize your work by looking for certain signs. In sense of design, this doesn’t have to result in sticking to one visual style. I will give you an example. Take a look at work of Mike Kus, Paula Scher or Frank Gehry. If you have no idea who these people are – Mike Kus is amazing web a graphic designer; Paula Scher is one of the best graphic designers in the world; Frank Gehry is one of the best architects of this century. Here is the thing … It doesn’t matter what work these people will do. Many people will still be able to recognize it’s their work.
It works in the same way with painters. You don’t need to know the name. All you need is to take a look at the brush strokes and name comes automatically. This is what having a strong brand is about. This is also my goal for the How to create brand subject of this series. I will do my best to find ways to help you create awareness about your work and yourself. Doing so, you will not only be able to get more clients with less effort, clients will start to approach you on their own as well.
Also, you will increase your chances to get recommendations from the clients your worked with. And, the last thing, people will be much more interested in spreading the word about you and your work. Sounds pretty good, right? However, I have to warn you. This is not some kind of an instant magic. As I already mentioned, this all will not happen over-night or in a couple days. Although I will give you as much information and clues I will be able to gather and put in test, you will still have to do your share of work. Put simply, I will give you the knowledge, but you will have to actively use it.
The last thing relate to how to create brand I want to address is about the source of information. Over the last two years I’ve spent hundreds of hours immersed in books on the topic of branding. These books include titles such as Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future, You Are a Brand!: How Smart People Brand Themselves for Business Success, The Brand Called You: Make Your Business Stand Out in a Crowded Marketplace, Me, Inc., The Startup of You, Be Your Own Brand, Steal Like an Artist, Show Your Work!, Burn Your Portfolio: Stuff they don’t teach you in design school, but should and many more.
During my experiments, focused on how to create brand, I will draw from these books and put the tips and tricks to test in the real life. By doing so, I will get rid of the things that don’t work, or don’t work so well, and give you only the tips that will move you toward your goal.
How to Win Clients
Second topic I am interested in experimenting with are ways to win, or get, new and more clients. If there is one subject every freelancer is hungry to know more about, it is getting more clients. Well, let me rephrase it. Every freelancer wants to know how to get more quality clients. This distinction here is important to make because, as many freelancers will tell you, it is not that hard to get more clients. Unfortunately, the majority of these easy-to-get clients will not be those you will be interested to work with again. You will probably curse yourself every minute during your work on their project. Put simply, these clients will be mostly pain in the butt.
That being said, what would you expect? There has to be some reason why it was so easy and fast to get these clients. Little help … Nobody wants to work with them or for the money they offer. The problem occurs when you decide to focus on getting quality clients, clients you would be willing to work on other projects in the future as well. With this condition, getting even single client requires putting serious effort and time into prospecting. Based on my previous experiences, this legwork, although it can be uncomfortable, will pay off big-time in the future.
Does that mean you should deliberately work your butt off day after day? No. The purpose of freelancing should be doing what you like or what you are good at, or both, without getting depressed every week. This is why you decided to don’t listen to your friends and family members, left your work and strike your own path. This is also reason why you should actively look for ways to make prospecting more effective and efficient. Then, you can spend the rest of the time working on projects providing your clients with results of highest quality and standards.
Just like in case of create brand part, I did my homework and read pile of books so you don’t have to. These books include titles such as How to be a Rockstar Freelancer, Everything I Know, Freelance Confidential, The Principles of Successful Freelancing, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Goals, You’re My Favorite Client, Book Yourself Solid, Duct Tape Marketing and more. If you have any other books you read and would recommend, let me know.
How to Make More Money
The last subject or piece of this experiment is focused on finding the best ways to make more money without sacrificing your health or sanity. This goal can be achieved in many different ways. For example, you can try to raise your rates, change the way you price your work, switch from freelancing to starting your own agency, improving your marketing or getting more quality clients that will be willing to pay more for quality services. It can also mean working on side-projects where your options will largely depend on the type of services you are providing and your skills.
For example, web designers and developers can grow their income by creating products such as website templates, mockups, e-books or courses that they will then be able to sell. Graphic designers can create typefaces, graphic templates, icon sets, UI kits and so on. Whatever your case may be, there is only one condition your side-project must pass. It has to be profitable. If your project is not making any money, it’s not contributing to your monthly income, you should either try to improve that product so people will want to buy it or try something else.
What if you are not sure about what kind of side-project should you pursue? This is one of the question I will do my best to answer in following weeks. I will create different types of products and put them on the market to see which ones will get the most sales. Sure, there will be factors specific to every product you may be not able to replicate. However, I will do my best to lower the influence of these factors as much as I can. Because I am not skilled in every area you may be working, some product could fail just because they would suck.
For this reason, I will take this experiment one step further. For side-projects related to disciplines I ‘m not familiar with I will reach out to people who are. And, not just that. In order to cut and simplify the learning curve for you, I will find the domain experts, ask and shadow them. In other words, just like with books on my reading list, I will take their knowledge and test it so you don’t have to.
Again, this experiment will build upon knowledge and information from books such as The Wealthy Freelancer, The Unlimited Freelancer, Creative, Inc.: The Ultimate Guide to Running a Successful Freelance Business, Duct Tape Selling, Pricing Design, Design Is a Job, The Power of Broke, The Millionaire Fastlane, 6 Months to 6 Figures and much more.
Closing Thoughts on How to Create Brand, Win Clients and Make Money Experiment
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