This blog continues a series of 5 posts which outline and address a very valuable lesson for any industry or any career – how to turn your freelancing into a fulltime business. If you’re currently contracting out a set of skills or have at least thought about it, this can be the critical first step toward starting your own business. I invite you to join me each week as I share the 5 most important components needed to prepare for a successful transition from freelance to fulltime.
In case you missed it, read:
Getting Your Name Out There
Getting comfortable with confidently talking about your freelance business can be awkward and challenging, but is an essential part of getting your name out there. Often this also means opening yourself up for rejection or dismissal – after all, you’re not yet a “real business” in the eyes of many. If you wait to build a network, you’re only putting yourself months or years behind when you do take your business fulltime. It’s never too early to begin. So how can a freelance business establish a name and a reputation strong enough to compete among the best? The following steps are what I stumbled upon as the most effective way to establish my name in the local market when I was still freelancing:
1. Weave it naturally into any conversation you can.
People can’t know what you don’t tell them, so don’t be shy about sharing the skills you offer on the side. Whether you’re at a dinner, the bar or the bank, if you see an opportunity to connect with someone who could be a potential client or put you in contact with some, it’s worth mentioning what you do – even on the side. You never know who is listening or what you’re saying that could resonate with someone. Be sure to practice a smooth 1-2 sentence explanation as to what you do that you can delivery clearly and confidently. Also, think of adding in a unique or memorable tidbit like, “I first began my side business in college and have since worked with clients from several different states,” or “I just opened a shop on Etsy and custom-make every product.” This not only qualifies your business, but makes you stand out. As a note of caution, be sure to look for natural segways in the conversation that allow for the topic to be brought up. An unnatural insertion can make you look desperate or unprofessional. Start with asking them what they do and when they ask you in return, there’s your green light.
2. Join local networking groups, but limit them to ones that best serve your business.
There a myriad of networking and business development groups at the local, state and national level. Don’t be tempted to join every single one. Think quality over quantity. As a freelancer your time is more valuable than ever – trying to juggle a fulltime job, side business, family life and everything in between. The time you can dedicate to joining networking groups is best spent divided between 2-3 groups maximum. If you pay the dues but are spread too thin to attend any of the meetings, this is a waste of money and potentially a bad reflection on your business. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to category-specific networking group in my area right around the time I went fulltime. This type of networking group is unique in that only one business can represent a category. What this does is create a small “community” of businesses who feed clients to each other. Without competing businesses in the same networking group there’s no conflict of who gets what recommendations. These are often non-dues paying with the idea that you earn your membership by sharing leads. This group meets weekly and has better turnout than most monthly groups with a membership 4 times its size. It’s a large time commitment but also produces consistent results for my business. Because of this, I am only a member of one networking group – and I give it my all. Depending upon your business and what’s offered in your area, a different combination of networking groups might make more sense. The bottom line is to do your research, give each of them a try and know when to stay or when to leave.
3. Ask close family and friends to spread the word.
This may seem overly obvious, but often the best ideas are. Your family and friends have a vested interest in seeing you and your business succeed. They can also speak intimately about your character and skill set. Let them be your mouthpiece and plug your business for you. Even just 4-5 people talking to their networks, increases your network exponentially. I remember creating a little half-page handout for my mom to share about my business. She knew a lot of fellow business owners back in my hometown that could benefit from my consulting work and she did as any mother word – she promoted it. Also, whenever anyone asked what I was doing or where I was working, she remembered to mention that I was also running a side business. Prompting your family and friends to do the same will help the word spread in many different directions and to many potential clients.
Stay tuned as the “Turning Freelance Into Fulltime” blog series continues with: Moving Away From One-Time Projects