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The Definitive Guide to Becoming a Successful Freelancer – Part 2

In the first part of Successful Freelancer Guide, we discussed about entering the freelancer world. In this part, we will talk about self-branding. You need to position yourself as a business owner, even though you're a newbie in that world. What you need is to get yourself in the mini celebrity bucket so your prices are accepted, high as they are, and you are not questioned. In other words, you are accepted as an authority.

Being a celebrity

I’m using the term ‘celebrity’ but it’s really all about being that unobtainable high value option. You don’t need to be doing video interviews everywhere and have photographers stalking you in the bushes, but it does mean you need to play high status and be great at branding yourself. High status often just means carefully crafting the presentation of yourself to the business world in such a way that you are perceived to be high value. This can be done in many ways but here are some quick top tips how to be a successful freelance specialist.

Let’s get the ethics objection out the way now

None of these suggestions are lying, in bad taste, manipulative or whatever other negative connotation you can think of. They are the same things the big freelance workers in the world do, some by necessity, some by design. We’re just going to do it by design first and necessity second. A slight word of warning here. If you very clearly are a newbie and perhaps very young and don’t have a lot of experience in general and you use these positioning ideas to present yourself as the next Gary Vaynerchuk, everyone will see right through it. There has to be an element of truth to it.

Do not answer the phone

Never pick up a call. What high value person allows themselves to be interrupted by a phone call? Have a friend with a good secretary voice record your voicemail for you: “Hi, you’re through to the office of John Smith. Please leave your reason for calling and an email address and someone will get back to you”. What does this say? You have an office, you have staff, you’re too busy for phone calls. This is the impression you want to give off.

Always wear a suit

No matter the situation, always wear the most professional outfit you can to any client meeting. For guys, no matter your feelings about it, wear a well fitted, quality suit. For ladies, most likely a blouse with a quality, well-fitted jacket. Whatever you do, look your absolute best. This is not a good look for any kind of professional meeting. How much more seriously are you going to take this guy here? Wear the outfit, don’t let it wear you. Stay well groomed and speak loudly and clearly. These are the actions of high value business people which includes you, so this is how you need to present yourself in your personal branding. Whether you like the term "influencer" or not, you have to promote yourself a little, and show that you care about the work you do and the people you work with.

Great photos

It’s worth investing in a photoshoot to get some smart, professional head and body shots. The few hundred dollars it’s going to cost you to get a set of quality images of you looking dapper are going to be good for several years at least so it’s worth the money. These will work great as profile pictures, author bios, great for promotion if you’re going to give a talk, the uses are endless.

Calendar availability

Don’t be too available. If you use a service like Calendly or Book Like a Boss and have your calendar publicly available for calls and meetings then make sure it’s not full of available time slots. I’m available for six thirty minute meetings each week on the phone - that’s it. 11am and 3pm Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Maybe you won’t go that far, but don’t be afraid to make an excitable lead wait 48 hours and adjust to your calendar. You’re the busy in-demand one, remember.

Business names dropping

Before I started my agency, I did some account management when I was a kid for an email marketing company that had clients like Rightmove, Innocent Drinks, Yorkshire Water and VistaPrint. I never once gave off the impression that those were my clients, that is lying and you should never do that because you’ll always get found out. There is however, absolutely nothing wrong with saying: “I ran a test once with one of the directors at Rightmove where we experimented with putting the first name in the subject line of an email and we more than doubled their open rates. That’s one thing we should definitely try with your email marketing efforts.” Notice I’m not saying “Loooook, I worked with Rightmove!”, I’m telling a story about how we increased open rates. I just happen to be talking about Rightmove. Anything like this can work. Once you have your own set of clients with some high profile names, then you can replace some little anecdotes and name drop away.


Be heard. Being featured on podcasts has never been easier. Podcasters are looking for new content and guests all the time. As long as you can speak well, have a good story or tips to tell, it can be a superb way of displaying logos under a “Featured in” section on your website. Check out more tips about self-branding in Foundr's guide for freelancers. Ebook Price of Freelancing

Niche down

It’s hard to convince the world you’re a legitimate expert in all things video or all things web or marketing. It’s simply not believable. What you want to do is focus on something that people understand and where there’s a large need. You don’t want to be explaining some weird interpretation of something. You’re not a startup looking to change the world, you are a freelancer with a specific marketable skill, and you should work on building a portfolio to showcase that skill. Taking web design for instance, so many web companies are just that. There’s enough business out there for you to really focus on delivering it in a unique way or to a unique kind of audience. Cheryl Laidlaw for example runs Website in a Day. She will do your entire website in a single day. You don’t leave until it’s live. Standard issue web design done in a completely unique way. Freestyle Digital in the New Forest in the UK have since grown but several years ago they had a very clear idea of the kinds of businesses they wanted to go after. They would hand-design the sites, which would almost always be priced at £2,000. This meant the company attracted the exact type of clients they wanted, the exact work they wanted and more importantly, the work they were brilliant and most efficient at.

What are you great at?

Maybe target specific industries, specific types of freelance websites, a specific result. If you're a superb SEO developer, then maybe focus on companies who you can get to rank locally and use some great SEO software for the job. Here’s a good rule of thumb, if you don’t feel like you’re not “cutting off” 90% of your audience with your niche, then go harder. Or perhaps you are a remote developer who works with clients from the best offshore software development countries, where you also need very strong skills to work as a freelancer. Becoming a successful freelancer a tough process, but it's worth it. Remember, never give up.

Adam Hempenstall's profile image
Adam Hempenstall is the CEO and Founder of Better Proposals. He started his first web design business at 14 and has since written four books and built an international movement around sending better proposals. Having helped his customers win $500,000,000 in the last 12 months alone, he’s launched the first ever Proposal University where he shares best practices on writing and designing proposals. He co-runs a once-a-year festival called UltraMeet and is a massive FC Barcelona fan.