Home Business Bootstrapping
Growing a freelance business can be a very enjoyable and profitable way to make a living. Be your own boss, decide your own hours, and work from anywhere you choose (depending on your business, of course).
But growing the business while remaining profitable and keeping cash flow is where many freelancers fall down. You never know when the client will pay, you get paid at odd times, in odd amounts and occasionally you have to chase up payments from your clients.
iHubbub contributor Ian Nuttall's guide to bootstrapping your freelance business will help you to widen the net, attract more potential clients, and grow your revenue without greatly increasing your costs.
A freelancer's dream, right? Let's get started.
5 Steps to Bootstrapping
Study The Market And Competition
As a freelancer, you need to stand out from the hundreds of other freelancers out there vying for the same clients as you. You need a USP (unique selling proposition) to differentiate yourself. Start by looking at your audience and their pain points. What do they need and want from a service? Do you provide it? If there are changes scheduled for your market, make sure you're ahead of the curve.
You can study your competition to find a USP as well. What are they offering? Can you offer better? If they are missing something in their proposition you can leverage this as a selling point.
Get A Website
If you offer digital services (web design, graphics, marketing etc) then you may already have a website. If not, now is the time to get online. The internet is one of the first places people look for services, therefore you need to be where the people are. It's a very cheap medium to get started and the cost to acquire a customer this way makes it very economical.
Spend a little time putting relevant information and content on your site that relates to your audience and services. Updating it with new information once or twice a week will help you with getting found in search engines and you can go one step further by posting in related web directories and related sites to improve your traffic from search engines.
Hustle With Calls And Emails
When you bootstrap a business, you are often short on money but big on time. Use time to your advantage by hustling for new business every day. This means cold-calling potential clients and trying to build a connection. Make sure you do your research before the call and then try to arrange a meeting or call back.
Emailing potential clients is a little softer than calling and if you are personal, honest and friendly it can have a very good response rate. You can also reach out to influential company employees for your target clients on Twitter or LinkedIn to build a personal connection before looking to do business.
Use Social Media More Effectively
Some freelances fall into the trap of trying to remain business-like on their social media accounts. The fact is, continually retweeting your content or the work you do for clients is not going to attract many new clients.
Instead, focus on how you can help people online. Follow people with a related interest that compliments your services and seek to help people wherever possible. Search functions on Twitter or Facebook groups can help to find people, as well as related forums where your potential clients might spend time.
Outsource Menial Tasks
Once you have a number of clients, you might find that you are unable to hustle on the phone, email, social media and forums as hard as before and your growth will slow. This might be good if you have reached your client limit (although you could potentially expand and outsource more at this point) but if not, you might need to outsource those tasks.
Virtual assistants, online workers and even some agencies will take on these jobs for you at a fraction of the price it would cost you in time to do yourself. Instead, you can focus on the big paying client work and let your workers bring in new business for you.
The trick with bootstrapping and growing your freelance business on a budget is to improvise and come up with new ways to be different, stand out, and appeal to your target audience. If you can do that, you'll find your business growth takes off.
Ian Nuttall is a small business owner and bootstrapping fan boy who loves to grow something from nothing. His latest business venture, DebtHelpScotland.co.uk provides free advice on Scottish sequestration (bankruptcy) and other forms of insolvency for people in serious debt.