This time 4 years ago, I was at my boring 9-5 job designing sleazy sidebar ads for a startup company…
...and secretly dreaming up a name for my future freelance business.
I wasn’t just dreaming up a name; I also dreamed about designing on my own terms, working with clients who appreciated my work, and being my own boss.
Freelancing meant freedom.
But while freelancing was my biggest goal, it was also my greatest fear.
In Monday’s email, I shared that I had absolutely no idea how to find clients, price my services, differentiate myself, handle multiple projects…
...and that was just the tip of the iceberg.
Your kind replies to that email reassured me that I’m not the only one who was terrified of not bringing in enough money, falling flat on my face, and being stuck in my awful day job for the rest of my career.
I wish I could tell you that I kicked those fears to the curb, quickly found success, and high-tailed it out of that awful 9-5 job a month or two later, but that wouldn’t be entirely true.
In fact, the opposite happened. Every single one of those fears came true.
I didn’t bring in enough money.
I did fall flat on my face.
And I was inches away from throwing in the towel and giving up on freelancing altogether.
Mostly because I bought into these 3 freelancing myths. Maybe you’re buying into them, too.
Myth 1 | If I offer several different services, I’ll land more clients
When I first started out, I wanted to appeal to everyone.
You want a custom colored pencil portrait of your yellow lab, Bruiser? I can do that.
You want a brand and website for your new lifestyle blog? I can do that, too.
You want Pokemon wedding invitations? Sure, I’ll give it a go.
(Every single one of those are true stories, by the way.)
Because if you offer more options, you’ll appeal to more people...right?
When you offer too many things, you won’t be known for anything.
Call me a nerd, but one of my favorite shows is The Next Food Network Star.
On the show, 10 talented chefs compete for a chance to win their own show on the network.
The judges on the show critique the taste of their dishes, but they’re even more interested in their camera presence, marketability, and most importantly, their unique “POV” - point of view.
Those judges know that in order for a person to be a star on a major TV network, they have to be known for something. They need a unique point of view in order for viewers to relate to them and remember their show.
One of my favorite contestants - Loreal Gavin from Season 10 - was a motorcycle-riding, guitar-playing butcher that sported tattoos, a southern accent, red lipstick, and a fun 1950’s style.
You knew that when Loreal cooked, there was going to be some sort of meat involved (as well as a story about her grandma who fostered her love for cooking).
Loreal didn’t offer vegan recipes to try to win over the people who wouldn’t be interested in steak and hamburgers. Instead, she stuck with what she knew - meat and potatoes.
The same is true for freelancers.
When you specialize and limit your offerings, you become the expert on that subject.
Others can easily sum up what you do and what you’re known for. You not only become memorable; you become more desirable.
But when you offer everything under the sun, it’s confusing. People don’t know exactly what you do and they begin to question if you’re able to do any of it well.
So what is your unique POV? What are you known for?
Myth 2 | If I charge less than my competitors, I’ll land more clients
Guys, I charged my first design client $100 for a complete brand and website.
The client process looked something like this:
1 - They approached me with their design need
2 - I automatically said yes because I desperately wanted the work
3 - I charged a ridiculously low price for fear of losing their business
4 - I spent over 50 hours on nights and weekends designing drafts and making revisions
5 - I slipped into a dark depression when I realized I barely made $2/hour
And the cycle continued each time a distant family member or friend of a friend reached out to me with a design request.
To make matters worse, my low prices kept attracting clients who wanted a good deal.
They didn’t take me seriously, they nitpicked my work, and they didn’t appreciate the time and effort I was spending on their project.
In my desperation to gain clients, I didn’t realize how charging less was reflecting negatively on my work.
Think about it.
Why is it that WalMart charges $8 for a sleeveless chambray top and Anthropologie gets away with charging $62?
Because people who shop at WalMart want a deal.
People who shop at Anthropologie want well-made, trendy clothes. And they’re willing to drop a dime on them.
Price is often an indicator of quality.
If you charge less for your services, not only will you never be able to take your freelance business full-time, but you’ll continue to attract clients who are more worried about a deal than the quality of your work.
What are your prices saying about your work?
Myth 3 | If people get to know me, I’ll land more clients
I’d like to think I’m a likable person.
If people spent a little time getting to know me, they would probably think I’m pretty awesome (I hope you noted my sarcasm).
But the sobering truth is that I’m a complete stranger to the random people who come across my blog and social media accounts on the internet. They don’t have any reason to care about what I eat, wear, think, say, or do.
That is, unless I give them a reason to care.
You probably wouldn’t care about Michael Phelps if he hadn’t won 20+ Olympic gold medals (and you definitely wouldn’t care about Boomer).
His name wouldn’t mean anything to you if it wasn’t for his talent.
The same is true for Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan, and Michael Kors.
People care when there’s skill involved or when there’s something in it for them.
I missed this concept when I first started freelancing.
Instead of sharing about design and branding, I followed the footsteps of others in my industry and used my blog to share recipes, vacation recaps, and heartfelt personal posts.
I treated social media like a popularity contest, hoping to grow my number of followers and likes without putting much thought into using Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to attract clients.
I made it all about me, all the time.
But potential clients didn’t care about what I wore or where I went last weekend.
They didn’t want to read the letters I wrote to my husband; they wanted to learn how to create a custom logo, organize the content on their website, and choose a distinct color palette for their brand.
Potential design clients care first and foremost about my abilities and my expertise. They want to know if I’m qualified for the job and how I can help them.
y winning personality is simply an added bonus ;)
Maybe you’ve bought into one (or all) of these myths.
But remember, I have too! And all of them were holding me back from making my freelance dream a reality.
Before you can find success, you have to identify what you’re doing wrong.
So hit reply and tell me:
1 | Which of these myths resonated with you the most
2 | Your 3 biggest freelancing struggles
I want to hear what’s tripping you up and offer some personalized help.