How to tackle competition in freelancing

How to tackle competition in freelancing

In recent years, the freelancing landscape has transformed dramatically. More and more people are embracing the freedom and autonomy that freelancing offers. While this path allows you the liberty to choose projects that align with your passion, it doesn’t come without its challenges. You might think that in such a personalized career, competition would be minimal. Yet, the reality is quite different. As the number of freelancers rises, so does the competition, making it crucial for you to stand out.

As a freelancer, you need to focus on three pivotal areas:

  • Sharpening Unique Skills
  • Creating a Robust Digital Footprint
  • Cultivating a Trustworthy Image

Dive deeper into this article to discover actionable strategies and insights that will guide you on this journey.

Hone Exceptional Skills That Set You Apart

Consider the story of Alex, a graphic designer. He started with basic design skills but soon realized the market was saturated with designers offering similar services. Instead of getting lost in the crowd, Alex decided to specialize in motion graphics, an emerging trend at the time.

He took on minor projects, experimenting and learning with each one. Every project was a new lesson, a new challenge, and a new opportunity to refine his craft. Mistakes were made, but they became stepping stones, teaching him invaluable lessons.

The Importance of Skill Mastery

In the vast sea of freelancers, merely possessing a skill is no longer a unique proposition. What truly differentiates a freelancer is the depth of their expertise. While many might claim proficiency in a particular domain, only a few truly master it.

Being exceptional in your chosen field not only sets you apart but also positions you as a sought-after expert. In a market where clients are looking for the best, mastery ensures you’re always in demand.

Continuous Learning

The world is evolving at a rapid pace, and with this evolution, industry demands and trends are constantly shifting. For a freelancer, resting on past laurels can be detrimental. Continuous learning is the key to staying relevant.

Whether it’s enrolling in online courses, attending workshops, or simply staying updated with industry news, every effort counts.

Certifications, in particular, can be a testament to your commitment to learning and can significantly bolster your profile in the eyes of potential clients.

Specialization vs. Diversification

Is it better to be a jack of all trades or a master of one? In freelancing, the answer isn’t straightforward. While having a niche skill can position you as an expert in a specific domain, diversifying your skill set ensures you’re not putting all your eggs in one basket.

The trick is to find a balance. Specialize in a domain where you have a genuine interest and passion. At the same time, diversify by acquiring complementary skills. This approach ensures you have a steady stream of projects even if one industry faces a downturn.

Tools & Resources

In the digital age, numerous tools and platforms can aid in skill enhancement. Platforms like Coursera, Udemy, and LinkedIn Learning offer courses across a plethora of domains. Tools like Skillshare provide insights into emerging trends, allowing you to anticipate and prepare for industry demands. Regularly investing time in these resources ensures you’re always a step ahead of the competition.

Establish a Strong Online Presence

When Alex began his freelancing journey, he started by actively engaging on LinkedIn. He frequently shared his thoughts on the motion graphics industry, posted practical tips, and interacted with other professionals. This proactive approach quickly earned him an audience who valued his insights.

As his audience grew, Alex saw the potential to expand his online presence. He decided to create his own website, a dedicated space to showcase his portfolio and delve deeper into topics through blogging. While his website became the primary platform for detailed articles, he continued to engage his LinkedIn audience by sharing post announcements and snippets of his latest insights.

This dual approach of maintaining a strong LinkedIn presence while also offering in-depth content on his personal website positioned Alex as a thought leader in his niche. The recognition and trust he built over time led to an influx of clients, many of whom were drawn to his expertise and the value he consistently delivered.

In today’s digital age, having an online presence is no longer optional for freelancers – it’s a necessity. A strong online footprint not only showcases your skills and expertise but also makes you easily discoverable by potential clients.

Website & Portfolio

  • Need for a Personal Website: While not mandatory for every freelancer, a personal website boosts online presence. Especially crucial for visual fields like graphic design, photography and sometimes Frontend Developers. Alternative – platforms like Behance, GitHub, LinkedIn.
  • Website Building Tools: Platforms such as WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace make website creation easy, even without coding. They offer customizable templates to reflect your brand.
  • Mobile Optimization: Ensure your website is mobile-responsive. Many (most?) users access sites via mobile devices. Platforms like Squarespace and Wix auto-adjust, but for WordPress, make sure you are using a responsive theme.
  • Portfolio Inclusions: Showcase your best work that represents the breadth and depth of your skills. Provide brief descriptions, challenges faced, and solutions for each project. Quality over quantity.
  • Portfolio Exclusions: Avoid outdated or irrelevant projects. Always get client permission before showcasing any work, especially confidential projects.

Social Media & Networking

In the digital age, platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and even Instagram have become powerful tools for freelancers. They offer more than just a space to share updates: they’re venues for establishing authority, building relationships, and expanding professional horizons.

Regularly sharing updates keeps you at the forefront of your network’s mind. It’s not just about announcing what you’re doing, but about showcasing your active engagement with the industry. This consistent activity, whether it’s sharing a recent project or commenting on a trending topic, enhances your visibility and positions you as someone who’s in tune with current trends.

But what truly adds weight to your online presence is sharing insights. These are nuggets of wisdom or perspectives gleaned from your experiences. It could be a reflection on a recent project, observations about shifts in the industry, or tips for those just starting out. When you share such insights, you’re adding value, establishing yourself as a thought leader.

Engagement goes beyond your own posts. It’s about being part of a community. Engage with posts from industry peers, participate in relevant discussions, and join industry-specific groups. This active participation will open doors to collaborations, partnerships, or referrals. It’s a two-way street: you learn from the community, and they learn from you.

Remember, the essence of social media and networking isn’t just about being seen – it’s about being valuable. By sharing, engaging, and networking actively, you’re not just building an online presence, you’re building a reputation.

Blogging & Thought Leadership

In today’s digital age, having a distinct voice is paramount. Blogging provides freelancers with a platform to voice their expertise and insights, positioning them as thought leaders in their domain.

Starting a blog or penning articles allows you to showcase your depth of knowledge. Through how-to guides, industry trend analyses, or reflections on challenging projects, you can demonstrate your expertise and provide valuable content to your readers.

Engaging with your audience is a crucial aspect of blogging. Taking the time to respond to comments, address questions, and consider constructive criticism can help foster a sense of community around your content. This active engagement not only bolsters your credibility but offers insights into your audience’s preferences and needs.

Consistent blogging has the added advantage of enhancing your visibility on search engines. Well-researched and valuable content can lead to higher search rankings, making you more accessible to potential clients or collaborators.

Building thought leadership requires dedication, authenticity, and a genuine passion for contributing to the industry. As you share your insights and experiences, you cultivate trust and establish yourself as an authority in your field.

SEO for Freelancers

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a powerful tool that can significantly amplify your online visibility. If you have a personal website or blog, understanding and implementing basic SEO strategies can be a game-changer.

  1. Keyword Research: Identify keywords relevant to your services and expertise. Tools like Google’s Keyword Planner or Ubersuggest can help you find terms that potential clients might use to search for your services.
  2. On-Page Optimization: Ensure that your website’s content, meta tags, and URLs are optimized for your target keywords. This not only helps search engines understand the context of your content but also improves your chances of ranking higher for relevant queries.
  3. Quality Content: Search engines value fresh, relevant, and high-quality content. Regularly updating your blog or portfolio and ensuring the content is valuable to your audience can boost your SEO efforts.
  4. Backlinks: Having reputable websites link to your site can significantly improve your search rankings. Consider guest blogging or collaborating with industry peers to gain quality backlinks.
  5. Mobile Optimization: With a growing number of users accessing websites via mobile devices, ensuring your website is mobile-friendly is crucial. A responsive design ensures that your content looks and functions well on all devices.
  6. Page Speed: A slow-loading website can deter visitors and negatively impact your search rankings. Optimize images, leverage browser caching, and consider using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to improve load times.

By integrating these SEO practices, you can enhance your online discoverability, attracting more potential clients and opportunities.

Build a Stellar Reputation That Instills Trust

In the early days of his motion graphics career, Alex faced a challenging situation with a client. He had delivered an animation that, in his view, met the project’s requirements. However, the client believed they had agreed on a more intricate design. The disagreement escalated, and despite Alex’s belief that he was in the right, the fallout was clear: he had lost that client for good. The ripple effect was even more significant, as the client, influential in the industry, shared his negative experience with Alex throughout his network…

This experience was a turning point for Alex. He realized that being technically right didn’t always translate to long-term success. With his next client, he decided to take a different approach. Even though they had agreed on a specific scope for the project, Alex went above and beyond, delivering a piece that was more detailed and intricate than what was initially discussed.

The result was nothing short of transformative. The client was not only pleasantly surprised but also deeply impressed. Word of Alex’s exceptional service spread rapidly, and soon, he found himself inundated with inquiries and projects. This single act of over-delivery not only salvaged his reputation but also positioned him as a go-to expert in his niche.

Overdelivering: Going the Extra Mile

Overdelivering in freelancing entails offering more than what was initially agreed upon. It’s about adding those extra touches or insights that weren’t explicitly requested but enhance the final output. When clients receive this added value, they’re not only pleasantly surprised but deeply impressed.

This act of consistently exceeding expectations not only boosts client satisfaction but also fosters trust. As clients witness your unwavering commitment to their projects, they develop a sense of confidence in your capabilities, paving the way for a lasting professional relationship.

Seek Feedback

Feedback is invaluable for growth, but the way you solicit it can greatly influence the responses you receive. Instead of vague requests, pose specific questions that guide clients to provide detailed insights, such as “Were there any communication challenges during the project?” or “How did you feel about the final design?”.

It’s essential to create an environment where clients feel their honest feedback, be it positive or negative, is genuinely valued. This fosters open communication and ensures clients are comfortable sharing their true feelings and experiences.

Once you receive feedback, always follow up, expressing gratitude for their insights. More importantly, demonstrate your commitment to improvement by acting on the feedback received. This proactive approach not only refines your services but also deepens trust with clients, showcasing your dedication to excellence.

Handle Disputes Gracefully

In the world of freelancing, disputes are almost inevitable. Whether it’s a disagreement over project scope, payment terms, or feedback, how you handle these situations can significantly impact your reputation. Instead of becoming defensive or confrontational, approach disputes with an open mind and a willingness to understand the client’s perspective.

Clear communication is paramount. Before jumping to conclusions, seek clarity on the issue at hand. Often, misunderstandings arise from miscommunication or differing expectations. By addressing concerns head-on and seeking a middle ground, you can often resolve disputes amicably.

Remember, every dispute is an opportunity for growth. By handling disagreements gracefully and professionally, you not only preserve client relationships but also demonstrate your maturity and commitment to delivering the best possible service. This approach can turn potential negatives into positives, reinforcing trust and respect between you and your clients.

While Alex might be a fictional character, his journey reflects the real experiences of countless freelancers, including yours truly, from various fields. Success in freelancing is built on three pillars: mastering your craft, having a visible online footprint, and earning a trustworthy reputation.

Remember, in the freelance world, how people see you is everything. Take care of your reputation, stay committed to learning, and always strive for excellence. By doing so, you’ll not only attract clients but also build lasting, meaningful professional relationships.

Author headshot

Nick Trayze

Software Engineer, Toptal insider

Nick is a freelancer with over 10 years of experience, having contributed to nearly a hundred different projects across various industries.