You can find a freelancer labourer on Fiverr or eLance who charges just a couple bucks an hour to complete a task (from web design to copyediting 1,000 words to rapping the lyrics you write). They’re interchangeable, too – if a client gets rid of one, they can easily swap that person out for another cheap freelancer. Labourers compete on price, and it’s a race to the bottom of the price ladder.
Freelance leaders are respected for their skills and the unique way that they transform client problems into smart solutions. Leaders are hired specifically because of who they are. You can’t take one leader out of the equation and swap another in, since the results and problem-solving approach would vary significantly. Leaders are teachers whose opinions support good decision-making. Leaders differentiate themselves on communication (how they understand their clients, provide solutions, and apply their expertise to teach) and quality (how well they apply their expertise).
It’s also important to avoid commoditizing your work. That’s how labourers operate—an hourly price, cheaper than the next guy/gal, simply a technician who applies a technical skill to a task as dictated by a client.
Instead, focus on how much value your solutions and expertise bring to the table – and that’s more than the total hours you’d spend working on the project.
So how does this happen? How do you go from labourer to leader?
It’s all in how you position yourself – right from the onset of communication – with a potential client. Your skillset makes you an expert in your field, so act like one. This begins when a potential client sees your portfolio:
- Are you sharing the problems you solved for previous clients or just listing your skills like a grocery list?
- Do you have testimonials or case studies that back up your knowledge and problem-solving skills? Or do those testimonials just confirm that you’re awesome?
- Are you clear that you offer services based on your industry expertise, and not just because you learned a skill?
- Do you speak to the solutions you provide, and not the commodity of your work?
- First impressions matter. Thankfully, you don’t need special skills to be an expert in your field. If you’re talented and know your craft, then congratulations, you can be a leader.
Positioning also means showcasing what makes you unique. The best leaders express their personalities and quirks in the “packaging” of their work. How can you more fully express who you are when you pitch your body of work? Show why you’re different, why your skills are unmatched, and you’ll be irreplaceable, not interchangeable.
As you think about positioning, ask yourself:
- What’s my most interesting client success story?
- Why do my clients like working with me? What, specifically, is unique and different about working with me?
- How do my life experience and education relate to my current work?
- Why do clients currently hire me? What makes them choose me over other freelancers who work in my field?
- What do clients say about me after we’ve finished a project or a contract?
The secret to moving from a client inquiry to a signed contract or agreement isn’t being the cheapest, fastest, or even the most wildly talented. Focus instead on providing answers that help people to improve their businesses. Be a leader. Ask good questions and understand how to solve real problems.
To learn how to properly position yourself as a PRO freelancer, check out my course, Creative Class. I’ve taught over 2,200 freelancers how to position themselves with clients in ways that lead to less stress, more money, and more enjoyable projects.