When you’re in the thick of building your business, staying on top of information within your industry, current clients, past ones and prospective is a lot of data to mine through. But as a freelancer, having a knowledge base that informs your selling, your decision-making and your process will help you exceed tenfold.
However, the information doesn’t have to be high-level math or intense statistic-focused to prove useful. In fact, those content marketers, designers, and copywriters who have built the most successful empires have creative metrics and methods of bringing on new contracts by using seemingly insignificant data points.
Using data as a freelancer can help you think strategically and effectively in your business:
Information about your target audience.
When you’re giving a friend advice who doesn’t want to take it, do you often feel as if you’re preaching to an empty room? It’s frustrating, right? If you’re constantly attempting to bring on new customers but you aren’t talking to the right group of folks, you’re wasting your breath.
Brand designer Terisa Brenna has signed more than 30 contracts this year alone, and part of her process is being critical of her target audience.
Not only does this save her time when creating proposals, but it makes it easier to send samples of work since she’s narrowing her niche:
Your ideal client should be able to see your value and not get sticker shock at your rates. If start-up, self-funded business owners see your value but are unable to match your rates, then they may not be the best fit and therefore not a productive use of your precious prospecting time. Pivoting in a new direction may take a little extra time to gain momentum, but it’s mutually beneficial to both parties involved when quality and value perception is met.
Information on social media.
As a way to think about data as a way to bring in business, freelancer writer Ashley Davidson says remaining connected on social media is a win. She’s landed ten contracts in the past five years, while also hustling a full-time gig, and her freelance career began over Twitter. So being able to digest, dissect and understand 140 characters or less? It can pay off.
I found an editor with the now-defunct Running Times on Twitter, realized we had gone to the same high school, and connected with her via DM. That’s how I broke into The Washington Post Magazine and RunWashington.com, as well. I did a little social media stalking and sent a cold email. But I made sure I found as much information as I could about the publication and editor I was reaching out to, and clearly explained why I was a good fit to write for them.
Marketing and public relations entrepreneur Lauren Wilson-Policke echoes Davidson, adding how much Instagram has been instrumental to her business. After she created a company page, she could see all sorts of data on how many viewers she raked in, who saved the post, who forwarded it and so on. This information guided her engagement, and also allowed her to see what worked — and what fell short:
I constantly update it with new press hits, industry events that I attend and any achievements worth mentioning. It is important for me to keep my network abreast of the fact that I am open to freelance opportunities. The work is out there, you just have to let people know you are open to it.
Information on rates.
Remember those days when you were employed by someone other than your bad self? We don’t like to think about them either but if you think back, every year, your salary raised a little bit. It was probably too small to notice, but it’s pretty standard across most companies since they have to adapt to the fluctuation in cost-of-living. But when was the last time you looked back at your own?
Brenna says all too often freelancers stick to the same numbers and figures, without considering when they deserve a bump. After all, with more experience, comes more money, and as your company and skill set builds, so should what you charge.
Think about looking back on previous assignments, time spent and money paid, to understand your personal ROI — and where it needs to grow.
As Brenna suggests:
Believe in your ability and worthiness to work on a big contract. If you’re in the mid-to-senior part in your career, don’t be afraid to tout your experience and position yourself as an expert.
Information on top search terms.
Sure, you take on search-engine optimization terms to help companies be in Google’s good graces. You can write a keyword optimized blog post in under an hour. But why are you using this super-skill to help bring in new freelance clients?
Marketing and public relations entrepreneur Terri Slater says constantly being on top of SEO for her own site has contributed to landing more than 100 clients in her tenure:
I often get leads through my website and maintain it to show a lot of press coverage. Prospects find me via keyword search and then see my extensive results and get in touch. I try to refresh my SEO capabilities too.
Information on past clients.
If you’ve been in the business for a hot second, you already have a pool of past work to pull from. Though the goal is always to nail long-term contracts, even those one-off projects are deserving of your attention. How come?
Brenna says staying abreast of what your past clients are doing can reopen the conversation, and lead to a better, lengthy contract. As she puts it, at the very least, you can ask them how their business is going, much like you would with an old friend:
This strategy is one part good deed and one part customer retention. People appreciate when you care about them and their goals, so it shows you’re invested in them and their long-term success. It takes a few minutes to send the email or phone call and even if they don’t have work for you at that moment, they’re ten-times likely to refer you to a colleague who needs branding help down the road.
Information on market research.
…and sometimes giving leads to someone else. As Anne Delaney, founder and principal of Excelsior English explains, there’s more opportunity found in collaboration than remaining in your silo. Not only for determining the right rates but for discovering opportunities.
Sometimes, this means she passes along a gig to someone else — and other times, one is passed to her. It’s a ping-pong synergy that’s helpful:
I’m a firm believer in building long-lasting, loyal relationships offering support and mentorship when and where I can. Some contracts are better suited for different suppliers, and it’s always a pleasure to send opportunities to colleagues with different skill sets than that of mine.
Information on goal strategy.
One of the most powerful data points writers and content marketers should use? The notes from their phone calls with prospective clients.
Freelance consultant and writer Katherine Conaway has landed many contracts by being detail-oriented and customizing proposals and plans that truly cater to each and every client:
When trying to sign off a new client or contract you should be very clear in understanding what their problem is, the solution you can offer (which you absolutely must be able to execute well), and communicate that effectively. No matter what you’re being hired to do, it’s solving a problem. Your client wants and needs to understand how you’re doing that and feel reassured that it will happen.