When you start out as a freelancer, the temptation is to be everything to every client, because you’re so focused on making the sale. The problem with that? You become the jack of all trades and the master of none.
When you say yes to every writing commission and industry, you’re seen as more of a generalist, and you get the so-so fees that come with that.
Your skills are worth something – a lot, actually!
However, when you are intentional about your skills and client market, you elevate your brand (and consequently your rates) and you attract the clients that you want to work with, only.
At the start of my freelance career, I was a generalist, saying yes to everything and being a mistress of all trades.
The result? I ended up operating outside my ‘sweet spot’, which resulted in okay (as opposed to ‘great’) work for my clients.
My sweet spot is creating great content for businesses (I’m a content strategist – that’s why I’m known as the content ninja).
In my desperation to get clients and keep a roof over my head, I accepted copywriting and digital marketing projects, which, in hindsight, I had no business accepting, because they weren’t my sweet spot.
For those who don’t know, copywriting is essentially, sales.
Smart copywriters do not waste their time writing content when they know they can charge $3,000 for a landing page.
They can charge that much, because they know their copy will result in conversions for their client. And they know that because copywriting is their ‘sweet spot’, what they do best.
Smart content strategists/writers do not waste their time writing sales copy when they know their skill is in content marketing, which is a more nuanced, strategic form of marketing. They are more big-picture people – that’s why they can charge $100/$200 per hour to create a holistic content strategy for their clients.
Think about it: you pitch for a project. The prospect (a consumer goods company) sees your pitch and someone else’s:
- Your competitor is an B2C copywriter, who only writes for fast moving consumer goods companies (that’s FMCG, for those who don’t know)
- You’re a copywriter who’s written for everyone under the sun.
Put yourself in your prospect’s shoes: who would you award the project to?
Your competitor of course, even if they charge more.
And they can charge more, because they have the specialist industry knowledge and experience, both of which reassures the prospect that their project is safe in your competitor’s hands.
My point: staying in your sweet spot can only be good for you.
How to make more by being yourself
What topics are you passionate about? It doesn’t matter how random it is – endeavour to be the most knowledgeable freelancer in that topic area, do great work and wave goodbye to average rates as a generalist.
How much do you need to make a month/year to live comfortably? This is important, because this is how you are going to set your rates. If you know that you need at least $1,500/m to cover your rent/mortgage, then you know that you need at least 2-3 projects a month, that are worth at least $1,500 each, to keep you afloat (you need to plan for lean times).
How much is your time worth to you? There came a time in my freelance career when I decided that my jack-of-all-trades philosophy wasn’t worth my time. Developing content strategies and great content for companies in the legal/fintech sectors was. The surprising thing was just how easy it was for me to wave goodbye to my general clients and focus on attracting the clients that I wanted, in topic areas and industries that I was interested in, after making my decision.
At this point, you’re probably wondering how to get those clients. Here’s how:
- Write down your topic/passion industry
- Write down the companies working in those industries that you would like to deliver projects for
- Go to Linkedin
- Search for those companies
- Look for the decision makers, for example, managers, directors, in those companies
- Pitch your services to that person.
If it sounds more daunting than it is just remember that people buy and sell from people, not companies. Do your homework (read the company’s Twitter feed, press releases and study as much of their material as possible), and pitch your services to that person like the knowledgeable expert that you are.
Also remember: the decision-maker is buying solutions, not just a service from you, so pitch right:
You’re not a freelance writer: you write copy that converts into sales for your client.
You’re not a branding expert: you create powerful visual connections for your clients that resonates with their target audience and converts into sales.
You’re not a plain English expert: you create accessible content that helps your clients market effectively to their customers.
See what I mean? Don’t sell your services – sell solutions. Be intentional (back then, Thursday was Linkedin day for me), and be focused (I made sure I sent off at least three email pitches every Thursday when I made this decision to be myself – i.e., provide services in my sweet spot).
Over to you: are you a jack of all trades or are you more of an master of one? How has it worked for you, so far?
Also published on Medium.