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:
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:
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.
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