When you’re a freelancer or solo independent contractor, you are your own Marketing Department. It’s up to you to make the contacts and generate the work that will enable you to grow your business.
Freelance newcomers and veterans alike need to continually broaden and update their work-finding and marketing skills not only to sustain their current workloads, but also stay ahead of the competition. Two keys to being successful at this are consistency and dedication. The search for work is constant part of your independent enterprise, so you’ll enjoy it more if you develop a passion for finding the next big project.
Obviously, the best sources of new business are current customers. Doing good work for them will keep them coming back, which is why you also need to be a stickler for client satisfaction. Always stand behind your work and try to gauge client expectations at every step, and then exceed them.
It’s also important to stay in touch with your clients, even if you already have a substantial backlog of work. Check in periodically to ask how things are going, what projects or initiatives may be in the works, and remind them that you’re ready to help out if the need arises. They’ll appreciate your proactive interest, and planting that seed may pay off immediately, or in several months when things start to slow down on your end.
Also recognize that building your personal brand is important. As a sole operator, your brand is you, so focus on leveraging your special knowledge, style or expertise. But don’t lock yourself in to tightly. The most successful independent contractors try to build new skills and leverage existing ones to higher price levels.
A substantial number of Web sites specialize in match freelancers with potential clients. Their approaches are as varied as the range of industries they cover. Some work on a bid system where employers post projects and freelancers bid on the work. These sites will likely take a cut of your proceeds. Then there are job boards, where projects are posted and you respond with a pitch letter and resume directly to the employer. You may need to pay a fee to access these resources, so it’s a good idea to find out whether the amount of work or contacts generated is worth the investment.
To learn more about finding projects for your small business, contact SCORE "Counselors to America's Small Business." SCORE is a nonprofit organization of more than 10,500 volunteer business counselors who provide free, confidential business counseling and training workshops to small business owners. Call 1-800/634-0245 for the SCORE chapter nearest you or find a counselor online at www.score.org. In San Diego and Imperial Counties call 619-557-7272 or visit www.score-sandiego.org.
SBA Success Story
Tree care company growing in spite of economy
Source: SBA San Diego District Office
In May of 2007, after 6 years of working for another tree care company, Bryan Moller and his wife Christy decided to open Four Seasons Tree Care, Inc.
Later that year they received a $275,000 SBA 7(a) guaranteed loan through Pacific Western Bank to launch their business and provide them with the funds needed to live their dream. In determining the loan amount they took into consideration the industry tendency for cash flow issues, due to late paying customers, and made sure to borrow enough to cover the in between times.
Additionally, they recently launched their new website which was a financial investment, but well worth the cost, as they wanted to start off with something that was very professional, creative and set them apart from others in the industry. It has become quite popular and has created a buzz among people they know, check it out at. www.fourseasonstc.com. They have also started a quarterly newsletter called the “TREEtise” which allows them to help educate their clients on contemporary tree care issues that they face every day. They currently have a database of over 200 people receiving it quarterly.
Bryan and Christy value their employees and have invested in all of them to be first aid and CPR certified as well as training all their tree trimmers to be aerial rescue certified and ISA (International Society of Arboriculture) certified tree climbers, which is unique in the industry. In June of 2009 they hope to become accredited by the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) www.tcia.org. TCIA accreditation is an extensive program that ensures that tree care companies uphold the highest levels of tree care, training, operations and employment. Only two other companies in San Diego are TCIA accredited.
Four Seasons Tree Care, Inc. has definitely benefited from the Moller’s decision to get more involved, volunteer more of their time, invest in their internet presence and make sure that their employees are well trained and rewarded. Bryan and Christy are excited to own their business and are looking forward to continued growth and reaping rewards for their efforts.