How Freelancers Can Compete Against Bigger Businesses

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Landing the Big Fish

Everybody wants to be their own boss. Set your hours, work from home, accept the jobs that interest you and turn away the others—freelancing is fantastic work… if you can get it.

The truth is, freelancers fight an uphill battle: on the one hand, you’re competing against established firms for major contracts; on the other hand, you’re fighting other freelancers for local clients. But sooner or later you will find a foothold for your business.

If you want to be financially secure beyond paying your bills, then you’ll have to go after the big fish.

By stringing together small projects and one-off jobs, you find that you are able to make ends meet. Why not focus on the little guys and be grateful that your freelance work is able to sustain your lifestyle?

A fair question. After all, this is your business, and you can run it however you see fit. As the Greek said, Know Thyself: if you are genuinely happy with small projects that pay less, then be true to yourself and don’t waste your valuable time chasing after jobs you’d rather skip. But if you want to be financially secure beyond paying your rent and bills, and if you want to see your business flourish, then you’ll have to go after the big fish.

To put it bluntly, small jobs can be a dead end. Sometimes they pay the bills, sometimes they don’t, but more often than not, little projects are a pain. Smaller clients want the best (who can blame them?) but they pay a piddling rate. Every established freelancer has a horror story: the project that collapsed at the last minute, or the local client who refused to pay.

So how do you grab a large client’s attention? Why would a prosperous company choose a freelancer over a more reputable firm? To answer these questions you will need to look at your strengths as a freelancer.

What Can You Offer That The Big Firms Can’t?

One thing to keep in mind: never make a promise that you do not intend to keep. No one wants to admit they lack the resources or skill to take on an assignment: it’s embarrassing, and it could jeopardize your professional reputation. But it’s better to be honest, to accept defeat and begin planning your next pitch, than to take on a project you can’t complete. ]

When you go to the client with your tail between your legs (Sorry about all the time and money of yours that I’ve wasted, but I can’t finish the assignment!), you will have a far greater mess on your hands.

So focus on what you can deliver. Start by thinking like a customer: what is the worst thing about working with big firms?

Large companies typically have terrible customer service. As a freelancer, you are in a unique position to offer a high-quality product and personalized, attentive service. Tell a potential client that they will have the opportunity to work directly with the person in charge of the project. When they call for updates, you will be the one picking up the phone.

Flexibility and Speed

Nine times out of ten, prospective clients don’t know what they want. Offer to act as a guide. Avoid speaking in jargon whenever possible, and help the client discover their own vision for the project. Of course, some clients will prefer to let you handle the assignment from A to Z, from the first idea to the finished project. That’s great! This is your chance to show a client your entire range of skills.

Also, corporate clients often change their minds and want to see a project altered ASAP. A large competitor isn’t likely to pull an all-nighter and deliver the revised specs first thing in the morning, but you can. Remember, as a freelancer you want to grab hold of every opportunity to show a client that you are not only equal to your competition, but better.

And finally, don’t lose heart if you don’t land a big fish right away. Competing for jobs isn’t easy—if you are converting even a third of your opportunities into contracts, then you are an all-star—but it’s the only way to move up in the world.

Do you have another great piece of advice for brand new solopreneurs looking to compete with bigger brands for large-scale contracts and clients? Let us know in the comments section below!