Here are seven changes I made to stop being just another choice, eliminate competition, and position my brand as the best choice for ideal clients.
When I began freelancing and started my design and development agency, Bourn Creative, I was like any other designer trying to make their way in the world.
- I looked at a ton of other designers’ websites to see what I needed to include and say on mine because I had no idea what to say.
- I created a website that was all about me, what I could do, and even the software programs I knew. It was like my resume but in website form.
- I did everything and said yes to everything and built a wide and varied portfolio that was all over the map.
- I even began networking and was excited to share what I did with others.
Eventually, I began to notice that when speaking with prospective clients, the conversation not only always seemed to come down to price… and they always wanted the lowest price. It was frustrating and disheartening.
Because I sounded like every other graphic design and web designer, looked like every other designer, and acted like every other designer, prospects had little to no criteria to compare when evaluating options. They couldn’t see a clear difference between me and my competitors so their only choice was to make a decision based on price.
I quickly realized that I needed to change things up.
I needed a way to stop being just another choice and instead be the only choice. If I stood out, was clearly different, and could communicate my value, I would not only get more clients, but I would be able to land better clients at higher rates.
Instead of being a generalist, I began to specialize and define a clear niche. I differentiated myself and created a signature system that no one else had, added bonuses to my service offerings, overhauled my website with added case studies and testimonials, began blogging and speaking and attending conferences, and focused on big opportunities for brand visibility — and, it worked like a charm.
Within just a few months, I noticed a change in who was reaching out about new projects and the fees I was able to get. Within a year, I more than tripled my fees and had a completely booked roster of awesome clients and a waiting list.
Stop Being Just Another Choice
Here are the eight changes I made in my freelance business to stop being just another choice, eliminate my competition, and position my brand as the best choice for my ideal clients:
1. Select A Specialty
While a generalist or jack of all trades can be useful, it’s the specialist that commands the highest fees and the most respect. For example, doctors are respected and paid well, but surgeons command greater respect, earn more money, and have more power.
If you want to easily attract the best clients who are happy to pay your full rate, you need to specialize or choose a niche. While most people believe that choosing a niche or specialty means choosing an ideal client, that’s not always the case. You can specialize by choosing to:
- Serve a specific type of client (freelancing single moms)
- Be an expert on a specific industry (health and wellness businesses)
- Offer a specific type of service (eCommerce websites)
- Help clients achieve a specific goal (launch a podcast and get it on iTunes)
- Solve a specific problem (double your leads)
Choosing a niche or specialty also doesn’t mean that you’re suddenly going to turn down away new clients who don’t fit that exact profile.
Landing new clients works the same way as a game of darts:
- Hitting the center circle on the bullseye with a perfect throw means you get the most points, while hitting an outer ring still earns you points, just not as many.
- Landing an ideal client who is a perfect match for your specialty is like hitting the bullseye, while other clients who align with some of your specialty are like hitting the outer rings.
Choosing a niche doesn’t mean alienating all other clients. The degree to which a client aligns with your specialty will vary and it’s up to you to decide when to say yes and when to say no.
2. Differentiate Yourself
It is imperative that you find a way to stand out and differentiate yourself from your direct competitors and others in your niche — and let’s just get this out of the way: providing great customer service is not a differentiator, it’s an expectation.
While great customer service isn’t a differentiator, customer experience is. So think about:
- What makes what I do different?
- How can I package my services in a way that makes the offer unique?
- What can I offer or provide that no one else is?
- Is there a way I can put a unique twist on what I’m doing or offering?
- Why do people need what I offer and why am I the best choice?
- Where can I add surprise and delight to create extraordinary experiences?
- What is missing from the process my competitors follow or use?
- What concerns do hesitant prospective clients have and how can I mitigate them?
3. Create A Signature System
With no systems in place to support you, it’s highly likely that you’re flying by the seat of your pants, starting over with every new client, and risking important things falling through the cracks. But with systems in place, you have a strong foundation to support both you and your clients during your work together, which results in a smoother project flow and happier clients.
- Systems are repeatable, which means the templates, tools, checklists, resources, and other materials can be used over and over with each new client, which will save you time and increase your effective hourly rate.
- Documented systems can be delegated and automated as needed to free up your time to focus on serving your clients to the best of your ability and moving your business forward.
- Systems demonstrate your professionalism, commitment to quality, and desire to provide a remarkable experience.
- Systems position you as more credible and trustworthy and it differentiates you from other fly-by-night service providers because you have checks and balances in place to make sure nothing is forgotten or missed.
4. Add Valuable Bonuses
If you’re struggling to differentiate yourself, consider adding valuable bonuses and extras to your service package that no one else offers. Ask yourself, what can you add to increase the perceived value of your offer that helps the client, moves them closer to their goals, and makes the process easier?
A few ideas include:
- Training and educational materials
- Tips sheets
- Recommended resource guide
- Glossary of terms
Just remember that extra bonuses should be incredibly useful to your clients. Don’t simply add bonuses to justify a fee increase. Bonuses are meant to increase the perceived value and make investing in your service package a no-brainer.
5. Create A Website About Your Clients
I hate to break it to you, but your prospective clients don’t care about you until they first understand what you can do for them, how you can help them achieve their goals, and what they are going to get out of their investment. They care about themselves first and foremost. Then, only after deciding that you can deliver what they want and need, do they care about who you are and your background.
When creating your freelance website, keep the client front and center.
Here’s what the pages on a freelance website need to do:
- Confirm that prospects are in the right place
- Let prospects know you understand their challenge or problem
- Provide affirmation that their problem is important and needs to be addressed
- Share that you have a proven solution and can help
- Offer case studies and testimonials to show others have invested with you and experienced success and the same results your prospects want to achieve
- Provide information about your services and qualifications/background
- Lead them to the logical next step to take action
It doesn’t need to be your resume and it doesn’t need to list the software you’re competent in because let’s be honest, no client really cares what software you use.
6. Leverage Story-Driven Case Studies And Testimonials
In all aspects of your sales and marketing — not just on your website — you can leverage project case studies and client testimonials to tell the story about:
- Who you work with
- What you do
- How you’re different
- The results you help clients achieve
- The benefits of working with you
Case studies and testimonials are highly effective tools to demonstrate your value and land new clients because they communicate everything listed above without making it all about you.
- Case studies are all about the project — the project objectives, work completed, challenges overcome, results achieved, and any notable or unique characteristics of the project. Case studies help prospects identify a project similar to theirs and get a glimpse into how their project may go.
- Testimonials are all about the client — they are sharing the story of their experience working with you in their own words. Testimonials, when done right, help sell you to the prospective client without being salesy.
7. Position Yourself As An Authority
The fastest way to differentiate yourself and become the best choice in the eyes of your prospective clients is to become their trusted resource for information, recommendations, tools, and tips. Position yourself as the first person they think of when they need the service you offer or someone they know needs the service you offer.
A few simple ways to gain authority niche positioning include:
- Publishing blog posts and guest posts
- Being a guest on podcasts your audience listens to
- Publishing YouTube videos
- Applying to speak at events
- If you have a large list, mentioning the size “join 10,000 others…”
- Leading webinars and other opt-in trainings
- Offering a free email course
- Hosting an event or meetup
Just remember that any lead generation and marketing efforts you pursue must be done constantly and consistently. The more often you take action, the more often you’ll be remembered when your prospective clients are ready to buy.
8. Be Seen Consistently
You may have heard the phrase that 80% of life is simply showing up. You can also think of it as 80% of the work is simply being seen.
Think of it this way, when you go to a party, no one remembers how long you stayed, just know you there. Brand visibility matters and it’s exactly why some service providers, maybe those less talented than you, seem to achieve more success, receive more recognition, have more fans, or land clients more easily than you do.
The reality is that no one can hire you if they don’t know you exist or don’t remember that you’re even an option. The minute you start freelancing and start a business, you also become a marketer who is responsible for getting your name and work out into the world for others to see. And, because people don’t buy when it’s convenient for you, but when it’s convenient for them, so that means you have to be visible all the time, so you’re top of mind when they’re ready to get started.
To stay top of mind, you need to consistently:
- Be active and engaged on social media
- Send an email newsletter consistently
- Advertise your offers
- Attend local networking events
- Attend major conferences
- Apply to speak at events
- Create and publish a variety of new content
- Showcase your expertise through media and interviews
Just make sure every time you show up, you’re doing so in a way that adds value, helps others, affirms your expert status, and moves your business forward.
Becoming The Only Choice
If you’re tired of being just another choice and are tired of chasing new clients and convincing them of your value, you can end that struggle by becoming the only choice so that your ideal clients begin to chase you and seek you out. When become the obvious choice for perfect-fit clients, you’ll: