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Freelancing: How to stand out from the crowd


handshakeIn the current market conditions, how can a freelancer set him or herself apart from the throng? Mike Morrison has some timely advice.

Early in the new year is traditionally the time when we start thinking of our career options. Some of us start looking for new jobs, others for new challenges like going freelance. In the current climate of course some of us may not have a choice.

This short piece collates my experiences and those of other freelance providers. The list is presented in a (near) logical order, however the order presented is indicative and not a prescription. Not all elements will be necessary for your business or business model so use this as an ideas base.

Photo of Mike Morrison"Decide a day rate and stick to it: Develop your business model and ensure that your business is sustainable. At £100 per day you will be earning less than national minimum wage by the time tax etc is taken away."

There are several business models available to you, you should choose the model which best suits your skills. For example if sales is not your thing then direct contact with a client, persuading them that you are the right provider, writing proposals etc may not be your thing, so consider the temporary or associate market, where others do the selling and you do the delivery. However be aware that the money is made in the selling and account management phases, so do not expect high day rates (although you may be lucky).


1. Decide on a trading name: This is important and needs to reflect your proposition and values – doing something too 'samey' or quirky will go against you unless you are in a particular niche

2. Decide on a specialism - subject or sector: The more you specialise the easier the sell. People buy solutions not opportunities.

3. Hire an accountant: getting the books right from the off is vital, they can also save you more than they cost.

4. Get a logo or brand developed: this is essential if you are going to have a web presence.

5. Decide a day rate and stick to it: develop your business model and ensure that your business is sustainable. At £100 per day you will be earning less than national minimum wage by the time tax etc is taken away.

6. Develop terms and conditions and stick to them: always charge for cancelled dates. It is critical to have a business policy, something that is clear and understood by your customers and potential customers.

7. Get a website: increasingly people are buying trainers from the web, make sure yours gets seen.

8. Set up a blog for content: this should be part of your web strategy as it helps purchasers know you exist and, more importantly, what your believe and your approach.

9. Decide your business model: the percentage of associate work, direct etc

10. Get business cards.

11. Network with people you know: let them know what you are doing and that you are available.

12. Ask your network who they know who would benefit from your offer: referrals will mean the difference between long-term success and failure.

13. Use forums and other community sites to raise your profile:, TrainerBase etc, but don't spam them. Identify and comment only on topics in your specialist area to build your reputation.

14. Develop standard documents: proposal, invoice etc, this saves time.

15. Start a contact database and write quarterly/ monthly newsletters that add value, not just to advertise (again a form of spam if you are not careful).

16. Develop yourself: go on courses, visit exhibitions, read books, and then write each one up in your blog.

17. Get all travel and accommodation booked and paid for in advanced: It's cheaper for the client and saves you hassle.

18. If you are a member of a professional institution, attend local events irrespective of the topic or relevance. It's about networking and relationship building.

19. Involve other people: your spouse / partner, accountant etc. You have many strengths – and weaknesses – it's a team effort not a solo act. Identify what it takes to provide a rounded offer.

20. Understand what it is that you offer and others cannot or do not: how can you articulate this?

21. Learn to say no to clients: if you are not the best person or you are uncomfortable ethically, don't do it.

22. If you are not already qualified get some recognition of what you can do: TrainerBase’s CLP, TAP, the IITT’s TPMA – the best ones require you to be re-assessed every couple of years – purchasers like badges and so external recognition is important.

23. Always explore the 'value added' what can you bring to the party: Web 2.0 solutions, workbooks, experience, certificates, etc.


1. Get involved in a joint venture unless all parties put in the same time and exposure.

2. Put all your eggs in one basket: set a limit of a maximum of 25% of turnover from one client.

3. Discount unless it is conditional on volume (delivered not promised).

4. Wait for an associate to be paid: you should accept and expect payment 30 days from invoice or less.

5. Spend hours a day on social networking sites and forums. Be strategic in your use.

6. Try to deliver every course under the sun: you must specialise.

Finally: Remember - this is not personal - it's business, but people buy people. The market is challenging and those best prepared and connected will be the ones that will survive. Good luck if this is the journey for you.

Mike Morrison is director of RapidBI Ltd, a consulting and training company specialising in organisational development and the development of high performing teams and individuals. Mike was a business adviser for six years and has run his own consultancy company. For more information go to


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