Starting over – How I rebranded and took my freelancing to the next level

Starting over
I haven’t always worked for myself. After leaving my part-time job working in the print department of an office supply store I helped build a small collective team of freelancers. We were all new at working for ourselves, so we teamed up to pull in projects and to run the new business together.

After a year of working together, opportunities came up for some of the other team members, and as a result we had to go our separate ways. I was grateful to learn what I had in that year, but without much warning and now no team to depend on, I was left to pick up the pieces. From that point on I knew I had to become my own boss rather than go back to the dreaded retail job.

In order to pick myself back up, I had to be clear about what I wanted to do and how I wanted to get there. I had to start over.

Starting from scratch

I was no longer part of a team, so I had to set a foundation for my new freelance business.

How was I going to operate? Do I stay a jack of all trades or specialize in a niche market? Most importantly, where was I going to find new client work?

I’m not going to lie, I was pretty scared. I had no idea how to run a real business – I was just a guy who enjoyed designing and wanted to make a living out of it.

Still daunted by all of my unanswered questions and concerns, I took a deep breath and asked myself, what’s my next step?

Now that I was going to work for myself full-time as a freelance graphic designer, I had to get to know who I wanted to be as a business; so I wrote out a simple freelance business plan going over how I planned on operating as a business (self-employed vs. filing under a different business name), where I was going to find my work, how I was going to market myself, and what my long-term goals were with my new business.

Writing out my plans and goals was important, because it gave me something to work towards. I still had so much to figure out, but there was no time to waste since I didn’t have a lot of money coming in, so I kept my head up and learned as I went.

Rebranding my new freelance business

With my goals set, I needed to establish my new online presence. I was no longer just “Brent Galloway”, rather, I became “Brent Galloway – Freelance Graphic Designer”.

I designed my new logo, developed a color scheme, then built my new freelance website – geared around my business plan.

Branding

In a nutshell my site consisted of my homepage which leads visitors to where they need to go, a friendly about page with my photo, a new blog to generate traffic, an easy-to-view portfolio of my design work, and a simple contact page.

Keeping my specialty and ideal client work in mind, I tailored each page and its content with care. Only providing the necessary amount of content, strategically placing the right calls-to-action, and using keywords and key phrases throughout to better SEO.

Taking my freelance business to the next level

My business was planned, goals were set, and I had established my new brand. It was then time to officially get my new freelance business off the ground.

I created a spreadsheet with every possible connection I could reach out to for work. Past clients, my current connections, and a handful of small businesses that I had interest in working with. After sending out (personally written) emails to each potential client I was fortunate enough to land a few small projects. This helped get the ball rolling—With these projects it was then my goal to try and turn them into referrals.

Aside from personally reaching out to clients it was also a business strategy of mine to get my name out as much as possible, and I did this by being everywhere I could online.

You can read all about getting your name out there in my post, “How to better your chances at getting found by clients”

Another big step I took in taking my freelance business to the next level was by diversifying my income. I didn’t want to solely rely on client work to make money, so I started blogging, I Kickstarted and produced my own products (read my experience with that here), and I even wrote a book on freelancing.

Nearly three years later after the initial rebrand of my freelance business and after many revisions along the way – here I am. It’s been a bumpy ride, but I still have so much to learn and so much I’d like to accomplish.

How’s business going for you?

Hopefully you were able to pick up a few insights in what I had to share in this post.

Now I want to hear from you: where are you at in your freelance career? Are you thinking about making the jump? Have you been freelancing for a while now? If so, how’s it going for you?

Share your story below, or if you’re interested in sharing your story and insights in detail, contribute a post to the freelance community!

Also, if there’s anything I can share in a future blog post let me know. I’m an open book!


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  • Thanks for sharing Brent! It’s amazing how important it is to brand yourself properly as a freelancer.

    For me, I’m still near the beginning of my freelance career. I currently supplement my income by teaching creatives at a TAFE institution here in Australia. I love the flexibility of building a business they way I want to. Whilst we all need to meet certain financial goals, I’ve learnt to enjoy the journey because that’s where most of the fun is.

    • Enjoy the journey indeed. No one should go into freelancing thinking they’re going to get rich quick (or rich at all). For me personally, as long as I can earn enough to pay my bills then I’m happy doing what I love.

      Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment, Michael! :)

  • Jeremy Thomas

    Great post Brent! I have to say I’m still “branding” myself. It’s a long evolving process really. I started out just doing small projects to supplement my full time job, but I ended up losing it so I went full time freelance. I understood a bit about how branding separates you from the pack and lets you express your ideas and who you work with and what you work on.

    • Sorry to hear you lost your job… I hope things are going well now that you’ve went freelance full-time. If there’s anything I can do or share to help you with your branding let me know! Thanks for taking the time to read and share, Jeremy!

  • I’ve talked with some guys locally who are extremely successful web designers. They’ve been doing it for about 10 years and have had some big clients. They’ve told me that even they feel like they’re still figuring it out as they go along. I’ve decided that feeling probably never ends. It’s how I imagine free-falling might be: exhilarating, freeing, and terrifying all at the same time.

    I’m still on a twisty road with my business. I started out thinking of myself as a freelance web developer. Then, I decided I needed to focus on the results I am delivering by providing a web site rather than the site itself. (It’s the features vs. benefits thing.)

    Now, I’ve taken one more turn and decided that I can’t motivate myself to do that for restaurants, construction companies, and plumbers. I’m now focusing on video game developers which is where my passions lie.

    This comes with its own set of problems. Large developers have people in-house who take care of all the services I provide. Small developers have no money. I have to figure out exactly the problems that are specific to marketing an independent game so that my offering will appeal to this segment. These people still need web sites, but that’s only a small part of the offering now.

    My partners and I have launched the PowerUp Blog ( http://poweruppage.com/blog/ ) to start helping developers for free and to get a better idea what exactly we need to be offering. We have a long road ahead, but it’s really exciting!

    Sorry for the comment novella. ;-)