When you’re an employee, you’re in the trenches day after day. You’re spending 40 hours every week among your co-workers, putting out fires and collaborating to get the job done.
When you’re a freelancer, it’s all different. Most of your work is probably done from afar in your home office. At most, you might pop into your client’s office for meetings here and there or you may spend a few hours working at their office each week.
With so much distance in the mix, staying relevant in the workplace isn’t easy. If you want to truly be part of the team, try these tips to stay relevant no matter what your freelancing agreement is.
Keep Up with Industry Trends
Part of your value as a freelancer is your expertise. Your client is hiring you because you already know how to do the job they need, unlike employees who tend to require more training. To maintain that value, you need to keep your knowledge sharp.
Schedule time every week or every day to read about the latest trends in your field. You could read trade magazines, industry blogs, post from relevant social media accounts, and so on. You can’t invoice your client for that time but when you’re able to whip out a cutting-edge suggestion to improve your project or you’re holding your own in a conversation among the team, your client is more likely to see your value.
Get Social to Stay Relevant
Sometimes the most beneficial conversations happen in the most informal settings, when a team of colleagues is simply chatting over drinks. You want to be there when those conversations happen.
If you’re working on a project alongside your client’s employees, get involved as much as you can. Organize lunches for the team or happy hour outings, even if you’re just sipping mocktails. This builds your rapport among the team so you’ll be a core part of the decision-making process.
Volunteer and Get Involved
You might have heard the advice, “Keep your head down and do your work.” Toss it out the window when it comes to staying relevant as a freelancer. Yes, you want to get your work done, but you want to be involved throughout your client’s organization when possible.
Offer your help on other projects and get involved in discussions throughout the organization. A word of caution, though: get freelance contracts with a clear scope of work first and don’t offer your services for free in the hopes of expanding your influence in your client’s company. It’s more likely that they’ll start to see you as a source of free help and your expertise will lose value.
Use Social Media to Your Advantage
Social media is useful for more than keeping up with your distant relatives and sharing memes with your friends. It can be a tremendous way to stay relevant in business if you know how to use it.
On your preferred social media platforms, follow the company leadership as well as the members of your client’s organization that you work with most often. Simple comments and likes here and there will build your connection with them and keep you on their minds.
Become a Specialized Expert
Aim to become the “go-to” person for a particular niche or subject. Let’s say you’re a freelance graphic designer, but your client has hired you as a helping hand for their existing team of designers for a large project. How do you stand out and stay relevant?
Perhaps you have more experience in animation than the rest of the team, so take that specialty and run with it. Hone your skills even further to become the ultimate animation pro among the team. Any time your client wants help with animation, you’ll be their first call.
Get to Know the Customers
When it comes down to it, one of the best ways to stay relevant in the workplace is to simply be great at what you do. In the freelance world, this translates to delivering the best possible results for your client, and the best way to do that is to understand what they want. This could take different forms depending on your client and their business model, so let’s explore.
If your client has a B2C business model in which they’re serving or selling to consumers (not businesses), you want to learn about their customer base. Who are they targeting? What are their audience’s priorities, concerns, and interests? What will make the biggest splash among the audience and benefit your client the most?
If your client has a B2B business model in which they’re selling to other businesses, your goal is very different. If possible, develop business relationships with the customers themselves, but don’t go over your client’s head in the process. Ask your client if you can sit in on relevant meetings with their customers. This gives you a better sense of who those customers are and what they want so your deliverables can be more successful. At the end of the day, the results will make you a valued part of your client’s team.
The Ongoing Challenge to Stay Relevant in the Workplace
As many benefits as there are to freelancing, it does come with its difficulties. One of these challenges is learning how to stay relevant in the workplace when you aren’t spending every day in the office with your client’s team. The tips above will help you to not only deliver great results for your client but stay relevant among their team so you get that one thing every freelancer wants: repeat business.