16 simple ways freelancers can stand out from the competition in 2013

The new year is in full swing for most of us by now and I’m sure your inbox has been inundated, like mine has, with posts about new year’s predictions, resolutions, and the like.

And that’s all fine and dandy.

But today, I want to talk about 16 simple ways we as freelancers can stand out from our competition in 2013.

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I’m not asking you to set any goals.

I’m not making an predictions.

Some of this stuff would have worked just fine in 2012.

But if you find yourself falling shorter than you’d like in your freelancing, here are some simple but powerful ways to step it up over the course of the new year.

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16 ways freelancers can stand out from the competition this year

  1. Update your portfolio with only the best of your work, regardless of total project count.
  2. Don’t settle for mediocre results.
  3. Be as human as possible with your clients.
  4. Call/email your clients back immediately when they reach out.
  5. Find other ways to win more clients than just lowering the price.
  6. Take time to actually position yourself as an expert.
  7. Get on top of your contracts. Make them easy to understand and simple to sign.
  8. Respond to job postings immediately and professionally.
  9. Offer top-notch customer service.
  10. Find ways to make money without clients.
  11. Be nice.
  12. Make sure your business name is professional, easy to remember, and easy to spell.
  13. Send invoices on time.
  14. Go above and beyond the simple creative task at hand.
  15. Make your client feel like you really care about their company and goals.
  16. Offer the most up-to-date services available.

Two of the most important changes to make this year

So there you have it, a list of simple ways you can stand out from your competition this year!

If I missed one, please let me know by leaving a comment.

But I want to cover two of what I believe are the most important ones in more depth.

If you’re curious what I think are the two best ways to stand out this year, then keep reading…

1. Offer the most up-to-date services available.

Do you ever find yourself getting overlooked by potential clients because some agency can offer responsive web design or some other form of super-trendy, current services?

Well if you look closely at the agencies that are stealing your business you’ll notice they’re made up of…you guessed it…individuals.

Individual people just like you and me.

And it’s the skillset and abilities of those people that are actually taking your business. So beat them at their own game. Learn the latest in technology, trends, skills, etc. and be ready to start winning those clients again!

2. Offer top-notch customer service.

Ask any business owner around–one of the hardest parts about hiring creative people is finding great creativity paired with phenomenal customer service.

So if you want to stand out from the competition this year, offer the best customer service you can muster.

Allow me to share a story:

I’m no videographer.

But over the last couple years, I have found myself in need of someone who could shoot and edit a fantastic video or two (or twenty).

I found a freelancer who I loved working with: he did phenomenal work. He always had great ideas. He was forward thinking.

But he was always on a shoot somewhere and I could never get a hold of him on the phone, via email, etc. no matter how hard I tried.

As the client, I was frustrated frequently. And understandably so.

Then he fixed the problem.

How did he fix it?

He hired a producer. Someone who could coordinate all the details of the shoot. Someone who could be in touch with me frequently and answer all my questions and concerns. Someone who could offer top-notch customer service.

And it made a world of difference!

I still work with this dream team to this day and I give them lots of business every year.

They offer better customer service than any other video team I work with.

And here’s the kicker

Get this: I even pay more to work with these guys because they pair incredible talent with fantastic customer service to provide the best experience I’ve ever had getting videos produced.

The lesson?

So what does that have to do with any of us?

Why should you care?

Because freelancers who can offer stellar customer service will find themselves leaps and bounds ahead of their competition.

Did I get it right? How will you stand out from the competition this year? Leave a comment and let’s chat!


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  1. Couldn’t agree more with this – The main thing I have done this year is UP my prices and stick to them – The amount I lose on agreeing to do projects that were less money against taking on projects that are worth my time and effort far outweigh each other. Believing in your area of expertise and selling that, works far greater for me, than always agreeing to a clients budget. I have found about half come back and agree to the raised price after a period of consideration – Lesson learnt is that you can cheapen your skills to a ‘fast food’ level as opposed to ‘Haute Cuisine’.

  2. Agree with all of that, but especially the top-notch customer service. I work in an area which is very tourism orientated and time and again I see in a lot of businesses here customer service is not a high priority, to the point where some staff are downright rude. As a customer, I don’t return when I receive bad service. So I’m really conscious of making sure that I provide the best service to my clients – and it always pays dividends.

  3. Customer Service combined with strong empathy towards your clients needs is the key to success in freelancing. Most printing companies these days employ at least one in-house graphic designer and a lot of them can even provide websites i.e. Vistaprint and Snap Printing franchises. It’s hard to compete with the “one-stop walk-in” businesses. You’re not going to build a client base by simply having a fancy business card and a strong portfolio of work on a website, because there’s plenty of talented designers out there. I keep my phone turned on longer than regular trading hours, talk to my clients when they need help and will go the extra distance literally by traveling to see them, dropping off proofs and finished print jobs in person. I also provide onsite technical support for web-related products. In other words, I’ll go round to their house and set up their new email, show them how to customise their shopping carts etc. It means long hours of course, and not always paid hours, but it does develop a strong relationship with a tight client base, and that means good referrals.

    1. Adam I hear you on that. When my client rang me at 7pm tonight I had no hesitation in helping him out. Customer service rules above all. It’s human nature to want to feel valued and responded too. The customers who we serve well, refer well and so the flow of business continues. 🙂

  4. Hey Preston,

    #6 is the one, in 2013, I will have to work on.
    I’ve been in the business for 20+ years and in all that time I still, a lot of times, don’t feel that I’m an expert! But, this year I will add more content to my blog and Facebook pages to try and position myself as an authority in my field! These tips are great motivators and thank you!

  5. Hi Preston!

    I have recently found Graphic Design Blender and I LOVE it!! I have been designing for over 20 years and I am still wondering if I should take the plunge into freelance design. And that is one reason why I love this site! *SO* much USEFUL information! Thanks and please keep it coming!!

  6. Hey Preston,

    The tip that stood out the most for me was “Be nice”. In this industry, there seems a tendency for people to be arrogant and look down on people who may not have perfect taste. The whole idea of “a client getting in the way” is so wrong. After all, it is THEIR site, brochure, poster, ad, whatever that we are having the privilege of designing. Even though we may know that Comic Sans is a horrible font to use, we should still communicate that fact gently and certainly not in a rude or condescending manner. Good food for thought, anyway. Hope you all have a great year!

  7. Nice tips as always Preston.
    I personally think about these ways as the “basic equipment” for a reliable freelance.
    Sometimes I however run into customers for whom this seems not to be enough. Or, better, who don’t really care about these added values.
    I mean, I live and work in Italy, and here it seems that the only thing that can make the difference is your price.
    Maybe there is a true lack of education about what professionalism is and its strict connection with results.
    What do you think about it?

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