How to Stand Out in Freelance Marketplaces

A challenge I get quite often from online freelancers is that competition is growing more and more each day and that makes it difficult for them to get hired by clients.

There are a couple of flaws in this belief and those are:

  1. More and more businesses are looking for remote help so there's plenty of room for everyone; and
  2. You really shouldn't be competing in the first place!

Competing assumes that you are similar to others... that you have similar knowledge, skills, and experiences.

This is a really common mistake, especially for new freelancers in freelance marketplaces. They basically try to do what everyone else is doing simply because that's what they've been taught to do.

In an attempt to blend in, they package and price their services just like everyone else. But blending in makes it very difficult for clients to see them.

When they do this, they're basically camouflaging their freelance business.

Their solution?

They try to differentiate based on price. And then freelancing starts to feel like a race to the bottom for them. The mentality is now: the cheapest freelancer will get the job or project.

On top of this ineffective strategy, freelancers also compete based on quality. They try to convince potential clients by saying that they're reliable, that they're diligent, or that they're hard-working.

News flash! Everyone else says these. And all these qualities should already be a given.

As a freelancer, you should be reliable, you should be diligent, and you should be hard-working by default.

Mentioning these in your profile, proposals, and interviews make you redundant.

So, how do you stand out?

Simple. Wherever you're acquiring clients, find out what everyone is doing and do the opposite, or something different, or unique.

Strategy number 1 is to lead with the benefits or the end results of your service offering.

Think about how your client's business will improve when they hire you for the job. Will you...

  • Increase the traffic to their website,
  • Increase the leads from their landing pages,
  • Increase the sales from their launches,
  • Decrease their costs, or
  • Save their time?

Whatever transformation you can delivery should be highlighted in your marketing assets.

For example, and let's assume that saving time is important to your target market, instead of being just a virtual assistant, be a virtual assistant who helps clients save time.

Now, this is just an example, and it's crucial that you understand your market well so that you can reflect their desired results in your offer.

Strategy number 2 is to niche down, and I'm assuming a lot of you already know this.

But too often common knowledge is not always common practice.

The natural objection to niching down is that it might limit the number of customers you can reach, but this is another misbelief.

When you niche down, it's easier to streamline your systems and you're efforts are more focused. This is also a great way of attracting better quality clients.

If you're not sure if your market is big enough, think about an SVM or your smallest viable market. If you can find at least 1,000 people who need your freelance services, you can go for it! 

So the question now is, how do you niche down?

Well, you can simply use something called a 2-Qualifier Method.

Just find 2 segments about your market and match it with your service offering.

The formula is [1st segment] + [2nd segment] needs your [Service Offering].

Common segments would be demographics like age, gender, location, income level, among other things.

Here are some examples: 

  1. [Health and Fitness Entrepreneurs] with [200 to 500 Subscribers] who need help with [Email Marketing]
  2. [Life Coaches] in [New York City] who need help with [Social Media Management]
  3. [Small Business Owners] [Selling Physical Products] who need help with [Bookkeeping]

There are many segments of any market that you can (and should) experiment with, and the more segments you use, the more specific your niche will be.

The more specific your niche, the lesser number of potential clients you can serve so be cautious about niching too far down.

Okay so to recap:

  1. Do not compete (period), and do not position your service offering based on price or quality. With the effective positioning, you effortlessly make everyone else irrelevant. 
  2. Observe your marketplace. Find out what everyone is doing and do the opposite, or do something different or unique.
  3. Do some market research to gain some insight into the desired outcome or end result of your potential clients.
  4. Niche down using the 2-qualifier method. Experiment with various segments of your target market until you find the right fit.
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