Upwork Poll: Freelancers Think This Is Key to Success

How to Be Successful as a Freelancer

In an Upwork poll conducted on LinkedIn, almost 37% of the 9,446 respondents indicated that “Building Your Online Presence” is the key to freelance success.

Hubspot defines your online presence as, “How easy it is to find a brand or company online. It’s important for building your brand’s reputation, increasing brand awareness, and providing visibility to your products or services when users are searching for related keywords.”

As a freelance consultant, you must stand out from the crowd. You need to create and share valuable content online through your website and social media to build your online presence.

Not surprisingly, defining your niche came in second at 36%. 

Defining your niche is one of the first steps in building your online presence as a freelance consultant.

Once you understand your niche, you develop a clear ideal customer profile (ICP). Then, you use the information from your niche and ICP to create the content strategy needed to build your online presence. Last, you create and share the content to build your online presence.

So, all of these elements work hand-in-hand. 

If you want to be a successful freelance consultant, you’ll go through this process proactively. 

However, as we share content, engage with clients, and build our online presence, our niche and ideal customer profile(s) become more apparent.

Our niche could expand, narrow, or shift based on market feedback. 

It’s the Build, Measure, Learn loop.

Real-Life Application

When I started my freelance consulting business, I was a generalist consultant. So when I left General Electric, I already had them as a client. 

My consulting engagements with GE spanned marketing, sales, corporate strategy, organizational development, project management, etc.

As I continued to build my online presence, I slowly shifted from a generalist to a marketing consultant focused primarily on voice of the customer, strategy, and commercial due diligence.

Many factors impacted that shift, but everything traces back to the build, measure, learn loop.

(P.S. I wouldn’t recommend being a generalist consultant unless you already have clients lined up.)

What Was Shocking About This Upwork Poll

Only 5% of respondents mentioned Requesting Referrals as the key to success. Referrals should be a lot higher. Every successful freelance consultant I know gets the most leads and projects from referrals.

You 100% need an online presence. You 100% need to build your brand and create an inbound marketing strategy to generate leads. 

However, it costs 5X more to acquire a new customer. And one study showed that increasing customer retention could increase profits by 95%. 

Another study found that 92% of consumers trust the referral of a friend, family member, or acquaintance over any form of advertising.

Sure, these studies aren’t specific to freelance consulting. But they are very applicable. One of the best ways to build your business is to “land and expand.”

Consider landing a smaller project with a client. First, do damn good work, deliver results, and build relationships. Then, expand your services by asking for referrals.

As you continue to build relationships, you’ll start receiving more internal and external referrals. 

Key Take-Aways From This Upwork Poll

In conclusion, if you want to be a successful freelance consultant, make generating referrals and building your online presence the foundation of everything you do.

As shared above, successful consultants constantly build their online presence through blogging and social media. They also develop an inbound marketing strategy to generate leads from their website and social media accounts.

In addition, they have a referral system to generate leads from their current and past clients.

I hope that helps. Feel free to post any questions in the comments section below. 

Stewart Swayze
Stewart Swayze
Stewart Swayze is the Founder and Chief Editor of The Weekly Consult. He's a B2B Marketing Consultant that supports large companies and private equity firms. He conducts market research, collects VOC, and creates go-to-market strategies. Stewart also conducts commercial due diligence projects for private equity firms. He's lived, traveled, and worked all over the world. In his spare time, he enjoys trail running, walking his dog, dinners with his family, and woodworking.

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