Make Q4 a Success: 15 Tips to Make Your Last Quarter Your Best Yet

Make Q4 a Success: 15 Tips to Make Your Last Quarter Your Best Yet

How freelancers can prepare for success in Q4 with careful planning, reflection, and outreach.

With a little planning, you could make the last quarter of 2022 your most successful. The fourth quarter includes the holiday season, and your clients will likely take some time off in November and December. Regardless, now is a great time to end the year on a high note and prepare for the future. Here’s 15 tips to prepare for success in Q4.

1. Take the time to record your wins

Listen, it is really easy to reflect on your year and regret every missed opportunity and mistake. You probably don’t even realize how much progress you’ve made! Take five minutes and do this:

  1. Record your wins. What have you accomplished? Did you start making your grilled cheese sandwiches with mayo? Did you try something new (even if you failed)? Congratulations! You’ve lived, learned, and made shit happen.
  2. Reflect on what you’re grateful for. I know there’s something! Maybe it’s your dog, the fresh air you breathe, or the professionals you’ve connected with. It doesn’t matter.
  3. Make a done list. Grab a notepad and write “Done List” at the top. Every time you do something — take a walk, stretch, write an article, send a tweet — jot it down. You’ll be impressed with how much you do, and you’ll realize where your time goes.
  4. Add to your compliments file. That nice note in your inbox? A nice comment on your Instagram post? Screenshot it and save it in a file. Your compliment file is your digital record of kindness and something that is invaluable on bad days.

2. Tell everyone that you’re available for freelance work

Sit down and make a list of all the people you’ve worked with, known, and would like to work with in the future. Clients are spending the remainder of their budgets and launching year-end projects, and they need your services!

Here’s a template from Contra’s Slack community:

Hi [Client]! Hope you’ve been well since we worked on [project] together!

I wanted to check back in and see if you need any help wrapping up work before the year comes to a close. I have some extra availability for [your service] in [insert months you’re available].

[sign off]

[your name]

And here’s a different take from me:

Hello! I hope you’re doing well! [Insert personal note here].

I just wanted to let you know that I’m available for new [type of work] projects in this last quarter of 2022. I’m also available for work around this upcoming holiday season!

I’m happy to help you with:

  • [Service]. I help with [problem] and have achieved [results].
  • [Service]. Need help with [problem]? I offer [service with solution]

I’m happy to chat with you over the phone or Zoom and am ready to hit the ground running! 

Please feel free to share my name with individuals in need of a freelancer. A referral is the best compliment you can give me.

Melanie Powers also offers two amazing email templates. And I stole that referral line from Michelle Garrett — you should too!

3. Consider diversifying your business

I know that there is some service or product you’ve thought about launching but haven’t. Now might be the time to launch a newsletter, create digital products, or offer a new service.

I put off making a newsletter for the longest time because I was afraid of the work and time commitment. It is a lot of work but it’s been worth it!

Matthew Fenton does a great job of breaking down why you should (or shouldn’t) diversify your freelance business. Go give it a read!

4. Optimize your social profiles and share, share, share!

You don’t have to use social media as a freelancer to land work. But it’s a very handy tool that you can use to your advantage. Some of my favorite clients have come from social media!

Update your Twitter account and LinkedIn profile with a little about what you do, your portfolio, and your contact info. Include keywords like “freelance writer” that clients use to search for your services. Create posts to promote your freelance business like:

  • Share that you’re open to work! Write a tweet about what you do and pin it to your profile. Write a similar post on LinkedIn and ask people to share it!
  • Share why people should hire you. Share a note from a pleased client (look through that compliments folder you just made). Tell people about a goal you achieved.
  • Share your latest work! If you have an NDA, share the type of work you’re doing.

By the way, if you feel awkward promoting yourself, that’s normal! But do it anyway.

5. Update (or create) your portfolio and profiles

If you’re looking for new clients, you need to make sure that you’re communicating your worth! Update your portfolio with your best projects. Include the results you achieved and the skills you used.

Writers should also create a profile on Skyword and Contently. Lots of clients look for freelancers directly on those platforms!

6. Invest in tools that make your business more efficient

What are you spending too much time on? Can you automate it? What can you do to make your life easier? I pay for transcribing services so I don’t waste my time on labor I hate. Invest in yourself and your business!

Prepare for Q4 success with careful planning, outreach, and reflection.

7. Fire bad clients that aren’t meeting your values or expectations

If you have a client that isn’t paying you on time, is going beyond the project scope or is being a pain, it might be time to part ways. Review your current client list, and consider who you want to continue working with.

You may not be able to fire them right now, but you can at least take steps toward replacing them. 

8. Take a look at your pricing

Pricing is so difficult, especially when you’re just starting out as an independent worker. Take a look at your pricing. Is the way you charge right now (hourly, per product, etc.) working for you? Are you happy with your current rate?

Every so often, you need to raise your rates. Now is as good a time as any!

9. Audit your source list

Have you been interviewing people from underrepresented backgrounds? Take an inventory of your reported pieces and consider who you’ve included (and who you haven’t). Consider widening your source list with the help of a database or two.

10. Learn a new skill

Learning a new skill is often a New Year’s Resolution, but why not get a three-month head start? Leveling up your skillset is how you become more valuable to clients and build a thriving business. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do you want to learn? 
  • What new skill sets could allow you to charge higher rates?
  • How much can you time and money can you spend on personal development?

You don’t have to put much money into acquiring a new skill. Read (or listen to) a book! Get your library card and take a few classes in person. Use your library card to access LinkedIn Learning or resources on Libby

If you’re looking to learn more about freelancing, I highly recommend webinars from Freelancing with Tim or The Writers’ Co-op.

11. Stop comparing yourself

It’s very easy to compare yourself to self-proclaimed experts and six-figure freelancers. There will always be someone out there who seems to be more successful than you. But people are quick to share their successes and hesitant to reveal their mistakes. Comparing yourself to the public persona of other freelancers is a losing game.

Instead, think about all the progress you’ve made in your life and business. Remember, what you do is valuable. Your clients hire you for a reason, and you are worth more than your work.

12. Schedule time off and actually take it

Do you want to take a holiday vacation? Are you okay working around Thanksgiving? Many clients will take holiday breaks, but it’s a good idea to communicate your holiday availability with your clients now. Schedule your days off and stick to them. You deserve to spend time with your friends and family or simply recharge at home.

13. Ask for testimonials

I like to do this at the end of the year, but if you’re wrapping up a project or have time, now is a great time to ask for a testimonial. Clients are often happy to write a short testimonial for you to use on your website, social media, or marketing. Asking for this feedback is also a great way to reflect on your successes so far this year.

14. Review your finances

This is the least sexy item on this list but arguably one of the most important. Track your income and expenses. Keep a full record of all the work you have coming in. Answer these questions:

  • How much money did you make last quarter?
  • How much money do you need to earn to stay afloat, or hit your financial goals?
  • How are you spending your money?
  • Are you spending too much money on something? Can you cancel a subscription or negotiate a lower rate? 
  • Can you put more in savings?

15. Review your tax deductions

As a self-employed person, you get to take deductions on your home office, equipment, books, office supplies, travel costs, memberships, and software programs. Don’t put off this headache! As you review your finances, look for anything that could count as a deduction. 

You still have time to squeeze in another write-off expense this year if you want.

Do you have a tip you’d like to recommend? Comment below, or tweet at me.

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20+ Free Diverse Stock Photo Sites for Your Site

20+ Free Diverse Stock Photo Sites for Your Site

These websites make selecting quality stock photography easy.

Unfortunately, finding free stock images that show people from underrepresented backgrounds can be a pain. These databases and websites showcase a solid collection of inclusive stock photography. Most of these sites are free but a few are available for a fee or a suggested donation. Many of these sites require attribution so don’t forget that.

People of Color Stock Images

Women Stock Images

Disabled Stock Images

Body Inclusive Stock Images

General Diversity Stock Images

LGBTQ+ Stock Images

And I suggest using these resources to include more marginalized voices in your work.

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Gift ideas for the freelancer in your life from an actual freelancer

Gift ideas for the freelancer in your life from an actual freelancer

10 gifts to give the creative in your life that’s not another notebook or tote bag.

The last thing the freelancer in your life needs is yet another pen, notebook, or tote bag. So, here’s a practical list of gifts they’ll actually appreciate, ranging from free to inexpensive. And please, if you can, shop local and shop small.

1. Coffee

Most people run on coffee. An extra jolt of caffeine is always a welcome gift, especially when someone’s on deadline. I recommend two of my favorite coffee shops that ship: West Lou and The Caffeinery

2. A babysitter

Childcare is expensive, ya’ll. Give your freelancer friend time away from their kids to relax, create, and have a little peace. If you live nearby, this makes a wonderful no-cost present, but you can also pay for their regular babysitter.

3. Books, books, books!

You can never go wrong with a gift card to their favorite locally-owned bookstore. If you don’t have a local bookstore in your area, I suggest buying from Carmichael’s Bookstore, which ships anywhere around the U.S.

4. Website domain

Just about every freelancer, writer, and independent has their own website. Offer to pay for their yearly domain subscription! It shows that you believe in them and in what they do.

5. Referrals and recommendations

One of the best gifts you can give the self-employed person you love is referrals for more work. Tell people you know about their services, and give the person you love good reviews on their social media channels, Yelp, Etsy, etc. Of course, this is something you should do outside of the holidays as well!

6. Subscriptions for magazines and newsletters they love

Subscriptions are always nice, and something they will love for months to come! It’s best to ask for recommendations before buying subscriptions.

If you need a few ideas:

For writers: The Writer, Writer’s Digest

For freelancers: Freelancing with Tim newsletter, Sonia Weiser’s Opportunities of the Week

For anyone: Their favorite industry magazine! Ask!

7. Gift card for food

Give them the gift of a Door Dash or restaurant gift card so they don’t have to stop mid-project to make dinner and wash dishes. If you live nearby, a home-cooked meal never hurts!

8. Affordable accessories that provide comfort

We’re all spending more time at home, so why not make their home more comfortable for them? A few accessories that make life better:

  • Noise-cancelling headphones
  • Lap desk
  • Mug warmer
  • Heating pad
  • Wrist rest
  • Throw blanket
  • Live plants (Ideally, a gift card to plant shop like Mahonia or Euflora for succulents)

9. DIY writing residency

Sometimes, the best gift you can give someone is more time to do what they love. Trips and writing residencies tend to be costly, so if you can, pay for a night or two away to a hotel or Airbnb. For a more economical option, invite your friend over to enjoy snacks, tea, and time to themselves.

“Sometimes, the best gift you can give someone is more time to do what they love.”

10. Subscriptions for online classes

Trust me, anyone can find a class they’d like to take on Skillshare or Masterclass. The Writers’ Co-op offers an affordable subscription for freelancers to learn about the business of freelancing.


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5 Basic Email Templates for Freelancers Negotiating Higher Rates

5 Basic Email Templates for Freelancers Negotiating Higher Rates

You deserve to be paid more! Ask for the rates you deserve with these templates.

Time to talk about one of my favorite subjects: negotiating a higher rate. As freelancers, we’re business owners, and it’s on us to value our work, time, and skill set. The reality is, you don’t get what you don’t ask for. And if you’re not asking for more money, you’re never going to get it.

Every freelancer needs to regularly raise their rates, but this is especially true for women. In 2019, HoneyBook found that female entrepreneurs are making 26 percent less per project. Men are 4.5 times more likely to earn $150,000 compared to women; comparatively, And Co discovered in the same study that most women surveyed make less than $25,000 a year.

I find negotiating rates easier over email, and that’s easier to do when you’ve got templates to turn to.

1. Negotiating rates on the first assignment

I prefer to not quote a rate because then it’s a game of mind-reading bingo. What if I don’t ask for enough? Would the client find this low or high? Instead, I put the ball back in the client’s court to see what they say.

Hello!

I’m excited to take on this [project/article]. Is there any room in the budget for a higher rate?

Thanks,

[Your name]

2. Negotiating a higher rate for regular assignments

Sometimes you need to revisit the rate on a regular column or writing assignment. Every few months, or after a few articles, ask your editor for a higher rate. Also, make sure that you’re keeping your editor happy by meeting deadlines with clean copy and having good communication with them.

Hi [Editor],

I love [working on this assignment/writing this column]. So far, I’ve done [examples]. I was wondering, is there any room in your budget for a higher rate?

Thanks so much! I love working with you.

[your name]

And I love this one from Tim Herrera:

“Thanks again for this assignment! I just wanted to ask: We’ve done X, Y, and Z stories together, and I’m wondering if with this new assignment we could revisit my rate? I’d love to be at around [rate]. Thanks!”

3. Negotiating a lower scope of work 

Sometimes a client doesn’t have the budget to raise the rate. If you’re still interested in working with them, you can try negotiating a lower scope of work instead. But only do this if you really want to work with them — otherwise, say no to any assignments with them.

Hi there!

I would love to work with you, but that rate is below my fee. I’d like the rate to be around [price]. 

If that’s not possible, I would be happy to connect you with another freelancer who can accomplish this work.

Thank you,

[Your name]

Note: When you have a good client who isn’t paying enough, it’s time to let them go and refer them to another freelancer. If it’s a bad client who isn’t paying enough, throw them into the abyss.

4. Raising your rate because the scope of work has risen

Sometimes an assignment will exceed the scope of work you’ve agreed on. Don’t give them free labor.

Hello!

I’m confident I can accomplish your goals, but this is outside of the scope of work previously agreed on. As per our [contract/email], I will deliver [x] per [date]. I can do [requested scope], but as it is outside of the contract, there will be budget changes. Are you okay paying more for the [outcome]?

Thanks,

[Your name]

5. Raising your rate because it’s time, quarterly, or at a specific time of year

Hi [name],

I adjust my rates every so often to account for market inflation and new skills, which also allows me to provide you with better service! As of [date, my rate will be [price].

If this new rate doesn’t work for you, let me know. I can connect you with another freelancer who can complete this work for you.

Thank you,

[Your name]

Your Next Steps

Negotiation is a skill that takes practice. It takes time to get comfortable talking about money But you have to start somewhere. The next time you take on an assignment, ask for more. The next time a client or editor reaches out with more work, ask for more. You are running a business, not a contestant on The Price is Right.

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Find Sources with 50+ Free Diverse Source Databases

Find Sources with 50+ Free Diverse Source Databases

These databases make finding sources from underrepresented backgrounds easier.

You’re probably not quoting enough marginalized voices. This disparity in reporting undermines journalists’ credibility and underestimates the complexity of any subject. These databases will help you diversify your sources.

If you’re worried about getting started, audit your published work for the past 3-6 months. Keep track of the races and genders you’re including. Don’t be intimidated or discouraged. The Atlantic’s Ed Yong spent two years trying to fix the gender imbalance in his stories. You’re not alone.

1. General expert databases

2. Science, health, food, and environment

3. Writers, journalists, and marketing

4. Photographers

5. Designers, illustrators, and filmmakers

6. Business

Do you have a resource you’d like to recommend? Comment below, or tweet at me.

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13 Newsletters Every Freelancer Should Subscribe to That Compile Calls for Pitches and Writing Opportunities

13 Newsletters Every Freelancer Should Subscribe to That Compile Calls for Pitches and Writing Opportunities

One of the hardest parts of being a freelancer is finding publications to pitch. These newsletters help.

It’s frustrating to spend hours trying to place a pitch or trying to find consistent clients. Thankfully, other freelancers know your struggle and have created helpful newsletters that take the guesswork out of searching for leads!

1. Sonia Weiser’s Opportunities of the Week

Can you call yourself a freelancer if you don’t subscribe to Sonia Weiser’s biweekly newsletter? It’s the most in-depth newsletter listing links to paying calls for pitches and often includes exclusive opportunities directly from editors you won’t find elsewhere. Sonia adds extra details regarding pay rates and other details when possible — and it’s a great way to discover what editors are searching for without searching Twitter endlessly. Basically, there’s no excuse for not subscribing to this newsletter.

Cost: Sonia suggests $3 a month but you can pay $1 to $3 via her Patreon. If you can’t afford that, email Sonia at sonia.weiser@oppsoftheweek.com for a sponsored slot. If you can afford it, pay to sponsor a spot!

2. Write At Home

UK-based freelance writer and journalists Alasdair curates journalism calls-for-pitches, journalism jobs, and full- and part-time content writing positions from across job boards and social media. Alasdair does a great job highlighting well-paying opportunities and always lists rates transparently.

Cost: Ranges from free to £33.80 a year.

3. Kat Boogaard’s newsletter

Kat’s newsletter is always packed with helpful tips for freelancers but she also includes about ten writing gigs found through LinkedIn and Twitter every week. I’ve discovered quite a few gigs there not listed elsewhere! If you’re looking for freelance opps outside of writing (design, social media management, etc.), she’s got you covered there too. 

Cost: Free!

4. One More Question

Britany Robinson’s newsletter features opportunities for writers and pitch calls. She also regularly shares recommendations for articles to read and tools to use. I love her Q&As with other freelancers.

Cost: Ranges from free to $60 a year.

5. Funds for Writers

Hope Clark was writing newsletters before they were cool. Receiving her newsletter is like sitting down for a cup of joe with a writer friend. Clark includes competitions for nonfiction and fiction people, grants and fellowships, publications looking for freelancers with information about their subject and rates.

Cost: Free!

6. Where to Pitch

This occasional newsletter doesn’t list a ton of calls for pitches but often lists financial resources for freelancers. Written by Susan Shain, who also runs a personal newsletter,  

Cost: Free!

7. Journalism Jobs and a Photo of My Dog

Mandy Hofmockel compiles a weekly list of journalism jobs across the country (including remote opportunities). Her newsletter doesn’t have calls for pitches, but Hofmockel includes fellowships and funds that self-employed people can take advantage of. I particularly enjoy her Q&As with journalists, career advice, and of course photos of Maggie the dog.

Cost: Ranges from free to $75 a year

8. The Freelance Beat

Tatiana Walk-Morris sends out a weekly newsletter complete with journalism news and gigs. She also shares her hard-earned freelance knowledge in her blog.

Cost: Free!

9. The Writer’s Job Newsletter

This newly launched newsletter (it’s only had 10 editions so far!) is jam-packed with full- and part-time jobs, calls for writers, and writer competitions. They’re UK-based but include only remote opportunities.

Cost: Free!

10. Freedom with Writing

Freedom with Writing sends out newsletters compiling their blog posts with calls for pitches in different niches and pay ranges, along with lists for full-time jobs and fiction markets. I like to peruse their newsletters every so often, but you can get this content just by visiting the website.

Cost: Free!

11. My Buy Me a Coffee Newsletter

Every week, I share freelance opportunities hidden in the depths of LinkedIn. I find opportunities for copywriters, journalists, copy editors, virtual assistants, PR professionals, designers, developers, and other creatives. Freelancers have told me that they’ve signed new clients because of my work, so please consider following me today.

Cost: Free!

12. Journo Resources

This massive UK-based newsletter is organized by entry-level positions, “next step” jobs, and freelance gigs.

Cost: Free with a suggested donation of £3.50

13. Freelance Writing Jobs

Sian Meades-Williams shares only UK-based paying freelance opportunities and part-time writing jobs in her weekly Wednesday newsletter.

Cost: Free!

Do you have a newsletter you’d like to recommend? Comment below, or tweet at me.

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How to Help Freelance Clients Find You

How to Help Freelance Clients Find You

Generating passive marketing can help you land clients

Gaining clients is one of the never-ending tasks of being a freelancer. Regardless of where you’re at in your freelance business, it’s important to have a strategy in place to help clients find you. These steps are a good place to start.

1. Build authority and experience 

Building a solid reputation is the backbone of your freelance business. A strong reputation will help you eliminate competition, charge higher rates, and gain referrals.

Gaining authority and a solid reputation is easier than you think. Over-deliver. Aim to be remembered as someone who completes quality work on time, every time. Being a freelancer means knowing how to execute your craft and how to run a professional business. In addition to delivering good work on time, you also need to communicate with your clients and set boundaries.

2. Optimize your social profiles

Every social media profile is a marketing tool. Your social media bios should include a call to action. You should have a link to your portfolio on every professional social media profile.

On Twitter, you can pin tweets to the top of your timeline. You can use this feature to promote your work. Create a pinned tweet that includes an elevator pitch and a link to your website.

On Instagram, skip using a third-party for your link in bio. Manage links on your Instagram bio by creating a dedicated landing page on your website for Instagram. This will save you time from manually updating your link in bio every time you have a new link to promote.

Since your name is easily searchable on Instagram, make sure the name you share on Instagram is your name, not your Instagram username. Since Instagram users also search for keywords, adding a keyword to your name helps your chances of being found.

Your Instagram bio should also include a call to action that leads people to click your link. This could be as simple as “Check out my portfolio” or “Work with me.”

3. Create an updated portfolio

Your portfolio is more powerful than your resume: it’s a marketing tool that can showcase your talents, skills, and past work experience. 

Your portfolio should have the following:

  • An “About” page that has a small bio about you.
  • Work samples, published work, and/or case studies.
  • A “Contact” page that has easy-to-locate contact info. This is typically your email or a contact form (never your phone number).
  • If you’ve won awards, feature them on your homepage or “About” page.
  • Links to your social media profiles that you use exclusively for professional reasons.
  • Clearly define your services on your website. People can’t hire you if they don’t know what you offer! You can include this information on your homepage, “About” page, or create a “Services” page.
  • Testimonials from previous clients, coworkers, bosses, etc. If you don’t have them, ask!

Don’t just make a nice portfolio to showcase your work: promote it too! Link to it on your social media profiles. Whenever you comment about your services, or tweet that you’re available for work, include a link to your website.

Optimize your social profiles, network, and build a reputation to land clients through passive marketing.

4. Update your LinkedIn profile

Hiring managers, editors, and recruiters search on LinkedIn to hire and will sometimes post job opportunities there. LinkedIn profiles also tend to rank high when people Google your name (which you should expect all recruiters and employers do). An outdated LinkedIn won’t help your chances of getting hired. 

Your LinkedIn should have the following:

  • A summary that addresses your most important and relevant skills and the kind of work you’re interested in pursuing
  • A link to your portfolio
  • A professional profile photo
  • Recommendations from former employers and coworkers (If you don’t have recommendations, ask for them!)

If you’re a freelancer working with multiple brands, there are two ways of listing your experience on your LinkedIn:

  • Option 1: If you freelance for multiple brands, add a work experience section with your title (Freelance Writer, Freelance Designer, etc.). Then list the brands you’ve worked with and your accomplishments.
  • Option 2: If you have freelanced with a specific brand for a long time, then you can add specific work experience sections with the specific brand. Don’t add separate work experiences for one-off assignments.

5. Network online and in-person

Relationship building is a cornerstone of freelancing. You never know where people will go, or who will be looking for freelance talent now or in the future. Even if you live in a remote area, you can connect with other people in your field! Networking is a scary, intimidating word, but it basically means just being yourself.

Attend local events in your area (obviously Zoom for now, but also in-person events in future non-COVID times). If you live in a city, there’s probably lots of networking events available. But even small towns have events, just on a smaller scale.

Since we began living in a pandemic, there are even more ways to connect with people on a local and national scale. Many organizations, including business organizations, libraries, and freelancing groups, are hosting virtual events.

Joining Slack groups or Facebook groups is a low-key way to make professional connections. Even just participating in Twitter chats is a great way to connect with people. There’s a Twitter chat for just about every field. I personally recommend Michelle Garrett’s #FreelanceChat.

Part of networking is also maintaining connections. This can be as simple as reaching out with a holiday card or a friendly email.

6. Talk to your network

People trust people, and a personal recommendation from a coworker or friend will go a long way. Let people know that you’re available for freelance work.

Do good work for your existing clients. Turn in your work on time, every time. Establish a great reputation and build trust. These clients can then refer you to other clients or provide testimonials.

7. Blogging

Blogging on your own website can drive traffic to it. Writing about topics that are relevant to your field gives you the chance to showcase your expertise. You should write articles that the people who want to hire you will read. Blogging is a passive marketing tool, but one you’ll need to be consistent and strategic with.

However, if you want to blog about a subject unrelated to your portfolio, you may want to consider using Medium instead. It’s really easy to set up a Medium, and if you don’t have a lot of writing clips, these blog posts can act as your writing samples.

Your Next Steps

Regardless of if you’re starting to freelance while working full-time, or trying to expand your existing client base, these tips should help you level up! Finding freelance opportunities and landing recurring clients takes time — there’s no overnight success story. The easiest place to begin is by optimizing your social profiles.

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