How to Reduce Creative Block and Earn More as a Freelancer

by Tom Kenny (@tkenny)

You can earn more and reduce creative block as a freelancer with the following advice.

Most freelancers are generalists, meaning they work on various different types of websites. One week it could be a restaurant site, the next week a travel site followed by an e-commerce store. This is the traditional way of doing freelance web design work and it can work just fine but I don’t want you to settle for good enough, so let me introduce you to a new new way of thinking which will benefit you creatively and financially.

Find a Niche You Want to Serve

Finding new work can be a real struggle but if you can do great work for one particular type of client, you’ll attract other similar clients relatively easy. Clients need to trust you and one of the biggest ways to do that is for them to see you’ve successfully created work for similar businesses. For example, if you get results for the real estate industry, a potential real estate client will look at your portfolio case studies of real estate websites and think, “Wow, they really know how to make websites for companies just like mine. I can trust them to do the same for my own real estate business.” Just make sure you pick a type of client you know you will want to work with.

Choosing a single type of business or industry you’re passionate about means you’ll greatly reduce the creative block that comes from a lack of motivation. Don’t make the mistake of picking the real estate world if you don’t enjoy it and don’t know anything about it, otherwise a lack of motivation will get the better of you at some point. You also need to pick a type of business that is willing to pay for the problems they need solving but not at the expense of you liking them. Remember, you want to help reduce creative block too and not liking who you work with will become a huge source of creative block, even if you can tolerate it at first.

As a result of focusing on one type of business, you’ll know almost exactly what you need to do for each project, so you’ll be able to greatly reduce the creative block that appears from not knowing what to do next. Every design you work on will still be different so you won’t be producing the same work again and again like a factory.

Charge More

You’ll now also be able to charge more as a result because the trust level in you is higher from the very outset. As long as you’re delivering more value than you charge, no-one will have a problem investing in you to help grow their business. It’s a no brainer.

So how do you get the right clients who will be on board with this way of thinking?

Offer Free Advice to Demonstrate Your Expertise

Offer a small eBook or short email course telling business owners what they can do to get more people interested in their business (or whatever goal they want to achieve). You might think they’ll just take this advice and never get in touch with you but you’ll be surprised. Some may do that, but in reality you’ll increase trust from potential clients who will see you as an expert in the specific field they’re in and don’t want to do the work themselves, so they’ll be happy to hire you.

Send the eBook/course/advice to people who you think might be interested and would be a good fit for you, as well as offer it on your own website as something for free when people sign up to your newsletter.

Sell Yourself on Benefits to Your Clients, not Skills

Offer what you can do for a business, e.g. “Increase sales by 10%–20%” rather than “I design and build easy to use websites”. No-one cares about that. No-one wakes up and thinks, “I want an easy to use website”. They simply don’t use those words so it won’t resonate with them. Sure, a website is what you’ll be giving them but it’s the results of a good website that clients really want.

Find out what words your target market use and steal them to use in your marketing (website, emails, free eBook/course, etc.) to deeply connect with them. Talk to them in their own language. If you do this well, they’ll think you’ll have read their minds.

Mindset Change

One key mindset change for this to work is you absolutely need to turn down the clients that don’t fit your target market. Generalists tend to have the mentality of accepting all kinds of projects, even ones they don’t really care about. You also need to cut yourself free from clients who want to pay as little as possible or you’ll be competing with other freelancers who want to charge the lowest price. They’re not your market anymore as they won’t ever pay the increased rates you can now charge.

You want the type of clients who want to invest in their business by trusting you to do what you do best.

Boost Your Design Confidence by Overcoming Creative Block

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by Tom Kenny

I’m a freelance web designer and front-end developer with 9 years of experience designing for the web. Follow me on Twitter here.