The secret ingredients to being a great freelancer | Guardian Masterclasses


Every freelancer has their own flavour of secret sauce. It’s the value that they, and only they, add to their clients in the work they do for them.

The value that a freelancer ascribes to their work is for many wrapped up in their daily, weekly or hourly rate. More often than not they think of their value in a purely transactional and functional manner: “You pay me £X. I will do Y for you.”

However, the real value a freelancer adds in the marketplace only starts with the skills and experience they have – think of it as a toolbox stocked with an array of tools that can be deployed to service clients’ needs. These are these base ingredients in your secret sauce.

The next step is to add in are the values that the freelancer presents to the world as part of their brand. Freelancers are their own brand, and these are very often speciality brands, since the freelancer offers high-end skills to their clients; this in effect makes the freelancer a designer brand.

The sauce is coming together now, but it’s not yet bespoke or personal to you. I’ll bet you could identify many freelancers who share these ingredients.

What makes your secret sauce peculiar to you is when you add to the mix the lens through which you see the world. No one else can see the world through your eyes and it’s that part of you, which you take for granted in yourself, that very often clients most value in you.

The very fact that these are things you take for granted in yourself means that you will likely struggle to identify them without input from trusted family, friends and colleagues. These trusted people, who know you well, are best placed to help you identify what makes you you and that knowledge can be added to your sauce ingredients.

You now have you very own secret sauce flavour.

“That’s great,” I hear you say, “but how does it help me?”

Every client will have a commercial reason for needing your services. It doesn’t matter whether it is adding to their top line sales, opening up a new market, developing their creative vision or saving money on the bottom line – you are adding value to the client’s business and it goes far beyond the day rate you charge.

Once you own your secret sauce it becomes much easier to identify the clients who will value you for what you can deliver for a client business – and there are probably far fewer clients who fit the bill. On the surface this can sound like a negative.

However, if they are the clients with whom you truly share values then it becomes a huge positive. You now have:

So you can now focus your marketing efforts with confidence and spread your secret sauce where it will be readily devoured.

Alison Grade is a career freelancer, writer and entrepreneur, and she is leading a masterclass in freelancing in January 2021. In March 2020 she wrote The Freelance Bible, she has worked at senior level for many companies, and she is a NESTA-accredited creative enterprise trainer and mentor. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.





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