With so many web development agencies and other freelancers around, it can be hard to differentiate yourself. But making yourself (and your work) stand out from the crowd is a huge bonus when you're looking for new clients. Aside from doing great work, there are a few things you can do to give yourself a leg-up against the competition.
Ways Freelance Web Developers can Stand Out From the Crowd
1. Be proactive
No-one becomes a freelancer because they want to run a business. You do it because you love the work.
Sadly, though, without any clients you won't have any work to do. So drumming up new business has to be part of your day.
Rather than waiting for recommendations or search traffic to trickle in and convert, you can set yourself apart from your competitors by taking the lead and wooing potential clients before they come to you. Putting in a little time each day to track down and approach potential clients is something a lot of freelancers avoid, so you can easily beat the competition in this area.
2. Do your homework
Knowing your client's needs is a huge plus when trying to land a new contract. If you take the time to thoroughly research their business and how it fits into their industry, you'll be more likely to make a good impression.
If a potential client comes to you for an upgrade or overhaul of their existing site, you can get some handy clues from this. Pay attention to the messages they are promoting and what they are trying to achieve with their current site.
Checking out other businesses in the same field can give you an edge in this area as well, as you can bring suggestions and ideas from competitors that may not have crossed their mind otherwise.
3. Get connected
You're probably fairly well connected within the web dev/tech/startup fields. While this is handy when you need advice or help finding a new job, it's not a great breeding ground for new freelance clients. Unless your work really stands out, chances are when anyone in these fields needs a web developer, they won’t ask you to do it. Why would they when they know so many others who can do the same thing?
Here's where you can really differentiate yourself: get connected with people outside these fields. The chances of someone who owns a restaurant or works in finance knowing another web dev are much lower than someone who works in tech. If you already have clients in a variety of fields, you can start there. Ask them for recommended events to attend or introductions to people they know.
If you have a hobby or specific interest outside tech, this may even be a better place to start. Being passionate about something naturally makes it easier to get involved. Get to know others in this area and let them know what you do. At some point, they're likely to know someone who needs a website and if they know you well, they’ll be more likely to recommend your services.
4. List your prices
It's not unusual for a web developer to refrain from adding specific pricing details to their website. If you have a fairly standard rate, you can set yourself apart by going against this practice. Put pricing details (as specific as you can) on your site to encourage conversions.
Taking the guesswork out of the hiring process will make new clients more comfortable in making a decision.
5. Send snail mail
Email is such a standard part of our daily communication that old-fashioned snail mail comes as a surprise these days. Surprising people (especially potential clients) is a great way to make a memorable impression. Sending a handwritten letter or card will almost certainly stand out among the sea of electronic communication that most people are used to.
You can also try this as a follow-up tactic when you complete a project, offering extra services or just thanking your clients for their business.
6. Run a workshop
Running a workshop takes time and energy, but it can be a great way to share your skills and reach people who could become clients in the future. If you have knowledge and experience in areas like business, marketing, social media or blogging you can offer small workshops or training sessions to increase your brand's exposure.
This is a good way to put your brand in front of existing clients, as well. Offering them something outside the ‘box’ of web development will show your flexibility and give them more opportunities to give you business after their site is up and running.
7. Offer social media services
You can also take your social media skills and offer them as additional services. Social media monitoring, marketing, engagement and even just getting accounts set up are all areas that many business owners struggle with. Putting these services into an affordable package will give you an edge over the freelancers who only offer standard website proposals.
8. Send a gift
As with snail mail, anything unusual or old-fashioned will come as a pleasant surprise and hopefully make your brand name stick. Sending a thank-you gift after completing a project makes a nice follow-up and will hopefully encourage clients to hire you again in the future.
9. Publish help docs
I've written before about the importance of generosity for startups and small businesses, and it can work in your favour here. Sharing your knowledge by publishing FAQs or help docs on your site will not only help you to avoid explaining the same things over and over to your clients, but it will give people another reason to visit your site, which can lead to new clients.
This kind of content will keep working for you long after you publish it, making it a worthy investment of your time.
10. Offer copy-editing services
Another service your clients probably use (or need) is copy-editing. Whether you offer this yourself or outsource it, having the option available will make you more of a one-stop shop. By providing more of what your clients need, you can take away the pressure they have of finding these services elsewhere.
Being a freelance web developer can be a tough gig. Finding more work is all down to you, and it’s not the most fun part of the job, so anything that can make you stand out from the masses is a good thing.