Blog Post

The Minimalist Way to Launch a Freelance Career

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Leonardo Da Vinci

In art and music, the term “minimalist” describes work that is stripped down to its fundamental elements. Everything is simplified. This approach has its benefits on the web, where there are thousands of freelancers making themselves heard. There’s just so much noise out there that it never hurts to keep things simple.

People who are just starting with their freelancing career will benefit from applying minimalism, especially if they’re only planning to freelance part-time. Minimalist values will allow you to focus only on the essentials, convey a clear message, and keep maintenance tasks to a minimum.

So how can we apply minimalism to our freelancing practice?

Provide only one product or service. While most web workers are multitalented, it’s best to start with just one venture to focus on. For example, if you’re launching your freelance career as a press release writer, focus on this field first before you decide to profit from your SEO skills. Working on only one narrow field at a time will allow you to become known as an expert in that field because you won’t be distracted by other ventures.

Serve one audience only. One of the most common mistakes new freelancers make is trying to please as many people as they can. I’ve made this mistake myself, thinking that the wider my audience was, the better. The problem with trying to communicate with too many types of people at the same time is that instead of doing a great job of reaching a select handful of prospects, you’ll do a mediocre job of reaching many prospects, with less work as a result.

Whether you’re marketing directly or indirectly, the language you use should be intended for one niche market only. Often, this will lead to repetitive deliverables, processes, and client communication. And if something is repetitive, it will be easier to delegate or automate, saving you the effort of changing your approach with every single client on your list.

Have the simplest web site possible. Many web sites today are cluttered. Apart from the ads, there are sidebar widgets and plug-ins that can be distracting if used unnecessarily.  Every time you think of adding a new element into your professional blog or web site, ask yourself, “If I remove this, will it have a negative effect on my readers?” If your answer is no, then you obviously don’t need that image/widget/thingamajig as much as you thought you did.

Keeping your web site uncluttered will also allow your audience to focus on your message rather than the 101 bells and whistles going off in the background. Also, simpler web sites often load faster.

In the 37Signals book, Getting Real, they have an entire chapter entitled “Stay Lean”. Here’s a relevant quote from that chapter:

“Nimble, agile, less-mass businesses can quickly change their entire business model, product, feature set, and marketing message. They can make mistakes and fix them quickly. They can change their priorities, product mix, and focus. And, most importantly, they can change their minds.”
Source: “Getting Real” by 37Signals

In other words, by keeping things simple, it will also be easier for you to adapt. It’s much harder to do this if you’re providing too many products and services.

When I was starting out, I was a little too eager to provide so many services and do so many things. In some ways, I’m still struggling with this. While it’s safer to have multiple streams of income, sometimes the surest way to be a successful freelancer is to do it one simple step at a time.

Is your freelancing practice minimalist or complex? How is that working for you? What are the advantages and disadvantages of your approach?

7 Responses to “The Minimalist Way to Launch a Freelance Career”

  1. Good points! Keeping things simple helps in almost any situation as a freelancer.

    To add my 2 cents, it is also very important that you narrow your services so you become specialized, performing them quickly and efficiently. This will increase your earnings potential in the long run allowing you to complete more work in less time.

  2. Absolutely fantastic article. Some of the best advice I’ve seen on the site in a while.

    Keeping it simple will also reduce your stress and help you get the work done on schedule.

    Keep up the good work!

  3. Great thoughts. I especially agree with staying lean. I think that’s a strength that independent workers have over large corporations.

    It’s taken the auto manufacturers so long to stop making SUVs. They have to re-fit factories, change suppliers, etc. which is taking longer than the market can bear.

    Tough economic times open up opportunities in other sectors, however, and independent skilled creative people have lots of options if they can figure out how to be innovative.