10 Tips on How to Be a Successful Freelancer in Abbotsford

Nov 15, 2022

a happy freelancer

Located just an hour outside of Vancouver, Abbotsford BC is a thriving city in its own right. With all the benefits of a metropolitan area and additional perks such as breathtaking mountain scenery and close proximity to Seattle, Abbotsford has become a popular choice for working professionals, families, and even students.

Due to its dynamic range of industries and healthy selection of educational institutions, Abbotsford BC is also capturing the attention of large companies and startups. With investment in everything from agriculture to aerospace technology, there’s no shortage of innovation in the locality.

But how exactly do freelancers fare in this hub of activity? With a strong economy and a population estimated at around 172,488, there are significant opportunities for freelancers in Abbotsford BC. Despite its population not quite at the height of bigger Canadian cities, Abbotsford is currently the largest municipality in the province outside metropolitan Vancouver.

However, as with most cities, an increase in popularity also means an increase in competition. With the addition of remote workers also now targeting companies in the area, freelancers are having to up their game.

The good news? There are plenty of ways to be a successful freelancer in Abbotsford — it’s just a case of finding the right approach for you. To help, we’re here with 10 tips on how to become a successful freelancer in Abbotsford and give your freelance career the boost it needs!

Let’s get started.

1. Know your target audience 

young freelancer busy at work

Think you know your customers? Think again. Where freelance work is concerned, it’s vital to not only know who your target audience is, but also, to understand the wider trends influencing their buying decisions.

Society is evolving at a faster rate than ever and with that, customer profiles and consumer behaviour are also changing rapidly. Essentially, what appeals to your target audience today, might not appeal to them tomorrow. 

This is why it’s essential to keep your customer profiles up to date and keep a close eye on trends emerging within your industry…and outside of it!

For example, with Gen Z currently pushing for a more socially-conscious and technologically-rich society — companies and services that don’t fit this agenda will likely struggle in the coming years. 

So, by keeping up with what society cares about, you’ll be better able to anticipate any risks posed to your short-term and long-term business strategies.

To stay on top of industry trends relevant to your Abbotsford clients:

  • Read local and global trend reports (from reputable sources!) 
  • Monitor both industry-specific trends and megatrends
  • Involve yourself in online communities relevant to your profession
  • Ask other freelancers what changes they’re noticing in their everyday operations
  • Raise your awareness of advancements in your field by researching what other companies (even those in other countries) and your competitors are doing

2. Develop your value proposition

freelancer working

As a freelancer in Abbotsford, you might already know how important it is to hone your craft and offer a service you’re confident in. Unfortunately, with so many people offering similar or even the same services — being good at what you do is no longer enough.

This is why establishing your value proposition as early as possible is vital. You want to figure out what you can offer that others can’t …or at the very least, be viewed as a strong competitor.

Whether it’s improving your customer service or focusing more on the quality of your services, creating a value proposition that works for you and your clients is essential.

To help, consider the following points:

When was the last time you revisited your clients’ pain points?

As a freelancer, it’s always beneficial to go back to basics and examine your clients’ main pain points. This allows you to evaluate your services with fresh eyes and establish whether or not your current offerings address these needs.

Putting time into market research?

Graph showing market trends

If you’re struggling to identify new pain points for your target market, market research might just be the answer. As old school as it sounds, market research is still the best way to understand your customers and their needs. With online tools enabling you to conduct market research online, there’s no excuse for not knowing exactly who you should be targeting!

Are you thinking objectively about what makes your services unique?

Even if you already have a USP for your freelance services, it’s crucial that you don’t just settle on this USP and forget to revisit it occasionally. What makes your business unique is your best chance of standing out in a crowded market — so make sure you’re focusing your attention in the right areas.

What value can you add to your existing services?

Do you have the capacity to offer additional value to your customers? Adding small additional services (with as little effort as possible on your part) can be a great way to make customers feel like they’re getting more for their money. For example, if you’re a web designer, can you also offer website refreshes or accessibility audits? Or maybe you’re a copywriter who can also offer training on updating a blog or publishing social media posts?

Whatever additional value you can bring to your services — do it!

3. Focus on recurring revenue

Two people shaking hands to close a deal

Following on from the previous point, nothing makes a freelancer feel like they’ve “made it” more than having multiple clients that keep coming back for more. With regular clients you’ve built solid relationships with, you’ll be able to spend less time searching for new contracts and focusing on improving the overall quality of your work.

However, to draw in this recurring revenue, you’ll need to put some time into building up customer loyalty and marketing your skills correctly. The aim is to make signing up for regular services seem logical for your clients, especially if they enjoy working with you and are happy with your services.

To do this:

  • Ensure your customer support is on point — Freelancers sometimes have a bad reputation for being unreliable. This is why it’s important to reassure your clients that you’re not “one of those freelancers”
  • Consider retainer plans — Just be sure not to overestimate your capacity for the workload you can take on at once, letting even one company down can affect your reputation
  • Outline the deliverables of your packages as clearly as possible — Your clients should know exactly what they’re getting for the monthly fee they’ll be paying
  • Make your packages feel exclusive — You can even try offering additional value to what you previously offered with ‘premium packages’ offering additional extras that other clients don’t get

Tip: Always start by establishing long term relationships and contracts with clients you enjoy working with the most. The easier the clients are to work with, the more resources you can reserve for other projects.

4. Establish a network of creative partners in Abbotsford and beyond

Freelancers networking

One of the biggest issues freelancers face is not knowing where their next job is going to come from. Some months you might be struggling to scrape by, and others, you’ll be turning away jobs because you have too much on your plate.

This is why it’s advisable to build up a network of creative partners in your local area (as well as outside of it) to call upon should your business need a little extra boost.

What do we mean by this?

Well, think about it this way — the more people in your area that know what you do, the more likely you are to receive referrals. Likewise, if you don’t have the capacity to meet customer demands, you can make your client’s life easier by suggesting someone that can.

In areas such as Abbotsford where a sense of community is little more achievable than in cities such as Vancouver or Seattle, having a network of strategic partners can make all the difference to your profile as a freelancer. From the ability to collaborate with other freelancers on bigger projects to having people you trust to refer clients onto — your business can benefit from a network you’ve built up to support your services. 

Tip: Having company while you work can also help improve your accountability, so really, it’s a win-win!

5. Allocate time for yourself to upskill

man conducting a workshop

As a freelancer, it’s not always easy to find time for yourself. With irregular working hours and time always feeling like money, there’s a risk that your personal development can take a backseat.

However, what’s important to remember is that as a freelancer, the more time you invest in yourself, the more value your clients will get from your work. Keeping up to date with the latest developments in your industry is not only something freelancers should do; it’s something they need to do.

Continuous learning not only helps you explore new perspectives for the way you work, it can also help boost profits. With McKinsey reporting that 72 percent of independent workers say they have only one job, any additional skills or expertise you can offer clients will help you stay ahead of the pack.

With learning management systems now more advanced than ever and world-renowned universities offering online courses to international residents, there’s a renewed buzz surrounding upskilling. All you need to do is carve out time to learn something new!

Also, don’t forget that continuous learning doesn’t have to involve signing up for a course. It can also involve:

  • Attending conferences
  • Participating in professional development workshops
  • Mentorship programs
  • Listening to Ted Talks and podcasts
  • Joining professional online communities
  • Reading

6. Be organized

planning monthly schedule

Being organized is an important part of freelancing. As well as helping you manage your workload more effectively, good organization skills will help you keep on top of your clients’ needs.

However, staying organized isn’t always the easiest of tasks when you’re your own boss. From completing client work to juggling meetings and tax returns — life as a freelancer involves several moving parts.

So, when you’re: a boss, an entire marketing team, an accountant, and just an ordinary person trying to make a living (with hopefully some kind of social life!), how can you stay organized?

1. Create a schedule and stick to it

As a freelancer, being your own boss also means having to be strict with yourself about how you’re utilizing your time. To help, make sure you’re tracking the time you spend on certain tasks and learn to recognize when you’ll have some free time for other activities.

2. Use tools to streamline your processes

task management tool
Photo by Matthew Guay on Unsplash

Using task management tools and account management software can really help keep you organized. From bookkeeping software to task management tools, there’s a huge selection out there. Just be sure to research the most suitable tools for you! 

3. Manage clients effectively

Some clients are more difficult to manage than others, which can be a huge drain on resources. This is why it’s vital to set boundaries with each of your clients and ensure you’re not wasting time on people that ultimately, are impossible to please.

Tip: Don’t be afraid to offload clients you have a particularly rocky relationship with. Sometimes clients just don’t align with the value of your services and that’s okay! For every hour of your time that a difficult client takes up, you could be working on attracting several other (easier to manage) clients.

4. Keep your email inbox organized

If “50 unread emails” sounds familiar, it might be time to address that inbox. Wherever possible, use labels and filters to sort and prioritize your emails — and where possible, try to keep your response times efficient. It might take a few hours to clear, but once you do, you can start afresh with a new perspective on keeping your inbox organized …permanently!

7. Create onboarding documents

A woman typing

Find yourself answering the same questions from clients all the time? Now’s your chance to address these questions, improve your client relationships, and reduce your workload — all at the same time.

Creating client onboarding documents not only ensures your clients are clear on your process and what deliverables to expect, it will also help you reduce the time you spend managing clients. 

Examples of onboarding documents include:

  • ‘How to’ instructions
  • Documents outlining your mission statement, values, and policies
  • Payment/Invoicing details and procedures
  • Non-disclosure agreements (if applicable)

But how do you go about creating effective onboarding documents for new clients? Here are some tips:

1. Identify which documents you need

Are some of your clients unfamiliar with how to add comments to Google Docs? Or maybe they struggle to understand how website wireframes work? Creating documents to address targeted issues is the best way to streamline your working relationships.

Tip: It’s also a good idea to ask your clients for suggestions. You might not be aware that they’re struggling with something until you ask!

2. Use simple language

Where possible, avoid using jargon or industry-specific language when writing your documents. The files your clients receive should always be approachable and easy to understand.

3. Include screenshots and visual aids where possible

document visuals
Photo by Lukas Blazek on Unsplash

If you’re trying to explain a process to a new client, sometimes the best way to approach this is through visual aids. For example, if you’re trying to explain how to use a Google doc, screenshot areas that might require further instruction and insert them directly into your ‘how to’ document.

Tip: Short instructional videos always work great for onboarding purposes. In some scenarios (e.g. for web design or graphic design clients), this might be an even better approach to take!

4. Make sure your documents are accessible from anywhere

You don’t always know when your clients will need to access your onboarding documents. This is why it’s important to store these documents in folders that both you and your clients can access at all times, e.g. cloud-based storage. 

8. Have a set routine 

While in traditional office roles, accountability and routine are a natural part of working life, for freelancers, it’s not always this straightforward. Being your own boss definitely has its perks… but it can also have its challenges.

Without a set working environment (and a boss to oversee your process), it’s easy to fall into bad habits that impact you professionally and personally.

To combat this, consider the following:

Setting a work schedule

Man writing down his schedule

As mentioned earlier, it’s common for freelancers to struggle with differentiating between their job and their home life. This is why it’s essential to create a set work schedule for yourself and more importantly, stick to it.

If the 9-5 life doesn’t appeal to you, at least consider establishing a weekly routine with hours set aside for rest and socializing. 

This can include:

  • Scheduling daily lunch breaks
  • Mapping out your meetings in advance (so you know when you’ll have some free time to meet friends!)
  • Assigning certain days to take care of the admin side of your business (e.g. sending out invoices, taking care of your accounts, paying bills etc.)
  • Staying focused for a certain period of time and then rewarding yourself with a rest period
  • Not working during the night/weekends

Separate your hobbies from your job

As a freelancer, your hobbies and day job likely overlap. This is usually because freelancers often base their profession on areas they’re interested in and that already consume a large portion of their time. 

This is why separating your hobbies from your job can seem impossible.

To help:

  • Consider everything in your job description and that you get paid for (or that contributes to you getting paid e.g. marketing activities) as your job. These tasks should all become part of your ‘work schedule’ and not be completed outside of work hours
  • Get into the habit of turning off your email notifications when taking time out for non-work-related tasks
  • Have some hobbies that are completely unrelated to your job — If necessary, try something new; there’s always plenty of exciting events and activities in Abbotsford!

9. Have confidence in your own ability

man talking on his cellphone

You set yourself up as a freelancer for a reason, right? Now it’s time to make sure you channel that confidence and continue to recognize the value of your services.

Because we all have our off days, it’s also important to know how to build up your confidence when you need it, or even give yourself the occasional boost. 

To do this, we suggest:

1. Being open to feedback, but not letting it get you down

Both positive and negative feedback is a natural part of freelancing. This is why it’s important to always celebrate the wins and avoid letting negative feedback affect your work. 

Instead, view negative feedback as an opportunity to improve your performance or assess the type of customers that don’t align with your personality or services.

2. Setting realistic goals for yourself

Setting yourself up for failure is never a great way to build confidence. Instead, be honest with yourself about your responsibilities and how long something is likely to take to achieve. Additionally, don’t forget to be kind to yourself if you don’t knock it out of the park every time! 

Goals are important to have as a freelancer, but it’s crucial to remember that you’re a freelancer, not an entire organization with support at multiple levels. 

3. Consistently update your portfolio

Not only is an updated portfolio great for attracting new clients, it’s also a great way to remind yourself of how far you’ve come. By keeping your portfolio up to date, you can subtly remind yourself of the type of projects that have been a success, the type of projects you’ve learned the most from, and the type of projects you’d like to target next.

10. Use a coworking space

backbone executive offices

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, there’s been an instant increase in the number of people working from home or remotely as part of a ‘hybrid working model’. For freelancers, this way of working usually requires no adjustment, with home offices already a common feature of freelance work.

However, many freelancers will admit that even after years of practice, they still don’t work as effectively as they should from home. In fact, in a recent study, almost half of the professionals surveyed saw an improvement in their “work skills, work quality, and collaboration” since starting to use a coworking space. 

Is this a surprise? We think not.

Coworking spaces offer many benefits for freelancers and those whose jobs have recently become remote or hybrid positions. With the right coworking space in Abbotsford, you can avail of that ‘in-office’ experience, while still enjoying the perks of more flexible working models.

Just some benefits of a coworking space include:

  • Increased productivity — Coworking spaces are specifically designed to increase productivity with strategic layouts and ergonomic design features
  • Boost in creativity — Especially if your coworking space offers a much-needed change of scenery, coworking spaces help you see your job from a new perspective
  • Networking opportunities — Coworking spaces provide a chance to network and collaborate with other freelancers and build up your professional relationships
  • Flexibility — With a coworking space, you can change up your working environment as you see fit
  • More professional environments to meet clients — With executive meeting rooms and stable internet connections, you can ensure your meetings go off without a hitch!
  • Cost-effective — Coworking spaces are often more cost-effective than renting a traditional office space in popular cities

How Backbone Coworking & Executive Offices can help

coworking space in Abbotsford

At Backbone Coworking in Abbotsford, we provide the perfect environment for freelancers to develop their business and grow their network. With coworking spaces and community-driven environments, it becomes possible to balance the perks of ‘office life’ with the benefits of still being your own boss.

In addition to our state-of-the-art coworking spaces, we also offer:

With membership packages ranging from individual day passes to private desk facilities, it’s easy to tailor your use of our space to your needs. Whether you need to create content for a one-off project or are writing an entire thesis — we aim to help you be as successful as possible.

Why not book a tour of our space and see for yourself what Backbone Coworking can offer you? We’re not just another coworking space, we’re an entire community ready to support you in your endeavours. 

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Backbone Coworking & Executive Offices
104-32615 S Fraser Way
Abbotsford, BC, V2T 1X8

Phone: 236-233-3200

Entrepreneurs working together in cowork space