Freelancing should be thought of as a business, and more than a side-hustle. Starting out, it’s hard to figure out what services you should provide, how to attract clients, and how to grow as a profitable full-time business owner.
We had the pleasure of interviewing Firat Parlak, the Creative Director and Founder of New York based UI/UX design agency, Awesome. Firat shares his story on how he started out as a solo-freelance designer, and has grown to running an agency full-time over the past 10 years.
If you are a designer, developer, or any type of skilled worker who is considering becoming a freelancer, starting your own agency, or diving into consulting, then this interview is for you.
You can watch the full interview on our YouTube channel, but in this blog post, we’re going to summarize and highlight some of the main takeaways.
How to get started in freelancing?
In the interview, Firat mentions that he found his first design freelancing clients on Craigslist as a way to keep growing his experience on real-world projects.
“The most important thing I would say in my career on how I started in design, I started posting advertisements on Craigslist that I’m a Flash developer and designer, and I’m looking for projects.”Firat Parlak, Creative Director and Founder of AwesomeNYC.com
What skills do you need to succeed as an entrepreneur?
From a designer’s perspective, Firat mentioned that the most important skills you’ll need are business skills. You’ll need to have sales, networking, and marketing skills to attract clients and build business relationships. Having technical and design skills is great for building products, but it’s the business skills that will convince clients to choose you.
How do you balance working on client work and growing your business?
Firat mentioned that he plans ahead for when he should focus his time on growing the business. He schedules time to attend networking events or work on improving his company’s internal processes. During slow months, he put more effort into client acquisition tasks, and during busy months he focuses on client work.
Should you specialize in a niche or be a generalist?
Firat’s agency focuses on offering UI/UX design services to tech startups. He mentions the benefit of choosing a niche over being a generalist is that you have a better chance of becoming the best at that one thing; therefore, you will be able to provide the most value to your clients. From a sales and marketing standpoint, choosing a niche could increase your chance of attracting better clients.
How to find freelancing clients?
This is probably the most common question for new freelancers. Firat mentioned when he was just starting out in his freelance journey, his first clients came from posting Craigslist ads. He promoted his services as a designer, and was able to attract clients willing to work with a freelancer just starting out. As he gained more experience, he started attending networking events where his target audience were also in attendance.
How do you scale freelancing?
For Firat, scaling a freelance business involved switching his business model from solo-freelancer to the agency model. Building a team to share the workload allowed him to increase the amount of clients he was able to handle, and it provided more time to acquire new clients.
The key takeaway from Firat’s interview on how to succeed as a freelancer and grow as an agency owner is you will need to improve your business skills in addition to your design, development, or other service-oriented skills. Decide on your target audience, and improve your sales and marketing skills.
You will need to systematize your business operations in order to grow as an agency. Your product development, sales, and marketing skills combined will allow you to offer the best service, attract your target audience, and close sales once you have their attention.
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