How to be a successful freelancer in the UK

Learn how to be successful in the UK's freelance marketplace.

The UK is very quickly adopting on-demand freelancing. More and more businesses are seeing freelancers as a great way to hire skilled people for very specific projects.

The number of UK professionals turning to freelancing is also on the rise, which brings a healthy level of competition to the freelance marketplace.

In this guide, we'll give you some tips on how to be successful in a competitive freelance marketplace:


How to be a successful UK freelancer

Focus on your strengths

The freelance marketplace creates an opportunity to work on all manner of projects. Ranging from social media management and SEO to accounting and bookkeeping. With so much choice, it can be tempting to grab as many opportunities as possible.

To improve your chances of getting hired, it's important you are very clear about the sorts of projects you are looking to work on. It is better to be a specialist in a couple of areas than being average in many.

It is often easier to focus on the sort of projects where you have demonstrable experience. For example, if you've got 10 years experience building websites in PHP, you should focus your efforts on working on website development projects rather than trying your hand at interior design!

If you're just starting out as a freelancer, you should concentrate on the sorts of projects that fascinate or motivate you. If you have good design skills, but it's designing mobile apps that really gets you excited, you're more likely to be successful focusing your efforts there.

Create a professional profile that reflects your strengths

It's really easy to create a freelance profile. For example, there are only 4 steps to creating a professional profile on

  1. Enter your personal details. It sounds simple but all parts are essential so you can be contacted, paid and hired.
  2. Upload a profile picture. Keep it professional and friendly, even with remote online freelancing, clients want to build a working relationship and a nice smart profile picture always helps.
  3. Write a professional bio. This only needs to be a brief summary of your skills, background and experience. Be sure to include number of years' experience, qualifications and note-worthy professional achievements.
  4. Add your skills. Selecting suitable and relevant skills is key to being matched with projects. For each skill you add, be sure to include something to evidence your skill.

But to be successful, you need to shape and optimise your profile so it reflects your strengths. Your bio and skills should combine to show you have a deep understanding of, and relevant experience in, a particular field of work.

For example, for a Wordpress developer, the skills and bio should be focused on such things as, PHP, MySQL, CSS, JavaScript, Wordpress Codex, template design, content management systems, plugin integration, Wordpress migration, etc.

It could be tempting for the Wordpress developer to add skills they genuinely have, for example, Photoshop, logo design, excel, powerpoint. But adding these skills can dilute the Wordpress specialism and focus.

In other words, the skills profile needs to look like a very narrow T shape. Here's what you might expect a Wordpress developer's skill profile to look like:

t-shaped freelancer

Be strategic about the projects you apply for

It might seem counter-intuitive to apply for fewer projects. Surely you'd be more successful if you applied for every project you might have a remote chance of winning, right?

Whilst it might be an option, applying for every project that comes your way might not be your best option when you consider there is a cost (your time) to applying for projects.

Let's say it takes you 2 hours to read, research and respond to each project. And for this example, let's say you charge £25 an hour. This means each application 'costs' you £50.

Optimise your project win rate

Instead of opting for the 'raffle' strategy, where more applications mean more chances to win, you can improve your profitability by applying for fewer projects, but concentrating on the projects where your chances of being hired are the highest.

In other words, as a freelancer who makes money by selling their time, you want to minimise the amount of time you spend on unsuccessful applications.

Things to consider before applying

Before you apply for each project, you should assess the following. The more questions you can answer positively, the higher your chances of success:

For more information on applying for projects, you can check out our guide to writing a great project application.

Create happy clients

As you already know, your project win rate is a key factor to succeeding in the freelance marketplace. A sure-fire way to improve your win rate is to increase the number of repeat projects you get invited to apply for.

If a client loves your work, you are the immediate favourite to win any project they post.

With every project you work on, you should look for an opportunity to leave a lasting positive impression with that client. It could be as simple as delivering high quality work on time and on budget. But you can also look for opportunities to exceed their expectations by going above and beyond scope of the brief. Over-investing in building a good client relationship early is a tried and tested way of generating long-term success.

If you find a client you enjoy working with, you may decide to give them extra during your first project to improve your chances of being hired for repeat work.

Create happy clients

Make some time for yourself

The majority of the freelance projects in our marketplace require people with creative, digital skills: web development, content marketing, social media and PR.

As you'll already know, to be successful in creative and digital industries, you need to explore new developments, products and technologies. So, where possible, leave some time in your week to have some fun. Go out, be creative and learn something new.

It is also important you eat well and get enough sleep. Skipping meals or working long hours sometimes happens when you're really busy but you don't want to form bad habits that will make you ill. As a freelancer, you don't want to burn yourself out and cause unwanted down-time due because of illness.

Other Resources

Getting the most from remote working

Getting the most from remote working means finding your ideal position, and coming up with a unique strategy to enhance your productivity, wellness, and work/life balance.

How to write a great application

As a freelancer, your application is your first point of contact with a potential client. It’s your chance to really sell yourself and get noticed.

How to pitch to clients

Pitching a big, bold idea isn't easy. Learn these techniques when pitching a new idea to your clients.

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