Harlow helps freelancers run their entire business, from proposals and contracts to task management and getting paid. Samantha and Andrea know this space really, really well so hit them with questions about growing your freelance business, finding great customers, the importance of contracts, how to manage your workload, how to get paid fast and anything else about freelance life!
Andrea: We don't yet, but we hope to build out an external template library some time soon. We're just launching our beta program now and hope to be live very soon!
Samantha: First, there are a ton of communities popping up to connect freelancers to gigs and vice versa - obviously, we are in one of them (a stellar one).
Secondly, build your referral network, start connecting with other freelancers - recommending them out when you have the opportunity and making intros for them, so they can do the same for you.
Third, build out your social channels - put what you're offering out into the world. Hype yourself, don’t be afraid to tell people what you do and openly say what types of clients you’re looking for.
Samantha: I was head of Marketing at Campaign Monitor at the time and while we had a stellar in-house team, we knew the best way to grow production, quality and get additional perspective was through hiring freelance talent.
We partnered with freelancers at Campaign Monitor across the board in marketing - design, content, paid.
And yes! We've actually been building Harlow for the past year with Andrea and I as the only FTEs. We've used freelancers and agencies for dev, content, social, design, brand and more!
Also, an entire post on why we chose to build Harlow using freelancers here - Why We’re Building Harlow Using Freelancers
Samantha: I love this question. I always tell people to start by putting yourself out there. Reach out to your network, previous peers and colleagues, your family, your friends - whoever it is.
Tell them what you're doing and who your ideal client is. You never know who is going to have a potential client or two for you. Leaning into your network in the early stages is so important.
Andrea: I'm going to lean into this from the business side of things. I think its so important to do the upfront work to set your business up correctly. I didn't do this the first time I freelanced and deeply regretted it. What I mean is:
Samantha: Also, we put together a post recently with advice from 20+ experienced freelancers going over their #1 piece of advice.
Samantha: I have actually had a myriad of side projects while working full-time jobs. At one point I ran an online clothing boutique on the side, at other points in my career I was helping friends launch their businesses and assisting them with strategy and marketing.
I'll say for me, it was helpful to block time off my calendar during the day for these projects. Just 30 min to an hr here and there so it wasn't like I was fully checking out of work for the day, but was giving myself time to focus.
And I honestly don't see anything wrong with this, as FTEs we deserve breaks during the day to focus on whatever we want to do outside of work (I truly believe the 9-5 isn't reasonable and should be a thing of the past). Whether that's taking a yoga class, or catching up on a side project - it's up to the human.
Overall, I think it's about managing your schedule in a way that works for you. It worked for me to take 30 min-1 hr breaks during my day to shift focus. Maybe it works for you to block an hr every morning prior to work to get side projects done.
But blocking that time proactively keeps you from having those late nights and feeling of dread that comes with not knowing when you're going to get things done.
Also, you have to make sure you're giving yourself time for the other things that help you combat burnout too - self care, relaxation, working out, social time - whatever it may be for you!
Samantha: This is super timely, we just published a blog post on this yesterday! When to Raise Your Freelance Rates
Samantha: I am definitely seeing a larger number of freelancers packaging up courses, templates, coaching services, and more to diversify their income streams and monetize things that aren't tied directly to their time (which we all know is a finite resource).
I'm also seeing freelancers leaning on VAs, editors, designers, and more and building out their mini team to be able to offer a more robust package of services, without having to take on all of the additional work involved.
Sometimes I think this allows everyone involved to charge more for their piece of the work because you're selling more overall value to the client.
Andrea: I don't think there is an easy answer to the workflow tool issue. We struggled with that a lot when we were consulting and in order to balance everything I found I had to put everything into our workflow tool (asana at the time) in order to get a complete view of our business. For now, we've taken that approach with Harlow, but I do think integrations with standard tools to pull in your tasks from various systems into a single view would be fire.
As for payments, we are payment agnostic! Harlow will create and send invoices, but you can use whatever payment method you want.
Samantha: I'm a big MarketerHire fan. I think these marketplaces can be really helpful to connect companies to freelancers and freelancers to companies in a seamless way.
Especially helpful for larger companies who want to hire freelancers, but have more rigid guidelines to follow.
I think they do a lot of work to help set expectations for both the freelancers and the client up-front.
Andrea: For us, we found that the more we were able to package up our services and really showcase the value we were providing instead of just the tactic, the easier it was to get away from an hourly rate.
For example, instead of offering 4 blog posts a month for $X. You would offer 4 blog posts a month, which includes research, editing, revisions, SEO recommendations, etc.
All of that is what you would be doing anyway, but communicating the true effort involved and making it clear to the client that the work you are doing is so much more than just writing, helps set expectations and helps them understand the value your work is delivering.
I also think if you can give examples of how your work impacted the bottom line for other clients, that is hugely valuable.
As for the ghosting. I hate that! But also, it makes it clear that they’re probably not a good fit for you.
Andrea: After about a year of freelancing we really figured out our niche and that makes this process so much easier! We were selling into B2B tech startups so we we knew we wanted heads of marketing at companies that had just raised a strong seed or series A. Once we had that, the process of identifying the actual names was pretty easy through linkedin.
As for outreach. I highly recommend engaging with these people on social prior to making a purely cold outreach. Follow them on twitter or linkedin. If they are active, comment on posts, and share their content. That small connection can go a long way.
Samantha: Building on that, here's a recent example of an outbound email I received where the person really did their research, and connected with me on social first.
Samantha: First, you're running a business and offering a specific set of services that are set by you, with pricing that aligns with that.
You presenting your services should never be mistaken for rudeness :). And you shouldn't think about it that way either!
The best way to align up-front is to take some more time during the proposal phase of the project and clearly outline what you offer, how you charge, and overall how you work.
Getting this alignment up-front alleviates having to have the convo after work has already started.
AND if the services you offer and the price you are charging don't align with a particular potential client because they didn't budget for minimums or a certain retainer, it probably just isn't a good fit.
Andrea: Freelancing can be lonely! When we thought about building the brand we really wanted it to have an empathetic and human quality to it, which is why we wanted a gender neutral name.
Additionally, we want Harlow to be more than just a software tool. We want to help freelancers connect with each other and succeed by creating useful resources, and amplifying their voices.
Samantha: This blog post gives a little more insight into how and why we created Harlow.
Samantha: I think the point in your freelance journey is different for everyone, but Andrea and I started subcontracting almost right away.
How we positioned it to clients:
We're a small team. Andrea and I both work on strategy and execution, and then we have a couple of other team members who you likely won't meet, but they help us get things done for you on the back-end!
Most clients didn't ask questions and just gave us the thumbs up!
And we used project-based pricing which helped us capture the cost for subcontractors while also letting us still pull the dollars out of the project that we wanted.
Subcontracting was the #1 thing that allowed Andrea and I's consulting business to scale to the level it did.