Becoming a freelancer for big companies comes with many benefits. Higher-value contracts, bigger budgets, and the opportunity to gain credibility with a recognizable name—just to name a few. However, to be attractive to larger organizations, freelancers and independent professionals must first ensure they have a reliable, trustworthy business in place. Follow these 12 tips to land work with big clients and become an enterprise-ready freelancer.
1. Review Your Business Operations
Fulfilling the legal requirements for starting a business not only ensures you are operating with all the required licenses and permits, but it also shows enterprises that you are serious about what you do. Be sure to register a Doing Business As (DBA) name, a process that lets your state or local government know the name you are operating your business under, apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS, review state and local tax requirements, obtain proper business permits and licenses based on your location, and review applicable business laws and regulations.
Here’s how: 10 Legal Requirements for Starting a Small Business
2. Develop Strong Marketing Materials
A good first impression is key when it comes to winning new clients, and strong marketing materials can help make that happen. A professional website can play a major role, and other collateral like business cards and maintaining an active presence on LinkedIn are important as well.
3. Create a Professional Website
A professional website is a great way to showcase your skills and your portfolio of work. It gives clients an idea of who you are and provides them with access to past projects and contact information. A website can help spark interest and educate clients about your services, and it demonstrates a level of professionalism and commitment to your work.
Try it: How to Create a Small Business Website: 5 Simple Steps
4. Set Your Bill Rate
Clients, especially big ones, are going to want to know your rates as part of their initial inquiry into your services. It is important to set a rate that isn’t so low that it doesn’t make up for the time and effort required to produce quality work, yet not so high that you risk being beaten by a lower-priced competitor. Bill rates are variable depending on your industry and area of expertise. Research competitors in your industry and use our bill rate calculator to determine what you should be charging.
5. Be Prepared to Justify Your Bill Rate
Now that you’ve determined your rate, you need to be able to justify it. Are you highly trained in the skills and services you offer? If you fall somewhere in the middle ground, consider additional education or certifications to help back up what you are selling. Continue to build credibility within your industry by teaching online courses, collaborating with influencers, volunteering for speaking engagements, or generating content like a blog or e-book that speaks to your expertise.
Up next: 10 Valuable Skills Consultants Need to Succeed
6. Prepare Financially for Longer Payment Terms
Big companies often have longer payment terms—up to 90 or 120 days. Cash flow can be a challenge with any small business, so make sure you are prepared for not getting paid as quickly as you may be used to. Make sure you have enough set aside to keep your business running for at least six months without income as you continue to work on other projects.
7. Become Familiar with the Ins and Outs of Contracts
Contracts are an important part of any client relationship, providing legal protection, establishing roles and responsibilities, and outlining services to be performed. Before you approach larger clients, know where you stand on termination conditions, nondisclosure terms, and confidentiality and non-compete clauses. It’s always a good idea to have a third party review a contract before you sign it; it can be helpful to have an attorney or partner like MBO on hand who can review contracts for potential issues.
Learn more: 4 Reasons You Need a Contractor Agreement for Consulting
8. Have Your Own Contract Prepared and Ready to Go
While many clients will have their own contracts they use for independent contractor engagements, it is always a good idea to have your own contract as well. Even having the framework of a scope of work on hand can be helpful to keep the engagement process moving forward quickly once an enterprise decides to work with you.
9. Obtain proper insurance coverage
Most large enterprises will have specific insurance requirements for all independent contractors they engage. By having insurance in place from the start, at a minimum it is a good idea to have general liability insurance, it is easier to adjust coverage levels to meet client requirements. In order to obtain proper business insurance, work with an insurance broker familiar with small business insurance or a company like MBO.
Check out: Business Insurance Requirements for Independent Consultants
10. Target the Right Clients
Approaching the right clients is essential to building a successful business. Look at current and past clients to assess the types of companies that have benefited the most from your services and use that information to choose future clients to target. Study who your competitors are working with. Are they targeting a market that you should consider?
11. Network to Build Relationships
When going after large companies for work, start by leveraging your existing networks. Ask friends to connect you with their contacts, and don’t hesitate to ask for a referral from a past client that you have a good relationship with. From there, expand your networking efforts online. Reach out to your target clients on the social media channels they frequent, engage in industry-specific online communities, and connect with fellow professionals.
Learn more: How to Build a Strategic Networking Plan as an Independent Professional
12. Research Businesses in Need of Your Services
Putting effort into researching the enterprises that truly need your services boosts your chances of landing work. When approaching a company, learn as much as you can about them. Know what they do, what their current financial situation is, what their past performance is like, and how they are responding to industry trends. This will help you build a strong case for your services and earn respect by showing the enterprise that you have done your homework.
By taking the time and putting in the effort to fully establish your independent business, your services will be much more attractive to top enterprise clients.