Business & Finance

How to Sell Platform-Based Skills


As a freelancer, there are a lot of different ways in which you can specialize.

Focusing on a particular platform — a freelancer web designer, for instance, might work exclusively on WordPress-based sites — is one of the fastest ways to establish a specialty. It can be a fairly lucrative opportunity, as well.

Learn to demonstrate your platform skills, establish your expertise, and present clients with irresistible platform-based freelance packages.

Demonstrating Your Skill

It can be a lot faster to build up a platform-specific portfolio than if you’re working on a broader set of projects. In part, that’s because you can complete more projects on a shorter timeline, particularly if you’re offering a fairly repetitive service (at least from your point of view).

You do need the right portfolio when you’re working with a particular platform.

It’s possible to get up to $5,0000 a month just setting up WordPress sites and tweaking existing themes a bit. That’s due to two considerations: you can turn yourself into the go-to-guy for that exact task and when you know your platform inside and out, you can do certain tasks very quickly.

You do need the right portfolio when you’re working with a particular platform. You may also need to be prepared to show some of the underlying work for clients to evaluate your abilities. Showing some code samples can be an easy way to speed up the due diligence process on your clients’ end.

The Right Description

When you’re a specialist, billing yourself as a freelancer isn’t enough. You need to set yourself apart from the other freelancers, who may take on very different types of projects than you’re currently looking for. As you’re marketing yourself, you need to focus on that more exact definition of what you do, such as a Drupal developer, or a LinkedIn profile writer, or something equally descriptive. Otherwise, it’s going to be a lot harder for your clients to find you.

At the bare minimum, adding information about the platform you work on to your website and your social media profiles will make you a lot easier to find through search. It’s practically impossible to wind up on the first page of results for ‘freelancer’, but you can get a lot closer to the top of the results for terms having to do with your platform.

As an added bonus, many of the communities that spring up around different platforms create directories or referral systems to help people find expert help with that particular platform. Listing yourself in any such directory can let prospective clients who know exactly what kind of help they need find you faster.

Establishing Expertise

One of the benefits you can offer your clients when you work exclusively with one platform is a much higher level of expertise than your cross-platform competition. You only work on WordPress sites, but you can troubleshoot any problem that happens on WordPress — that mindset is appealing to a client who wants to avoid having to find someone more experienced part way through a project. But you need to do more than announce your expertise. You need to demonstrate that you really are the best choice.

You need to demonstrate that you really are the best choice.

Blogging has rapidly become a favorite way to demonstrate a depth of knowledge about a given subject. It’s easier than some of the alternatives, like landing speaking gigs. But when it comes to technical topics, you can build up an excellent reputation by answering questions and giving suggestions as you see people encounter problems online. Sites like Quora and LinkedIn let you sign up for notifications for questions about certain topics and it’s a simple matter to search Twitter for questions. A few minutes of responding to questions each day could put you well on your way to being seen as an expert for your platform.

You’ll want to consider who is already an expert in your field and how they earned that designation. It’s likely that you’ll take a different route to establish your own credibility, but it’s useful to understand what both your own community and your prospective clients value, in terms of expertise.

A Client Offer that Makes Sense

Prospective clients may find you through your speciality, but that’s not a guarantee that they’ll be ready to cut you a check. You need to make sure that once you’ve got someone interested, you’re offering something that they’re willing to pay money for. It's a major question for any freelancer, but perhaps even more so if you're promoting yourself on the basis of your skills with a given platform.

Clients become familiar with platforms with the hope that a given piece of technology or a tool will solve all of their problems. You need to make sure that your offer is in line with that hope: the only other time a potential client will hunt for a freelancer with specific platform-based skills is to repair an existing project. Unless you fancy yourself the handyman of your community, talking about specific projects is going to be a better option.

That might mean offering to handle creating a new site in Joomla from scratch, with clear details on what that would do for the client or offering to design an ebook that formatted for the Amazon Kindle. Be specific about what you can do with your skills. You may lose out on a few projects if someone's looking more for a generalists, but most of the time clients prefer specific offers, particularly if the freelancer in question can point to proven results and relevant portfolio pieces.

In a way, it's better to look at selling your clients a product than a set of services, in this case. While you may not be able to set a flat project rate for everything, if you can offer your clients a fairly narrow project description with clear pricing, such as setting up a new WordPress website with three hours of customization of the theme included, you can make it easier for a client to understand what they'll get for their money, which in turn makes it easier to make a sale. It doesn’t hurt that you’ll be able to streamline your own work process if you’re doing similar projects on a regular basis, either.

The Value of Certifications

While certifications don’t usually have a lot of usefulness for a freelancer, a certification demonstrating your proficiency with a particular platform can be more valuable in certain industries. It’s not a universal rule and you do need to research the type of clients you’re working with before sinking time and money into a class or test. But there are certain opportunities. A freelance writer who specializes in writing online ad copy, for instance, might be able to focus specifically on Google AdWords, where Google’s certification program might be a smart business move.

Of course, certifications aren’t required to freelance, no matter what platform you work on. If it doesn’t seem like there’s any value in actually having the certificate, it’s no problem to go on without it. There are a few sites that are trying to cobble together certifications for social media platforms and the like, mostly to make a little money themselves. There’s no value in those types of certifications for a freelancer.

Avoiding Obsolescence

With certain types of platforms, you have to be concerned with what’s currently popular. If clients aren’t looking for a particular set of skills anymore, you need to move on.

There is usually some room for legacy work: there are programmers, for instance, who work exclusively with a few older languages to keep old systems running until their clients are ready to rebuild a piece of software from scratch. And, in such situations, you may be able to charge a premium for your skills. But it will only get harder to find clients who need freelancers who work on obsolete platforms — sooner or later you will absolutely have to learn a new set of skills.

Paying close attention to the trends in your industry, as well as where clients are headed, is key to making sure that you’re still on a lucrative platform.

Start with the Right Skill

For freelancers, choosing a specialty can be key to increasing your rates and building a bigger client base. Focusing on one platform is a shortcut for that particular strategy. But, as long as you choose the right skills to improve, you can specialize even further.

By taking your expertise and focusing on a specific niche, you can build a reputation and a select clientele willing to pay you the big bucks. The secret is finding both the right platform and the right use for that platform.

You need to do research and perfect your skills. The more you learn about your chosen platform, the more opportunities you can create for yourself. Right now, the number of tools out there are exploding and the number of expert-level freelancers that clients can turn to just can’t keep up with the demand.

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