Someone posted on Twitter the other day that people should follow me because I’ve built up my business so quickly.  And yes, through the first 50 days of my full time business adventure, I have been running at full capacity. But I don’t feel like it’s been an overnight success, and here’s why (and why I think that’s a good thing).

You’ll have read all about the way I started Libro by now, so I won’t bore you by going on about that. But how have I brought that up to full capacity since I went full time? It’s been a combination of things:

– having a good set of regular customers I can rely on to keep sending me work

– having a marketing strategy which keeps people aware of what I do

– carefully using a few sources to help me gain more work

– keeping careful track of what I can and can’t do, and being selective about what work I take on

These all mean that I could grow the business slowly while I was part time, and then ramp things up to fill in the full time hours.

Keeping regular

I’ve built up a roster of regular customers over the last couple of years – some who send me lots of work, some who send me something every now and again. I’ve made sure to keep them happy, keeping them informed of when I was available when I worked part time, setting sensible expectations and being reliable. I’ve also kept these diversified, from editing, to writing, to transcription. I let them know first when I went full time, I have kept them as my priority customers, with others fitting around them – and they have rewarded me by sending me more projects to work on.

Read all about it!

My Libro blog is primarily written to be useful and helpful, of course. But my aim is also to drive business to my website. Do a quick Google search for “troublesome pairs”, “spelled or spelt” and “what is a transcriber?” and you should find me on the first page of results. This time last year, I instigated a policy of making sure I got hits on the website every day, and often had to go and publicise myself on different fora to do so on a particular day. Now I have lots of hits every day, I never have to do that, and most of my hits come from search engines.

I have also kept on networking and using social media. All of this ensures that I have a steady stream of new customers finding me and heading my way.

Paid help

I looked at a lot of freelancer websites when I started out – where you register and then bid for jobs. But I was never successful and I found that I was constantly underbid by companies offering the work for peanuts. Thanks to my friend, Sian, I found www.proz.com which is a site for translators. I took out a paid membership last year, which means that people who want editing, proof-reading, transcribing and localisation services are given my details and can come through to me for a price and service estimate. Some really good, regular, clients have found me this way, with minimal effort from me (setting up my profile and then of course responding to questions and requests for quotations) and it was well worth choosing this one site to use. Getting a recommendation to use the site from someone else who had success with it was key here.

Being choosy

I gained great experience in being choosy and setting expectations when I was juggling the business and my part time job. Now it’s a case of juggling projects large and small – my Gantt chart is my friend here, but so is being honest about myself and my abilities. I’ve been working a lot on a big transcription project and other ongoing work recently, and I know that around 40 billable hours is the maximum I can really do in a week – it’s hard work that involves a lot of concentration, and that’s not counting admin time.  I am lucky enough to have a few people I can recommend a prospect to if I can’t take on their work, and I am getting better at doing that rather than taking too much on. That way, I can make sure I do a good job for my customers, and keep reliable for my regulars.

The next step …

I’ll write another post about where I go from here, as I’ve had a few questions and suggestions recently. I’m really happy that I have avoided the quiet couple of months I was fearing when I went full time, and I did take the day off today …

If anyone else has recently gone full time self-employed, I’d love to hear about your experiences and how you’ve grown to fill those new available hours!