The internet has been a blessing for professionals in numerous industries. One group of professionals it has benefited a great deal is freelancers. From writers and photographers to editors and designers, it has opened up opportunities that were traditionally very difficult to grasp. For today’s freelancer, the sky is virtually the limit, and the internet and its seemingly endless resources make this possible.

Thanks to the internet, the opportunities for freelancers are more abundant than ever. However, succeeding is not as easy as this introduction may suggest. Whether it’s programming software or building website, freelancing is fiercely competitive and this factor alone often makes for a rather challenging journey.

Consider these five steps the key ingredients to building a strong and successful freelance brand.

1. Build a Portfolio

Jobs and other opportunities for freelancers can be found all throughout the web. You have company’s who publicly post their needs, in addition to eBay-style auction sites that allow professionals to bid on gigs, and sites that aggregate openings from various resources in easy-to-browse categories. There is no shortage of opportunities, but with so much competition to contend with, you definitely need some credibility behind you.

The good thing for freelancers is that creating a professional portfolio is relatively easy — even for beginners. A writer who is just staring out could use a publishing platform like HubPages or Squidoo to build up a portfolio they can refer potential clients to. If you’re a designer, you could use Pinterest, Tumblr, or other visual-friendly sites to showcase your talents. Few clients will take a gamble on a complete newbie with absolutely nothing to show for their claims.

2. Get Yourself a Website

Using a site like HubPages may be good for building a portfolio initially, but eventually, you are going to want to have a website or blog of your own. It’s kind of hard to build a strong brand when you are constantly overshadowed by another, bigger brand. Having an online destination to call your own comes with many perks, including:

  • Perception of ownership
  • Added credibility
  • Greater authority
  • Increased visibility
  • Competitive Edge

That competitive edge is a significant advantage. There is no guarantee that you will get the gig, but in most cases, having your own professional website is usually enough to ensure that you are considered before those connected to a third-party site.

3. Market Your Brand

Freelancing is one of those areas in which knowing how to market yourself is vital to your overall success. Over time, you may get to the point where you have to do little to no promoting of your business. Some freelancers have built up such a strong brand, that potential clients actually seek them out, essentially presenting the opportunities on a platter. In the beginning, however, you need to be dedicated to marketing yourself.

Marketing your freelance brand can be a grueling process, but fortunately, there are many options available to you. For example, you could:

  • Start a blog (great for visibility and search traffic)
  • Submit articles to popular article directories
  • Establish a presence on social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter
  • Become a guest blogger on blogs your ideal clients follow
  • Invest in search or display advertising

4. Network with Other Freelancers

A good networking strategy can benefit professionals in any vertical, and freelancers are no exception. You may be saying to yourself, “But these are my competitors.” Okay, so there may be some freelancers who want you to stay as far away from them as possible. However, there will be others who are eager to connect because they realize the opportunities such a relationship presents.

Blogs. LinkedIn groups. Community forums here, there, and everywhere. There are networking opportunities all over the place. Find them, contribute something valuable to the discussion, and networking can work wonders for your brand.

5. Stay the Course

For some professionals, freelancing is like a full-time job. Some have work coming to them on a consistent basis, others have to go out and find it. I strongly recommend sticking with the course that got you here and constantly trying to improve no matter what your category. So if you’re fortunate enough to always have something in the pipeline, this could mean simply updating your blog or consistently doing great work for your clients. A strong brand needs continuous awareness.

These steps are tailored for beginners, but really, they can help freelancers at any stage. Freelancing can be very unpredictable. One minute you’re swamped with work, while the next, you’re wondering where your next gig is coming from. Stick with the best practices, and I assure you that you’ll be busy more often than not.

Author Bio:

Abel Velazquez @benchmarkabel is a freelance writer, online marketing expert, and advocate for email marketing company, Benchmark Email.