Understanding how to get more clients for your business is probably the most important factor in becoming successfully self-employed. If you’re able to find or build a consistent and sustainable source of new work, it removes much of the risk, and provides a solid foundation for your future.
Working for yourself allows you to pursue your dreams and ambitions, potentially for the first time in your career. Which means the routes to growing your self-employed business will look different to every individual contractor, consultant, freelancer, and entrepreneur. But whatever your individual aims, IPSE can offer advice and support.
You may be aiming to grow your business as quickly as possible, working all hours to seize every available opportunity. Or you might dream of a self-employed career that allows you more time for your family, or other commitments and interests, but still provides an increasing income over time.
And for those with more established self-employed careers, growth can mean improving delivery and fulfilment to ensure happy clients and customers, building processes for continuous learning and development, or increasing the resilience of your business to sudden changes.
The guides in this section are designed for those who have been self-employed for six months or more, and want to take their business to the next level. If you’re just starting out, we’d recommend taking a look at our new to self-employment advice section to make sure you’re building your career on solid foundations.
Whatever personal ambitions you have for self-employment, you should find useful information and methods that can be tailored to your individual objectives.
Securing more clients and customers
For many self-employed individuals, growth will mean securing a higher volume of clients and customers. Or working on larger, higher-profile projects, which will mean you can charge higher rates and increase your income.
Understanding how to promote your business will help if you experience a sudden shortfall in enquiries, and enable you to build sustainable sources of leads for future work, allowing you to plan further ahead. When you know a particular method works for you, and your clients, it’s easy to invest extra resources to ramp things up any time you want to grow.
Find information and advice on how you can amplify recommendations and referrals from existing clients and customers, use free or paid marketing techniques to raise awareness, or the most effective ways to invest in advertising.
Scaling up quickly can bring new challenges, but these are covered in our section on improving delivery and fulfilment, below.
Clients and customers need to be aware you exist to spend money on your products or services, but it’s difficult even for large companies to cover every promotion channel.
A formal referral or affiliate program can help you to grow much more quickly if your self-employed business needs much larger customer numbers in a short space of time, allowing people to recommend you without requiring a personal connection or conversation.
Increasing your self-employed income
Earning more from your self-employed business doesn’t necessarily mean working more hours. If you’re able to increase the rates you charge, or diversify where your revenue comes from, you could find that you can actually work less and still improve your income.
Raising your client rates is a constant dilemma for many freelancers and contractors. But with the right research and techniques, you can lower the risk of pricing yourself out of the market. And make sure that you’re getting the income that your skills, knowledge and efforts deserve.
But if you’re already pricing your work correctly, you’re worried about the future levels of demand, or just want to develop some potentially more passive ways to earn money, then there are a variety of ways you can build new income streams or utilise existing assets.
Additional income streams can drastically reduce the risks of self-employment. Especially if you’re able to build them without taking too much time and effort away from your main business.
But charging more can actually increase your client portfolio, or let you focus on a smaller number of clients and still achieve a similar income.
A house or flat is likely to be the most expensive asset you’ll ever own, so it makes sense to make the most of it. And even if you’re renting, it might be possible to speak with your landlord or letting agency in some cases.
If you’re thinking about diversifying your business interests, find out how to generate extra income from retail arbitrage with a sustainable and scalable approach.
Scaling up your delivery and fulfilment
Having control over your work is one of the biggest reasons to become self-employed. But it also makes it harder to delegate any tasks, whether that’s to employees or subcontractors. Particularly if you’re a solo entrepreneur, the biggest barrier to growth is likely to be the number of hours you have available each day.
If you’re increasing the scale and volume of your business, the demands on your time are only going to increase. But there are a variety of options to help you grow without compromising the quality and reliability of your work.
Collaborating with other experienced self-employed professionals can enable you to deliver a wider range of products and services more effectively, especially if you have a good working relationship. Or you can just lighten the load between you, and provide cover for holidays, illnesses, or other work interruptions.
Finding good freelancers and sub-contractors can take time, but with the right processes in place you will have a flexible workforce that can jump in quickly during times of higher demand. As growth allows, it might also be time to consider taking on your first employees.
If the thought of managing other people is too much of a barrier, then the recent advances in artificial intelligence (AI) can provide a technological alternative. Especially as the impact is only likely to increase, and become more integral to a lot of self-employed businesses in the future.
The rapid growth of article intelligence (AI) has led to justifiable concerns about copyright, ethics, and the future of human creativity. But it also enables individuals and small companies to dramatically increase their output. And given that AI is likely to be a feature of any self-employed work in the future, it’s important to understand how AI can help you scale your freelancing.
Taking on a part or full-time employee requires a commitment, but means you gain a dedicated person available to work across your business during their contracted hours.
Learning and development
Most advice on growing your self-employed business focuses on external factors, particularly client demand and pricing. But what about personal growth, learning and development?
It’s important to invest in yourself when you’re self-employed. Improving your knowledge and qualifications doesn’t just potentially increase the rates you can charge to clients. It can also reinvigorate the enjoyment of your career, and highlight new opportunities for developing your business.
Training courses can be more cost-effective than you might think, with various funding opportunities available. Speaking to clients and other self-employed professionals can also help you decide which qualifications or certification is likely to give you the best return on your investment.
Another option to help you develop as a business owner is finding a coach or mentor willing to share their knowledge and experience. This can be voluntary or paid, and can give you insights and a level of accountability that might take a long time to develop on your own.
Continual learning and development are essential features of self-employment. More structured guidance or qualifications can be a big help in increasing client rates, scaling up your business, or safeguarding your future. But are training courses tax deductible if you’re self-employed?
No matter the line of business, working in a career where you're self-employed is indisputably tough. A coach or business mentor will help you devise strategies, offer advice, and point you in the direction of resources that will help you navigate your journey of self-employment.
Knowing how to find funding for training if you’re self-employed will help whether you’re just starting out, or looking to grow your career on a limited budget.
More support to grow your self-employed business
Whether you’re actively growing your self-employed business, or making plans for the future, you’ll find a wide range of support available. We have a wide range of advice for freelancers and the self-employed, covering specialist areas including winning work, financial planning and wellbeing, legal guidance and more.
IPSE members also have access to a calendar of webinars and events on relevant topics, offers and discounts from partners providing services to the self-employed, and helpful support including tax and legal helplines, cover for tax investigations or contract failures and much more.
If you’re looking for more dedicated support and the chance to meet other new self-employed professionals, why not look at signing up for the IPSE Incubator, which provides a 12-month programme for new starters.
As you become settled into working for yourself, why not start preparing for the next stage of growing your self-employed career and business? And if you need more detailed information on a specific area of self-employment, from finances and tax to supporting your mental and physical wellbeing, or working with family members, then why not look through the IPSE Advice section, which covers a wide range of topics. And if you can’t find exactly what you need, contact us and we may add it to the resources available.
Looking for more?
We have dedicated advice pages to help your physical and mental wellbeing whilst working from home but also on areas such as winning work or navigating the tax system. And to help and support you through all the challenges that can come with becoming self-employed, from chasing late payments to being able to work through power cuts and other emergencies.View all advice pages
Physical wellbeing advice
Running a business, or freelancing and contracting for clients, can be busy, stressful and all-consuming, but Ignoring your health and wellbeing can have serious implications for you, and your business.
Mental wellbeing advice
We've put together a set of resources and guides to support positive mental wellbeing for the self-employed, combing our business knowledge with tips and advice from mental health and wellbeing experts.