10 years ago non-U.S. freelancers dominated the market. They filled the freelance platforms and owned the space. Over the past decade, and really within the last five years, that started to change.
Today the U.S. has more than 53 million freelancers. Not only do they add competition, but they're hard to beat for the best jobs. While it is a challenge, it's not impossible. So here are three secrets to help non-U.S. freelancers earn your first client.
Hone your linguistic skills
Most U.S. Freelancers speak native English. This alone gives them a huge advantage over non-U.S. freelancers. Many of the best companies who pay the highest rates hail from the U.S. and their leaders avoid anyone who isn't fluent in English.
It happens because communication barriers increase the chances that a job won't get done right. Plus, it's just plain easier to hire someone who naturally speaks your language.
Since U.S. freelancers speak English natively, it's much easier to sell themselves to clients. But sales skills are important no matter who you are. The problem for non-U.S. freelancers is that it's hard to sell yourself without the right linguistic skills.
While you may never reach native levels of English, you can study, practice, and become fluent. The closer you get to fluency, the more you increase your chances to win gigs.
You don't have to be Shakespeare (unless you’re a writer, in which case you might want to aim as close as possible to that), but you do have to hold your own in a one-on-one conversation and be able to use words to your advantage.
Research the Client
Client minds are like locked doors, and every locked door has a key. The key changes with each person, but the method to find it is very similar. Once you understand the method, you’ll land more jobs more easily.
To enter a client’s mind, you have to research them as soon as you find out who they are. If possible, do this before the first contact.
Here are some research tactics to help you out:
Tactic 1 - Visit Their Website
A client's website offers a vault of valuable information about their business, brand and personal style. Look at how they operate. Are they large or small? What kind of help is this client specifically look for? Are you a fit for their company?
Tactic 2 - Watch Their Youtube
Smaller businesses often have YouTube channels where you can get a feel for the client. You can learn how they think and act. You can get a feel for their speaking style and body language. All of these are cues that help you sell yourself to them.
Tactic 3 - Read Their Published Work
Many rising star entrepreneurs get published on websites like Forbes, Huffington Post, or even Notorious [F]. Reading what someone else's published work can tell you a lot about their business and its pain points (problems you can help them solve).
Find everything you can about the client and their business.
The more you learn about their problems the easier it becomes to sell them your services and prove you are the best person for the job
Once you know your client...
Then you can shape your communications in a way that leaves them thinking and feeling like this:
This person understands my problem perfectly! They must be an expert in solving this exact problem!
Successful sales people sometimes use psychology to sell. But you don't need to be Freud to win gigs. All you need is a bit of research to help you get inside the client's mind so you can offer what they want.
First Impressions Count
U.S. freelancers get bonus points by nature of their heritage. They automatically make a better first impression than non-U.S. freelancers in the eyes of U.S. clients.
It happens because of a little thing called, "liking."
We like people who are like us.
When you apply to U.S. gigs, U.S. freelancers get "liking" points based on their location.
In other words, clients feel more comfortable with them because of the perception (whether true or false) of safety.
First impressions are where jobs are won or lost. As a non-U.S. freelancer, you are at a disadvantage. But there are ways you can trigger the power of "liking" to tip the scales back in your direction!
Here are some ways to tap into the power of "liking:"
1. Talk Like Them
It requires you have a strong command of English, but assume you've practiced then you can start to talk like the client. I hope you did your research, because you'll need it so you can use similar slang and style. Using words and phrases that clients use will help those clients feel more comfortable with you.
2. Talk About Them
One of the easiest ways to show clients you "get" them is to talk about them. To do this requires a total mindset shift from you. You have to stop using the word "I" so often in your outreach messages. Stop starting sentences with "I" and stop talking about yourself before you talk about the client and their pains (usually the problems they brought up in their job post).
3. Check Your Message
Before you send client outreach messages, whether it's a cold email or cover letter, always check it for spelling and grammar. Use Google Docs or Grammarly or Hemmingwayapp. Spelling and Grammar errors are among the top reasons why U.S. clients skip non-U.S. freelancers. It takes extra effort, but it's how you win the job.
An Uphill Battle You Can Win
Non-U.S. freelancers have a challenging road ahead. The good ole days of easily finding clients and making money are over.
Today you've got to prove you're the best person to do the job. Not only do you have to prove it, but you also have to overcome stereotypes, prejudices and discrimination along the way.
Keep your head up.
Although it's harder to get work than it used to be, it's not impossible. Use the secrets above to get the upper hand.
Stay positive. Keep reaching out to clients. Work to improve every single day and your freelance business can thrive.