Freelance Austin put together an October panel of “Battle-Hardened Pros” to share tips on building your portfolio, organizing and growing your business, and the best ways to network and use free time.

As a freelancer, building a portfolio is extremely important but sometimes difficult. Our pros tell us that becoming an organization leader, part of a group project, or volunteering for a trade organization or within a specific industry is the perfect way to help another organization, to network and meet new professionals, to gain exposure for your business, and build your portfolio all at the same time.

Word-of-mouth is still one of the best ways to grow your business, and it’s free! Freelancer reporter and copy editor Michele Chan Santos says, “Tell everyone you know what you’re doing.” Also, talk to others in your industry and businesses that have used your services in the past, and think about getting a mentor. Having someone who knows the ropes and can share their experiences and offer support and advice is another great way to stay on top of industry trends and grow your business. Once you have accomplishments under your belt, Orange Agency Principal Phil West says, “taking credit for your successes and using your PR skills” will help you realize your value and will help you market to new clients.

Elizabeth Quintanilla, Chief Marketing Gunslinger for EQ Consultants Group, reminds freelancers in Austin to take advantage of the city’s lively and energetic population and to “be open to random opportunities.” For example, when eating lunch alone, choose a place where you can engage in conversation and perhaps make a new business connection. Where are your favorite places to network and meet potential clients in Austin?

Speaking of lunching alone, it’s no surprise to any business owner when there’s “down-time.” How you handle those times is what’s important. Ginny Murphy of Rapport Branding and Advantage Graphics offers sound advice in relation to using this time wisely. She tells freelancers not to “panic about slow time” but, instead, to take advantage of this time and use it to network and catch up on accounting and administrative activities. Freelancers can also use this time to improve and enhance skills, stay on top of industry trends, and move forward on other opportunities that will help build and grow the business. Santos says, when business is slow, “DON’T. FREAK. OUT.” This can also be the perfect opportunity to take time for yourself, your health, and your family—”there will always be more work around the corner.”

West offers more helpful and excellent advice when he says, “Evolve and diversify. Recognize that the call for what professional communicators do is changing, so adapt accordingly.” And, finally, Santos wraps up by saying, “be proud of being a Freelancer! Be proud of what you do and how you’re doing it, because it can take a lot of nerve to run your own business!”

Join Freelance Austin for monthly meetings and panels, just like this one. Visit our Events page to find out what’s next.

(Post originally contributed by Freelance Austin member Lisa Bovee.)

Elisa Leichty
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