For nearly two decades I had a traditional corporate job and then – BOOM – out of nowhere, an illness struck and life as I knew it would change. After months of being bedridden, daily doses of prescriptions that could fill up a pharmacy, and a failed battle with social security for disability income, despite the medical evidence, it quickly became clear that I would not be capable of working a traditional job and being dependent on the government was not an option!
So, dozens of conversations later with close family and friends, all of whom would encourage me to just go into business for myself, I decided to take the plunge. I mean seriously, it all sounded good: work when you want, where you want, with whom you want, and make a lot of money doing it.
It was the perfect solution. So why not, right? Why wasn’t everyone in business for themselves?
But what they didn’t tell me was that, as a freelancer, it would be extremely important for me to do these things for the successful operations of my freelance business:
Become Good at Sales & Marketing
Many of us new to freelancing shudder at the thought of having to actually sell something.
We’ve all experienced the salesperson who follows you around the store without giving you a moment to explore or the one who is so pushy that they aggressively try to sell you something you don’t need and/or want. These experiences have made us averse to using selling and marketing appropriately as a freelancer.
It’s important to understand that sales and marketing is more about communicating the value of your service in relation to your potential client’s needs. It’s more about building a relationship than it is about making a sale. If we approach it from this perspective, then sales and marketing is the key that could potentially catapult our freelance career to the next level.
Here are three tips to mastering the skill of sales and marketing:
- Become great at building relationships and trust: just because someone doesn’t buy today, doesn’t mean they won’t buy in the future OR that they won’t spread the word about your services (that’s the best form of marketing you could ever have as a freelancer)
- Become great at follow-through: there is nothing worse than losing someone who wants to do business with you because you didn’t follow-up when you said you would
- Stay positive and encouraged: people will say no, bids will be lost, and contracts will fall through. It’s just part of being a freelancer. Remember every no and every bid or contract not won gets you closer to closing your ideal client and the ideal contract
Prepare for the Valley
One of the most important things I wish someone had told me when I took the plunge was to prepare for the valley. That place where business is slow and you’re twiddling your thumbs. Sometimes the fog (you know that thing that sometimes distorts your perception of how well your freelance career is doing) is so heavy during these times you are not quite sure what you should be doing. It’s important not to become distracted or to panic.
Rather, embrace the opportunity of the slow period to continue perfecting your craft. Remember the valley is a pass-through location, not a destination spot.
Here are five things you can do while traveling through the valley:
- Create a new product that you can use to give away or generate some passive income
- Review your marketing collateral to see if it needs freshening up and still portrays the brand you want to build
- Invest in training and development that will give you an additional skill or increase your credibility in the marketplace
- Join a professional association and connect with other people in your industry
- Dust off your strategic plan and update it (and if you don’t have one this is a great opportunity to create one)
I also love this resource by Leah Kalamakis, the founder of The Freelance To Freedom Project, who gives great things you can do to avoid becoming a feast or famine freelancer. Click here to check it out.
Work with a Team
When I first took the plunge into freelancing, like most freelancers I know, I had to start off doing everything.
I worked on getting the clients, creating the graphics, doing all the client work, handling the invoicing, scheduling all the appointments, going to all the networking events, and then had to still be the dishwasher, cook, maid, and janitor in our personal lives.
I’m exhausted just thinking about it all.
The problem with this is that too many freelancers allow this to become the norm and forget that we are supposed to be the CEO of a business and not just a freelance worker. So, essentially we never make the transition out of the employee mindset and our business suffers.
I’d like to challenge all new freelancers to make creating a team part of your strategic plan sooner rather than later. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to hire employees (unless that’s what you envision).
Rather, it’s about identifying individuals you can work with like subcontractors who can take care of the things that keep you from focusing on the most important thing “client work.” Another important part of your team is having someone who can hold you accountable, provide guidance, and help you mastermind new ideas to grow your freelancing career.
Here are three things you can do to build a solid team:
- Partner with another freelancer or hire a subcontractor to manage all the time-sucking things taking you away from client work and out of your zone of genius
- Join a mastermind group or hire a coach to help keep you on track with your goals (and if you don’t have any goals they can help you create some)
- Don’t neglect your friends and family: these folks are the backbone of your entire team, they will be there through the highs and lows, the good and the bad. Be sure to let them know how important they are to you being able to build your freelancing career
Ready, Set, Go!