I have to get on my soapbox and talk about a topic that’s very important as a freelancer. It’s something that most freelancers probably already know, but it’s still something I feel needs to be discussed. Why? Because it’s so important to protect yourself.
Variety, different sources of income, and different sources of marketing are all critically important for a freelancer. We never want to put all our eggs in one basket. However, it happens all too often with freelancers. It happens when a freelancer finds something that really works from them, but they don’t see the challenges of having just one client or one form of marketing.
These two things can set you up for failure in a big way. Think about when you had a traditional job. It can be nerve wracking to work as an employee because if you are an at-will employee, at any point in time your employer can terminate your job. I know because it’s happened to me.
When I started freelancing as a side hustle, I knew that I didn’t want to have just one client. I knew from experience that it can be so scary thinking the rug could be pulled out from under you at any given time. I knew I needed to diversify.
So here I was pitching to different clients with the mindset that if I had 5 different clients if I lost one it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Which was true. But then I had a colleague point something out to me that really made sense.
If I was only using one form of marketing to do my pitches, in my case it was Upwork, what happens if that website crashes and you can’t pitch anymore? This was a huge wake up call to me because I had built my entire business around something that’s called “digital sharecropping”. You see other businesses doing this today too.
As a freelancer, you never want to have one platform be your sole source of leads. This is why I expanded from Upwork into cold pitching into using LinkedIn. I didn’t want to be dependent on any one thing. Having a variety of different marketing methods is definitely very important for freelancers. Once you are established and know which methods convert the highest, that’s where you will want to put your emphasis in your marketing.
As a new freelancer, you’re going to be trying a lot of different marketing methods all at one time. As time goes on you’re going to have to look at the data of which of those methods is converting the highest for you. You then can pick 2-3 methods to focus on for your core marketing methods to get you the best possible result.
You don’t have to feel like you need to do all of the things forever. But having variety is good. What if your Facebook Group gets shut down and you could no longer use that? What would you use to market and bring in clients? Variety is truly the spice of life in this case. It’s important to be building your market in several places in case something like this would happen. Never stop marketing and never fully rely on one source of marketing.
Digital Sharecropping is essentially building your business’s success on the reliance of some online tools, websites, software, or other person who runs an online company. When you are reliant on platforms or tools to convert offers or bring you business, everything is contingent on that site continuing to run exactly as it always has. If something changes dramatically this could potentially put you out of business.
As online business owners, we are always evolving and adapting. So sometimes a site like Upwork tries out a new algorithm and it gives me the ability to try it out and tweak my business to adapt to it. But that doesn’t always mean it is a complete and total overhaul of Upwork. However, if they were to do a complete overhaul, it could be catastrophic for me if I hadn’t built up my business elsewhere.
Don’t be a digital sharecropper who has built everything on something staying the exact way that it is. In the online world, we know that things are constantly changing. Variety is important so that you can pull potential leads from multiple places when these changes take place. If you are listening to this, take this as an opportunity to branch out and explore other platforms to start building your business.
The best time to try something new is when there are no stakes are attached. If you are a person who is completely reliant on one platform to bring you all your leads, then branch out and try something new. Start using another platform and build your business and see how it goes. You don’t want to have to wait until a catastrophe happens and it’s necessary. Do it now so that you are prepared IN CASE something happens.
A great platform to try is LinkedIn. I actually just dropped my newest course about using LinkedIn and 3 step process that has brought consistent high quality leads my way. So I’m glad I started my LinkedIn strategy when I didn’t really need it because by the time I was able to master it, I was able to move further and further away from using only Upwork to source my leads.
One of the biggest ways you can set yourself up for failure is by only marketing on one platform in one way. Why? Because if you try something new, you may become a master at it. And what if you original form of marketing goes bankrupt. You are already marketing yourself in more than one place and are prepared if something happens. The best time to try something new is now!
Having only one client as your sole source or bulk of your income is so dangerous. If this is you, please consider adding multiple smaller contracts to your business. If the BIG CLIENT terminates your contract or goes out of business, your entire source of income just goes away if you only have that one client. Once again, diversify. There are so many things that can happen in the freelance business. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Have a backup plan in place. Be marketing to other clients and bring on some smaller clients. (For more about contracts in freelance projects, please check out this related episode.)
If you all of a sudden lose your work with that one client and you have paused your marketing, this could be devastating to your business. It could be a setback for several ways. You need to always be marketing and you need to have several clients. We have to be prepared for the possibility that things could shift and change.
Because we are in control of so much in our business, we have to take ownership of everything that we do. You make choices every single day about who to work with, what type of work you want to do, how long to work with people and what to charge. You need to have an “insurance plan” in place. This means having more than one client and more than one marketing method.
It’s very dangerous to have only one client and only one marketing method. Avoid putting yourself in the tough spot of having to rebuild your business on the fly. Make sure you have at least one month of expenses saved up so that if this does happen, you are covered for a bit financially and it gives you time to build it back up.
Having more than one client means that if something happens your income won’t go all the way down to zero dollars just like that. It’s important that you realize I keep talking about having more than one client and more than one marketing method together because I often see issues arise with both of these things. People come to me who only had the one big client and only using one marketing method and both have went belly up so to speak.
Having alternative sources of marketing and income are instrumental for your success. There are a lot of statements out there of how very wealthy people will have 5-7 streams of income at one time. There is a reason for that. They aren’t hedging their bets on ONE THING to continue bringing in money. Even if I got rid of my coaching and freelancing business, I still have a steady stream of income coming in from other things like speaking, my books, etc.
Starting when you don’t need to start it is the best time to start it because the risk is very low. You can figure out a strategy that can save you in moments of crisis, but can actually help you when you are thinking about if you need to make a shift in your business. This gives you a great deal of peace of mind. I want you to avoid being in a bad situation. For more advice about things that can help you launch your freelance career successfully, check out this related episode on the five things I wish I’d known when I started.
So if you are currently thinking I have this one client and I have this one marketing method, but how do I break out of it then we need to talk. This is something I help freelancers with all the time. I do this through 1:1 strategy sessions where we dive into your business for a specific period of time and talk about what is working, what isn’t, and where you can go from here. I am able to get a good understanding of where you are at and where you want to go in your business. If you are interested in learning more about these 1:1 sessions go to laurateachesyou.com and you can see the options for these sessions. I’d love to work with you!
Have you ever had the OPPOSITE of what I call a “King Midas Day” or even week in your freelancing business? What I mean is it feels like nothing is going to work. You feel like a failure. It feels like your business is imploding right before your eyes! Does this sound familiar? Well if you are having that kind of day or week I want to encourage you to take a step back! Get out of your house! Most times this will give you some space and allow you to gain a fresh perspective to come back and be able to troubleshoot. Sometimes it really is an off day and other times it’s our own mindset that is holding us back.
It blows my mind when I see posts in a Facebook group with people saying they had sent 100s of pitches and had a website up for a long time, but still hadn’t gotten their first client. In my early days of coaching freelance writers, I had a girl come to me who had literally sent out 200 pitches on Upwork. And not one of those had ever reached out to her or decided to work with her. This was shocking to me!
In my own business, if I am doing something that isn’t converting I am either going to figure out if this is the right fit for me. Or is there someone out there that knows this system/software better than me that I can hire or learn from to make this convert? If this is happening to you, please don’t wait until you have sent 100 pitches or until you have spent 2 years on Upwork and have zero results before you reach out to someone who can help you.
When I first started trying to pitch to speak at TedX events, I had NO IDEA what I was doing. I submitted several applications and all of them were rejected. Now, I thought my idea was pretty good, but obviously it wasn’t resonating. I had no idea about some of the TINIEST mistakes I was making on the application process until I hired a coach who had successfully landed four TedX talks on his own.
Even though we had to work at it for a while and get through some rejections, it ended up with 5 different invitations to give TedX Talks. It’s always good to find someone who has been down the path before rather than just trying to make things work on your own. This process can be really frustrating to go through it on your own.
The first one is really important because it’s your mindset! When you are in a funk and you have a roster of clients that you don’t like to work with, you will subconsciously hold yourself back from pitching. Why? Because your mind is saying, “Oh, we don’t want any more clients like that. If working and bringing on freelance clients means being as frustrated as I have been with this group of clients then...NO THANKS! I’m not pitching.”
I have seen freelancers be held back by this. The hard part is they don’t even realize it. It’s kind of a subconscious battle that is keeping them from being able to effectively pitch. It became an easy to “back burner” the process of pitching because they were stuck in this mindset of not marketing at all because of their current clients. You need to know if this is something that is potentially holding you back. Think about these things:
None of the other elements I’m going to tell you to check are going to work if you don’t have the right mindset. So first things first, evaluate and work on your mindset.
Once we have figured out whether or not your mindset, there are some other things that you can check. Now, If you have figured out that it’s your mindset and you have a disaster client, now is the time to figure out a few things like:
Whatever samples you are providing to your prospective clients speak volumes. And you cannot afford to have samples that don’t accurately depict your quality of work. A lot of times, we forget to update your samples. If you are anything like me you probably look back at your samples and cringe! Why? Because you have gotten better at your craft since you created them. You don’t want to be sending out samples that isn’t putting your best foot forward. You should be sending out samples that is your best quality work. Samples should be the work that you are most proud of. The samples should always reflect where you are at right now, not where you were at 6 months ago. Check your samples for the following:
Samples work in conjunction with the second thing you should check...your pitch. And more often than not, if something isn’t working with your marketing it is either your samples or your pitch. One or both of these things is off for your marketing method or your specific market. If nothing is converting and you have checked your mindset, the next thing to consider is the pitch and the samples. This is where I recommend you put your focus. Invest in having someone proofread the material or give you some feedback. You can reach out in Facebook groups and such so you can figure out what isn’t working. If your pitch and samples aren’t working they can slam the door of opportunity shut with clients who otherwise would have been perfect clients for you. You may not even realize this! It’s often these little things that can be tweaked and that leads to conversions. Little things can make a HUGE difference. ASK FOR HELP!
It’s amazing to me how many creatives send out samples and pitches that are not their best work. If you are a creative person, whether it’s a writer or designer, your work needs to be spot on and error free. That’s very important! It would be nice if clients would look beyond that, but they don’t! I speak from a professional standpoint where I have been hired as a Content Manager and they client has told me to not hire anyone who has grammar mistakes in their pitch. So, as you can see, even the littlest mistakes matter!
Are you marketing to the wrong people? Are you marketing to people that only work with agencies? Are you marketing to organizations that don’t have the money to pay you? Are you marketing to people on LinkedIn but that’s not where “your people” are? Check your market after you have checked your mindset, pitch, and samples.
This is another great opportunity to engage with someone else in the freelance world and ask for their expertise on whether or not your market could be off.
Newsflash...most business is done in the follow through stages. I am always surprised when I hear from freelancers that they sent out pitches and never hear from anyone. I always ask them if they followed through. When they say that they never heard from them so they didn’t follow through it blows my mind. Most business does NOT come from sending a pitch and getting a signed contract in reply. There is a nurturing process that most clients have to go through. So if you aren’t following up with prospective clients, you are leaving business AND MONEY on the table. Check your follow through by considering things like this:
You even have to follow up after the proposal phase.
“A lot of what we do as freelancers is selling and being consistent with that selling process.”- Laura Briggs
Think about someone who tried to sell you something you didn’t want, understand, or even feel like you needed. A great example is a life insurance agent. It’s easy to push off something like this and say you didn’t want to do it. It’s probably because this person followed up with you multiple times before you decided to go through with it and get everything set up.
Be aware of how important follow up is. If you are not doing it, it wouldn't surprise me if you aren’t bringing in a lot of business. Clients need hand holding. Yes we live in an amazing digital age where you don’t have to see your clients in person if you odn’t want to. But that also means we need to make our clients comfortable about hiring essentially a stranger over the internet. We need to break down those barriers and make them feel trusting of us. The follow up is where you do this.
Follow up also shows persistence. Some clients love this. You’d be amazed by how many freelancers DON’T follow up! Sometimes it can even get your foot in the door ahead of someone else JUST BECAUSE YOU FOLLOWED UP SO MANY TIMES. Having a CRM system is a great way to keep track of all this.
Through Hubspot you can get up to 200 open email notifications for free. AFter that you have to pay. Anyone who is pitching and using cold email this can be helpful because you can see when people open your message so it will remind you to go back and FOLLOW UP!
Following up is so easy! It doesn’t take much time. It’s a quick reach out to the client to see if they have reviewed what you sent. It’s also a chance to showcase a little more personality. Carve out time and send your follow ups out in batches based on the pitches you sent a few days to a week before. Being the person that follows up can significantly increase your conversions.
Sometimes your pricing is just off. Across the board you will find all kinds of different pricing. Never base your pricing on anyone else’s numbers. This is a huge reason why I never discuss pricing anywhere I’m talking about freelancing. There are literally so many variables that go into determining pricing there is no one size fits all answer. Whatever you charge you will have clients that think that it’s cheap and a great deal. And you will have clients that think it’s too expensive.
Because you are going to hit that at every level, it’s about finding a price that works for you that still allows you to be competitive in the market. You can do a lot of harm to yourself by having pricing that is too low. I have had clients turn me down because he thought I was too cheap. I have also had more people turn me down because I was priced too high. I never take it personally though. It’s never worth burning the bridge because those people may come back to you or even refer people to you once they know the baseline of your pricing. You simple just say OKAY. I have had people turn me down because they thought my pricing was too high only to come back to me when their business was doing a little bit better.
These are the types of things that go into the consideration of your pricing. A lot of people think it’s their pricing when in fact it’s their pitch or proposal. But it is worth considering whether there is something that is off with your pricing. The best way to know this is if people are straight up telling you that you are too expensive or don’t know what it is included in that cost. This leads to the client just shutting down.
There is a reason why we check the pricing last. More than likely, the reason you aren’t converting is because of one of the other things I listed.
There is nothing wrong with you as a business owner or creative if something isn’t converting in your marketing cycle. Most of us are new at this. We are figuring things out as we go along and making our best guess at how to run our business. So there is no shame in saying this isn’t working. You just have to look at what you can get better at, what you can learn, what you can change in your business to make it better. This can actually liberate you from the stress of taking it so personally.
Learning is something that can be so empowering in your business. It can also help with your mindset towards your business. As business owners we have to be adaptable and constantly evolving to see where the market is going. There is a tremendous amount of intelligence in stepping back and seeing what isn't working and figuring out how to adapt to change it.
**Remember I have an awesome FB GROUP where you can get tons of free training and information and network with other rockstar freelancers. You can find me by searching for Mastering Your Freelance Life with Laura.
Welcome to another episode of the Advanced Freelancing Podcast. Today’s topic is getting through a freelancing dry spell. I don’t care what anyone says, one of the most important things to know as a freelancer is when you might encounter a dry spell. It’s key for every freelancer to know how to prepare yourself for it. You need to have a plan to address what to do when things get slow. It can happen to any of us.
It actually happened to me recently. I let go of 2 clients and at the same time, another client had to pause all of their marketing operations. This was a SIGNIFICANT loss in income. BUT...even in these moments you have the opportunity to think about how you going to overcome it. Hopefully, you have done some of the leg work in advance to be able to help protect yourself through this dry spell.
It can be very frustrating for a freelancer to bounce around month to month with different levels of income. The more you can scale steadily to where you feel confident in your business the more comfortable you can be with business decisions. Business decisions like how much you are going to pay yourself and how much of your revenue is going to go back into your business.
Freelancing dry spells DO happen. In fact, that’s a big reason WHY I stayed at my day job for 13 months after launching my freelance writing side hustle. I had no idea if there were going to be dry spells. I had an eye-opening experience with this because I came in as a teacher. Now, where I taught you could decide to have your salary distributed over the 12 months of the year. This means you would get paid less monthly, but would still get paid over the summer break. Or you could just get paid during the 9 months of the school year. A lot of the teachers had to pick up other income streams over the summer.
I have been freelancing for 7 years and have seen a trend where every year August is slow. It’s a hard time to market. I have also noticed from around December 15-January 15 is a slow period as well. There are several reasons for this. People are distracted during these times of the year whether it’s for back to school, last-minute vacations, holiday vacations, or even just waiting for the year to close out so they can start fresh.
It’s important to track your numbers in a spreadsheet. This will let you know what months are not your best months. Example: Let’s say May isn’t my best month. So I’m going to use that knowledge going forward and try to book as much work as possible in April. OR… Maybe February is my busiest month so I’m going to take some of the money I earn in February and put it aside in an emergency. It’s so important for you as a freelancer to have an emergency fund. WHY? Well, for example, if you only have one client and you have to fire that client or something happens where you aren’t working with them anymore, where is your income going to come from? This is where I encourage freelancers to not put all their eggs in one basket.
So now you are in a freelancing dry spell. I am going to assume that you have already been saving a portion of all the income you make for expenses, taxes, retirement, family emergency fund, and 1 month of expense for your freelancer emergency fund. If you haven’t already set up that emergency fund, do so now.
So in this dead zone, it’s harder to drum up work. I don’t know about you, I don’t like to throw spaghetti at the wall and hope it sticks. I’m not going to send out 100 pitches the week before Christmas because they most likely aren’t going to get seen. So why not send those inspired pitches in the beginning of the year when people are thinking about their goals. It’s much easier to market during this time. This is also true for September after people have gotten their kids back to school.
These downtimes are a great chance to update your work samples! Check out: How to Get Clients to Actually Review and Be Wowed by Your Samples
A slow season doesn’t have to be something where you are panicked because you don’t have income. Ideally, you should have planned for it. That allows you to have this time to reflect on your life and your business and decide what you want to do next. I love having these things built into my year because I know that February through June is a crazy time. It’s always busy. But I know I have some slow season coming after the time I have been pushing pretty hard.
A slow season doesn’t have to be completely negative. It’s a chance to recalibrate and take a break for once. I had a freelance coaching client once who hadn’t taken a vacation in 3 years! We had discussions about taking time off and put it in the calendar ahead of time. I never feel guilty for taking a vacation when I do.
What are your favorite things to do during a freelancing slow season? I’d love to hear more about how you make this downtime work for you. Remember you can always send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember to SUBSCRIBE to the podcast so you always get updates about new episodes every week. Also, I would love it if you would do me a HUGE honor of leaving a review of the show inside your podcast app like iTunes or wherever you listen. It helps other people who are freelancers find this show.
Welcome back to the Advanced Freelancing Podcast! Today I’m going to talk about something that is going to help supercharge where you’re at with your freelance business. It can also help you overcome obstacles in your business much faster than if you were having to work through things on your own.
Since I started I started my freelance business there have been more resources added to the internet, books, and other places to learn about freelance writing. However, that’s now always enough to get you where you need to be. I have read practically every book there is on freelance writing.
I have also interacted with coaches. I have attended conferences. All of this has been helpful and I have picked up different tidbits here and there. But one of the ways to absorb a lot of information more quickly is to choose to work with a coach.
For a long time, I was resistant to working with a coach. I had the mindset of being afraid to let anyone else into my business. What if they messed it up? What if they tried to press their business model on me and I didn’t agree with it? An example of this is subcontracting my writing work to other writers...I don’t agree with this practice. This is MY business so I was very protective of it! This is a personal choice for me.
I am familiar with both the agency and solo model of business. This is helpful when I’m coaching others with their business. We have a real conversation about what is best for THEM!
The first reason you would hire a freelance coach is because you’re stuck. You’re stuck at a certain income level, stuck working for clients you don’t like, or you feel like you are stagnant and you are having difficulties going in the next directions. This is where you say “Okay, I need more help!” A lot of the people who hire a coach have been stuck at a certain income level for a while and are ready to step it up.
Hiring a coach can help you get to those higher income levels so much faster. WHY? Because it involves having someone else’s eyes on your business giving you recommendations and suggestions on what’s best for you!
The second reason you want to hire a coach is that there is SO MUCH information out there. You don’t want to spend the time sorting through ALL THAT INFORMATION searching and trying to find out what’s best for you! You want to be able to bypass the challenges and get to where you want to be faster.
Now if you are someone with a lot of free time on your hands, then by all means, you can read through everything there is out there on freelancing. But this will take FOREVER for you to get results! I wish I had invested in the help of a coach when I first started my business! Having someone in your corner who understands not only your business but also the strategy of running your business is invaluable.
The third reason you might want to hire a freelance coach is because you NEED that additional accountability If you slacked off in your marketing or if you know there are things you want to do or try in your business but you just can’t seem to make them happen, you need a coach. Investing in a coach gives you accountability to make these things happen that you otherwise tend to ignore or put on the back burner. This provides focus because it’s another person to help you stay on track!
There are other reasons you might hire a coach. They include:
There are different coaching models out there for when you are working with a coach. I have personally been through just about all of them. In fact, if you purchase my book the last chapter is all about coaching and mentoring and the different options available to you.
This is where you invest in a course. But there is some kind of limited amount of contact with the actual coach like office hours. You might get a 1:1 call with the coach. You may also get a set of group coaching calls. These can help you with specific questions about the course. But, these are timed and very limited as far as interaction especially if it’s a group call or office hours.
This is great for the person who doesn’t necessarily need long term support. If you have a handful of questions or want someone to give you in-depth advice about your marketing or LinkedIn profile for pitching purposes a strategy session might be for you. These can help you with emergency issues in your business if you get stuck and need to figure things out.
Make sure you find someone who specializes in your particular area of business. They are usually 45-90 minutes long. You can get a lot accomplished in that time if you are really focused. With a 90 minute session, I can usually cover 3 topics with my clients. It’s a great place to go if you need help or direction with what to do next.
This is essentially one step up from purchasing a course or book and reading through the material. Why? Because essentially you are going to receive information from the person running the mastermind and then are given a chance to ask questions about the information in a group coaching call.
A mastermind would be a good fit for you if you like engaging with other people. You can sometimes actually learn just as much from other people as you can from a coach. If you feel like your freelance business is kind of isolated and you are looking for like-minded people who may be going through what you are makes a mastermind a good choice for you.
This is by far the most expensive form of coaching. But for good reason. It’s the most involved form of coaching. You’ll find a lot of coaches who do things in a whole bunch of ways. One form of this type of coaching includes a series of coaching calls where you can ask questions on this once a week call.
The type of 1:1 coaching I do with my clients is by using a voice app like Voxer or sometimes people use Facebook Messenger where you can essentially get almost unlimited support. This would be if people need day to day support. One on one coaching is better to do this way because if you have urgent questions arise, you can ask that question without having to wait until your scheduled call. The reason that I offer my coaching like this is that most of the freelancers I work with already have semi-consistent income making at least $3000 a month and they are wanting to scale, but they have day to day issues that they just want feedback on. They tend to need that day to day support and I’m happy to provide it! I still do a monthly call with them to cover important things, but day to day support allows them to Voxer me and get immediate support.
The two primary ways that I provide coaching is the Strategy Sessions and the 1:1 Unlimited Coaching through Voxer. Usually, people are a fit for one or the other. Almost all of the freelancers I have worked with on a 3 Month period get a lot of results in their business. They even often renew for another 3 months to start the next steps in their business.
The people who use 1:1 coaching get results a lot Voxer a lot faster. This gives them a whole new round of questions they need to address to take the next step in their business.
If you are thinking about hiring a coach but you are stuck, consider what type of coaching style might be right for you. For example, I don’t get anything out of mastermind coaching. You have to make sure you connect with a coach that coaches in a way that will connect with you.
If you are interested in learning more about my coaching, I always do a free call with people first to make sure we are a good fit. It also allows me to see some of the issues you want to work on. You can learn more about my coaching at https://www.betterbizacademy.com/coaching and as always you can email me at email@example.com. If I am not the right fit for you I will recommend you to another coach that might be.
I know it’s hard to invest money in things, especially as a newer freelancer. But in hindsight, I don’t regret investing in these types of things because they have helped me go to the next level in my business. I encourage you to look at where you are right now in your business and also where it is you want to go. Coaching might be a possible solution to help you achieve your goals.
**Remember you can always send topics and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org