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!
For more freelance advice, get a copy of my book Start Your Own Freelance Writing Business—available now! Buy it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and more.