How to Survive as a Freelancer (Part 4)
In this fourth and final installment of our ongoing blog series on Freelancing, we’re going to talk about how to Sustain your business.
We’ve addressed the topics of how to Launch, Market and Grow your freelance business. Whether you’re a photographer, a content creators, a blogger or designer, those first three steps should see you through your first year or two as a freelance business owner. But how do you keep up the momentum and continue your success, past that first year?
Let’s talk about how to sustain yourself as a freelancer.
First, it helps to know what your long-term goals are with your freelance business. Do you plan to have this business indefinitely, or did you create it with the goal of either using it to launch another business, getting hired by a dream employer or eventually selling your freelance business to another up-and-comer?
Knowing how long you plan to keep your freelance business is key to setting your plans for sustaining. That’s because you need to know what your end date for your business is. Are you planning to sell your graphic design business to another local designer within 5 years? Are you blogging for several premium businesses with the hopes of being hired by them full-time within the next 3 years? Did you create this business in order to gain the insights and skills to launch a different business within the next decade? Or do you plan to be a freelancer for the rest of your working career?
As an example, I fall within two of the above categories. My freelance business includes the following services:
Email and Social Media Marketing
Writing and Editing Services
Additionally, I also have a professional development coaching program and my own personal writing also falls under the umbrella of my freelance business. I plan to sell my design, marketing, and content creation services within 5 years, but plan to keep the coaching and personal writing.
Creating a plan and formula to sustain your freelance business first requires you to determine how long you plan to keep this business.
If your goal is to leave your business (either to pursue other work or to sell your freelance business) within 2-4 years, then I recommend creating a plan to double your workload every year until you reach that date. To do so, that requires you to maximize your personal and professional connections. Maintain an active email marketing campaign (at least once monthly) that allows you to connect with current, prior and potential clients. The primary goal of any freelancer should be to retain existing clients. New clients are great, of course, but you’ll make the majority of your income off of sustaining and returning clients. How can you incentivize them staying with you? If your services are ongoing, offer discounts for each consecutive year. For my clients, I offer them a 5-10% discount for most of my services in their 2nd year, and then a 10-15% discount for my services in their 3rd or 4th year.
Email marketing is key to keeping your business in the back (or front) of your clients’ brains, so that when they need your services they will immediately respond back and say YES!
Set aside at least 1 day each month to dedicate to reviewing past work, past clients and how to engage them for new assignments. The best way to respond to your potential clients’ demands is to ASK them what they need and want. You don’t have to limit yourself to the kind of work you initially began your business with - you can continue to expand and grow, if the opportunities exist and you are able to fulfill those services. Don’t say yes to work that you don’t have the skills to manage, but do be open to learning new skills and techniques and programs, as your clients require.
In fact, I would tell any freelancer (even those who are struggling and trying to think of ways to be more profitable) to let your EXISTING CLIENTS dictate the direction you are going to go in. They know your talents, and your strengths - they will often be the best people to help guide your career.
If you are planning to keep your business for 5-10 more years, then I would encourage you to pursue a growth of at least 50% more work and revenue each year. And if you’re planning to work at this business indefinitely, then you want to grow by approximately 25% each year.
If you currently have 10 clients monthly on average, and are earning around $20,000 annually in your freelance business, and you plan to work this business until retirement, then you want to add at least 2 new clients each month, and around $5000 annuall to your income. Those 2 clients can include returning clients from the past - in fact, I would say if you need to add 2 clients monthly, you can assume 1 will be a returning client and 1 will be a new one.
The other important factor to sustaining your freelance business means ensuring that you are working with qualified professionals to help you - accountants and CPAs, attorneys and consultants. These professionals understand the methods used to sustain successful businesses and I would advise you to work with those professionals who have experience working with freelancers in similar fields as you.
Sustaining your business, lastly, means having a clear brand narrative or story that resonates with the clients you want to work with - no matter how long you intend to work this freelance business. Need a new narrative? Contact Evergreen Script Services to set up your Brand Narrative workshop - we are available to work remotely anywhere in the US!