As a freelancer, you’re reliant upon your own creativity to keep business coming in.
It’s tempting to rely on tried and true methods, even if they sometimes keep your business small. In order to stay competitive with other freelancers and keep from burning out, sometimes you need to shake up the old, to allow new energy and keep yourself engaged.
You won’t even know how much more business you could be bring in, or how many better paying clients you could sign, if you never step outside your freelance comfort zone.
Here are some strategies to help you shake things up and keep new business coming in.
Refresh your Website
Customers and prospective clients often make snap judgments about your talents based on your branding and web presence. Do you have a website that’s aesthetically pleasing? Are your service and credentials clear and easy to navigate?
Chelsea Starling, a California-based author and website designer, recommends taking a good hard look at your existing websites to avoid looking like an amateur. She suggests you stay away from design services like wix or weebly and even the basic version of WordPress. “A clean, branded, easy to navigate website is an essential tool to share your services with your clients,” she says. “A professional website doesn’t have to be boring. A good designer will be able to bring out your unique personality and create a brand that people can trust.”
Starling recommends Bluehost as a solid webhost service. “A self-hosted WordPress site is the easiest, most flexible and cost-effective way to go.”
Offer a New Service or Feature
At least once a year, but as needed when you feel things getting stagnant, consider adding a service or a feature to your current offerings.
This also gives you an opportunity to assess how well you understand your clients. Take a page from Alex Mathers’ blog, Red Lemon Club, in which he insists you get very specific about whatever product or service you’re offering first. Then once you know how well-received it is, whether you add a paid service or something new for free, you’ll be much more likely to draw fresh blood.
Rebecca Lawton, a California-based author and editor, recently updated her blog with a feature she calls a “Writer in Residence” series. “Once a month it’s my goal to post a Q&A with a writer colleague who has a new book out,” she says. “It expands my reach beyond my own readership and extends my ability to offer great writing by emerging and established authors I know personally to our colleagues in several fields.”
It’s also good to have an annual or quarterly get-real meeting with yourself about your services or go-to markets. Is that one package or product rarely selling? Might be time to dump it.
Have you wanted to stretch what you offer into a new realm, such as offering online courses, or taking your own technical skill up a notch? Don’t wait; positive risks—in which you push yourself slightly, but not so far that you fail—tend to pay off.
Branch out to a New Market or Content Area
Sometimes, the first step to taking a new risk is admitting to yourself that you aren’t satisfied with business as usual. JoAnna Haugen, a Las Vegas-based travel writer, felt “stale” in her work, losing the joy of her daily routine. She decided to take a significant risk. “I decided to quit a couple consistent but soul-draining gigs, wrapped up several pending projects, completed all my necessary work for the coming months and went off the grid for five weeks.”
JoAnna and her husband backpacked the John Muir Trail for more than 20 days, completely disconnected from the grid. Upon returning, she shifted away from editorial writing. “I’m working with corporate clients on a variety of different, new, engaging projects where I am in contact with one other person in the company helping to create and execute strategic communications. It’s exactly what I need right now. It’s engaging, consistent, has variety and pays more.”
Say Yes to Projects Outside of Your Comfort Zone
If you only stay within your wheelhouse, then you may never get further out where there may be more money, a larger audience, or other unique opportunities.
Cameron Gearen, a Chicago-based freelance writer says yes far more often than she says no to new projects, even when they feel new. “I try to keep in mind that my probable success is more about the skills I have, than about the literal outline of [a] particular assignment,” she says. “These skills will serve me well whether I’m writing an article for JP Morgan Chase or a newsletter for an insurance agency. For me, a lot of the trick is believing I can and will provide a product that will serve the stated need.” Learning new skills is made easy by tons of low-cost or free online classes (like CreativeLive!).
Change Your Schedule
Have you noticed that you start to get bleary-eyed and antsy just a couple of hours into your morning? Are you a champion procrastinator? Consider breaking your day down into small increments, according to a study at University of Southern California.
Or, start taking your break earlier. Research backs up the need for breaks and their effectiveness at helping you to become more productive. Maybe you’ve let your discipline slip and you’re squeezing too many distractions into your workday. Or maybe you’ve found you work better in “off hours” like late at night or early in the wee hours. Whatever the case, you’re a freelancer after all. You don’t necessarily have to work 9 to 5, so get creative.
Network and Brainstorm
When you feel stale or ready for a change but you aren’t sure what needs to shift, don’t forget to connect with others in your field, fellow freelancers and friends for brainstorming sessions, or use a service like MindMeister, which helps you do it online. Julie Schumacher, freelance copywriter and editor supplements regular networking with fellow freelance writers with monthly in-person collaboration. “We workshop what we’re working on, how we market ourselves, how we collaborate with agencies or individuals we’re working with. We celebrate victories and commiserate on the challenges of our line of work. It has been incredibly helpful and uplifting.”
Ultimately in any business, change is the only constant. It’s also one of the best ways, when approached strategically, to add necessary energy to your freelance life. With a little dose of honesty and creativity, you can keep your freelance business fresh and interesting, for you and your clients.
For more, join Ariana Orland’s class on Becoming a Successful Freelancer today.
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