The freelance businessperson faces many challenges. As a long-time self-employed consultant – or freelancer, as it’s sometimes called – I know what it’s like to struggle with the questions that come up when one is trying to run one’s own business. So, I started #FreelanceChat in Sept. 2018 to help bring together freelancers interested in supporting each other as we address some of these challenges.
Over a year later, the Twitter chat is going strong. In 2019, we had a number of guests join us to chat about topics ranging from how to find clients to how to market yourself to how to get paid on time.
I asked some of these experts what advice they’d share with freelancers as we head into a new year. Here’s what they said:
11 Tips for Freelancers From #FreelanceChat Guests
1) “The volume of noise online right now is deafening. Social media, the blogosphere, and email inboxes are overflowing with people trying to promote their own thing. 2020 won’t get any quieter, with the U.S. presidential election, Brexit, the climate crisis, and political upheavals going on around the world.
Take a step back from the online commotion and focus on human-to-human connections. Schedule coffee dates; meet people at live events; ask your existing network for referrals and introductions. The Internet is not the universe. Old-school marketing and sales still have a role to play.”
– C.J. Hayden, Author, Get Clients Now!, www.getclientsnow.com, @cjhayden
2) “Say ‘no’ more often. No to poorly paid projects, clients who set off your alarm bells or people who drain your energy.
Sure, you’ll be less busy at first. But if you use this time to update your website to better reflect your value proposition, share your expertise publicly on your blog or social media and connect with your peers, you’ll soon start getting inquiries from clients who appreciate you and are happy to pay higher fees.”
– Gill Andrews, freelance copywriter and web consultant, www.GillAndrews.com, @storieswithgill
3) “Don’t do marketing backward in 2020!
Instead of starting with the tools (‘I need to be on Instagram!’) — start with the market.
What I’ve learned in 30+ years as a Marketing Mentor is that marketing works when you know:
- who you’re looking for
- where to find them (ideally in person)
- and what they need to hear in order to trust you
Then, make that your core message and you’re ready to choose which marketing tools to use.”
– Ilise Benun, national speaker, author of 7 books and founder of Marketing-Mentor.com, @ilisebenun
4) “My advice for freelancers in 2020 is to diversify. Whether you’re a generalist, specialist, or hybrid, that can take many forms: expanding the number of clients you have, adding different services, and branching out into new industries or topic areas. Having diversity in the services you provide, and who you provide them for, is a smart way to strengthen your freelance business and minimize the impact of feast-or-famine issues.”
– Jake Poinier, owner of Boomvang Creative Group, author of The Science, Art and Voodoo of Freelance Pricing and Getting Paid, @DrFreelance
5) “Since it’s the start of the year, it’s time to create a budget projecting your income and how you’ll spend it. The budget should account for all the business activity you ought to do and would like to do — marketing, professional development (conferences), retirement savings, taking out some profit, building an operating reserve for 2021, etc. If the budget doesn’t balance, then you either need to raise rates or consider if you’re making too many personal compromises for this business.”
– Robert McGuire, Owner, Nation1099, @RobertWMcGuire
6) “I’d say first and foremost, do a review (or create) your contract library. There are two essential contracts freelancers need: a client agreement; and a subcontractor agreement. I’ve written about that here. To me, that’s the number one thing freelancers should do to protect their business. That and creating an LLC.”
– Chris Brown, Co-Founder, Contract Canvas, @CSBCounsel
7) “The advice I have for freelancers as we head into 2020 is to be intentional with how you spend your time (and energy). This can be an overwhelming, busy time of year for many freelancers… but it doesn’t have to be! Get super clear on what you want from your business (and your life), and then break down your longer-term goals into shorter-term, manageable tasks which realistically fit into your current business model. There is so much power in how we choose to use our time and energy—and the more intentional and mindful we are about exactly what we do with that time and energy, the more that we’ll be able to achieve our goals without burning out. You’ve got this!”
– Sagan Morrow, Solopreneur Strategist, SaganMorrow.com, @saganlives
8) “Talk with your existing clients. Learn about who they are, why they decided to work with you, and what problems they have in their business (outside of the project that you are working on). This is the single most important thing you can do to remain as the expert in their mind and learn how to identify what other types of clients you can go after for future projects.”
– Jason Resnick, podcast host, designer and developer coach, rezzz.com, @rezzz
9) “Set some goals related to your own professional development! There’s no structured growth plan when you’re a freelancer, and it’s easy to just get wrapped up in only the daily to-dos. Identify a few bigger things you want to work on or skills you want to hone, so you don’t fall into the trap of things seeming so repetitive.”
– Kat Boogaard, Freelance Writer, https://katboogaard.com/,@kat_boogaard
10) “Entrepreneurship can feel pretty unpredictable and volatile sometimes. That’s why if you don’t have a spreadsheet that shows your typical monthly expenses and sales projections, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Seeing your business from a financial perspective like this provides clarity around your potential profitability and can even be a motivating factor to drum up new business in order to get your numbers to a place that actually creates the income for yourself that you want. If the numbers behind your business aren’t working, it’s better to know that now so you can plan ahead and take action. This sort of honest assessment and analysis of your business gives you the opportunity to be proactive in a more FOCUSED manner. It will also make your freelance business more predictable and far less stressful to manage, all because you’re being more intentional with your numbers.”
– Parker Stevenson, Co-Owner, Evolved Finance, @EvolvedFinance
11) “Re-evaluate the type of client that you are really good at serving. This often changes over the course of a freelance career. Make a list of your clients you’ve had over the past few years and rate them by profitability and also how much you enjoyed the projects and working with the people.
Define your audience by finding commonalities in your profitable and enjoyable clients. Every chance you get, write and tell stories that are useful and interesting to this audience.”
– Tod Cordill, Moderno Strategies, @TodCordill
Freelancing in 2020?
If you’re a freelancer looking for a supportive community, please join us on Twitter every Thursday at noon Eastern for #FreelanceChat. And be sure to follow each of these experts for more freelancing tips and advice.
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About the author: You’ll find Michelle Messenger Garrett at the intersection of PR, content marketing and social media. As a public relations consultant, content creator, blogger, speaker and freelance writer, Michelle’s articles and advice have been featured in Entrepreneur, Forbes, Muck Rack, Ragan’s PR Daily, Meltwater, ThomasNet, FairyGodBoss, Freelancers Union and more.