Freelance Business Plan: How to Get Out of a Business Lull

By Nicola Brown, Contributor, on January 22, 2018

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Picture this: You’ve finally hit your freelance stride. You’re making money, you’ve got a good routine down and you have experience under your belt. But you just checked your books and discovered that your profits are actually decreasing. What’s going on?

We all experience business lulls from time to time, and even the most successful freelancers go through financial downturns. What matters is how you choose to turn things around. Here are a few strategies that’ll help you boost your freelance business plan and get your profits back on track.

Ask for Referrals and Recommendations

One of the best ways to bounce back from a freelance lull is to generate more referrals and recommendations. It’s always better to have too many connections than too few. Ask previous clients to write a recommendation on LinkedIn, and offer to do the same for them. Then, you can include these testimonials on your website and in your portfolio.

Don’t be afraid to ask your current clients for referrals, too. They may know of others who are looking for the types of services you provide. Word of mouth is one of the most significant sources of new business for me, so I never miss an opportunity to network.

Pro tip: Build regular outreach into your freelance business plan. Schedule catch-ups with current and previous clients — which could be as simple as an email asking how they’re doing — and send out regular reminders that let them know you’re available for work.

And remember to make it easy for people to refer you. Provide clients with a brief description of who you are, what you do and links to your portfolio. If they’re amenable, you may even be able to craft emails and social media posts for them to share on your behalf. Be persistent, but do not pester your contacts.

Diversify Your Portfolio

It’s easy to neglect your resume and portfolio once you’re off the ground. Many freelancers make the common mistake of thinking they have enough work, letting portfolio updates fall to the wayside. To avoid falling into this trap, schedule these updates every three to six months. Add in the new work you’ve done and the new skills you’ve learned. Include links to your work, photos and any other supporting material to give potential new clients a clear picture of your services.

If you review your resume and find it to be a bit thin, consider developing some new freelance business skills. Online courses are a great place to start, since many are free and can be completed from the comfort of your own home. Taking on side projects is another good way to diversify your skills and portfolio pieces. Doing so can even give you a new perspective on your regular work. Set aside a few hours each week to work on something different. The more you can demonstrate how effectively you handle novel situations and requirements, the more valuable you’ll appear to potential clients who need someone reliable and adaptable.

Trim Your Expenses

When your profits hit a lull, it’s time to take a look at how you spend your money and what you can do to make up the loss — or at least lessen its impact. Commit to auditing your expenses every six months. Look at your office utility bills, tech and supply spending, phone bill, subscriptions, internet bill and transportation to see where you can trim excess spending. Do you really need a subscription to that magazine you never read? Is there a better phone plan you could switch to? What about increasing your energy efficiency by turning off lights when you leave or setting the thermostat a few degrees lower? Doing a regular audit of your spending will help you stay on track while finding new projects and clients.

Stand Out From the Crowd

More and more people are embracing the indy lifestyle each year, which means the freelance marketplace is becoming increasingly competitive.

As such, you may want to devote more time and effort to distinguishing yourself from everyone else. Consider your unique background: Did you study something unusual, or were you born in another country that’s given you a special cultural experience? Do you know other languages, or do you have an interesting hobby that supports your work? Have you dealt with a wide range of clients or done cross-disciplinary work?

Find the thing that makes you different and highlight it throughout your portfolio and your meetings with new business prospects. For example, your experience living in Central America could make you the perfect candidate for a marketing project aimed at Spanish speakers. And you never know when a mutual love of knitting could secure you that app development gig you’ve been eyeing.

All freelancers experience financial downturns from time to time. When you hit these lean periods, you have to create a smart freelance business plan that’s equipped to turn your situation around. By seeking out referrals, creating a new portfolio, spending smarter and embracing what you bring to the table, you can turn a business lull into a business boom.

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