Is inconsistent client work or your unpredictable income getting to you? Are you frustrated with not knowing how much you’ll be working each week? Is it hard for you to schedule time off or make plans with your friends or family, since you don’t know when deadlines might crop up last minute?
Any self-employed person goes through the same struggles when beginning to build their business. And remote-based freelancers seem to have it hardest of all. It can be difficult to ‘switch off’ when you can bring your work with you almost anywhere. And when your bank account is dipping dangerously low, it can seem impossible to clock out at a certain time each day.
Finding a Better Way
You see other freelancers that seem to have it all together; they make running a freelance business look easy. Many have indeed figured out a way to set boundaries within their business and still experience growth and success. But how do they do it?
It’s different for everyone, but I’m confident that with a little direction, you can figure out a better way to run your business. I’ll use freelance writing as a specific example, but I think this method can work for almost any freelance business.
Here are a few steps you can take to get you closer to a business model that works for you – now and in the future.
1. Getting Organized
Organization can mean make or break in this business. Your clients are depending on you to meet deadlines and respond to their emails in a timely manner, among other things. If you’re not organized, things can easily slip through the cracks. You may miss a deadline, forget to get back to someone or even forget to invoice for the work you’ve done. This can lead to bad client service, missed opportunities for additional work and you not getting paid.
The ultimate goal of any freelance business is to have numerous projects going on at once. Hopefully you have many clients that you’re juggling right now. A great way to get organized is to create a spreadsheet of your current clients. Know their contact details (name, phone, email, website), the rate they’ve agreed to contract you for and any expectations for the project at hand.
Once you know who you’re currently working with, figure out a rough schedule for the current residual projects you have going on. For example, if you write an article per week for client X, map out a monthly calendar and plug in when you’ll write each article (preferably a day or two before it’s due in case something comes up).
I tend to sort projects in order of deadline. Then I give priority to higher income projects, clients that I want to impress or projects that may require more time or research. By knowing who expects what from me when, I can organize each week to know what I should be working on.
If you have a mix of weekly and monthly clients and find that you have a lot going on in the first week, for example, see if you can switch some lower priority projects to the second week, or get a head start on your higher priority projects when you have the extra down time.
2. Setting Goals
If you don’t already, calculate your ideal monthly, weekly or daily income goal. Once you know how much your current clients bring in, figure out how much more you need to bill to get there. This will look different for each of us based on our own individual lifestyles and income goals.
The goal may even be to have fewer clients. If you only have a few, but they provide a lot of ongoing work, you can experience the best of both worlds. Working with the same people over and over and knowing their style and expectations is awesome (and easier)!
I find it helpful to have a longer term goal and then break it down into more manageable monthly or weekly targets. Say you want to have 10 recurring clients by year end. That leaves you 4 months to get there; if you are starting with 6 clients, you need 1 more per month to hit your goal. One seems a lot more achievable than 4.
3. Prospect for New Clients
After you figure out your client gap, look at your calendar to see when you could dedicate time to new clients/projects. This time should then be blocked out for prospecting new leads.
Take this calendar entry seriously. Until you’ve filled the slot with work, your job is to prospect and find someone that will hire you. Think of this like someone that has found themselves unemployed – their new full-time job is to look for work. This is the same for you.
You need to build a predictable business to enjoy a good work-life balance. This will help you to be more focused while you’re working, as you’ll make sure you bring in the minimum income you need to maintain your lifestyle.
By getting organized, you can build a model schedule and maintain a consistent workflow. You can then learn to prospect during the times you’re available to work, but don’t yet have a client to fill that particular slot. This will allow you to feel confident to rest when you clock out for the day knowing you did all you could to build your business.
You don’t need to work 24/7. Figure out how many hours you need to work to live and then focus and work hard during them. If you’re doing the right things during the dedicated time periods, the rest should take care of itself.
Do you know how many more clients you need today to hit your minimum income goal? Are you close? Let us know in the comments section!
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