When you freelance, there is nothing more disconcerting than suddenly finding yourself with no clients. It means no income, so it's natural to panic and feel like the world is collapsing.
So what do you do when work dries up, and you're twiddling your thumbs? The key to bouncing back is to be pro-active and get out there, putting yourself forward for as many opportunities as you can.
For many, that's easier said than done. Instead of feeling a sense of energy and passion for winning new clients, some freelancers will become withdrawn. This tips article is for those who feel hopeless and need a good dose of motivation.
Quit the self-pity
Before you even begin to mope around and feel sorry for yourself, remember that losing clients isn't the end of the world. We've had our fair share of recessions lately, and it's certainly not easy out there, especially with so many other freelancers competing for similar work. So stop beating yourself up and take action right now. You've suddenly got all this spare time available – see it as a great and rare opportunity to take stock and discover how you can improve your business.
Review your business
Once you've picked yourself up and dusted yourself down, get out a big pad of paper and write down the strengths and weaknesses of your business. Be brutal and ditch your pride. Start to create a list of things that will boost your business and tackle each one at a time.
When looking at your strengths, consider whether you're making the most of them – for example, if you're a graphic designer and you can also provide web design but aren't shouting about it – make sure you do! And with any weaknesses you find? Stamp them out.
Consider your competition
During your business review, look at the services you provide and compare what you offer with other freelancers on your doorstep. Is there anything you could be doing that they're not offering? Are they doing anything different that seems to be working?
There's no harm in being inspired by other firms to improve your own business. Plus by considering the competition, you can discover niche services that no one else is providing. Read this helpful article on how to beat the competition.
Look at your services and target market
Go through your list of services and consider the market you're trying to reach. Are you giving the people what they want? Are you selling them to the right demographic? Or are your services nothing special and something that dozens of other local freelancers are already providing?
In business, it's always wise to provide a solution to people's problems – you've got to find out what demand is there and target it accordingly.
Improve your website
A website is a shop window to your business. If your website isn't up to scratch – create a new one. There are plenty of website solutions out there, so it doesn't have to be expensive to get a better online presence. Try Behance or Carbonmade for an online portfolio, or Squarespace – which is a superb website building tool.
Read these tips on how to create a successful online portfolio and also this article on 60 ways to create a successful website.
Focus on Local SEO
SEO doesn't have to be complicated, especially if you're hoping to appear higher in the search engine results for 'local' terms, e.g. 'Graphic Designer Cardiff'. Read this beneficial Local SEO Guide for some tips and tricks. Or consider watching some video tutorials via Lynda.com.
Remember, the success of your business is down to you, and you alone. There are hundreds of thousands of SEO articles freely available on the web, so there's no excuse! Start learning about how to optimise your website today.
Twitter is still useful for building new contacts and getting noticed. It's how I created Creative Boom and secured over tens of thousands of followers. Get yourself micro-blogging and engage with other people.
If you're still struggling with Twitter, I love this article by Chris Brogan on 50 Ideas on Using Twitter for Business. Remember, in the first two years of Creative Boom – I used Twitter alone to build my profile. It's pretty powerful stuff, and you can benefit from it too.
Show off your expertise
When I faced tough times during the recession of 2008, I decided to start my blog, writing helpful content and tips for other businesses. I'd share my trade secrets and help others to resolve problems, all through articles on my website. It meant that people saw my skills and expertise. They could see that I was able to provide the services I said I could. Do the same for your own business. Start putting content out there that will impress, educate and attract potential clients. It builds trust and credibility – something that is essential for any freelancer.
Pull together a database
Collect the names and contact details of all the clients you've ever worked with, including any prospects, and develop your customer database. Create an excel spreadsheet and keep it updated. Using this database, you can now do several things – you can see the type of customers you could be targeting, and you can find ways to target them.
Marketing is about raising the profile of your business. It's about presenting yourself to the world and attracting clients that want to work with you. Get your profile right and start to get out there. Use your new 'database' to target businesses. Go to networking events, get listed on directories. Do everything you can to get noticed. Read 100 inspiring ideas to market your business, and you'll be on the right track.
Yes, we all want direct clients, but agencies can be a great way to secure regular work. Find your local agencies via the search engines and call them up, asking if you can pop in for a chat when convenient. Better still – do something that makes you stand out to get that initial foot in the door. There's no point in emailing a generic message in the hope that someone will want to hire you.
It's pretty darn likely that most agencies will already have several freelancers on their books, so you have to get them to notice you. Offer a discount for the first project – as a 'welcome package'. Do anything that gets your foot in the door. And once you're in, don't screw it up! Read this article on how to successfully freelance for agencies and you should have a long and prosperous relationship.
Look after your clients
Finally, once you've won some new clients, look after them! Gaining clients is the biggest challenge, but once you've got them, you have to keep them happy. Make sure you exceed their expectations, meet their deadlines and go above and beyond to impress them.
Find ways to organically grow them, i.e. extend the work you do for them. Above all, become such a massive part of their company that they can't live without you. Read this article on how to keep clients happy.