Top Freelancers Know How to Smooth Over Income Bumps
Freelancing might be called a hit-or-miss proposition, which challenges newcomers anxious to generate consistent income. They need long-term strategies.
James L Katzaman
Staying positive and being persistent are the keys to success
Freelancing might be called a hit-or-miss proposition, which challenges newcomers anxious to generate consistent income.
Having a strategy not only gives writers vision but also helps smooth out the financial bumps along the road. Few know that better than Jasmine Williams, a copywriter, content marketing consultant and freelance mentor.
“I’m a freelance writer turned multi-hyphenate chief executive officer,” she said. “I love showing purpose-driven entrepreneurs how to harness the power of content marketing.”
Williams created her signature “strategic storytelling” approach to copywriting and content creation.
“I help creatives, coaches and founders launch impactful offerings that grow their audiences and attract the right people,” she said. “Then they can become go-to experts in their industry.”
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Along with freelance writer and public relations consultant Michelle Garrett, Williams talked about ways to keep freelance income flowing in a fairly steady stream.
Venturing into freelancing is a bold step, giving up the consistency of a regular paycheck. Focusing on the immediate future makes it hard to envision long-term rewards.
“Moving away from shorter-term projects — such as one to two months — to longer-term engagements of three months or more has helped me generate more consistent income,” Williams said. “I also pay myself a salary through an automatic transfer from my business to my personal account.”
Small Projects, Big Efforts
Besides thinking in terms of better value packages and new offers, freelancers should keep in mind that a small gig takes about as much effort to land as a large one.
“I say that all the time,” Williams said. “I used to be more commitment-phobic, but now I’m all about the longer projects.”
She has also learned to be disciplined about money to the point of ignoring her emergency funds.
“I don’t really have an exact number of dollars in my business account,” Williams said. “I just try not to touch that extra money. I pretend it doesn’t exist until I need it.”
Feel free to enjoy every minute of your day
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Although marketing — including networking — can take months or years to pay off, successful freelancers dare not give up.
“I’ve had leads convert months — even years — after I first reached out,” Williams said. “It can be a long game to build that relationship. Persistence and consistency is key.”
Although it sounds daunting, freelancers have it within their power to get out of the feast-and-famine cycle.
“Consistently market your business,” Williams said. “Freelancers tend to ease up on their marketing when they’re booked up. Then their pipeline dries up. They have no leads when they have more capacity. Always make time for marketing.”
“Retainer” is a loaded word, maybe leading clients to think of freelance work as an hourly commodity.
“Not if you structure it around deliverables versus your time,” Williams said. “For example, every month, I will write two blog posts, five emails and so on.”
Ease Into Relationships
Much like personal acquaintances, freelancers and clients should get to know each other gradually.
“I start out with a shorter project first to test out the relationship,” Williams said. “You don’t want to lock into a long-term agreement if the vibe is off. If the project goes well, we turn that one-off into a recurring retainer, like a subscription.
“For example, if I did two blog posts for clients to start,” she said. “We set up an agreement to do two blog posts a month or more if they want. I also add monthly touch-base calls for most of my retainer clients.”
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There can still be an “always-on” expectation with retainers that is hard to control.
“It depends on the client and what you do,” Williams said. “My retainers are deliverable-based. I set clear expectations from the get-go around my availability. That’s helped me manage scope creep.”
Freelancers might want to follow these guidelines for retainers:
- Know your offer.
- Lay out the scope of work and investment terms.
- Set a deadline for the current retainer.
- Revisit terms often.
- Make sure it’s still working on both sides.
“Yes to all of this and especially the deadline,” Williams said. “I structure my retainers in three- and six-month intervals. I learned that after getting burned by a client who wanted me indefinitely. Then the project ended after a couple months.”
Not Costly On Top
Freelancing might seem like a great undertaking. Yet, solopreneurs can boost their income without increasing overhead, such as hiring a team.
“Raising your rates helps,” Williams said. “Streamline and automate your processes wherever you can. Increased efficiency equals increased capacity equals increased revenue.
“I’ve boosted efficiency in my business by hiring a virtual assistant, investing in customer relationship management software and creating templates and scripts,” she said.
How to know your price is right
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Finding her assistant was sort of a reverse search.
“She found me,” Williams said. “She asked me to be in an Instagram Live with her. After I checked out her website, I booked a discovery call. What really sold me — beyond her ability — is that she told me that she’s been working with most of her clients for more than two years.
“She supports me with client onboarding — setting up contracts, invoices and client folders,” Williams said. “She’s also helped me set up and manage my freelance mentorship program. That includes scheduling calls, graphic design work and email sequences. She’s my secret weapon.”
Williams advises freelancers to avoid these mistakes that hold them back from earning more money:
- Not charging enough
- Taking on too many low-paying clients
- Negative mindsets such as impostor syndrome
- Not wanting to invest in their business, trying to do everything themselves
- Not marketing enough
About the Author
Jim Katzaman is a manager at Largo Financial Services and worked in public affairs for the Air Force and federal government. You can connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
This article is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be considered financial advice. You should consult a financial professional before making any major financial decisions.
James L Katzaman
Jim Katzaman is a charter member of the Tealfeed Creators' program, focusing on marketing and its benefits for companies and consumers. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as well as subscribing here on Tealfeed.