Ducking, diving and surviving as a freelancer can be fun, to a point. When you are younger, it can be a wild, bare knuckle ride, full of highs, lows, near misses and victories snatched from the jaws of defeat.
Survive long enough and you get accustomed to it, using your expertise to avoid those lean patches. But you still may not be thriving, and it doesn't always give you the financial stability of a regular job. Also, unless you happen to be a digital nomad - which still costs money - an unstable income doesn't give you the freedom you perhaps craved before setting out on your own.
Established freelancers have an easier time retaining clients and getting referrals, which is useful since often the older you get, the greater your financial burden. Mortgages, children, travel, cars and other costs can all build up. For a freelancer, taking your career to the next level is about transitioning from surviving to thriving.
Escape the freelancer time trap (see our first article on this). Stop working long hours for low rates, stabilize your income, ensure it’s coming from multiple sources and avoid burnout in the process. Take a closer look at your four primary revenue streams:
• Current clients: Upsell opportunities
• Channel partners
• New direct leads
In this article, we will walk you through how to increase revenue through each channel. All of which contribute to that fifth source: 'word of mouth' clients. Keep doing great work, be proactive and deliver on time. You'll find clients will come to you. Here are a few ways you can achieve the stability and prosperity you deserve.
Current Clients: Upsell Opportunities
Happy customers are the best source of referrals and increased revenue. There are two ways you can encourage them to increase spending with you: spot the opportunity or create one.
During your working relationship, clients will have other projects on the horizon. Listen, understand, then act. Make sure they know about all of your skills, so you don't miss out. Send regular emailers to pull them back to your website or portfolio. Deliver your best work and clients’ will continue to buy your services.
Alternatively, create the need. Take a little more time to ask questions, get your head around their needs and determine how your services can support their business objectives. Tailor your pitch around the value you can continue to contribute. Providing there's a budget and your previous work has impressed them, then you can take action.
A proactive approach is the only way to increase revenue from every available channel.
Wherever you are, businesses are organized into communities. Business owners usually know other business owners. Whether it's socially at the golf club or via organized business events. When decision makers are looking for service providers, their first port of call is their contacts and networks. When you get an unexpected referral, remember to ask where it's come from, it’s usually through word-of-mouth.
There’s nothing wrong with waiting for organic referrals. However, if you want revenue stability, then it’s time to be proactive. Actively ask clients’ if they can recommend you to other businesses. No need to be pushy. Once you have a healthy relationship, and you’re confident you've wowed them with awesome service; politely ask for introductions.
A channel partner network is word of mouth, with an inbuilt incentive system. Commission, or depending how it’s organized, a markup on your services.
For most freelancers, a natural partnership would be with creative agencies since services can compliment one another. Startup and business accelerators, incubators, consultants and other players in the community are also potential channel partners. Your ideal targets are people or organizations with an extensive network who are looking to earn a passive income.
Agree on a percentage, usually between 10 - 20%, and see how many clients’ they send in the first three months. If this works out, keep them on as a channel partner. Just ensure they are promoting your services to the right customers. Ones that can help your business grow understand your value and pay on time. Remember, partners are reselling your brand; you don't want it tarnished.
New Direct Leads
Everything I’ve mentioned so far can be achieved without leaving your desk via emails and online research. Networking events help since they get your name, face and business cards out in the community. Plus they're a great place to meet like-minded people and channel partners.
As a business activity, networking can quickly get pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. Current clients always take priority, and other sales channels can generate higher returns in a shorter timescale. Schedule some time for networking in the same way you do client work; making sure you do it. If nothing else it's fun to get out of the office. It's a slower burner, but you'll reap the rewards over time.
Here are the nine steps to success that you need to follow to generate revenue from new prospects:
Step #1: Define the Target Market: Pick markets where clients/leads will know one another - known as self-referencing, thereby increasing the chance prospects will work with you on the strength of your portfolio.
Step #2: Craft & Tailor Your Message: Sell the benefits of your services, what you do.
Step #3: Source Your Sales Prospects: collect sales data.
Step #4: Make Contact: Email, phone calls, and don’t forget to follow-up (at least three times).
Step #5: Pitching Time: Skilled sales professionals pitch by listening, asking questions and tailoring services and prices according to a clients’ needs and perceived value, rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach.
Step #6: Follow-up Action: Send a proposal or quote, then keep in contact until you get an answer.
Step #7: Close the Sale.
Step #8: Post Game Analysis: Take a closer look at what you could do better next time, and what you should do again.
Step #9: And Repeat (Steps 1 - 8)
Winning customers is an ongoing project, you'll get better at managing the process the more you do it. Do it long enough and there will come a time when you will have more revenue from inbound customers than outbound. Once that happens, you are thriving not surviving. Delight the customers you have and that day may come sooner than you expect.