This article is reproduced with the permission of Freelancers Union.
By Mark Quadros
What can you do as a freelancer when the world gets thrown into an unexpected crisis? Do you start to fret about the possible loss of income due to the overwhelming scenario? Or do you prepare yourself for the worst by handling it the best?
With COVID-19 gripping the world, the touch of the virus is being felt by everyone and certainly by the freelance community. As a freelancer, you are no stranger to challenges and taking on risks. However, with the looming uncertainty of how the current pandemic will unfold over the next few months, you might be wondering: what now?
It’s time for you to roll up your sleeves, face these tough times head on and do your best to thrive in the current business environment.
The current coronavirus crisis is just one example of the high-risk scenarios that can hit your business. Multiple industries have fallen prey, with employment taking a massive hit in the past month.
In such times, retaining your customers (aka your clients) becomes the utmost priority. It’s important that you adapt a flexible model for your freelance business that can change with the times, if required.
However, that may not feel like enough.
“How do I go about continuing to generate leads at this time?” is a question you might be asking yourself.
It doesn’t necessarily have to translate to burning the midnight oil and working late nights to deliver! There’s a simpler way to go about with your lead gen.
Read on for five tips that can help you keep your freelance business not only afloat, but flourishing in the long run once the crisis period ends.
1. Stay calm and focus on your advantages
How long have you been freelancing? Have you already established yourself in the market and differentiated against your competitors?
With time comes experience, and you now have the opportunity to put that experience to even better use.
Take a moment to count all the strengths that you possess in your niche. They can be varied and split across several functions of the business. For example, in the lead gen stage, you may be amazing at drafting killer proposals.
Or maybe you have a visually attractive website and are talented in the space of graphic design. This can help generate and retain more prospective and actionable leads in the long run by attracting traffic to your site.
Identify these strengths and come up with smart strategies about how you can apply them in the current scenario to further boost your business. Also think about how you can build upon your skills by doing online courses.
Staying calm, maintaining a level head and remaining productive at this time is crucial to the success of your freelancing activities. Most freelancers work from home and already know how to navigate through this kind of set-up. But self-care remains crucial.
Even taking the simple measure of making sure you get enough sleep and maintaining your physical health can sharpen your mind during a crisis.
To get you started, here are a couple questions you can ask yourself as you think over your freelance model and how to evolve it for this period:
- How is the financial environment affecting my customers/clients?
- To what degree can I offer reduced rates for my business?
- What other forms of income can supplement me in this time (think: passive income sources)?
- How can I leverage my existing network and contacts to smooth operations?
- Do I have the budget to focus on marketing and lead gen opportunities in the mean time?
2. Shift to a retainer-based system where possible
The use of retainers can help transition you from project-based to a more recurring work model in this period. Landing retainers can be difficult, but if you have a good established relationship with existing clients, revising terms can be easier.
Depending on your niche, here are three retainer models you can consider to continue scaling your freelance business at this time:
- Block retainer: The client effectively puts a price on slots of time for your work right from the get-go, often at a lower price. If you’re looking to maintain stability in this time and not focus on profit margin goals, this is a good go-to.
- Availability retainer: Your client pays you to be available for a certain period of time at a fixed hourly rate — regardless of how much work is being given to you. This can be highly profitable and is a contingency plan on its own at times of crisis.
- Support retainer: The client pays you for a task that requires regular updating/maintenance. Here, the workload is more predictable and there are possibilities for overtime payment as well.
3. Get in touch with old and new clients
One of the most effective things you can do to keep the freelance wheel going is to reach out to clients, both old and new.
It’s important to stay active in this time and show the market that you are too. It’s quite possible that due to the shortage of people unable to work during the crisis, there could be a higher demand for your services.
Here’s a list of the different groups you can check in on in this time:
- Established clients: These are the clients you have delivered to multiple times and have a good relationship with. If not for the purpose of more business, a check-in to see how they are faring strengthens your bond with them.
- Clients with ongoing commitments: Do you have projects underway that were in progress when the crisis struck? These are the clients with whom you should follow up to update yourself on their changing needs/expectations.
- New and prospective clients: These are the untapped sources of opportunities for you. Continue to attract and generate leads in order to make contact with these prospects.
Pro tip: consider offering free consultations/service periods for new clients to attract them to your business.
Whether or not you’re planning on actively engaging in new projects/commitments, it’s good to keep client/customer service top of mind at all times.
Think about the aspects to your freelancing services/business that you can enhance in this time. For example, if you aren’t already, think about making your business available on its own app!
Building an app can make you more accessible to your audience. Especially at a time when technology is what is bringing us together.
Don’t let your client onboarding fall short, either! If you manage to secure more clients in this time, demonstrate your reliability and expertise from the get-go.
4. Use the power of social media
As the world goes on pause during a crisis, social media becomes that much more active.
Your prospective audience and client base may flock to social media for more information, entertainment, or even just a general sense of community.
You can use this to your benefit and produce more content on the digital platforms you are active on. For example, connecting with your audience via YouTube marketing is a visually engaging way to interact with them. They might appreciate and recognize your efforts more than usual in times of a crisis!
Hosting a podcast is also another attractive alternative. If you don’t want to commit to running your own podcast, you can also consider partnering with other influencers and doing a guest feature on their podcasts. This will give you access to another audience and can generate prospects.
How can you convert these social media efforts into freelance lead gen for your business? Think: smart lead generation tools. There are a number of social media equipped tools you can use to increase your brand awareness and attract more clients, even in this time.
5. Lean on your SEO and digital marketing strategies
Your website is a great source to continue generating leads at this time. Continuing to drive traffic to your site is all the more important during a crisis, as it helps ensure your continued visibility in the marketplace.
This thought process can be extended to cover all the lead magnets you leverage as part of your digital marketing plan. If you let your audience engagements stagnate at this time, it’ll be that much harder to continue and pick up after the peak period of the crisis fades.
Consider all your digital assets and how you can continue at full steam during this time. Depending on the type of freelance work you do, this may vary. For example, if you operate as a B2B freelancer, your content marketing strategy may vary greatly from a consumer-based freelancer.
However, one significant aspect of your digital marketing pillars to consider, no matter your niche, is how your SEO strategy can come in and play a vital role in maintaining and even possibly boosting your ROI.
Your SEO strategy can help supplement the continuous flow of organic traffic to your website. Even if these leads do not convert to revenue, your brand image continues to grow and can later transform into prospects.
Bonus: Schedule lead gen for the weekends
Lead generation is important, but it doesn’t pay the bills (not instantly, anyways).
So, to pay the bills, you’ll need to work hard for your existing clients, which can take up a majority of your workdays. The rest (aka lead gen) happens after you’re done with work.
In fact, this was exactly my jam during my “hustle” stage, and if you’re there, it’s most likely yours.
So, how do you manage lead gen without losing your head, especially during this crisis?
Well, there are many strategies, but what’s worked best for me is blocking out time and scheduling lead gen for specific periods. In my case, this was the weekend.
I tried to do lead gen after work, but ended up going to bed exhausted. I knew this wasn’t healthy, so I switched it up and decided to batch up weekly lead gen activities over just a few hours over the weekend.
My productivity was higher, and I was able to try out several lead gen activities with a fresh and rejuvenated mind.
Have a schedule, and you’ll get much better results.
Stay calm and succeed
As a freelancer, you are constantly forced to think on your feet, innovate and find creative solutions to problems you haven’t encountered before.
This is one of the strengths you can put to practice at a time of crisis.
Even before the coronavirus overtook the world, freelancers have been working in environments where risk and uncertainty go hand in hand. From dealing with matters of financial risk to handling new clients and last-minute requests, freelancers develop the skill of adaptability.
Keeping a calm resolve and applying your creativity to the current situation can not only stabilize your freelance model but drive it forward.