Working in the creative fields, on a range of projects, can be a truly exciting way to earn a living. Freelances by nature are go-getters, risk-takers, flexible and adaptable. Otherwise we would all have settled for a steady office job. But freelance success means being able to work the ‘cycle of freelancing’, that is, that continuous process of:
- looking for work
- getting new work
- keeping an eye on future work possibilities.
This can seem like a massive task - completing a variety of different work assignments as well as looking for new work certainly takes some organisation and juggling. However, if you get to grips with how best to work that cycle, your chances of work continuity in the short- and long-term will be much improved.
Freelance careers are organic
One way of looking at this cycle is to think about how our freelance careers have developed and will do so in the future. It might be helpful to think of our freelance lives as constantly in movement; dynamic, evolving, living and (hopefully) growing.
In essence, this means we never stand still too long because we need to think how to move forward. This means building on current markets and clients as well as thinking beyond that. In the current and foreseeable economic climate, we may need to think about diversifying and trying out new, albeit related work, in addition to our core ‘offering’.
To improve our chances of success, it is important that we have knowledge of both existing markets/clients as well as look into new potential areas of work.
Past and current clients/markets
If you have been freelancing for a while, you will already have your own known markets and clients. It is very important to keep these ‘warm’ at all times, e.g., even if you’re not working for a particular client currently but you’ve had a successful relationship in the past, you need to ensure that you keep in contact so that they think of you when new work comes up.
This seems like common sense and good freelance business practice. But so many freelances I have worked with fail to do this. Many say that they have let old contacts/clients slip and then, after a length of time, feel uncomfortable or embarrassed to get back in touch. This is understandable in one way but, in another, it just doesn’t make sense. If you have worked with someone and you know that you did a good job, there is no reason to let discomfort or embarrassment get in the way of potential future work.
Your previous clients, assuming that are still in the same business, will always require reliable, talented freelances so do keep in touch. You have nothing to lose and to ignore them is to potentially lessen your chances of staying in work.
To ensure work doesn’t dry up, it’s also important to continuously look for new clients to pitch to. This might be in the same field as you currently work in or, with some lateral thinking, other fields that might require your skills.
You will need to research potential new markets and clients and how best to sell your skills and experience to develop new lines of work.
Opening up new markets and opportunities should be just as much of your the cycle as staying with the tried and tested. Going back to the notion of our freelance careers as organic, this means always seeking out new opportunities and keeping the cycle of freelancing moving forward.
Want to learn more?
FEU Training is running a number of workshops (free to members) around the country this autumn. If you would like to attend, look out for updates for workshops coming to your region or register your interest at firstname.lastname@example.org (if we have sufficient demand, we’ll come to you).