One of the biggest challenges facing a startup freelancer is the FEAST or FAMINE cycle.
Whether you are a freelance writer, web developer, photographer or designer one of the biggest challenges you will have when starting your business is the cycle of feast or famine.
Most freelancers start their business with BIG dreams and maybe already have a job or two in the hopper.
They rush to complete their project, deliver it to their client and then …
A BIG black hole of nothingness.
And not only nothing … but no prospects. No leads.
So they scurry to get their next client … it could take days, weeks or months depending on what they are selling and how big their network is.
When they land a new contract … they focus exclusively on getting the work done … deliver it and again …
For some freelancers the cycle of feast and famine will continue indefinitely. Eventually they will throw in the towel because they can’t deal with feast or famine … psychologically or financially. Others will just live with the cycle, making enough during the feast to get them through the famine.
What Can You Do To PREVENT Feast Or Famine
The time to start is BEFORE you take the big step of going full-time.
While you are still working:
1. Start building your business with a side hustle. Decide on what your main freelance service will be and focus on it. Pick ONE thing, not many things. For example if you plan on full-time freelance writing, choose one type of writing whether it is website content writing or newsletter writing or resume writing or proofreading. Choose one. Yes you may be capable of more then one, but to chase after everything is a BIG mistake.
Why? Because you need to develop a portfolio. You need experience so that you know how long projects take and so that you can price accordingly. You need some testimonials and you need to build a client base.
2. Open up a savings account. Put all or most of the money you make from your side hustle into the account. Ideally you should save enough to sustain you for a year. Yes a year!
3. Grow your side hustle so that you are making at least half of your current income.
4. Set up a marketing plan. Your marketing plan should include a website, a newsletter and two social media accounts … I’m going to suggest Facebook and LinkedIn.
5. At the point where you have money in your savings account and a list of clients some of whom have already come back to you two or three times … then and only then set up your goodbye plan.
What Is Your Goodbye Plan?
First you will hand in your resignation.
Then you will sit down with your boss and your bosses boss to let them know you are quitting to start your own freelance business. Tell them what you are planning.
Ask them if they can support you … YES ask if they will hire your freelance services!
You may be surprised. They already know the quality of your work (hopefully fabulous) and they know you. They may need work done while they train your replacement!
If they don’t have work for you, ask for referrals. Ask for a reference letter.
And then, if appropriate, visit your company’s Public Relations Department. Ask for freelance work.
And finally — eat cake and say goodbye to all your fellow workers. Make sure you have everyone’s phone number because you will be phoning them and taking them for lunch during the next month. Step ONE in your marketing plan!
By taking all five steps you will ensure success as a freelancer.
You will have money in the bank just in case. You will have a solid portfolio of work. You will have your marketing plan set up including a website, an email list and social media you can immediately tap into.
Since you already have a side hustle, all you need to do is expand. Now that you no longer have a day job, you can devote 100% of your time to expanding. If you take all five steps and set your business up so that is has a solid foundation, you may never ever have to experience feast or famine!
At this point, yes feel free to add on one or more services. Choose something that is close to and compatible with your first service. For example, the side hustle of proof reading could be expanded into one or more editing services.
What If You Are Already Freelancing And IN the Feast or Famine Cycle?
IF you are in the Feast phase … do NOT under any circumstances devote all your time to the project at hand. At most spend 50% of your day “working the job.” You must spend another 75% – 100% on marketing (yes that means LONG days).
IF you are in the Famine phase … you need to spend 100% of your available time on marketing.
A quick start marketing plan:
1. Phone (preferable) or contact ALL your former clients. Do a follow-up on the last job you did for them. This one step MIGHT get you out of famine depending on how many clients you have and your approach.
Here’s how to follow up the right way! (opens new tab)
2. Set up or grow your marketing basics. Set up a website with your portfolio samples. Start an email list. Set up on Facebook and LinkedIn. Work on these daily.
3. Find a freelance job site that is appropriate to the services you are offering. Register. The reality on most freelance job sites is that you may have to take lower paying jobs until you build your “reputation” and “experience level.”
4. Make a list of all your friends, former working colleagues, former boss. If they are local, phone them and take them for coffee or lunch. Let them know what you are doing and ask for references.
5. To do all this you should create a marketing plan with day by day tasks and actions.
6. IF NECESSARY. If you find yourself in a state of panic, you will be very ineffective, you will act and sound “needy,” maybe even desperate. This will NOT work in your favor. Get yourself out of panic mode by … yes, getting a part-time job. That will take the financial and psychological pressure off and get you going in the right direction
Marketing is ALWAYS
your most important focus.
This is important for all Freelance Startups. Spend at least 50% of your time on marketing, even if you have a full schedule of work to do. Make sure you schedule your work (deadlines) so that you have time for marketing.
YES, sending out your newsletter is as important, if not more important than working on your clients webpage!
The good news is that once your freelance business is up and going, the time you spend on marketing can be steadily reduced with much of it put on AUTO.
Four years into my freelance career … I spent less than 10% of my time on marketing. Many of my marketing tasks were on auto and I had a huge client base of really loyal clients as well as non-stop referrals.