A Tale of Two Freelancers, Which One Are You?

It’s no secret that different freelancers favor different approaches to running their freelance businesses.

Each approach has its own unique challenges, drawbacks, and benefits.

In this post, I’ll be profiling two different approaches to freelancing and discussing the challenges, drawbacks, and benefits of each approach.

Are You a Passive or a Proactive Freelancer?

Two basic approaches to freelancing include:

  • Passive freelancing
  • Proactive freelancing

(Of course, there are other approaches–but those are the approaches we’ll focus on in this post.)

A passive freelancer is one who basically lets the clients direct his or her freelancing activities. This freelancer’s approach to marketing is to simply get his or her name out there and wait for clients to call. When the client does call, the passive freelancer usually lets the client dictate the terms of the freelance agreement. The client sets the price and determines the deadline.

In contrast, a proactive freelancer actively recruits clients. Their approach to marketing includes targeting clients who fit the profile of their ideal client and making cold calls. When the proactive client enters into a freelancing agreement, he or she actively negotiates the terms. The proactive client is also more likely to have a product.

Challenges and Benefits of Passive Freelancing

Passive freelancing comes with several challenges and drawbacks, including:

  • Famine periods–Since the passive freelancer relies on clients to come to him or her, they are more likely to experience extended periods without work (the so-called “famine” of the feast or famine cycle).
  • Loss of control–A passive freelancer has less control over his or her income and schedule since he or she lets the client determine the terms of his or her freelancing agreements.
  • Lower income–Along with increased famine periods and loss of control comes a lower income. The passive freelancer is likely to earn less money.

Surprisingly, there may also be a few benefits to passive freelancing:

  • Requires less marketing effort–The passive freelancer spends less time on marketing his or her freelancing business. He or she may have a website and a social media presence, but that is probably all.
  • More spent on core skill–Since a passive freelancer spends less time on marketing, they may have more time to spend on their core skill (writing, designing, translating, programming, and so on).
  • May be better suited to part-time freelancers–Because of the reduced marketing effort, passive freelancing may be all that a part-time freelancer (who likely has another income source) needs.

Challenges and Benefits of Proactive Freelancing

Just like passive freelancing, proactive freelancing also has its challenges, drawbacks, and benefits. Here are some of them:

  • Difficult for shy freelancers–Shy freelancers, in particular, have a hard time making cold calls. In addition, many freelancers don’t really know how to sell.
  • More rejection–A proactive freelancer generally faces more rejection, at least initially. After all, they are contacting companies that may not have even thought about hiring a freelancer.
  • More effort required–Proactive freelancing takes more effort. In fact, a proactive freelancer may spend up to half of his or her time on marketing activities.

Naturally, proactive freelancing has some benefits:

  • Less famine–Since a proactive freelancer is actively recruiting clients, they are less likely to experience the “famine” of the feast or famine cycle.
  • More control–A proactive freelancer determines who his or her client will be. They also are actively engaged in determining rate and schedule.
  • Greater income–Because proactive freelancers are more likely to work at a higher rate and because they seek out clients, they typically earn more than their more passive counterparts.

Moving from a Passive to a Proactive Approach

Most freelancers start with a fairly passive approach to freelancing. However, after a time, many start to feel trapped in low paying gigs and/or waiting for work to come to you.

There’s good news! Even if you’ve been a passive freelancer so far, you can transition to proactive freelancing. Here are five steps to help:

  1. Set aside a specified amount of time each day for marketing activities. You will probably need to spend at least double the marketing time that you have been spending.
  2. Discover and contact companies that meet your ideal client profile. If you are not used to cold calling at first, you may want to practice your approach with a friend.
  3. When a prospect does contact you, don’t automatically accept the terms that they give you. Often freelancing agreements can be negotiated.
  4. Start replacing low paying clients with higher quality clients. If you’re a typical passive freelancer, you probably have a number of current clients that pay you less than your rate.
  5. Don’t forget to keep up with your marketing. A typical freelancer mistake is to stop marketing while you are working. If you want a steady stream of high quality clients, you can’t do this.

Your Turn

Are you a passive or proactive freelancer? Which approach do you prefer?

Share your thoughts in the comments.

Image by trazomfreak