Everyone will be writing posts about New Year’s resolutions, so how about one with un-resolutions? That is, instead of talking about what you should be doing, how about we talk about what you ought to stop doing instead?
As we ring out the old year, let’s sweep out some bad freelancing practices along with it, shall we? These practices and habits are things that undo freelancers, keeping them small and stopping them from succeeding. I sat down and thought of….
10 Things Freelancers Must Stop Doing In 2012
1. Stop being a generalist
Even if you’re desperate enough to work with any client, that doesn’t mean you should try to appeal to everybody in your marketing efforts. If you do, you’ll only end up pleasing nobody. Your marketing messages will not resonate with anybody particularly well. You won’t get prospects eager to work with you. And before you know it, you’re in a vicious cycle of chasing after prospective clients – starving – chasing – starving….
So stop that cycle right now. Identify a specific Ideal Client and speak to them in your promotional materials. You’ll be surprised how trying to appeal to a narrower audience makes you so much more attractive. Read this post to learn more about coming up with your Ideal Client and using it to market your services more effectively.
2. Stop competing on price
You may think prospects choose freelancers based on price alone, but you’ll be surprised. Clients who value quality are willing to pay for outstanding work. Lift yourself above the competition by charging what you think you’re worth. Believe me, you can be too cheap. So if you’re keeping your rates low, stop that right now.
Take a good, hard look at the value you bring to clients and charge accordingly. This post may help you determine a more fair rate for your fees.
3. Stop going solo
Sure, freelancers are often one-person businesses. This doesn’t mean you should shun others. In fact, your network is one of your most valuable business assets. Therefore, make an extra effort to widen your network. Attend business events, volunteer, take classes — do whatever it takes to meet more people.
I’m not saying to turn every social activity into a marketing event. Just get out there! People are bound to ask, “What do you do?” Most people you meet probably will not be prospects for you, but they likely know someone who is.
In 2011, I shifted niches, and 2 of my first 3 clients in this new niche were referred by people in my network. Remember, it does matter whom you know!
4. Stop shutting family and friends out
Maybe your closest family and friends aren’t exactly supportive of you freelancing. Maybe you’re sick of them asking, “When are you getting a real job?” Even if that’s the case, they are still part of your network. As such, they need to understand what you do and for whom, so they can talk you up to their network.
5. Stop stuttering over what you do
Do you find yourself stuttering or mumbling when trying to explain what it is you do? If so, I know exactly how you feel. For months, I struggled to come up with the right words to say, especially to people who don’t know what “copywriter” means. A few times, I was even mistaken for a web designer.
If you struggle, too, you may find this post on creating an elevator speech helpful. After you’ve crafted an elevator speech, practice saying it out loud until you’re comfortable. Anticipate follow-up questions and formulate answers for those as well. And feel free to improve and tweak your elevator speech as you go along, or as you meet different types of people.
6. Stop forgetting to follow up
I sound like a broken record when I say, “Follow up!” But following up is so important, that you really must stop forgetting or knowingly not doing it. I know, I know, it’s kinda embarrassing and you’re afraid your prospect might think you’re a pest.
I’m not talking about calling every day, or emailing every 2 hours. At the very least follow up each inquiry, quotation, or proposal two times before giving up.
7. Stop being nonchalant about your finances
Unless you’re a bookkeeper or accountant, going over your finances is probably worse than getting a root canal. Even if that’s so, it’s time to take your finances seriously. If you haven’t done so yet, keep your books updated, using a software like Quickbooks. Or, better yet, hire a bookkeeper and accountant.
Look over your financial reports to see which costs you can cut back on, which services are bringing you the most income, and how you can save more.
8. Stop wasting time
Unless you’re disciplined, it’s hard to keep distractions at bay. Don’t even think about peeking into Facebook; before you know it, 30 minutes have gone by and you haven’t gotten any work done!
Your time is precious. You can either use it to make money, or you can use it to waste money. Of course I’m not telling you to do nothing but work. What I am saying is to know your priorities and to use your time accordingly. For example, exercising is not a waste of time. It keeps your body healthy and your mind sharp — both essential for freelancing success (among other things). However, watching TV for 2 hours straight is a waste of time.
9. Stop being a slave to your business
Some freelancers are so driven to make money that they become slaves to their business: working all hours, eschewing personal relationships and interests, and accepting any client that comes along. Remember, your most precious business asset is YOU. So, take care of you. Set reasonable hours. Make time to exercise. Eat right. Spend time with loved ones. Do the things you love.
And, please, if certain clients are mistreating you, drop them. You deserve better than that! Better clients will come along.
10. Stop being a best-kept secret
Marketing and promotions do not come naturally to most people. Especially if it’s “self” promotion. If you’re one of those people who believe all you have to do is do an outstanding job and the clients will automatically come, stop that right now.
As a freelancer, you’re also your own marketing and sales department. Might as well get comfortable with selling yourself.
You don’t have to get all obnoxious about it. Just get comfortable with talking about the results you get for clients. Educate others about what you do. Offer to help whenever you can — without expectation of getting anything in return. And always ask happy clients to recommend you to others.
What’s Your Un-resolution?
Which of these un-resolutions do you need to embrace to make 2012 your best freelancing year yet? What might keep you from adopting better practices?
Talk about them in the comments below.