All freelancers need a business plan. But you may be wondering exactly what to put on it. What targets should a freelancer set themselves? Surely their business plan won’t be the same as one for, well, a business?
You’re right. A freelancer’s business plan needs to be a little different, although there are similarities. Here are five targets that should be on your freelance business plan:
Finding New Clients – the Who, How and the Where
How will you find new clients? Even if you’ve started your freelance career with a handy list of contacts from previous employment, you can’t relax on this issue. Unless you’re exceptionally lucky, those contacts won’t supply you with enough guaranteed work, long-term, for freelance survival.
At some stage, you’ll have to develop a strategy for attracting new clients, so consider:
- Who you want to attract: who is your ideal client? Think about the type of work and length of project they will offer. Do you want to work for a multitude of individuals or small businesses, only take on a few large projects from big companies, or share your time between both?
- How will you attract new clients? Will you advertise your services – if so, how – or will you use publications and sites that advertise projects or are related to your trade? What about sending out your CV or a leaflet detailing your services to potential clients?
- Where will you find clients? Are there industry-specific websites or publications that would be useful? What about networking events, trade shows or conferences?
Retaining Regular Clients
Long-term clients who give you regular work are freelance gold. They provide a regular source of income and you can spend less time trying to find new clients and pitch for new projects. So, if your area of expertise makes this feasible, try to get regular clients on your books and aim to retain them by being flexible, approachable and reliable. But the flip side?
Don’t rely on them. If two clients make up 90% of your work, what would happen if they both ended their contract with you within a few weeks of each other? Try to stay abreast of the market in your industry and making new contacts so that you have other avenues to pursue if you lose the bulk of your work.
Doing More of What you love and Less of What You Don’t
At the start of your freelance career, you make take on projects that bring you little job satisfaction. Your aim should be to gradually steer away from these less-than-appealing projects and zone in on the clients and projects that you enjoy being involved with.
Earning More for Doing Less
Again, when you start out, it’s often necessary to take on projects offering less money than you’d like and work long hours to pay your bills. But as your experience and portfolio grow, so should your rates. If, after a couple of years, you’re still working way into the night and barely making ends meet, you’re doing something wrong.
Work out where the higher paying opportunities are and focus your attention on them. The five hours you spend on perfecting that pitch and quote will pay for themselves many times over if the resulting 100-hour project pays twice as much as your existing work.
Also, be aware of opportunities to recycle or adapt work you’ve already done and look for ways to resell or repackage it.
Continuing Professional Development
Ah, CPD. The buzz-acronym of the millennium. But in a time when technology and the work market change constantly, updating your skills and learning new ones are essential tasks if you want to continue earning a living.
Qualifications that will raise your game, status and earning power in your current field are always worth the investment, as is training in related skills that you could offer alongside what you already do. Think about both what you’re interested in learning and what clients are interested in buying. Are you always having to subcontract someone to produce infographics to go with your copy?
Do you miss out on work because you don’t have SEO skills? Do you bake a mean cake but never produce cakes for special occasions because you’re not skilled at icing and decorating them?
Don’t miss out on the chance to gain expertise and new skills – they can be the key to higher earnings, greater job satisfaction and a shorter working week.