Having worked with creative business owners and freelancers for more than 15 years, I’ve learned that the path to entrepreneurship is rarely straight. Many of us (myself included) fell into entrepreneurship and never went back; some were pushed via a layoff, and a scant few knew entrepreneurship was for them and had a plan.
Is it any wonder the holy grail of entrepreneurship, the freedom to choose whom you work for, when, and for how much, feels like a pipe dream?
If you’re caught in a cycle of selling hours for dollars, taking whatever project comes your way (because you’re not in the position to turn anything down), and doing everything yourself, there’s good news! In a few easy steps, you can start the process of intentionally creating MORE income in LESS time.
Here are 3 ways you can positively shift your mindset, actions and income.
1) Audit your clients and projects
Many creative professionals feel they have to take whatever project comes their way just to pay the bills. As a result, they don’t feel in control of their career or earning potential. The good news is there’s a simple exercise that will put you back in the driver’s seat of choosing what projects to go after, and take.
List the traits that would make someone an ideal client for you. Never thought about it? Here are some suggestions for ideal client traits:
- They know they need your help
- They recognize that working with you is essential
- They are easily contactable
- They will pay your fees without negotiating
- They will get results from working with you
- They will refer others
- They are people you will enjoy working with
Using your list of ideal client traits, you’re going to grade your past clients. Review every project you’ve taken on in the last 3 years and put them in piles labeled A (being the best), B, C, and F (the worst clients). Looking at the A, B and C piles only, ask yourself the following:
- What type of clients do you most enjoy working with? Factors should include communication, respect, timeliness, and paying well and on time?
- What projects are most enjoyable and easy for you to deliver great results on?
- What projects would you take on, only if they were very well paid?
I’m willing to bet there are some projects that you love to do because you’re so good at them, can be done relatively quickly, and are better-paying than other projects you take on. Right?
Take it one step further
Review your services or work with me page and consider creating services or packages around the A and B projects. As a result, you’ll start getting more of the projects you DO want and less of the lower paying, more time-consuming, and potentially aggravating projects you don’t.
2) Create a plan for the upcoming quarter
When you leave client acquisition to chance, it’s impossible to create the space and means needed to make your dream business and lifestyle a reality. Here’s how you can create a plan that will move you closer to your goals:
Using the ideal client and project list you just created, mine your network (your client list, LinkedIn and Facebook connections, and so on), and list the following in a simple word, google or excel doc:
- Clients you worked with in the past, had a great experience with, but haven’t worked with for a while
- People you worked with who have moved to another agency or brand
- People you met who expressed an interest in learning more, but haven’t followed up with
- Your “centers of influence” i.e. people who can boost your access and credibility through referrals, testimonials, and simple word-of-mouth
These are ALL warm leads you can reach out to. Do it!
Take it one step further
Could you pitch a specific idea to one of your A+ clients? When I was a rep and managing the illustrator, Megan Hess, we put together a whole pitch for how they could use her illustrations – from advertising, to instore and on products. We had it inexpensively printed and bound and I pitched it, in-person to the Creative Director. It paid off and Megan was hired to countless illustrations that appeared on everything from advertising and promotions to instore signage and products for the brand. It was an amazing client relationship and game-changer in her illustration career.
3) Outsource time and energy-sucking tasks
This is a step most of us push off for way too long, but one that will change your life and business. One year ago, I retained a virtual assistant to help me distribute my content, manage my business, and help me launch various programs and services. Not only is she an amazing sounding board for new ideas, she saves me hours on tasks that aren’t my specialty and I don’t enjoy doing. I’m now able to devote those hours to developing new programs and services, or spending time with my family. When you’re not making much money, I realize that hiring things out can feel like a stretch, but this exercise will help you figure out what you can swing (it’s more than you think, I promise).
List all the things you do in your business that someone else could do faster, better and cheaper. They might include:
- Invoicing and Expenses
- Managing and ordering supplies
- Creating mechanicals, re-sizing images, organizing final files
- Re-touching/Post production
- Managing your content and social media distribution (though I recommend you create the content to ensure its on-brand)
- A cleaner for your home or office, even if it’s just once a month.
Now, start researching options (task rabbit, a virtual assistant, college interns, etc.) ask friends and colleagues what and who they use. Once you’ve found something you’re comfortable with, start small and have them help you on a project. It takes time to find the right person and find your groove with them, but once you do, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them.
Growing a business that affords you the fulfillment, freedom, and income you wish for isn’t always the easiest path but there is a lot of support and resources out there dedicated to helping you find your way.
If I can support you or point you in the direction of someone else who can, I’m here to help. Click here for a free 30-minute introductory call where we can talk about the best path to fulfilling your dream. I can’t wait to hear from you!