Business Development for Busy Freelancers
By Kristen Fischer
Sometimes as a freelancer, you may find that you get so wound up working on your trade that you forget about running your business. Hey, it happens. For example, sometimes I put off working on my accounting because I just don’t feel like looking at the numbers.
But you may be neglecting to work on another aspect of your enterprise—business development.
This is vital because it involves creating a pipeline of assignments so you don’t run dry. To me, this is the most valuable “trick” of staying well fed. This is the mark of a true business, in my opinion: not just doing what you’re good at but running it as a real business, which often involves tasks you may not like or be good at.
Below are some of the strategies I use to ensure that business keeps coming in.
- Make time to market. Often the hardest thing about generating clients is making the time to work on it. Because it offers no immediate payoff, it’s easier to put paying work ahead. But trust me; it’s worth it to take even an hour out of the week to market yourself.
- Do it even if you’re “full.” While deadlines and your trade are important, you’re going to need to build in time for lead generation and marketing. Even if you’re pretty established. It’s always better to feast than famine. When you take time to network and outreach on new opportunities, you open up doors. Doors that may lead you to better pay or a better working relationship. Or that last-minute contact you need when a work well taps dry.
- Copy and paste, baby. I secure most of my clients online. So having several form letters geared towards different industries or for different services to email out is a plus. For example, I have a degree in environmental studies that I like to “use” every now and then. So I have a letter that goes to environmental companies outlining what I can do for them. Obviously it’s a more technical field than writing for, say, a fashion magazine, so I need to be targeted in what I present. To save time, save your letters. Same goes if you use cold calling—the thing everyone hates but some people insist is the only way to find the bacon—make sure to have a script geared towards the client you are calling. Don’t’ rip your hair out creating new pitches all the time. Stick to what works and reuse it.
- Break out the collateral. Think you don’t need marketing materials to develop business? Wrong! I have a brochure that can be emailed, mailed or presented in person to clients. And because one of my specialties is writing for the Web, I’ve created a single one-page Microsoft Word document with links to websites I have written. In addition, my own website features a portfolio. I also have business cards for networking events and client meetings. You have to brand yourself and have the marketing materials behind yourself to lend credibility to your name. Remember, your image matters. So when a client receives a query (copy and pasted, of course) letter from me and asks to see some of my work, I’m ready with the click of an email to provide the back-up support that lands me the job. And bonus if the client passes a brochure or business card on to a colleague and I get more gigs from the relationship.
What? There’s more to business development? Absolutely! Next week we’ll talk about fostering client relationships once you’ve secured the deal. Stay tuned!
Kristen Fischer is a freelance writer living in New Jersey. Her first book, Creatively Self-Employed: How Writers and Artists Deal with Career Ups and Downs is available at www.creativelyselfemployed.com.