One of my dear friends, a freelancer, called me one day stressing about getting work. I don’t know that she quite got the response from me she was expecting, but most of my friends know that I tell it like it is. I’m going to give you the harsh truth with actionable ideas and a lot of motivation. No time for sugar coating over here.
Anyone who is a full-time freelancer of any sort, or even part-time, has probably been through rough times and similar feelings — I definitely have. But luckily, there are a ton of fairly easy ways to pull yourself out of a rut. These ruts usually happen when things fall through, you can’t get any work, someone doesn’t pay you and you have to bug them for months, or things just aren’t quite falling into place. Well welcome to freelancing and/or owning your own business because you’ll always have some of that, but there is a lot you can do to help yourself.
From my own experience, when I left my job, moved to DC, and was starting to “do my own thing” (as I called it) I thought the jobs and opportunities would just start rolling in. After all, I finally had time for it. Um, no. It doesn’t happen like that. Learn from me.
So when/if you find yourself in one of these rut situations here are some things you can do. Because you have to get yourself out of this rut. You have to create your own opportunities, create your own luck, create your own jobs. So here are 10 Ways To Get Out of a Freelance Rut! Let’s get to work and GSD (get shit done) shall we.
YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE
1. Update all of your online profiles. Make sure all of the information is correct. Make sure your email address and any social media links are correct. Most importantly, make sure your profession says freelance ___ (writer, design, etc.).
2. If you have a blog or website, (at the least, it’s never a bad idea to have an about.me site), make sure it is updated as well. Make sure all the links to your social media are current, your email address is correct, and freshen it up with a new photo, design, or make sure you have a fresh post — one you are proud of — up on your blog. On your site or blog, create a button that says something like “hire me” or “services” that directs to a page where you can list all of your services, experience, and even links to previous work or clients.
3. Don’t have an online presence? Create one! If you don’t have an about.me website or a free blog acting as a website for what you do — you really need to get one. There are tons of free profile websites that you can easily set up (like my freelance writer/photographer friend Heidi did). This is where you can say a little bit about yourself, show some of your work, and provide contact information. Also make sure to have links to all of your social media, etc. If you are lost on how to start this — start googling, or ask a friend who can help you. Ignorance is not an excuse, it’s too easy to figure things out nowadays.
4. On your social media profiles, make sure you state “freelance ____” in all of your profiles.
START WITH YOUR CURRENT NETWORK
5. Email your friends and family. No one will know to recommend you if they don’t know what you’re looking and/or available for. (You know how your mom just assumes you know exactly what she wants all the time, but she gives you no verbal indication? Ya, you are doing the exact same thing if you don’t TELL PEOPLE what you do and what you are looking for.) Email your family and friends simply letting them know the services you offer and what type of clients they can recommend to you. Also, provide them a link to your website. They love you, they want to help you.
6. Update your social media statuses. A little update here and there about what you are working on is always a good reminder to those who are friends with you or follow your social media. It can be something simple like a statement about how much enjoyed working with a new client, or a link to a finished project you are proud of. Social media exists because people care about what other people are doing, thinking, saying. So let them know sometimes.
CONNECT & REACH OUT
7. Get on your LinkedIn profile and start connecting with people that you actually know. (It drives me nuts when people ask me to connect when I don’t know them!). If you met someone once, maybe at a conference or something, or someone you want to connect with is just an acquaintance and may not remember you right of the bat, send them an email to connect before you ask them on LinkedIn. Or if you ask to connect with them on LinkedIn instead of emailing, make sure to utilize the box where you can send a personal note in your invitation to connect to remind them where you met. (And if you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, create one!)
8. Meet with people. Anyone you know that is in a similar industry as you, someone that is well-connected, someone you think might know people who could end up being your clients — connect with them. Email them and see if they have time to grab coffee or lunch in the next month or so. Be super flexible with the timing of their schedule. Don’t start off the conversation talking all about you, your problems, and what they can do for you — start off asking about them. Form a good relationship, and the conversation will naturally drift into why you asked them to coffee, or after fifteen minutes you can take it there. Then tell them what you are doing (freelance of what sort) and tell them the type of clients you are looking for if they ever run across someone who needs that type of work. Also make sure to ask what you can do for them!
9. Strengthen weak ties. “Weak ties” means the people you don’t know that well, or they are a friend-of-a-friend type of thing. Strengthening these relationships is MUCHO IMPORTANTE. This opens up entirely new networks of people that you don’t know. Email them, ask them to coffee, get to know them, nurture those relationships.
GET TO WORK
10. Don’t have any work right now? Create your own projects. I know this can feel a little like college, but this is how things get started. What are you passionate about? What do you love, what do all the time, what are you obsessed with? Write about it! Photograph it! Create a project around it! Create something!
Here’s an example — My friend Jamie is a blogger, writer, and wine enthusiast. She had an overwhelming desire to start a magazine. A tactile, not-online magazine. She had no idea where to start besides with a concept and to start writing. She reached out to a few friends for some guidance, and a few months later, she had contributors, a launch party and an actual magazine. And guess what — her first issue is sold out. She took a risk, reached out to her network, and it was a fabulous success. She’s working on issue two right now. You never know where these types of things will take you. Other tactile magazines like Anthology and Kinfolk have ended up on the shelves of Anthropologie. But you have to have one before they’ll consider putting it on their shelves — so get to work!
Another example — My line of tees, MANIFESTO. That was a huge financial investment for me. I had an idea I thought was good, I took a risk, and went with it. I designed and bought a ton of t-shirts, worked hard to get the word out, and hoped I wasn’t going to end up with a stack of 200 evolve tees to wear for the rest of my life. I didn’t know if they would sell or not! I believed they would, I believed in myself, in the idea, and I went for it. Each month’s tee has sold out or is close to selling out, and six months later, I partnered with bareMinerals on a shirt. I would have never been able to partner with such an amazing company if I hadn’t started up my own project, took the risk, and went for it six months ago.
THINGS TO NOTE
Be genuine. All of these relationships need to be genuine or it won’t help.
Make sure the relationship is mutually beneficial. Always ask what you can do for them as well. Maybe you meet with someone who is pregnant and you just happen to be a breastfeeding expert — offer up a meeting (only if they want to) where the focus is about them, not you. I promise if you give, you will receive at some point.
Self-promotion isn’t bad. (To an extent.) I know some people feel really awful doing any self-promotion, but it’s a hard economy out there, and you have to tell people what you do if you want any work to come your way. You have to be your biggest advocate. An update about yourself and what you are working on or that you are available to take clients is fine every once in a while! Trust me, there are enough people over promoting themselves that if you do it moderately it will not seem like too much.
Here’s a personal example of how I do self-promotion — I have a business Facebook page, and a personal Facebook page. I update my business page all the time. If you don’t care to know about what’s going on in my business/blog, simply don’t like my page! On my personal page I only update it with business-related things if they are really important or exciting to me. Things that I know my closer network would care about. This way, old guy friends who could careless about my favorite shoes for fall, but would be happy for me if had a huge feature in a magazine, can just be my personal friend without liking my business page.
I hope this helped anyone who is in a bit of a rut. Know a friend in a rut? Send them a link to this post — maybe it will help.
I’d love to hear if you’ve been in a rut and how you got out of it. Please share!
GSD (get shit done): A weekly column featuring busy business owners, entrepreneurs, bloggers, and CEOs and how they get shit done. Also, articles with helpful ways to get shit done. Tell us how you GSD on twitter by tagging #GSD and @megbiram.