COVID 19. Recession. Climate Change. You can certainly see that we are facing many challenges these days, for freelancers as well as anyone else. This article is about building new ways to make money with practical action points you can take. Opening a revenue line if another closes. Think about a song writer who turns to doing translation work. It’s all about language right? How about the digital marketer who turns to making flyers for local businesses. It’s all about marketing right? This leads to our first tip. Embrace your interests.
Tip 1 – Branding: think like a company
Brand recognition is worth its weight in gold. It means your target audience knows what your company does in an instant. That’s why smart companies continue to invest in branding. For freelancers, networking is all about letting people know you exist and what you do so that you come to mind when they need someone with your skills.
Freelancers are independent and self-employed people and many present themselves simply as that e.g. ‘Joe Bloggs, photographer’. Most people will pigeonhole you you with specifically those skills i.e. showing up at a venue, taking photos, and supplying them to the client thereafter. However, if you market yourself more as a brand, you increase your chances of being seen as capable of diversification. For example, Bloggs Photography Limited could legitimately offer photography services as described about but it could also offer courses on Photoshop or picture framing services.
- Ask yourself: am I marketing myself as a person or company? Make an inventory for yourself of what branding can mean for your business.
- What exactly does your company stand for? And how does that translate into products or services for your customers?
Reading list: Authenticity, What Consumers Really Want from Gilmore & Pine.
Tip 2 . Tweak your product-market fit
The product-market fit means the successful combination of a product with a particular audience. Let’s use a simple example. An off-licence in Cork sells everyday run-of-the-mill beers. The business ticks over but in increasingly threatened by the local supermarket who can undercut their prices. There is a product market fit but it’s a weakening one. The off-licence sees that people are becoming more and more interested in craft and artisan beers and are willing to pay more for such. The off-licence pivots to craft beer and becomes known for supplying the very best beers from around the world. There is a product market fit in this instance where the margin means that the business will be more successful. As a freelancer, the key is to offer services that are needed by the market and also are satisfying to work on.
To increase sales, economist Ansoff devised the following four growth strategies:
- Market penetration – Would you like something to drink with that? By simply offering your existing customers something extra on a regular basis, you already increase your turnover.
- Market development – Which geographical areas or organisations do you not yet serve? And would they benefit from your products or services? What would it take to present yourself to them?
- Product development – Stay focused on the needs of your target group. What do they need? Can you create new products or services for them?
- Diversification – Think about new products for a new market. This is the most difficult of the four strategies. As a content marketer, for example, you can think of offering a wider set of services other than SEO and PPC. Think about sponsored content and affiliate marketing.
This video elaborates on Ansoff’s growth strategies: https://youtu.be/lJ2Xn_Yb9GE
- Grab a pen and paper and create your own Ansoff matrix by mapping existing and new products and markets.
- Is it difficult to think about new products or markets? Take a look at your competition. What else do they do? Can you do that too? Who are their clients? How could you serve them?
- Google your colleagues in other markets e.g. “IT architect freelancer San Francisco” or “freelance online marketer Bristol”, and look at their portfolios or websites. What services do they provide? What experience have they already built up? Can you learn from them?
Tip 3 – Career ‘Slashes’
The slash (/) can be used to present a range of interests. You see it a lot on Twitter profiles e.g. Traveler / Photographer / Influencer / Foodie. This person does multiple things: makes photo-reviews for travel destinations and hotels, owns a food blog with sponsored content and an Instagram profile with sponsored messages. You also see the ‘slash’ in the employment market. For example, there might be a vacancy for a PHP developer with communication skills and analytical marketing skills. Synergy arises at the intersection of two specialisations.
- How do you introduce yourself? Do you also have other interests or passions that could broaden your appeal?
- What would your Twitter profile look like with these ‘slashes’?
- Suppose you could no longer practice your current profession – What would your next profession be? What would it take for you to move into that space?
Tip 4 . Be found on the relevant channels
If you not findable on Google, you do not exist. That is of course only partially true, your own network also provides work. One freelancer, learned that despite all the online marketing they did for their services, 70% of the work came through existing relationships and, in some months, that figure was 100%. Nevertheless, it is important to market yourself.
For freelancers, registering on Jellow.ie is therefore an open door. Registration is free, you have all kinds of opportunities to stand out and impress potential clients. Of course there are many more freelance platforms, job boards and international gig sites such as Upwork and Fiverr. Note: the rules will differ per platform. In addition, there are other tools from Google, such as Google My Business and Google Search Console. This will aloow you to view which keywords your website is found for.
- Look at the work you delivered in a specific period, and examine how each customer found you. Also look at your preferred assignments and where they come from.
- Examine which freelance platforms brought you which type of assignment. What is the competition on that platform. Was the work profitable?
- Create a customer journey for your target audience. This is an overview of the different phases that a customer goes through before proceeding to work with you. Look at the different marketing channels that are used and what for purpose. Doing this regularly will give you a better understanding of the ways in which you interact with customers. WhatsApp, Zoom and LinkedIn are also part of that.
Tip 5 . Keep an eye out for trends
As a freelancer, stay informed of trends and developments in your market, even if it is only through your LinkedIn feed. This keeps you aligned with developments in the market. Take this to the next level, take time to summarise the trends you see. Make it a downloadable PDF and collect emails from interested people. You never know who you might cross paths with.
- Make a SWOT analysis for your business. What opportunities and threats do you know?
- How do you stay informed of trends and developments in your market? How do you make sure you don’t miss out on opportunities?
- Find the latest trends about your market. If you extend those trends to the future, what does that mean for your company? How can you respond to that?
- Are you good at writing? Try putting together an annual trends list and publish it on LinkedIn.
- Prefer to read? Then read The Inevitable – Understanding the 12 technological forces that will shape our future by Kevin Kelly.
Tip 6 . Level Up
Do you drive a car? Is it a functional Dacia or is it a sumptuously appointed Lexus? Do you drink beer? Is it a run-of-the-mill European lager or is it a hand crafted Irish red ale with that tastes of smooth toffee and caramel with a hint of coffee? We live in an ‘experience’ economy, even if it does not seem that way due to COVID at present. But we like to spend money on experiences and moments, such as travel, restaurants and shops. In another Pine and Gilmore bestseller, The Experience Economy, the authors forensically explain why we like to pay more for a cup of coffee in St. Mark’s Square in Venice rather than one from a vending machine at Lidl. It’s all about the different product levels: raw materials (coffee beans), products (pack of coffee), services (cup of coffee), experiences (St. Mark’s Square) and transformations (for example, a shaman-guided caffeine trip for the real coffee lover).
Thinking in terms of product levels helps to increase your revenue streams. Look at your own offering. How do you describe your services e.g. do you use words like “extensive, comprehensive, thorough, professional, bespoke”? What imagery do you use e.g. you speaking at a conference, you at the launch of a product you were involved in designing? Do you have testimonials e.g. customers saying what a delight it was to work with you? Do you offer an easy way to get in touch e.g. a form, phone number, social media handles. The higher your ‘product’ sits in comparison to your competitors, the better.
- Look at your own offer and the product level on which you present yourself. What would that look like on the next level?
- Do you offer a service? Then think of it the other way around: what would your services look like if it was a product with a price tag?
- Reading tip: The Pine & Gilmore Experience Economy.
Tip 7 – Maximise the money in your pocket
Did you know that as an employee/Director of your own limited company, the business can give you a gift of one voucher in a year up to the value of €500. This is a totally tax free gift. Did you know that contractors often don’t claim all of the business expenses that they are entitled to? The ones most often missed are technical/trade magazines, training courses and events relevant to your work. Also, pension funding is extremely attractive for contractors as you can process the pension payments through your company and get tax relief up to 51%. There are lots of savings to be had if you know how.
- Get your finances in order, document all expenses and outgoings
- Review your legal and tax situation, should you be operating under a limited company or an umbrella company?
- Talk to a specialist accountants for contractors and freelancers like Contracting Plus.
Of course, these six tips do not work for every freelancer and in every situation. Setting up a new revenue stream takes time, money and effort. That can be difficult to do when you’re working full-time on generating revenue to keep the lights on. However, as a freelancer you are an entrepreneur: you are the employee and your own employer. Your decisions steer the ship so it is a good idea to schedule in some time to see where that ship is going.
Reading tip: The Three Horizons model from McKinsey. The first horizon is formed by your core business. The second horizon consists of new revenue streams, and the third horizon is all about innovation and experimentation.
Based on original article by Thomas Lapperre available here: https://www.jellow.nl/blog/freelancers/omzetstromen-genereren