Freelancing is not for the faint of heart.
It’s lonely, it’s long hours, it’s confusing & messy at times, and if you aren’t careful, it can decimate your bank account.
As a freelancer, you’re responsible for finding your own work, doing the work, billing for the work, making sure the bill gets paid, and then budgeting to ensure you don’t run out of cash mid-month.
It’s a lot like riding a bike – if the bike was lit on fire and you were riding it blindfolded.
But if you know what you’re doing, riding a flaming bike down the middle of the road while blindfolded can be very lucrative and a lot of fun. (I’ll take “Things I would pay good money to see” for $400, Alex.)
So how can you ensure that your flaming blindfolded bike ride of a freelance business ends up being the most commercially successful daredevil show of all time, and not just another clip from a Jackass movie? Here are three essential habits that all freelancers must master if they want to avoid the poor house.
Master Cold Email & Boost Your Sales
Job boards, LinkedIn, networking, oh my! Freelancers have many different methods of gig-finding at their disposal. And while it may seem like trying 50 different strategies all at once is your best bet, throwing spaghetti at the wall is actually going to result in scattershot results and burnout. Rather than trying to be passably good at every kind of marketing tactic in existence, successful freelancers identify one or two core marketing strategies and triple down on them.
Cold email pitching is a great marketing method for freelancers because it bypasses the gatekeepers & gives you direct access to the decision-makers at your target companies. And with a great cold email pitch, you’ll be able to make yourself stand out as a true expert in your industry & seal the deal faster than you can say, “what job board?”
Cashflow Headaches? Get Paid Upfront
It is a self-evident and thoroughly established scientific fact that Net 30 is the absolute worst.
And while some clients may say that Net 30 is the only way they do things, there’s always (always, always) room to negotiate.
If Net 30 has you eating peanut butter and expired ramen for every meal, maybe it’s time to start pushing back against clients who propose it. Sure, you might not be able to get your preferred payment terms with every client. But if cash flow is a problem, then even landing one contract with a 50% deposit can help you pay your monthly expenses without any nail-biting needed.
ABS: Always Be Selling
Sure, it doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as well as Alec Baldwin’s “ABC” rule from Glengarry Glen Ross, and sure, it’s also an acronym for Anti-Lock Brake System, but nonetheless, this is arguably the single most important rule that successful freelancers follow. If you’re always marketing yourself, if you’re looking for new projects every single day, then you’ll always have a steady stream of clients showing up at your door.
All successful businesses do sales & marketing every single day. And just because you’re a business of one, that doesn’t mean you can ignore the single most important business practice there is.
If you’re struggling with your cashflow, try this: Set up a daily schedule that dedicates the first 2 hours of your day to finding & reaching out to new clients. Whether you’re sourcing leads from networking, content marketing, cold email marketing, or (shudder) job boards, invest 2 hours into it at the start of every workday. You might surprise yourself at how quickly you find your next project.
Freelancing is a great way to gain control over your career and life, exercise unparalleled freedom, and have a lot of fun doing it. While it can sometimes feel like you’re on a hamster wheel, prioritizing sales & marketing and doing the right kinds of marketing can help you rise above the broke-until-payday cycle and start making freelancing work long-term.