The idea of freelance growth or what success or accomplishment means is different for every freelancer. Some want to become an agency or start-up. Some want to be able to pick and choose freelance clients based on rate or lifestyle requirements. Others are interested in developing freelance niches. Or have their eye on freelance courses, products, and other forms of product-based offering.
There are so many ways to build up from beginner to medium stage (and beyond) freelance businesses. But one problem all freelancers have in common with growing their freelance business is being able to make time to do it while servicing clients.
Here’s a little freelance growth definition that helps you do just that.
Incremental freelance growth
It’s common that freelancers will compare their now with someone else’s. What that doesn’t recognise is that some freelancers have been working through their freelance business for a few months while others have been here for years or decades.
We all began somewhere. Mostly with a rough idea we didn’t want to have a boss. And desperately wanting to call the shots on the clients we worked with. Whether that was due to family, wanting to study or travel, managing disability or health, taking better care of mental health, or because the standard form of employment excluded you in some way doesn’t matter.
All freelancers begin with the idea of clients in mind. Very few of us really hook into the idea of freelance growth until we get through the first few years.
When looking at freelance growth ideas, you have to decide what works for you.
Ask yourself questions like:
- What does growth look like for me? E.g. is it employing contractors? Are you interested in a start-up or building an agency? Or is it making more money off the same offerings? Is it diversifying?
- What outcome am I hoping to achieve by spending time and money on my business? E.g. is it to get funding, streamline your processes, attract attention, corner the market, earn more, work less, leave behind what you currently offer etc?
- Am I solving a problem for my clients or other freelancers? Or another market entirely?
- Is this a service-based solution? E.g. niching down, filling a gap in the market, expanding an offering to compete more readily?
- And/or does it involve product (e.g. courses, apps, software etc)?
- How much time do I have to work on growing my business?
- How have I performed with marketing and areas like admin, planning, and strategy in the past?
- What do I need to do to ensure I have the time, tools, and energy to focus on growth?
- What are the ways I can test my freelance growth ideas without a big investment of time, money or building new websites etc?
- What am I risking if it doesn’t pan out the way I plan?
Once you understand what your version of freelance growth may look like, you move forward.
Understand your own sense of accomplishment
The biggest freelance growth trap appears to be building things because it’s in vogue. For example – freelance job boards, niche freelance networking offerings, or because everyone else seems to have a course, podcast, event, or range.
Popularity is a bit of a sucky way to measure what is successful in the market. Mainly because it doesn’t account for market saturation. Or for leaders in the field looking like the authentic choice while everyone else looks like the knock-off.
Put simply, you have to fight harder to stand out from the crowd if you are following the trend instead of starting it.
The other common trap is to pivot or innovate because it’s a reaction to something you no longer want to experience in your freelance working lives.
This is demonstrated by freelancers become businesses coaches because they know longer want to write or design. Or self-employed people who build a course because they’re fed up with dealing with clients and hope to make money through education.
Fatigue might be a valid reason to change something up. But it’s not the only way to reskin your business for freelance growth.
In both instances, your accomplishment still has to be a driving force. You have to know what you want to get out of the experience. That makes it easier to deal with the problems along the way. And it helps because the vision of what freelance growth looks like to you isn’t shaped by reactions to other people.
Take the time to define your accomplishments in relation to freelance growth by knowing:
- What makes me feel satisfied when I complete a project?
- What are the qualities I look for in my clients?
- How often do I get to challenge myself and what does it look like?
- After a long day or hard week, what gives me the most joy to reflect upon?
- What skills am I building as I build my business?
- Am I meeting my projected earnings targets?
- Take a look at some of your most rewarding projects. What was it about them that made them so special?
Once you define your version of incremental freelance growth and accomplishment, it becomes easier to say no to the projects that don’t suit our objectives.