More is more – that’s often the philosophy when you first start freelancing. You want more money so you want more clients and more work. That might work well in the short term, but in the medium to long term it’s a recipe for burnout. Even worse, you might fall out of love with the same business that you were excited to start. The only way to avoid that fate is to turn your business into a lean, mean writing machine – and that means trimming the fat to focus on doing what you love best.
Trim Your Service Offerings
Let’s start with your list of services. There’s a weird kind of accordion thing that happens when you own an online business. I’m talking about the gradual expansion of your service offerings. I speak from my own experience here. Although I have a background in journalism which has recently come into its own again, when I started freelancing online, I wrote search engine optimized articles for websites. Then I added ebooks, then I added press releases, then I added … you see where this is going. I love being a generalist, but sometimes offering too many services and trying to do them all will drain your energy.
For example, I discovered when working with a client that I love interacting on social media on my own account but don’t like doing it for others, especially if they refuse to get involved. The answer was to take that service off the list of available offerings and gradually phase it out. The way I did it was to find an alternative service provider – someone who really got a kick out of providing that service.
Another example: I sometimes write resumes, and I’m pretty good at it too, but after spending about 9 months honing my skills, I realized I didn’t want that to be a full time job. I still do them occasionally just to keep my hand in, but it’s not a major part of my business.
Trimming your services list is the lean bit but on the flip side of that, I love to blog so every chance I get I tell people I’m a professional blogger, explain what well written content can do for them and showcase some of my work. That’s the focused bit.
Trim Your Client List
It’s also a good idea to trim your client list, but not too far. You don’t want to be a one-client wonder – that’s really not good for business, but you don’t want so many clients that you can’t keep them all straight. Although I haven’t quite achieved it yet, I’d like to divide my time like this: 80% for clients and 20% for me, with that 80% split among 4-6 big clients but with enough room for interesting one-off projects from time to time.
So how do you decide which clients go and which ones stay? Obviously, you have to take a hard headed business decision based on income but that’s only part of it. It’s worth thinking about how you feel about working with that client. A client that is easy to work with who pays a little less might be a better fit than the big bucks client who is very particular.
You can also trim your client list by gradually withdrawing from offering a particular service. Again, it’s a good idea to help your client out by finding your own replacement. That keeps your client happy and also lets you help someone else.
And finally, there are the clients you get rid of because they don’t pay up on time or have caused other issues you can’t live with.
Trim Your Marketing
Focusing your business is not just about your services and clients; it’s also about marketing and promotion. Trust me, if you try to be everywhere you will start to feel frazzled. We need to market, but we need to focus. Figure out where your potential clients are and go there. I’m going to repeat that (as much for myself as anyone). Figure out where your potential clients are and go there.
Now don’t get me wrong: I love hanging out with other writers (especially on the Five Buck Forum). And sometimes those writers send work my way (thanks; you know who you are ). But most of my writing work comes from other sources. That means that as well as building your writing community and network, you also need to build your potential client community.
I’m currently experimenting with this on LinkedIn. Since I want businesses to hire me to write about the topics that interest me (social media, web tools, blogging, some techie stuff), I am in a couple of business groups and occasionally share my best stuff there. Identify where your prospects are and go and be social – naturally! (Have I mentioned Slow Marketing recently?)
Trim Your Working Hours
Finally, my ultimate goal is to achieve more in less time. In theory with the right mix of clients and services I should have more time to do some of the other things I want to do with my life. As I was writing this, I thought about the fact that even when the day doesn’t go according to plan and I have less time than I thought, I meet my deadlines. That means it must be possible to be even more efficient. I’m certainly going to try.
This post is part of the November Word Carnival. The topic is Letting go: How and What to Trim to Keep Your Business Lean and Focused. This month’s carnival will make the juggler want to go stand out in the cold; multitaskers – you’re on report!
Image: Thomas Hawk