The end of 2020 is finally in sight. While there are some good things on the horizon, that does not mean that 2021, particularly the first half of the year, is going to be cake. In fact, for most of us, the first several months will likely be a lot more of the same.
So this time, while we are still in relative quarantine but adjusted enough to re-focus on our careers, is the perfect point to assess your business and figure out what you can do to make it stronger.
How to make 2021 a great year as a freelancer
The good news about being a one-person show is that you are nimble, and can make decisions and act on them quickly. This means that you can get a lot accomplished before quarantine ends. Here are a few thought starters.
Relationships are the best and the toughest part of the human experience. What can start out incredibly promising can go many different and sometimes unexpected ways. We’ve all had relationships end messily and wonder what went wrong and where we could have changed course.
Professional relationships are no different. The client we were over the moon to land can over time become the reason we’re loathe waking up in the morning. It’s important to be service-oriented and flexible, but there may be a point in your career when ending a professional relationship can’t be avoided.
If you’ve never listened to Brooke Castillo’s Life Coach School podcast, I highly recommend it. Don’t start with the latest episode – go all the way back to the first one and proceed from there. It’s a masterclass in emotional intelligence.
I was tempted to skip this early episode, because “Questions to Ask Yourself” is not the most compelling title. I’m glad I didn’t. This is the episode where she illustrates how the value of the questions you ask yourself will dictate the quality of your life. She suggests moving from damning questions to empowering ones. Her example:
“Why can’t I lose weight?” versus “How can I lose weight permanently and never feel deprived?”
You don’t have to be an emotional intelligence ninja to see how one of these questions will produce far more productive responses than the other.
There are a lot of areas in my life where I am going to make a conscious effort to improve my questions. But one that I already changed several years ago was:
A friend who is thinking of becoming a solopreneur asked me how much time she’ll need to spend networking. The answer to that is a significant amount, but that doesn’t need to be the punishment many people consider it to be.
When this topic came up in a freelancing group, one of the participants (we’ll call her Alice) said that if you don’t have a full client roster, you should spend most of your time making connections and having conversations.
I have a different, more palatable, response.
On a prominent freelancing group page, one of the most common complaints is: “My client wants to do things his way, and it’s a terrible approach. What do I do?”
It’s easy to start taking long-term relationships for granted. Over time, we lose sight of people’s good qualities and focus more on the facets that annoy us.
Long-term client relationships can be the same way. At a certain point, you no longer notice the value that that person provides – giving you meaningful work, having faith in your output, introducing you to other prospects. Meanwhile, the ways that they frustrate you become clearer with every passing day.
As the pandemic progresses, it’s impossible to know how long the economic repercussions will last. This presents freelancers with a new dilemma: should I get a corporate job?
With many companies cutting back these days, a lot of freelancers are struggling with the conundrum: should I lower my rates to compete?
Generally speaking, I would advocate setting a rate and sticking with it. But these are not normal times, and I know that a lot of clients have become more price sensitive out of fear.
So, in this spirit I offer some alternative suggestions to lowering your rates if you’re feeling the pressure.
Virtual presentations don’t have to suck, but they usually do. That’s because most people use the same approach they would for a regular presentation, even though it’s much more difficult to hold the audience’s attention virtually. So, you want to be the exception? Here are my five key tips for virtual impact.
The beginning of a presentation is always critical because it sets the tone. With a virtual presentation, it’s even more important. You’ve got to get the audience intrigued so they’ll stay with you on the journey. To this end, your opening needs to succinctly convey:
I’m not going to sugarcoat it – times are tough for many freelancers. As this article in the Financial Post succinctly put it:
“Your income can vary wildly from month to month and is likely being cut back as companies shave costs. Your check may come in the mail, or it may not. Your healthcare is expensive, or you may not even be able to afford it – which makes you even more terrified of the coronavirus.”
I have always said that freelancers who play the long game will ultimately come out on top. It may not seem like the right approach when you need a new contract today. But in the absence of having a fairy godmother, it is the absolute best thing you can do in troubled times.
How do you play the long game during a crisis? Here are my top recommendations: