We’re going to go out on a limb and assume that your freelancing goals are more or less in line with your contemporaries:
•Stable returns and margins.
•Opportunities for expansion.
•A decent amount of sleep.
Some might argue that these three aspects of a freelancer’s ambitions are like an ill-fated triangle—you can only pick two and leave the third by the wayside.
However, we’re here to say that you can have it all—with a little bit of smart investing.
Your top investments
As a freelancer, you have three areas of investment that need your attention: liquid assets, time, and energy.
Let’s break each of them down.
- Liquid assets
This can fluctuate wildly depending on each freelancer’s situation. If you’re earning enough to dream of expanding your operations, you’re probably doing well enough to invest a little bit of money into your business.
At this stage, however, it’s important to make every cent count.
Time is precious in any industry, but even more so when you’re the one pulling most of the weight around the “office” (or library, or coffee shop, or living room—we get it).
You must invest in how you spend your time to produce maximum returns.
Energy is an undervalued asset that is crucial in producing returning and new clients. But no amount of time or money can “buy” more of it. If your new product and experience are what entices new clients to your door, a dash of energy and life added on top is what gets them to actually ring the bell.
The bad news is that, as a freelancer, all of those growth avenues are usually on the shorter side. They may even look a little bit more like cul-de-sacs from time to time. The good news is there are ways to invest your energy in each area that don’t cost an arm and a leg. It’s all about funneling what you’ve got into the most important categories for optimal results, no matter how much or little.
First, “Don’ts”, Then “Do’s”
Here are some “don’ts” to lead you away from bad freelancer investments, followed by their “do’s” to improve your performance and put you on the path to success!
We started with our “don’ts” because we believe optimism and proactivity are a considerable part of a successful freelancer strategy—so, out with the negative and in with the positive!
Don’t: Undersell your value or services
Do: Dedicate time to a detailed pricing plan that outlines all of your tasks
Time is money. Don’t undersell yours!
Even if you’re just starting out, make sure you’ve set your prices with a realistic assessment of your value and skills. There is no feeling worse than working long hours for clients who hired you merely because they think you’re the “low-cost” option.
Make sure you’ve created a detailed price plan that includes each aspect of your services so that you’re not working for free. You shouldn’t be spending time or energy on something that’s only giving you “work experience.”
News flash: “Work experience” has never even ONCE paid a grocery bill.
Don’t: Dedicate all of your time to your clients and leave your own agency’s website looking janky and outdated
Do: invest in making yourself look a little bigger and better than you are
Confidence and presentation are key—it’s why you’ve probably never gone to stage production and realized that an actor flubbed their lines.
Even if you’re just starting out, it’s essential to present yourself as a product with merit and potential.
After all, if you don’t believe in yourself, what sort of clients will believe in you?
Don’t: Shortchange your emergency fund
Do: Divide revenue into actionable areas of improvement
Monetary investment in your freelancing project is crucial at some points. Whether it’s outsourcing tasks, improving your equipment, or investing in task-management software, you’re going to need to drop a dime here and there to earn a few more.
That being said, invest in increments and in different areas at different times! Don’t feel compelled to fill your shiny new freelancing project with the latest toys and software if it means leaving yourself vulnerable to disaster. You don’t want to be up the creek if there’s a period of high churn or low adherence.
Don’t: Say yes to everything
Do: Invest time in getting to know your client’s history where you can
Everyone loves money. Don’t jump after it too fast, though—you could risk falling flat on your face.
You know better than most people that it’s impossible to hide from the Internet — especially if you’re being chased by bad karma. See if you can scope out your potential clients’ reputations online. Have they missed payments to another freelancer? Do they always have something negative to say about their “exes”?
If they’re going to be a flaky, impossible, or otherwise toxic client, it’s better to wait until the next one rolls around.
Don’t: Stretch yourself too thin, in time OR skills
Do: Outsource for things that you can’t do well
Right at the fledgling stage of your project or an agency is NOT the time to “flex” your ability to scrape by with passable skills.
If you’re going to charge top-notch pricing for your products, you’ve got to deliver. But if you’re at the end of your rope by doing so and managing your client relations, you’re going to burn out in no time.
The bonus of outsourcing is that, with someone else handling the details of your projects, you have the time, energy, and ability to communicate with current clients and pursue new ones. In turn, new clients and higher revenue will make outsourcing costs feel more and more negligible. It’s a win-win.
Don’t: Rely on your own organizational skills
Do: Invest in a project management tool to create organization and accountability with clients and any team members
Your deadlines are another aspect of your current freelancing endeavor that can’t afford to take a hit. Never let yourself get in a situation where you’ve somehow managed to forget a deadline by relying on your memory or your spiral-bound notebook.
Even worse for your churn rate would be accepting more projects than you can take on and failing to deliver on them—not a good look.
While it may seem like an unnecessary expense, it’s imperative to invest in project management software from the start to avoid costly mistakes down the line.
Even better, you might be able to negotiate your package as you add on more employees in the future by getting in on the ground floor now.
Onwards and Upwards
Time, energy, and liquid assets help fuel a freelancing venture—but only when used correctly. Regular assessments are needed to adjust priorities and, above all, keep yourself on a focused and forward path.
And remember, investments generally take time to yield results! Give them a chance to take root, and you’ll reap the rewards in the long run.
In the meantime, we’ll be here, cheering you on.
For more ideas on expanding and investing in your growing agency, check out our Niche Agency Owners Facebook group. There, you can find valuable resources and tips for growing and strengthening your agency, as well as advice from other agency owners who have been where you are now!
In addition, you might enjoy this webinar on beating procrastination by Lee Jackson. Or this one about satisfying customers’ endless demands by Vito Peleg—two areas that are often make-it-or-break-it points for freelancers on the cusp of a big breakthrough!