I feel like an old-school hip hop emcee — “When I say feast, you say famine…”
If you’re a freelancer, you know it well. Heck, almost any small business (and many big businesses) knows it well.
One month, you’re on top of the world, with as many orders and customers and as much work as you can handle.
The next, the bottom seems to fall out and you don’t know where the next check is going to come from.
I’ve been thinking about that a lot within the context of my own business recently. (More feast than famine, but I’ve experienced both sides of the cycle.)
And I came to what I think is a highly-effective strategy for managing the feast and famine cycle at this point in my career.
I’m going to get really transparent here, and reveal a few things that I normally keep fairly quiet.
And I’m also going to outline the new strategy.
Which I think will be especially helpful for copywriters and other project-based freelancers.
But also, I think there are lessons that can be applied almost no matter what business you’re in.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, freelancers of all ages…
A NEW strategy for managing the freelance feast and famine cycle!
A tiny bit of background to get to the new strategy.
Newer copywriters often take whatever they can get. If a project comes, they jump on it. On just about whatever terms the clients want.
The real superstars of the industry — the Titans — largely do business on their terms. They tell the client what it takes to hire them, and the client pays up or doesn’t. Often times this means putting down a deposit on their time months or even years in advance of the project actually taking place.
And then there’s those of us in the middle. Well on the way to superstar status, but not there yet. Who have plenty of demand, but maybe not in the same situation as the big dogs are.
I’m at a point where I can seldom just jump on a project when a client approaches me. I’m often booked out months at a time.
But I’m still kind of locked in my old system.
I tell a client I can take them on at a certain point in the future. And I just pencil them into the rotation at that point. No advance fee required (although they will have to pay to start the project).
What ends up happening though during these situations is that inevitably things start to overlap.
I’m juggling multiple clients at once.
And though I’m still writing great copy, the process can feel even more overwhelming than it should be. (And I end up feeling a little guilty about the juggling.)
Which led me to a double wait-list strategy.
And I expect to implement this in early 2015 — after my current crop of projects is done.
Here’s how it works…
1. When I get a new client coming to me that I think will be a fit, I have to be very clear that they’re not going to get anything done now. Most good clients are okay with this. They understand the demand on a good copywriter’s time.
2. I’m making a pact with myself and my clients that I’m stopping the juggling. Breakthrough Marketing Secrets is an ongoing commitment, so that will be on my plate. But aside from my personal stuff, it’s one client project at a time. THIS IS BENEFICIAL TO THE CLIENT AS WELL because when I start their project, it will get my full and total focus, for as long as it takes to get it out the door.
3. Client will not be promised a specific time in the future when they can hire me. Because I’ll be diving into each project until it’s done, and I don’t know exactly how long that will be, new clients will just be given a position in line. I can give a rough estimate of when I think their project will start, although it will be subject to change. Again, this is beneficial to the client because they’ll be getting the same treatment when their project is active.
4. I’ll maintain two wait lists. Paid and unpaid. The paid wait list will have to be empty before I take on projects from the unpaid wait list. To reserve a spot on the paid wait list, you have to put down the advance portion of the project fee — no matter how many spots deep you are on the paid list. That is, putting down your advance is required whether I’m going to get to you next month, or maybe about six months from now. It just guarantees the spot. For the unpaid wait list, any qualified potential client can get on it. However, there’s no guarantee of any projects ever getting done off the unpaid list. If you really want to get in my rotation, get on the paid list.
I know this won’t be perfect. And I know that things like tweaking copy for a test, writing little notes and space ads, and so on will slip through. But this will help me make sure I’m always managing one big project at a time, and giving that my primary focus.
Laying out these rules will also help me manage myself, so that I’m not over-committing during feast periods.
And finally, simply by maintaining my wait list and having people on it, the demand for my services will go up. If you want to know my thinking on this, use the search bar on the site to look for my article on my “needy cat.”
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets