Work is NEVER consistent…
There’s too much of it when you’re booked, and not enough of it where you’re not.
Alas, that’s the life of an entrepreneur — and especially of the solopreneur or freelance service provider.
Trust me — been there, done that, and I hate it, too.
And since it’s today’s question, I’ll share some of my thoughts with you on cash flow…
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Today’s question — with a little backstory…
Quick background: I’ve just started out as a freelance copywriter. Have a couple of local clients, so I have actually been paid for something. Still putting my website together though, so I have a lot of work to do to break into the field I want to be in.
That being said, I thoroughly enjoy your emails. Even though I’m not at the stage of implementing everything right off the bat, your stuff is motivational while maintaining a dose of realism. I appreciate that.
I think the thing you said that has stuck around the most, sort of haunting my “how do I get the clients I want” thinking, is your spiel about “If you want to earn X amount of money, earn your clients 20X amount of money.” I loved your “unable-to-be-refused offer” to your first big client and have been thinking about how to do that myself.
So thanks for all you do!
I guess if there was one area that I could use help in, it would be as follows. I’ve had a bad month income-wise. Some client work fell through, so I’m way under where I need to be to pay the bills. When you’re facing a desperate financial situation, sort of staring down the gun barrel if you will, what are some quick wins you can get?
By that I mean, what are some quick things you can do to divert impending disaster long enough to put some of your longer-term strategies in place?
Let’s start with the worst news I can give you…
As much as I’d like to tell you this is an easy problem to solve, it’s not. Not necessarily.
Here’s that dose of realism you liked — at least when it was aimed at others.
If you’re not in consistent demand for your services, yet, it’s hard to just solve the cash flow crunch.
In the long run, that’s where you want to be — assuming you want to build a career in the service business. Develop a reputation that attracts a steady stream of prospects and clients. Then, the lead flow is enough that you always have work.
I’m not necessarily there, but I’m close enough for comfort. My reputation precedes me. I’ve had enough people reach out in the past. If I had any desire for more work, I could make a couple phone calls to say, “I’m available,” and I’d have work in a minute.
But it’s been 13 years. 7 in financial copywriting. And even “time served” is not enough to guarantee that reputation. It took a lot of hard work and some luck and good fortune.
That said, there have been some lessons learned along the way.
I’ll start with the ones that will serve you best in the long run. Then we’ll zoom in on what to do TODAY.
The best thing I ever learned about money and freelancing…
The absolute best place you can be, financially, is to have at least six months worth of living expenses socked away in an account you will not touch (but could if you have to).
Some call it “F-you money.”
Because when you have this money stored away, it gives you confidence. You can turn down bad work. You can put more into pursuing the best.
But not only that…
It flips a switch.
When you know your bills are paid, your entire demeanor changes. You take on projects because it’s what you want to be doing. You’re not needy. You don’t grovel to try to close deals.
You shoot straight, with confidence, but also with a nonchalance that says you’re the master of your fate and the captain of your soul.
That’s remarkably attractive to money.
Which means that once you do this, you’re actually far less likely to need it than you thought you’d be BEFORE you set aside the money.
The best thing my accountant ever taught me about freelancing income…
I made some mistakes about money and income early in my freelancing.
I went after bigger opportunities that took longer to pay off.
And so I had big gulfs in my cash flow, where I didn’t get paid for a few months at a time.
My accountant told me I needed to take on two types of projects (and this wasn’t easy for me to hear).
He said I needed to continue to pursue the big projects, with all the upside potential. But that I also needed to look at what kind of little projects I could do to simply keep all my bills paid.
This meant I spent a smaller portion of my time focused on my bigger goals. But the better I followed his advice and accepted the fact that not every project had to aimed at my highest aspirations, the less frequent the cash flow crunches came.
And here’s the thing…
You don’t even necessarily have to go too far off course. For me, BTMSinsiders serves this function, to a degree. It’s actually in line with my bigger goals AND a consistent source of income.
Alternately, asking a client for any smaller projects to do in between bigger projects could also benefit you.
Or offering a local agency to help with their overflow work.
You get the picture.
The advice you don’t want to hear…
You might not be ready for freelancing.
At least not full-time.
I don’t know. But if you have consistent cash flow issues, maybe this isn’t exactly what you need right now.
When I discovered copywriting in 2005, I KNEW I wasn’t ready. So I got a full-time marketing job, where I developed my chops until very early 2010.
I did start freelancing, part-time, while there.
I got my first few clients.
I started saving, enough “F-you money” to be able to go out on my own with a baby at home, and my wife still finishing grad school.
I got paid consistently, got experience, and got enough momentum. So than when I did go out on my own, I actually had months’ worth of work backlogged.
This is worth considering — even if you don’t agree with it in the end.
Final recommendation — and the most direct to your question.
When I’ve hit “feast and famine,” here’s what has worked best…
Basically, make offers.
Put on your salesperson’s shoes, and go start selling.
Make offers for big projects that would solve your cash flow crisis in one fell swoop.
Make offers for small projects that you can finish fast, and pay a couple bills.
Make offers for small things that might lead to bigger work — such as a paid marketing audit.
With the help of my coach, Joseph Rodrigues, I’ve started tracking all my active cash flow items, with a weekly check-in.
There are sure-thing cash-flow generators, that I need to finish or am waiting for payment on. There are high-probability cash-flow opportunities, that I just need to execute on. Then there are other longer-range cash-flow opportunities that I can test.
Weekly, I review the list. What are they? What’s the potential? What next action will move them forward? How are they in line with my bigger goals?
And then, on a weekly and even daily basis, I can make decisions to move them forward.
The great thing about doing it this way is it has actually led to more cash coming from more sources than I had prior to doing the regular review of the list. And it’s led me to be more creative with identifying other opportunities.
The big thing…
Do something. Then do another thing. And another. Don’t wait around for one thing to develop before you’re moving to create the next, and the next.
And before long, you’ll have the other problem of being too full — and having to work your butt off to manage it. But I think you can handle it…
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
PS: If you’re trying to approach new clients and not sure what to say, I added another 55-minute training to The Client-Getting Blueprint all about how to structure your first call with a potential client. It’s yours with a BTMSinsiders membership.