I’ve been really impressed with your progress over the past week.
First, you identified your #1 business goal and told me WHY you wanted to reach it.
And I loved reading and replying to the hundreds of responses I received. I wasn't surprised to see that many of your goals are similar:
“My business goal is make enough money that I'm able to quit my 9-5 and pursue my passion full-time.”
“I want to bring in an income that allows me to work from home, contribute in a big way to our finances, and stay home with my kids.”
“My goal is to be able to work with people who value my design and value my experience.”
Then on Wednesday, you identified some common freelancing myths that have been failing you.
“I’m consistently getting work but I’m making nothing off of it because my prices are too low.”
“I get caught up doing a lot of services that I’m not necessarily proud of or even want to do in the first place because I have trouble saying no.”
“I don't have any credentials to back up my work, so I charge cheap prices to attract more clients to reach more people.”
Now that you've identified what hasn't been working, it's time to toss the bad strategies out the window and put some effective action steps in place to reach your #1 goal.
Which all sounds good in theory. But you want to know the truth?
The odds are stacked against you. Your chances for failure are high.
Because starting a freelance business is hard.
Specializing and finding your niche.
Building and pricing your service packages.
Booking a steady stream of clients who value your work.
Streamlining your process.
Communicating with clients.
Setting up your business legally.
Keeping up with taxes.
There are so many moving parts and learning curves. It can be a little overwhelming, to say the least.
But you don’t have to fail.
It is very possible to reach your goal.
Today I’m going to show you how to increase the chances of hitting your freelance goal (and give you one exercise to work on over the weekend).
I’m living proof that YOU (yes you) can create a freelance business that gives you freedom.
I’m just an ordinary girl from southwest Virginia. I grew up in a small town. I graduated from a state school. I married my 4th grade crush. And my favorite show is (and will always be) The Office.
I doubt myself. I get stressed out. I worry about money. Just like you.
But over the last few days you’ve learned that if you’re smart about your business and avoid fatal mistakes, you can reach your goal.
In Wednesday’s email, I shared 3 freelancing myths I bought into early in my business.
Myth 1 | If I offer several different services, I’ll land more clients.
Myth 2 | If I charge less than my competitors, I’ll land more clients.
Myth 3 | If people get to know me, I’ll land more clients.
And after hearing from hundreds of you this week, I’ve found that most people believe that they have to get lucky or have a completely original idea to have a successful business.
We make up all sorts of explanations for why things aren’t working out.
“Maybe I just don’t have what it takes.”
“Maybe I just don’t have a great idea.”
“Maybe Lauren’s just smarter than me.”
False. False. And definitely false.
Thoughts like these are limiting. You have what it takes, you just need a blueprint to follow.
I’ve discovered that booking a steady stream of the right clients, far in advance, is the key to reaching your #1 goal.
Want to make more money so you can quit your day job and pursue your passion full-time? Land the right clients.
Want to have more control over your income instead of your boss setting it for you? Land the right clients.
Want to make more money so your family can be debt free? Land the right clients.
You already have your #1 goal clearly defined and you know what to avoid doing. Now it’s time to learn the new framework.
I want you to tattoo this on your forehead and plaster it on the screen of your computer:
Let’s take a better look at each one.
Step 1 | Create a project calendar
Before you can book a steady stream of clients in advance, you have to assess how many clients you can take on between now and the remainder of the year. So calculate how much time each project will take you from start to finish. Then, schedule out time blocks in your calendar for each project with a little buffer time between each one, just in case.
Step 2 | Develop systems for landing the right clients
Potential clients are everywhere. Social media, websites, and and mailing lists are helpful for attracting them and rounding them up, but the hard part is turning casual followers into potential clients. The key factor is trust. Before you can ever book a client, you have to build trust with them by providing value. Then, as you begin to book clients, you can schedule them into the spots you created in your project calendar and start booking further in advance.
Step 3 | Book out and start a waiting list
Booking clients in advance not only helps you manage projects and create a steady stream of income, but it also puts you in the driver’s seat on projects and builds anticipation for your clients. Once you’ve booked all the spots in your project calendar, you’ll be able to know the exact date and amount you’re getting paid, raise your prices, and begin a waiting list.
Why does this work?
The key to achieving freelance freedom isn’t coming up with a never-before-seen idea or lowering your prices; it’s building a steady stream of interested clients who are willing to wait months to work with you.
It’s the smartest, most consistent, most reliable freelance model I’ve seen.
As a matter of fact, this 3-step approach was the turning point for Elle & Company.
When my freelance business was failing a little over 2 years ago, I was faced with two options:
Or find a way to succeed.
The first one wasn’t really an option, so I threw myself into option #2.
I knew that in order to bring in a consistent income, I needed to have a steady stream of the right clients at the right price point.
1 | First, I mapped out a project calendar
I sat down and wrote out every step of my design package from start to finish, including emails, revisions, and file prep.
Once I had an outline of my process, I went back through the steps, generously estimated how much time each task would take me, and tallied up the total. I discovered that if I took on one client at a time, I could finish a full brand and website design within a 2 week timeframe.
After blocking off 2 week timeframes in my calendar (with 1 week of buffer time between each one), I ended up with 20 project slots for 2015.
Now I just needed to fill them up.
2 | I created systems for landing the right clients
Building trust is the key to landing the right clients. And in order to build trust, you have to provide proof that you’re the right person for the job.
So I threw myself into learning the best business practices that would create trust with potential clients, like using the Elle & Company blog to highlight my expertise in design, branding, and Squarespace.
I shared a step-by-step look at my creative process each time I published a new portfolio post, blogged the answers to common branding FAQs, and brainstormed content ideas that would benefit my ideal clients.
I also began to use my social media accounts to point people back to my blog and website.
It wasn’t long before inquiries started coming in and those 20 spots began to fill up.
3 | I booked up my project calendar and started a waiting list
Within 4 months, I was booked out for the remainder of the year (I reached my max at 20 clients) and I had to begin a client waiting list.
Less than a year later, my waiting list grew to 250 prospective clients and I was able to raise my prices by 600%.
By landing the right clients far in advance, I was able to not only go full-time; I was also able to provide a steady income for our family while my husband was in grad school, cover his tuition, pay off $30k in debt, and start saving for our future.
That’s the power of landing a steady stream of the right clients ahead of time.
And if I can do it, you can do it, too.
I’m going to show you a simple system that will help you get a jumpstart on booking the right clients far in advance.
Your goal is to create your project calendar by this time tomorrow.
I call this strategy the “Time Block Project Management” technique.
Whenever we land a new client , we have a tendency to try and schedule them in as soon as possible to accommodate them (because they usually wait until the last minute to contact us, right?).
But all the other businesses we interact with every day don’t do that.
You can't randomly schedule a checkup at the doctor's office for any day and time of your choosing.
You can’t jump the line at Starbucks to order your caramel macchiato.
And you definitely can’t call Comcast or Time Warner Cable and get a cable guy to fix your internet at a moment’s notice.
Instead, you have to hold your spot in line.
That’s the same approach you should take with booking clients.
You should be the one dictating start dates and end dates. You should be the one setting parameters on your client schedule. You should be the one booking clients who think your services are worth waiting for.
This strategy is the best way to take control of your schedule, streamline your income, build anticipation, and provide enough time for your clients to get everything done on their end before the project begins.
Here’s how you’re going to do it:
- Write out each step of your service package(s) from start to finish, including phone calls, emails, file prep, etc.
- Estimate how much time each step will take you. If you’re an overachiever like me, you might want to be a little generous in your time estimates, just as a precaution.
- Plan out how many service packages you can take on between now and the end of 2016. Block out the time in your calendar for each project so you know how many projects you can take on.
Once you’ve completed all 3 steps:
- Snap a photo of your calendar
- Attach it in your response to this email
- And let me know how many projects you’re going to book by the end of the year
Whether you’re just starting out or you’re a little further along in your freelance career, the Time Block Project Management technique is a great way to create a steady stream of work.
But of course, there’s still a lot more to freelancing than creating a project calendar.
Once you’ve completed these action steps, you’ll still have questions like:
- How do I turn casual followers into paying clients?
- How much should I charge for my services?
- How do I ensure that my clients actually stick to the project timeline?
- How do I know if a client is the right client?
If you want answers to these questions and you’re ready to be taken by the hand and shown the exact process, I can help.
I’ve just put the finishing touches on a brand new course that will walk you through my proven step-by-step system for running a profitable, sustainable freelance business. It’s called Freelance Academy.
It will be open for enrollment on Tuesday, August 30th at 10:00am EST. I’ll be sending more details as well as a behind-the-scenes walkthrough of the course on Monday morning. Stay tuned!
And best wishes with that project calendar. I'm excited to see it!