Keeping Your Freelance Plate Full – What Does It Take?
If you want to have a full schedule of projects and a list of solid clients to draw from, there is one key ingredient that many newcomers to freelancing do not budget enough time for – that’s prospecting for new projects and new clients.
In my book, The Fast Track to Freelance Success Online, I made the statement that my bidding ratio is 30 to 1. That means that I may bid on an average of 30 different projects in order to be awarded one. One of my readers commented on that statistic. She had given up after bidding on less than six projects on the freelance bidding sites. She’s going to go back and will put a bit more effort into the process.
That ratio is simply my own estimate and does require some qualification. First, one project might mean doing a single press release, it might mean a set of six blog articles, or it might mean an ongoing order for 10 articles a week. Not all projects are created equal.
Second, I’ve been freelancing full time for 18 months and have a strong profile of excellent feedback from clients and a wide variety of credits to my name. That means I have quite a bit more clout now than when I first started out. My bidding ratio was probably closer to 100 to 1 when I first started looking for freelance jobs.
So, what does this mean to you? It means you need to factor in plenty of time for looking for new clients and bidding on new projects. It also means that you need to learn how to write up high quality proposals and yet keep your time to a minimum. It’s a balancing act.
Creating basic templates that you modify for each new prospect is one way of cutting down on your time commitment. That can backfire, however, if your proposals come across sounding like a canned proposal. Clients like to feel that their project is as special and important to you as it is to them; so, always take the time to personalize your proposal with specifics related to the project you are responding to. Also, keep them as short as possible. Clients aren’t interested in reading through five paragraphs of how wonderful you are. They have a lot of freelancers wanting to work for them; don’t bore them with a novelette extolling your virtues.
Spending two or three hours a day prospecting for work might not be a problem when your plate is empty. The problem arises when your plate becomes full and you have enough work to keep you busy 40 hours a week (or more). That’s when it becomes harder to justify bidding on new projects and spending time trying to recruit new clients. Again, it becomes a balancing act.
What if one of your weekly clients suddenly drops off the face of map, leaving a gaping hole in your schedule and your income? All of sudden, you’ll be scrambling to drum up some more work. You’ll have the time to spend prospecting for work, but it may take awhile before you fill that hole, especially if it’s a big one.
My answer to the dilemma was to subcontract out some of my work to others in my network. I kept my clients happy while decreasing the hours I spent on their work. Since, my freelance work is writing, that meant I was simply editing and handling the client contact and billing and paying my subcontractor a percentage of my income to provide the writing for me. My answer might not be one that would work for you, but you do need to find a way to keep your current clients satisfied while still looking for stronger income streams and fresh clients to add to your contact list. For some it might mean letting go of less profitable contracts in order to nurture the ones that provide a higher hourly income. For others it might mean working long hours some weeks and shorter hours in other weeks.
I actually enjoy prospecting for work, so it is the first thing on my list each morning. I drink my coffee and browse through the writer’s gigs on FreelanceWritingGigs.com and look through the new projects listed on my two favorite freelance sites, Guru.com and Elance.com. If I find projects that appear to fit my qualifications and my price points, I create a proposal or send off an email with my resume. Some days that might be two and other days it might be seven. Once I’ve put in my bid or sent my email, I forget them. Only one out of 30 is actually going to become a client, remember. I might get further inquires from a dozen of them, but the majority I’ll never hear from, so I submit and forget. The ones not interested in you don’t count, only the ones who are.
Maybe some of the rest of you have a different take on the subject, but this has been my experience. I’d love to hear how some of the rest of you deal with keeping that steady stream of income and new clients coming in.
This is a guest post written by Kathleen M. Krueger, a full time freelance writer who writes for HerLife and Upscale Living Magazines. She also provides professional copywriting services to marketing companies and individual businesses. You can find her on the web at: www.kmkrueger.net