End the feast or famine cycle for good

Dec 16, 2015

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.

One of the biggest issues I’ve seen that consistently holds creative business owners back (and plenty of other businesses for that matter) is the Feast or Famine cycle.

Most creatives have experienced the feast or famine cycle in some capacity or another: too many projects happening at once, or crickets.

The latter can make us nervous, and compel us t take on projects that don’t really make sense for our business.

Conquering the feast or famine cycle doesn’t happen overnight, but here are a few ways you can start to reduce the extreme highs and lows.

1. Raise Your Rates

I see a lot of creatives who are operating their business at a loss, but they aren’t even aware.

If you’re feeling the “feast or famine” in your business currently, it’s likely that you aren’t charging enough to leave a buffer for when work slows down.

If your pricing is based on an hourly rate that assumes you’ll be working an 8hr day, you’re going to be stretching yourself too thin. (Most people forget to factor in vacation time and holidays as well!)

Is there room to increase your current rates? How could you provide more value to your clients, to make it easier for them to pay your new rates?

Could you increase your rates and reduce your workload so you earn a little more while working a little less?

With that free time you can now start to work on your own business operations, marketing, etc, and not make business decisions out of scarcity.

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2. Diversify

You want to diversify your clients, revenue, income streams, and marketing.

If all of your business comes from one type of work, one type of client, and through one type of marketing, you’re taking a big risk.

If one client disappears, one social media platform changes its algorithms, or one source of income dries up, you’re starting from scratch every time.

Consider how diversifying your payment methods can make things easier for you in the long-run. For example, I have some clients that pay me a monthly retainer, others pay a project fee, some pay hourly, and some pay based on a revenue share of product sales. There is also affiliate income, joint ventures, and product sales.

Participate in Gumroad’s Small Product Lab if you need an extra kick in the pants.

It helped me finally launch my ebook, Think Like a Digital Strategist (in 10 days!!), which won an honourable mention. Even a handful of Digital Strategy School students who hadn’t previously thought they had anything to offer were able to launch their first digital products this way! (helloooo, extra cash!)

3. Streamline your processes

Most creative business owners are great at doing the creative work, but they haven’t streamlined their business operations. When work slows down, consider using that time to clean up your workflow and administrative operations.

The easiest way to give yourself a raise? Get 5 – 10% faster at what you do (assuming you aren’t charging hourly!).

That means using keyboard shortcuts, templates, canned responses, scheduling software, Photoshop actions, and software that simplifies your workflow, to name a few, depending on your services and products.

Start compiling your answers in one place, whether it be your Welcome document, an FAQ page, blog posts etc. If you get asked the same question more than once, it’s time to start creating some documentation.

Tons of processes can be automated using IFTTT and Zapier; are you taking advantage of them?

Contracts that automatically redirect to a scheduling link and Paypal payments that result in an automatic email with a welcome document are just a few things you can begin to streamline.

When work is slow, take the time to start building more ease into your processes.

4. Improve your marketing/outreach efforts

Often people are so afraid to reach out when work is slow, but the best source of new work is other creatives. Sometimes all it takes is letting your peers know that you have availability.

This can even include getting in touch with past clients, which is one of the most overlooked aspects of client services. Do you have a follow-up process for your clients?

There are so many creative ways to offer services to your clients post-project: monthly check-ins, strategy sessions, SEO insights and reports, social media training or assessments, and even monthly curation of resources.

Other “shy guy” marketing techniques that have worked for me: blogging and podcast guesting (I can trace sales that have come from both of these efforts!).

and finally…

5. Offer a better return on investment for your clients

When you can demonstrate to your clients how they will get a return on their investment from working with you, it makes it much easier to command higher rates.

If you’re new to providing more strategic advice to your clients, practice with your current or past clients. Let them know that you’re building up new services, and would be willing to offer them a discounted rate in exchange for a case study or testimonial.

Or go out of your way to provide them with some additional insight. Even the smallest effort (with a little documentation) can go a long way, especially when they aren’t expecting it. You gain experience, they gain strategic insight; it’s win/win.

Remember: You don’t just want to sell “website design,” to your clients, you want to sell revenue generating tools (and yes, a website can be one way to do that!).

SO, which of these resonate most with you?

Are you seeing some opportunities in your own business for improving your cash flow?

Or perhaps you’ve already found ways that have helped you create more income stability. If so, I’d love to hear!

Marie helps fumbling freelancers transition into trusted advisors to their clients by helping them integrate digital strategy into their workflow. http://mariepoulin.com