So, we all know the deal. The world is going on lockdown. Going outside is a no-no. These are wild times. However! As we mentioned in our post full of tips for staying calm and productive during a crisis, this isn’t forever.
You may feel helpless right now, and you’re not alone. But today we’re going to lift our heads up and grasp at that silver lining. Because even when things look grim, you’re never 100% helpless to the situation.
What you can do if you’re home is take some time to audit and update your entire freelance writing business. Since we have a choice to perceive circumstances in a positive or negative light, you can reframe this as a much-needed chance to view your online presence with fresh eyes.
So, make some tweaks! Add, remove, curate! Implement some changes that you haven’t had a chance to in forever.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve had a “things I’ll get to list” staring you in the face right now… and you’ve run out of excuses. 😉
Business may be slowing down for some freelancers, but once the world is back up and running, you’ll be more in-demand than ever. Give yourself a head start by preparing and priming yourself for future success.
Let’s give panic a break and dive into these tips for updating your freelance writing business during self-isolation.
Audit your overall business
Start off by doing a thorough audit of your pre-lockdown business.
What’s working well for you? Is there anything you’d like to focus on more? For example, perhaps you’ve been getting a lot of hits on your contact form inquiring about one specific service you offer. Can you play that up on your homepage to drive even more sales? Promote it on social media once a week?
Next, look at what’s not working. Are you setting lead times that are unrealistic or leave you exhausted? Are your rates so low that you have to take an overload of work each week just to pay the bills?
Figure out what you’d like to adjust—and remember: you call the shots. This is your business to design.
Once you’ve had some time to review, make a list of things you’d like to improve.
Tip: Scour your notes files on your desktop and phone and collect all of the little lightbulb moments that popped up since 2019 ended. What have you been meaning to add? Remove? Upgrade? I personally have running lists of ideas and “I’ll do this later”s scattered in notebooks, apps, and my PC. This is the perfect time to get those things sorted.
When our business is structured against us, we start to resent freelancing and might even unknowingly self-sabotage. That’s why it’s a good idea to check in with the details once in a while.
My recommendation is to add a “business audit” day to your calendar once per month and take your time reviewing each aspect of your operation.
Once you have a list, your next steps will become clear… in theory!
Don’t fret if you’re still not sure how to tighten things up. We’ve got 5 ideas for you below…
Update your policies and rates
Your policies and rates dictate how you do business and how you’re compensated for it. If these things need updating, you’ve probably felt it over the past few months.
If your rates are too high, you might be scaring away your ideal clients. If they’re too low, you might not be taken seriously by those same clients.
Setting your rates might feel like a guessing game, but the process should reflect your industry, your income goals, and the value you’re bringing to the table (not always your experience level, mind you—value is the key).
First, do some basic industry research, talk with other freelancers, and examine whether the value you’re bringing to the table is being priced correctly.
With your current price structure, are you way higher or lower than the industry standard, or way lower? There are a lot of websites with this data so you can make some comparisons.
Then, ask yourself how you’ll hit your income goals this year with your current pricing structure. How many projects will it take per month? How many hours per week? Is it realistic? Does it reflect how you want to live (ie: how many hours of free time… or entire days of free time you want?).
Finally, take a close look at what you’re doing for clients. Is your work high-value? Well-crafted? Error-free? Delivered on time? Is the experience of working with you akin to a luxury spa, where the client feels cared for and worry-free while you take care of everything?
In other words, are you actually providing a service that aligns with the money you’re asking for?
Or, on the other hand, are you priced so low that you’re being blown off due to clients assuming you “must be an amateur with prices like that?”
Rates are tricky, but you have to keep evaluating and tweaking until you hit your sweet spot. When you have price alignment down, you’ll be able to confidently market yourself and have more of those awesome conversations with leads that end in contracts being signed.
Policies dictate your process and what you’re agreeing to. This may include things like…
- How you handle client onboarding
- When and how you communicate (spoiler alert: if you hate video calls or in-person meetings, you don’t have to do them)
- Whether you require an upfront deposit
- The number of revisions included with each package
For clarity’s sake, you should review your process-related policies with clients before you agree to work together. Have them written down so you can review them yourself and stay consistent as well.
You’ll know when these process policies are off because you’ll begin resenting some part of your workday, whether you’re craving more lead time, experiencing gaps in communication, or require more documentation about the target customer.
Those are just some random examples of reasons I have switched up my own policies in the past, by the way.
Important note: On a legal level, policies that dictate what is expected of you and the client during the course of a collaboration should be detailed in a contract and reviewed by a lawyer.
So, think about it! What’s bugging you about your freelance business? How would your workday look, ideally?
Again, this is a creation of your own design. Make it yours.
You’re awesome! Prove it on your website
It’s typically when I’m in a whirlwind of work, moving from one project to the next, when I sit and scroll through my website—procrastinating, of course, but thinking about the ways I could make it so much better.
Two urgent add-ons that always come to mind are new writing samples and fresh testimonials.
Adding these two elements to your website, and updating them when you have new material to share, is one way to prove to prospective clients that you have it going on.
A strong, niche-specific writing sample is often worth more than any proclamation of experience level or credentials. When the client has visual proof that you can execute on the kind of writing they need, they become laser-focused on hiring you and getting it done.
Testimonials, on the other hand, are like irresistible icing on the cake.
This kind of social proof is hard to argue with. If you don’t believe me, just think back to the last time you bought something on Amazon. Did you scroll past the vendor’s product description and look for reviews at the bottom of the page?
For a real person to vouch for the product? Bam! Social proof, baby. It’s that powerful. We just want someone (anyone) to tell us why we should believe this product—or service—is so great.
Tip: Haven’t done any projects in a while? The best time to ask for testimonials is immediately after you finish and the client is still joyfully gazing upon your copy or content on their shiny new website. The second best time, however, is now! Previous clients will usually still take a second to write you a review if you reach out and ask them.
When asking for testimonials, be completely transparent about what you’re looking for and why. You can say something like…
“Hi, x! It was so great working with you on your launch copy last month. I’m finally updating my website and reaching out to a few of my favorite clients for a testimonial to feature on the homepage. Would you mind sending me 1-2 sentences letting people know what you liked about working with me?
This kind of thing really helps me start conversations with future clients. I know you’re busy, so I really appreciate your time.”
Strengthen your branding
This is a perfect time to update your branding, whether you want to add a pop color to your graphics or completely redesign the way you’re represented online.
If you’re confused about what your brand is, here’s my best explanation: It’s all of the elements that make up your presence and represent you—online and off. It’s the visual and energetic essence of who you serve and what you stand for. This ranges from visuals to your personality (if you are the face of the brand) to the tone you take in your copy… the entire overall experience you create for your target customer or client.
If you’re a millennial, the first time you “branded” yourself online was probably when you carefully crafted forum signature gifs and away message text on AIM.
This can be an overwhelming thing to wrap your head around, so I suggest making small tweaks.
As always, we start with your ITC (or Ideal Target Client).
- Who are they?
- What industry are they in?
- What price point?
- What is their vision for an ideal world?
- What are their pain points?
- How do you serve them?
- What three words best describe them?
Once you refresh who your ITC is in your mind, ask yourself this: Does your brand fit into their world? Is it irresistible to them?
Does your tone reflect their price point and industry positioning? For example, are you stuffing goofy cute cliches into your website copy when you’re trying to serve elevated luxury clients? Or using too-stuffy language to appeal to quirky pet food companies? Does your color scheme feel budget-friendly when your ITC is high end? Or the opposite?
Does your headshot feature you flashing a peace sign at Coachella when you’re appealing to corporate brands? Are you… *gulp* using the wrong font?
I jest, but you get the idea! There are a lot of cool branding checklists and exercises on Pinterest, so be sure to do your homework.
When it comes to visuals, one quick way I see whether my visual branding needs some work is by taking a screenshot of all of my pages (social profiles, website pages, etc) and then pasting them into one document.
When you see them at the same time, is there cohesion? Would you instantly know the same business was being represented by them? This is a good way to get moving if you’re having trouble coming up with the tweaks you should be implementing.
Tip: Use the Chrome extension “Full Page Screen Capture” to get easy one-click screenshots of your website and other profiles. You can instantly download them as PNG or PDF files. This is great for documenting your progress—and also capturing writing samples!
Your brand doesn’t need to be glossy and perfect in order for you to get writing work. But it does need to look consistent and communicate that you are THE best choice for your ITC.
You want that ITC to know right away that you’re the one for them when they interact with you in any capacity (without you having to say that).
This stuff can get complicated, so consider investing in a branding expert! They can help you walk through questions that will clarify your ITC and nail your branding through and through.
Narrow or pivot your niche
*Braces self* Niches are a touchy subject.
It can be discouraging to change your niche after (potentially) spending a lot of time figuring it out in the first place. But remember that we do learn by doing, not by thinking… So it’s possible that you thought you’d picked the perfect niche and realized it needs some adjusting after taking action.
In that case, awesome! There’s no such thing as failure! Freelancing is experimental by nature and is often about making mistakes and course-correcting along the way. Niches definitely fall under this category.
In fact, if you’re ready to change your niche—or narrow down inside your current niche—I think you should pat yourself on the back. It means you put in the time test something out and now you have data you can use to evolve.
Tip: Before you change your niche, make sure that you’ve been strategically testing your current niche. If you’re changing it because you “can’t find clients”, have you actually been doing the work?
Have you catered EVERY corner of your online existence to reflect your niche? Have you been writing effective proposals to secure work and still not getting hits? If so, you might need to pivot.
Here are a few reasons you might be thinking of changing your niche:
💡 You’re too broad and you need to narrow to a sub-market (This is the most common!)
💡 You’re feeling burnt out by the work itself and want to offer different services (Hint: You could do this within the same niche!)
💡 You’re not finding enough clients to keep things sustainable—usually, it’s your marketing or proposals causing this, not lack of clients, but sometimes…
💡 You realized your true talents lie in offering different services—maybe clients repeatedly complimented you on something you weren’t focusing on before?
💡 Your niche is a dying industry and you need to jump ship before it sinks (Yikes!)
Whatever your reason, thanks to the mysterious magic of the internet! You can effectively reinvent yourself over the weekend.
New week, new writing business! 😂 But seriously…
Once you decide on your new niche, you can sit down and get to work rebuilding. From your brand (which was covered) to your tagline and swipe file, you’ll have plenty to keep you busy.
Whatever you choose, just be sure you OWN your new niche. Don’t ease into it, dive in. For example, don’t mention on LinkedIn that you’re “pivoting” or “you’ve changed your niche”, etc. Just BE it. Don’t be shy about this. You’re the new expert of X field. Cool?
(If you want more on pivoting niches, I gave a mini-lecture in our Facebook group about this last week. Join us and then check out the post here.)
Create new packages & offers
With the above steps checked off, you may notice that it’s time to refresh what you’re offering clients.
Review your collaborations over the past few months. Did you feel confident and excited about the services you offer while you were working with those clients?
(Sidebar: Keep a business diary and jot down those kinds of thoughts as they come up! If you just add them to a never-ending to-do list of “things you’ll get around to”, they’ll get lost to the void.)
For example, maybe you realized your email marketing language could be leveraged to draft a new landing page, social campaign, or some other asset that could help drive sales for your client.
Maybe you recently got certified in SEO copywriting—or just learned SEO best practices independently—and you want to add that as a premium add-on. Maybe you offer consulting or some other expertise in your industry, apart from just being a stellar writer.
Maybe you want to group a bunch of miscellaneous services into a single package… or break up a big offering into smaller menu items!
A popular way of offering services is in three separate tiers: entry price point, the “most popular” middle ground offer, and a premium package. Your base level package is the absolute least amount of money you’ll sign a contract for. The premium package is a price you’d clear your calendar for.
This allows you to meet a variety of clients at their budget without going out of your range.
What would three packages look like for your current client base? What do they need? Don’t be afraid to experiment and switch up the way you do business.
Tip: If you’re looking for a “good reason” to raise your rates, this is it! Switching up your packages means you get to refresh everything, including what you charge.
Upgrade your skillset
As of this week, many of us are living our best lives on the internet. And that’s not such a bad thing!
Apart from the online gatherings and virtual museum tours, the opportunity to use some of this quarantine time for online education and skill development is nothing less than golden.
Imagine yourself bursting through the other side of this pandemic with a shiny new certification or set of skills that you didn’t have before. You can amp up your freelance writing business by learning about a new service you could offer. For example, do you know how to write SEO meta copy? UX copy? Direct sales copy?
Are you a conversion copywriter who isn’t quite sure how to make your copy convert? Do you know how to track analytics to figure out whether things are converting—or draw high-level conclusions about analytics data?
Do you need some creative writing training to help you weave just the right sensory language into long-form product descriptions? Could you brush up on irresistible viral headlines, blog post storytelling?
Whatever your niche is, there’s sure to be something you can expand or improve on.
Tip: I don’t want to be alarmist—especially during the era of high-stress nwes we’re living in. But skipping this step can be lethal to your career, and you’re seeing why right now. Business is getting tricky and clients are not as available. This is temporary, but the landscape is shifting even as more writers enter the market. If you kick back and let your current skillset age, it won’t go the fine wine route. Instead, other freelancers will be out there learning new skills and positioning themselves as higher value while you twiddle your thumbs. You see where this is going, right?
You can also step into a true boss role and study up on things like business management, small business accounting, digital marketing, and other ways to strengthen your framework.
Perhaps it’s time to hire that VA to help you with monotonous daily tasks looking appointment booking and client onboarding, so you can focus on your area of expertise. Or maybe you’ve been wanting to work on a PDF checklist to offer with your premium level offer—or as a freebie to leverage for list building.
As you can see, learning new things can have a swift impact on your business—from what you are able to offer clients to the way you’re streamlining behind the scenes.
Places to learn:
- Coursera (Free!)
- Skillshare (Start with a free trial)
- iTunes U (Free!)
- YouTube (Tutorials on everything)
- Google (Seriously, every skill you’ve ever imagined at your finger tips…)
So, there you have it, writer fam. I hope this list helps you get inspired to make some tweaks to your freelance writing business. Whether you go all out and rebrand or dive into new skills to leverage, you’ll feel great about the time you’re spending in solitude.
If you need some extra support or want to share resources, join our Facebook group! As we careen toward 1000 members, we’d love to welcome you into the conversation.