The coronavirus pandemic has caused economic disruption on a scale that’s difficult to fathom — one that makes the most recent recession, which was widely regarded as the most severe since the Great Depression, look mild by comparison.
According to a tally by CNN, about 25% of the entire American workforce has filed for unemployment benefits since the start of the pandemic. That figure doesn’t include many part-time workers and freelancers who’ve not bothered to file for unemployment due to worries that their claims wouldn’t be accepted.
Fortunately, freelancers and other self-employed individuals do qualify for benefits under a dramatic expansion of unemployment insurance passed earlier this year. But many others would prefer to keep working through these lean, uncertain times, reckoning that they’re likely to earn more with their noses to the grindstone than they would waiting for economic conditions to improve.
If you’re among them, you’re most likely wondering what you can or should be doing to increase your freelance pricing power and boost your earnings as work dries up and clients go dark (or go out of business entirely).
You’ve come to the right place. These seven strategies will help you reach clients new and old while increasing your earning power and productivity when it matters most.
- Refresh Your Online Clips (And Create Portfolio Website)
How long has it been since you updated your digital body of work?
Three months? Six? A year? — Longer?
It’s time to show the world what you’ve been up to. Post your best recent clips to your personal website and LinkedIn profile and create a portfolio page on a highly visible website for creatives in your industry. (Contently is great for freelance writers.)
- Find an Uncrowded Niche and Make It Your Own
Find a lesser-traveled niche and do your best to make it your own. You might hone your craft as a landscape photographer, build a tidy business designing websites for farm-to-table restaurateurs, or join the ranks of investigative writers working to uncover suspected cults or cult leaders. The only requirements are that you enjoy what you’re doing and you’re willing to do what it takes to become good at it.
- Add a “Services” Page to Your Professional Website (Or Elaborate on What’s Already There)
Your would-be clients aren’t mind-readers. You need to tell, and preferably show, them what you do. The first place to do that is on a new or expanded “Services” page on your professional website.
- Reach Out to Past Clients With Whom You’ve Lost Touch
It’s never too late (or too early) to reconnect with past clients. With everything else going on, hiring you for a new job probably isn’t top of mind for them, but that doesn’t mean it’s foolhardy to ask. If they still have the budget to work with you and you’re willing to cut them a deal, why wouldn’t you come to an arrangement?
- Ask Past Clients and Colleagues for Referrals and Testimonials
When you reach out, be sure to ask past clients (assuming you’re on good terms) for positive testimonials that you can put up on your website or LinkedIn profile. The same goes for past colleagues, who are always good to reconnect with in tough times. (You never know who’s hiring.)
- Target Higher-Paying Niches Within Your Discipline
Every niche has its share of plum gigs. Your job is to find them and, to the extent your skills permit, take advantage of them. If you’re a writer, business and finance are usually good bets; for visual media pros, wedding video shoots are reliable sources of income (for part of the year, at least).
- Hire a Virtual Assistant (And Find Other Ways to Be More Efficient With Your Time)
Your time is too valuable to waste on busy work. Hire a virtual assistant for a few hours per week to deal with the little things with which you can’t really be bothered — scheduling calls, responding to lower-priority emails, and anything else that detracts from what you do best.
Are You Making the Most of Your Talents?
It’s a simple question that deserves an honest answer. Truth be told, there’s almost certainly more to be done to improve your productivity and increase your earning power as a freelance professional.
You don’t need to try out all of these strategies to have a measurable impact, either. Give one or two a try — whichever you feel most comfortable with — and see how they go. If you find you’re making progress, set another in motion.
This whole situation is unprecedented for most of us. There’s nothing wrong with treating your own interaction with our new economic reality as a work in progress.