Freelancing and stability seem like polar opposites. Most freelancers expect very loose hours, extended periods of downtime, and have plans in case payment doesn’t happen exactly on schedule – all traits of a more informal workforce and marketplace.
An article in the Wall Street Journal spells out all of the undesirable particulars: “Also know, that your future income will be hugely variable. Monthly retainers and long-term commitments are increasingly vestiges of a bygone era.” Given the variable and casual nature of freelance work, how can you turn it into a sustainable, stable business?
The Intersection Between Demand and Sustainability
From an economic perspective, things that are in demand are sustainable. The sustainability of your business directly increases as the demand for its products or services increases. For freelancers, this means that the more clients you have wanting your work, the more sustainable and stable your business will be.
On the whole, freelancing careers are now more sustainable than before because of the increased aggregate demand for freelancers. In fact, freelancers now makeup about a third of the U.S. workforce (55 million workers) and generate about $1 trillion in earnings to the economy.
So, part of your job’s already “done” for you since freelancing in itself is no longer unsustainable. It isn’t dying like the coal industry, which has seen increasing amounts of job loss as a result of industrial factors. The lack of demand in the field isn’t the principal cause of why you might not be able to find work as a freelancer.
The big difference between freelance writing and a cushy corporate job is the entrepreneurial aspect of finding and getting new clients. Sure there are marketplaces that will pair you up with offers, but some charge commissions and you may not get the most lucrative offers on a consistent basis on such platforms. To get the best, most profitable, and most consistent gigs, you need to sharpen your skills and venture out to find clients.
Freelance Entrepreneurship: Why Networking and Connections Matter
Maintaining your creativity at a steady level is difficult and can take a lot of energy out of you. As a freelancer, getting by with the – initially – meager amount of clients that you have and accounting for things like payment delays already sets you back a bit. So, while asking you to network and make meaningful connections on top of such a hectic work schedule may seem unrealistic at first, the benefits are more certain and greater than you might believe.Investing time in personal relationships can lead to connections that provide repeat customers. Click To Tweet
Think of it this way: Investing time in personal relationships and connections with the right people can lead to business relationships that provide you with consistent work from repeat customers. It helps break the never-ending cycle of searching for work and writing so you can spend less time searching and more time dedicated to your craft alone. Brokering connections with a diverse group of people is the first step to harnessing the power behind the inherent demand for freelance writing work present in the economy.
Massive social media platforms like LinkedIn boast a network and set of great tools that can help you identify the people that are the most likely leads, introduce yourself on the basis of your mutual friends and network overlaps, and spread your reputation.
When it comes to freelance writing work, the reputation and credibility you have as a writer make much more of a difference since you’re seen by businesses who want writers as an individual providing a unique service. You’re treated as a one-man business. Being cognizant of your name and brand as a writer is a deciding factor in the future volume of work you can get and therefore it is also a factor in the sustainability of your freelancing writing business.
Contingency Plans and Credit
Expect the unexpected when you enter the freelancing market. Because of the informality of the freelancing market, in comparison to something like stock trading, for example, you should always account for a flexible payment schedule. Part of having this flexibility lies in having contingency plans to cover unexpected costs.The final key to the sustainability of your business is making sure that it can weather dry periods. Click To Tweet
You want to look into the things that may be contributing to your lower credit scores and minimize their impact. Budgeting and saving your earnings to create an emergency fund that can last you anywhere from one to six months without work can also be a game-changer in terms of the financial freedom it affords you and in how it opens up what you can do with your time. The final key to the sustainability of your freelance writing business is making sure that it can weather the dry cycles.
First published in 2017; updated January 2021