Can you believe we're already almost halfway through November? This has felt simultaneously like the shortest and longest year ever. But the calendar doesn't lie; we'll be ringing in 2021 before you know it.
Which got me thinking…
Even though 2020 went off the rails in ways no one quite imagined, that doesn't mean 2021 has to be a mess — at least not business-wise. There's something soothing about the fresh start a new year brings, and this time of year is perfect for taking steps to ensure the year starts off right.
While the holidays are coming up and you've probably got quite a bit on your plate, now is the time to start preparing your freelance business for the new year.
Doing so will help to set your business up for success and minimize your post-holiday stress. Plus, you'll be able to focus more time and energy on the profitable parts of your business rather than juggling behind the scenes tasks with the money-making ones.
Whether you're new to freelancing or have been around the block a time or two, it never hurts to be prepared. Below are some of the things you can do now to make the transition to 2021 as seamless as possible.
1. Update Your Freelance Business Website in the New Year
Freelancing exists primarily online. For that reason, ensuring your website is in tip-top shape is key. A well-performing website gets your business noticed online and draws in potential clients — both of which are important to your success.
To prepare your freelance business for a new year, take some time to perform a website audit and make any necessary updates. As you perform your audit, look at your website through the eyes of a potential client.
- What aspects do or don't appeal to you?
- How easy is your website to navigate?
- Is the call to action on each page clear?
- Are there any broken links?
- What changes would you recommend?
Review Your Website's SEO Performance
Search engine optimization (SEO) is so important to any successful business existing in the online space. Optimizing your content with the keywords and phrases your audience is searching for helps your business get seen. Not only does your business appear in search results, but keyword research helps you create content that your audience actually wants to see.
With that in mind, it's essential to perform an SEO audit of your website so you know where you stand heading into the new year. It also gives you the opportunity to make changes where necessary. Take advantage of free tools like Google Search Console and Google Analytics to identify the keywords that are bringing in the most traffic.
If necessary, make SEO changes. You can easily use free tools like Moz's Keyword Explorer or Neil Patel's UberSuggest to identify the keywords your audience is searching for. UberSuggest even offers recommendations for topics you can create around those keywords.
Update Your Portfolio
The next step to preparing your freelance business for the new year is to update your portfolio. Review your existing portfolio and swap out older pieces with your latest work. If any of your work seems outdated or you feel it doesn't reflect your best work, remove it from your portfolio.
It's also important to showcase work in your portfolio that's related to your niche. If you don't currently have any samples related to the industry or niche you're targeting, create some. For example, freelance writers can self-publish their samples on LinkedIn or Medium while freelance graphic designers can create samples using Canva or Pic Monkey.
If you've been thinking about raising your freelance rates, the new year is the perfect time to do it. Most companies begin calculating their annual budget towards the end of the year or right at the start of the new year. Your new freelance rate will be much easier to add to their budget than in the middle of the year.
How do you know if you should raise your rates?
Well, this is almost entirely a personal decision. If you're comfortable with your existing rates, don't feel pressured to raise them. However, there are some things to keep in mind when weighing the pros and cons.
- As you get more work experience, the value of your work increases. Every new skill you learn and significant project you complete should be factored into your rate. Otherwise, you're not getting paid what your work is worth.
- Pay attention to how potential clients react to your project quotes. If potential clients seem unaffected by your current rate, it may be too low. While this attracts more clients, it also means you're doing more work for less. Do your research to see how your current rates compare to other freelancers in your niche.
- Higher rates attract higher-quality clients. Setting your rates too low tends to attract clients who ask a lot for very little in return. Those clients often exhibit many red flags while working with them. Higher rates attract better clients who respect what you do.
If you decide to raise your rates, give your clients notice so they can account for it in their budget. Keep in mind that you need to be able to justify the increase by showing the value of your work.
- Include testimonials on your website
- Showcase your absolute best work in your portfolio
- Provide an exceptional client experience
- Consistently produce high-quality work.
It's understandable to be nervous about raising your rates. After all, no one wants to lose clients! Check out this article from And Co, which will walk you through it.
2. Leverage List Building Opportunities
Did you know an email list is one of the most important tools your freelance business should have? It's true! An email list is important because it gives you a direct line of communication with your audience. While social media is a great way to market your business, it could disappear at any time. Establishing an email list not only keeps you in touch with your audience but is more likely to convert them to buyers or clients.
When preparing your freelance business for the new year, make your email list a priority. It's a great way to promote your business long-term. With a little work, your list will be full of potential leads, opportunities, and supporters that may lead to more paid work in the future.
Here are a few ways to grow your email list:
- Create a free download in exchange for subscribing to your list
- Publish new content consistently
- Make it as easy as possible for someone to subscribe
- Use calls to action at the end of each blog post
If email marketing is outside of your wheelhouse, or you simply don't have time to add it to your list of tasks, consider hiring a copywriter.
3. Nurture Client Relationships + New Leads
It goes without saying that you want to start your freelance business off right in the new year. Part of that requires filling your schedule with new work and clients.
That doesn't necessarily mean sending an endless amount of cold emails, though. Nurturing your existing client relationships can create new work and it requires much less time and effort than gathering leads for cold emailing.
Follow Up with Past Clients
One of the best resources for new work is past clients. Make it a point to check in with past clients and see if there are any projects you can help with. Even if they don't have work right that moment, getting on back on their radar means they'll be more likely to reach out when they do. They may even be able to send a referral or two your way in the meantime.
Send Out Client Holiday Gifts
Everyone likes to know that they're appreciated, even your freelance clients. The end of the year is a great time to show your clients some love by sending a holiday gift. I know what you're thinking…”I'm a freelancer, not Oprah!”
It's understandable to feel overwhelmed by the idea of sending gifts to your clients. The good news is that a client gift doesn't have to be extravagant. It can be as simple as sending a handwritten holiday card or a $5 gift card for coffee.
The purpose of sending a client a holiday gift is to show them you genuinely appreciate them. Taking the time to send a handwritten holiday card does just that.
Offer a Discount or Deal for Your Services
Another thing you can do to retain current clients or entice new ones is to offer a discount for your services in the new year. What you offer is entirely up to you, whether it's a discount on pre-paid services or a discount on a package or bundle.
Offering your current clients a deal makes them feel valued and offers a bit of financial stability for your freelance business in the new year. If you have an email list, offer a similar deal to your subscribers as an incentive to get on your schedule.
4. Set Up a Google My Business Account
Ensuring your freelance business gets noticed online in the new year should also be a priority. There are plenty of ways to market your business. From social media to paid Google searches, the strategies you use primarily depend on your goals and budget. However, there is one marketing tactic that doesn't often get talked about: Google My Business.
Google My Business is a free way to market your business and help it show up on Google. While it's the most beneficial if you have a brick and mortar location, freelance businesses can benefit from it too. To help your freelance business stand out even more, ask any past and current clients to write you a Google review.
5. Work on Personal + Business Development
The end of the year is a great time to pursue new avenues for your freelance business.
What can you do to add to your skillset or take your services to the next level? Taking a course or participating in a workshop are great ways to uplevel your skills.
6. Get Your Freelance Business Organized in the New Year
Start your freelance business off right in the new year by getting organized from the get-go. Below are some tools to help keep you productive and organized all year long.
Financial Tools to Keep You Organized:
- WaveApps – Free financial software for small businesses (invoicing, transaction management, bookkeeping, bill payments, and more).
- Catch – Easily manage tax payments, retirement accounts, and other benefits.
- Toggl Track – Free time tracking software to see how much time you're spending on various projects so you can fine-tune your pricing and billing strategies.
Digital Project Management Tools:
Paper Planners and Goal Management Tools:
- Full Focus Planner
- Powersheets Intentional Goal Planner – (Read the review)
- Daily At a Glance Planner
- Panda Planner
- Clever Fox Planner
7. Set Goals for Your Freelance Business in the New Year
Another way to help your freelance business thrive in the new year is to set goals.
Before ringing in the new year, take the time to evaluate where you're at in your business and where you want to go. This will help you determine your goals and develop the steps to achieve them.
While setting goals is important, it's just as essential to take measures to ensure you achieve them.
Not sure what I mean?
Think about all the new year resolutions you've set, only to abandon them a few months into the new year. That's exactly what you want to avoid when setting goals for your business. In addition to setting SMART goals and writing them down, you need to have the right mindset. You have to not only want to achieve your goals but actually believe that you can.
If you set a goal thinking, “I'm not sure I can do this,” you're more likely to fail. So, what's the point?
Changing your mindset and how you talk about your goals is going to help you reach them. Instead of saying, “I want to sign up 5 clients for my monthly blog package,” say “I will sign up 5 clients for my monthly blog package.” That simple word change is already projecting more confidence toward your goals.
Elna Cain sums this idea up really well in her blog post on setting writing goals for new freelance writers:
“To be successful with goal setting you have to know that you WILL accomplish these goals and that these goals WILL help you be more successful than if you never created these goals in the first place.” – Elna Cain
Regardless of the services you offer, I highly recommend checking out her blog post. And, if you need help with changing your mindset, Jen Sincero's book, You Are a Badass is worth checking out.
Make It Your Best Year Yet
A brand-new year means a fresh start and a chance to accomplish great things in your business. By taking the steps to prepare your business for the new year, you have a better chance of making those things happen.
Are there any specific steps or things you do to get your freelance business ready for the new year? Tell me about them in the comments!
Katie Jenison is a freelance writer offering copywriting, blogging, and ghostwriting services. She works closely with home builders, remodelers, interior designers, real estate and property management professionals to help them create content marketing strategies, improve their digital presence, generate leads, and engage with their target audience. Katie also helps freelance writers and creative entrepreneurs pursue their dreams of working from home by providing tips and advice, business strategies, and writing tips on her blog, The Quiet Type. Download her free workbook, A Freelancer’s Guide to Setting Rates, here.