Most people enjoy the flexibility of a gig career, but freelance work has its challenges. One of the bigger ones: you don’t always know when your next job is coming – or from whom. If financial stability is a priority, you must build a continuous pipeline of work. I’ve thought about how to do this myself, especially during disruptive periods when all bets are off, and here’s what I’ve learned.
1. Build your network horizontally, not just vertically: Prospecting new clients is standard fare for gig workers, but don’t forget about other freelancers. “It’s very 2021 to create a private talent marketplace with people who complement your skillset,” says Laurie Ruettimann, author of the new book Betting on You: How to Put Yourself First and (Finally) Take Control of Your Career. “You can bring your friends in to supplement your projects, and they’ll do the same for you. It’s a great way to spread the wealth, stay connected, and never have to turn down work.”
2. Have more conversations: Use LinkedIn or customer relationship management software to keep track of when you last talked to the people in your network (especially past clients) and set up future touchpoints. Sending a holiday card or asking a contact to quickly catch up on videochat will keep you top of mind in case a relevant project arises. To this end, Ruettimann suggests dusting off your e-newsletter. “We are living in the golden age of newsletters where smart people give their good ideas away. A newsletter launches a conversation with people who are interested in your work.”
3. Follow the market: Given how quickly the world is evolving, what your customers needed yesterday may not be what they need today. If in doubt, ask, and if you don’t know how to do something, learn. “You may have to stretch outside your regular expertise, but since existing clients already know, like and trust your work in general, they may be willing to give you the opportunity,” says Forbes contributor and career expert Caroline Ceniza-Levine.
4. Start simple: I hear that you want to sell meatier projects, or at least gigs that are long-term. But often the quickest way to capture new work is to make it easier for clients to hire you. “Think of small offerings that can be easily agreed upon without multiple decision-makers or steps,” says Ceniza-Levine. “For example, if you’re a copywriter, you can sell one blog post instead of a long white paper.”
5. Support a cause you feel passionate about: Volunteer work is good for the soul, and it also provides a platform to showcase your skills and master new ones. In your volunteer role, strive to be as visible as possible. “Ask the benefactors of your charitable work to talk about you and recommend you,” says Ruettimann. “And use your pro bono work as a case study for prospective clients.”
Use these strategies to constantly generate new leads and ensure your career durability. If you are always identifying fresh options to replace opportunities that fall through, you’ll be well on your way to a successful gig career.
When you land you next lead, it is also important to keep in mind how you will be getting paid. Read more about why how you get paid should be your most important job consideration.