By Steve Strauss
If we had to choose one word to describe the state of freelance business the past few years, it would be challenging. If we needed more words, they would be nervous and cautiously hopeful (after all, we are usually hopeful).
The problem many self-employed and other small business owners have is that, very often, we are at the mercy of much larger business and grander economic forces. There is little you can do if, for instance, a big corporation with whom you do business decides to terminate your services in an effort to cut back.
And they have choices when it comes to saving money that are, of course, out of our reach, i.e., Starbucks can close 600 stores and save a ton of cash when things go south, but all we can do is to try to somehow wring out a tad more savings by tightening the belt and to keep hustling for more freelance business.
The good news is that there are options. As one savvy businessperson puts it, “There’s always a solution.”
Sharing Strategies for Self-Employed Success in Tough Times
Here are 6 ways to grow your business, no matter the economy:
- Look for better clients: If your regular folks are buying less, start looking for customers who can buy more. One owner said, “We leave open the option to pursue business opportunities outside the norm.”
Remember when you first started in business and you used the shotgun approach to customer acquisition; that is, you tried hitting everything, hoping to hit something? That may be needed again. Open your mind as to what is possible, try a bunch of new things, and see what sticks.
- Spend money where it will do the most good: Cut back where you can, but consider increasing spending in areas that offer the greatest potential for increasing sales. That may mean more advertising, public relations, business development, buying leads, pay-per-click, or sales training.
- Increase your shoestring marketing: There are many ways to get the word out without breaking the bank. All it takes is some creativity and follow-through. One owner at the conference said, “We email and send out postcards more, instead of driving around, meeting potential clients, and giving them brochures.”
- Treat existing clients like gold: A different tact is to take extra special care of those clients who are already your customers.
- Add line extensions: Creating additional, related, profit centers means that when one part of your freelance business is down, another will probably be up. A chiropractor added a wellness line that significantly increased revenue in only three months.
- Look for government contracts: Even in down times, governments generally, and the federal government specifically, still have contracts that need to be fulfilled by small and freelance business vendors. Business Matchmaking is one of many programs that help you do that. A Google search will reveal many more.
With a little ingenuity and some hustle, you can keep things going, and even growing.
Steve Strauss is a senior small business columnist at USA Today and author of 15 books, including The Small Business Bible.