Being successful at an agency, or as an in-house director of communications proves you can drive results, manage a team and run great campaigns. While these skills are critical to being a successful freelancer, they’re not everything. A lot of rock star PR pros leave their full-time jobs to join the lucrative land of freelancing and are surprised when their business doesn’t take off the way they planned. What makes a six figure freelancer different from one that’s struggling is how they view their role.
Successful freelancers see themselves as small business owners. This is how they approach conversations with colleagues, clients and prospects. It makes a difference. That difference is evident in the way clients respond to proposals and how much they’re willing to invest in a communications program.
Think about it. When it comes to identifying your dream client, would you rather they see you as a successful small business owner that’s able to drive their communications strategy or as a freelancer for hourly hire that can help execute tactics?
What Differentiates Successful Small Business Owners
Yet being a successful small business owner requires more than a mindset and the right word choices to describe their services. Here’s what else small business owners know about running a lucrative communications consulting business.
They're always networking
Networking is not a bad word nor is it a bad thing to do. At least not if it’s done right and the effort is genuine. Here are three signs of good networkers:
- Publicly cheer and congratulate colleagues on their successes.
- Share tips and insight to help others without expecting anything in return.
- Are focused on solutions, not problems.
They’re regularly filling their pipeline
They fill their new business pipeline by networking and differentiating their top skills and strengths. This is how they stand out in the crowd, align with clients that are most suitable to their business, and have a steady flow of opportunities coming their way.
They understand finance and forecasting
Communications consultants don’t need to be math whizzes to run a solid business, but they do need to understand the basics. First is knowing how billing rates and expenses flow into profits. Essentially, how much you earn, minus expenses, equals profit.
Let’s say you earn $5K per month. Now subtract your business expenses from that $5K. Business expenses are everything you need to keep the lights on and typically includes health insurance and taxes. Once you deduct your expenses from your earnings, that’s essentially your profit.
Once you know your monthly expenses and profit, you can determine how much you need to work. Since you are regularly networking and filling your pipeline, those insights help you accurately forecast how much you’ll make over the next one to three quarters.
On a related note, successful small business owners tend to work with clients on retainer versus hourly rates and short-term projects. Retainers are almost always more profitable and allow for more accurate forecasting.
They invest in their business
They realize how important it is to present a professional image to clients, get the relationship off to a good start, and to have current technology to support their business. This doesn’t mean they buy the most expensive gadgets the minute they’re available, but it does mean they have dedicated office space, comfortable, ergonomic furniture in it, and subscriptions to the software and services they need to run their business. Of course, they also know that these items are tax deductible.
They take their business seriously
It doesn’t matter if they’re working part-time, saving up to take a six month hiatus, or are a full-time communications consultant, they bring their all to every aspect of their business. They see running a small business as their source of income as opposed to a hobby or side hustle.
If you’re new to the freelance world, a.k.a. recently joined the ranks of small business owners, these tips can help you navigate the first few months or even the first few years.