4 Tips to Grow Your Freelance Business

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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on FlexJobs.com.

Your freelance business is up and running — now what? The fact is that while you may have clients now and feel like your freelancing is going well, things can change on a dime. That’s the nature of the business.

Consider these four basic tips on how you can continue to grow your business as a freelancer once you’ve successfully launched it.

Plan for the Future, Not for Today

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As a freelancer, having a full plate of client work this month doesn’t guarantee that next month will be lucrative — and the same applies to a good year that can be followed by too little cash flow from clients. That’s why it’s important to continuously search for new work even if you currently feel very busy. If you stop pushing and prospecting when business is booming, you may be sorry when it dries up.

So, even in your busiest months, build in some marketing time to put out feelers for new opportunities. And if you can swing it, stretch yourself to say yes when an unexpected project comes your way today as a financial safeguard in case next month is light.

Check Back With Former Clients

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Building your freelance business is partially about increasing your income. One way to do that is to develop long-standing relationships with your existing clients and do regular work for them, rather than constantly searching for new ones and ending up with primarily one-off projects.

As your business grows, don’t forget about your former clients. Instead, reach back out to them periodically to check on their current needs. Make suggestions about projects they might want to tackle based on what you know about their goals and areas of focus.

If you can reel a former client back in as a “new” client, there are two key advantages. First, there’s no pavement-pounding since you already know that they need your type of service offerings. Second, assuming that you did a quality job the first time around, you’ve already proven yourself as capable, which saves time and effort on your new projects together.

Find at Least One ‘Cash Cow’

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Freelancing can be a harrowing line of work if you never know where your next meal is coming from. To avoid that fate, aligning your business around one or more key clients as big fish or “cash cows” can give you a measure of stability from which to grow the rest of your base. A “cash cow” client is one that you can rely on for a significant chunk of your income — for example, a third or half of your total freelance income — from a steady stream of reliable projects.

With at least one cash cow in your arsenal, you’re free to take on smaller freelance gigs to boost your income, but you don’t have to rely on those for most of your income. This arrangement gives you the flexibility to take on projects from a wide range of additional customers, including those that may not pay as well at first, giving you the flexibility to build your relationship with them and potentially raise your rates in the future.

Be Smart About Raising Rates

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Speaking of raising rates, be sure that the approach you take on this important strategy is one that will boost your business, rather than backfire. Timing is critical when deciding whether to increase how much you’re charging, as is having the emotional intelligence to understand each client and what they value.

If you raise your rates on a client prematurely — before you’ve proven that you have a service that can’t live without and delivered at a level of quality that would be hard to find elsewhere — then you may lose that client. But if you wait too long to raise your rates or always keep them at the starting point, you may end up cheating yourself out of a well-deserved income boost and struggling to keep up with the cost of living.

Instead, be sure that you’ve impressed your client with several amazing freelance projects over the course of the initial months of your work together as a precursor to a rate hike. When you do raise them, make it a manageable bump that won’t tempt them to go elsewhere, and explain the additional value you’ll provide in the context of what matters most to that client.

Keep Your Freelance Business Evolving

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As you evaluate ways to boost your freelance business, keep in mind that, as with any enterprise, your strategies as a freelancer shouldn’t stay static indefinitely. Keep an eye on the market, understand the up-and-down nature of contract work, and be prepared to pivot either forward or backward (depending on the circumstances) to achieve success.

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