(guest post) the freelance life: surviving the drought

Photo Credit: Death to the Stock Photo
Photo Credit: Death to the Stock Photo
Earlier this week I tweeted that I was seeking advice from freelancers on enduring deal drought. Those who freelance know precisely what I mean, and pipeline is what keeps us up most nights–how and from where we’ll secure our next project, how we’ll endure the period from this to what’s next. My friend Daniel Doebrich, being the thoughtful and methodical person he is, sent such an exceptional and thorough list that I invited him to pen a guest post for this space.

I had the opportunity to briefly work with Daniel when I was a managing partner at my previous company, and found him smart, passionate, detail-oriented and creative. We’ve kept in touch in the two years since and it’s been incredible to see his trajectory, and more importantly, to share valuable information and leads with one another. I think you’ll find his advice pragmatic + helpful, and let me know if you dig this sort of thing–guest posts, that is.

About Daniel, in his own words: Daniel has worked in social media and digital marketing from its nascent days. He has positioned a number of startups and emerging companies, and helped large corporations to develop a digital mindset. At the core, he connects strong analytical skills with a storytelling approach to define result-driven strategies. Past clients include: Target, BMW, Audi, Unilever, Credit Suisse, Vodafone.

After years in the agency world, Daniel decided to work as a freelance digital strategist, advising a diverse set of clients, from emerging startups to large-scale companies across different industries. He is also partner at MISTER, a digital creative agency, where he develops striking websites and e-commerce for new generation brands such as Hood by Air, EN|NOIR and Alyx.

Photo Courtesy of Daniel Doebrich
Photo Courtesy of Daniel Doebrich
Freelance life can be fun, thrilling and filled with inspiring projects. You have more creative freedom, and clients will appreciate your unconventional ideas if you make them relatable to their corporate structure and mindset.

In between those dedicated times, where you are driven to deliver a strong creative proposal to the client, sometimes ecstatic about the opportunities, there come the periods when nothing happens. Your phone is still. Days without any new email in your inbox, other than those newsletters which you loathe. You marvel for a second about your recent success, but then you realize that you need to work hard, leave that comfort zone once again, and hustle to land your next gig. Those breaks can stretch, drive you crazy and get you to a point where you wish that you didn’t have two left hands when it comes to being a waiter.

In these moments you should remind yourself of a few things.

On surviving the drought, because it’s a struggle:

Always be humble and friendly with people, whether it’s your landlord, your personal assistant at the bank, or your friends. Do things without expecting anything in return. It will pay off when you are late with your rent, or need support to raise the credit line for a while.
Don’t overspend while you have a strong income. Keep being reasonable with your spendings instead. Do you really need to go out that night or get another drink, or go for dinner? Put that money aside, you will need it in bad times.
Don’t feel self conscious if a friend offers to treat you in bad times, but don’t get comfortable with it either. Sometimes it’s just great to be invited for dinner in a time where you couldn’t spare a dime.
Take time off even when it seems counterintuitive. While in the drought, you sometimes want to just keep working and contact everyone you possibly know, but your brain screams stop. Take some time off. Even if it seems to go against reason. You need that break and there is nothing more important than having a fresh mind and good energy.
Work out. The only way to prevent you from going crazy by the sheer thought of your open bills is a good, hard workout. Do it regularly, and push just a little more. In those moments, you will find the ideas that take you to the next stage.

On generating leads (always be closing):

Write it down. It’s the most important rule to success. Make plans and get them on paper or a Google doc. Only by outlining the immediate steps, and by defining specific actions you can make them reality.
Keep your network alive. Understand with whom you like to work and who is helpful in getting you leads. These people know your capabilities or might have a good network themselves. Keep them posted about your projects.
Create lists and keep them up to date. Sure, LinkedIn is great, but it’s so unstructured. Create a spreadsheet and divide it in a way that makes it easy for you to filter contacts according to how helpful they are in generating leads, how quick they respond, or which industries they serve.
Be precise. Create an initial email that sums up exactly what you are searching for. Describe the set of tasks you want to work on. Provide examples. The more precise you are the more likely the recruiter or contact at any company can match you to a job opportunity/project.
Be personal. Send an email blast to start with, but make every email personal. It will get you more responses than just writing an anonymous email. More importantly, it will keep you in people’s mind and lead to unsolicited leads later on.
Pitch your crazy ideas. If you have a good idea, let’s say to do a startup innovation workshop within a big company, prepare a short pitch deck, research the people who are responsible for innovation on LinkedIn, and make that cold call (i.e. write them an email). It works wonders. You will have few responses, but the people who answer might open a whole new opportunity for you.

I am pretty sure that you know most of the above and it might seem trivial, but remember them the next time you are in a period of slow business.

Connect with Daniel on Twitter // Instagram // LinkedIn // website (MISTER)

5 thoughts on “(guest post) the freelance life: surviving the drought

  1. I’m just starting to flirt with the freelance life and it can be difficult to keep perspective on the big picture. The “generating leads” section of this post was especially helpful—thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Weekend Reading.

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