Written by Mat Casner

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Ep. 21. How 2020 ended up being one of my most profitable freelancing years


Freelance CEO Mat Casner
The Freelance CEO Podcast with Mat Casner
Ep. 21. How 2020 ended up being one of my most profitable freelancing years


How 2020 ended up being one of my most profitable freelancing years

2020 was a doozy of a year. It was just filled with unprecedented challenges and adjustments and setbacks and tragedy, and there was just so many things that happened in 2020 that really pushed us to our limits. I’m here to talk about what I learned in 2020 to share with you some of my biggest takeaways and the adjustments that I made personally in my own Freelance business to help me have the best Freelance year I’ve had in my own personal Freelance career.

Freelancing During the Covid Pandemic

As I mentioned earlier, 2020 was a year for the record books. It was a year that started off with a pandemic in the early spring and just kind of continued throughout the year. P P P loans and outbreaks and just social distancing and masks and working from home, and all the transitions that came along with that really put us in an awkward state. And I think for a lot of us, we felt like we were kind of back on our heels for most of the year. And while that is true, business still had to go forward. We still had to find ways to find clients, serve our existing clients, and keep our businesses afloat. Now, I realize that creates a lot of stress and unique circumstances for many people. And I know that the pandemic created lots of turnover.

People lost jobs. People were looking for new work, a lot of people looking for work in the Freelance space. I think that was one of the observations that I saw was just how big of a boom there was, and people working from home and seeing an opportunity to be employed out of their homes. And while a lot of us were getting used to Zoom, a lot of us were already familiar with that tool. And I think that became the platform that we all were learning to grow on. But as we moved forward, I know that myself and probably many others, we found ourselves in situations where we needed to pivot. We needed to make adjustments. We needed to either double down on the things that worked or tried new options or new ideas to see if we can find some traction to get us through 2020.

So today, what I wanna do is I just wanna share with you a short list of things that I went through as a freelancer, as a designer, as someone who had to deal with this pandemic just like everybody else, and tell you the things that I felt like helped give me an edge. And there are things that I believe that all of us can do.

Here are a few highlights and takeaways from my 2020. And the first thing I wanna say is what I would say would be my favorite achievement. And that would be the time that I spent with my Ignite Freelance Coaching Program, some very special individuals who I meet with on a regular basis, weekly actually. And we walked through doing Freelance life together, and I’m there to help answer questions, to encourage, to provide guidance. And those group of people that walked through 2020 with me, I just have a very deep respect for, we call ourselves mavericks. That’s kind of what, what people in my coaching program call ourselves. And I just love that term because it’s a very independent, it’s a very entrepreneurial word, and, but it means that we’re kind of fighting—we’re fighters. And I love the, the term maverick and what it brings to the life of a freelancer. And I’m just so grateful for the people that have joined me on the journey in my Ignite Freelance coaching program. And I’m excited to work with them and, and to see them get new and, and greater results in their own Freelance businesses.

So that, for me, was the cherry on top of 2020, was being able to spend some quality time working with these freelancers in their businesses. And I’m just gonna let you know that very soon I’m gonna be opening enrollment for my Ignite Coaching program. So if you’re someone who’s looking for some accountability, looking for some extra guidance, looking for a community of entrepreneurs, freelancers who are trying to grow their businesses, that I want to invite you to stay tuned.

My Retainer Clients Kept My Business Afloat During the Pandemic

One of the first takeaways from 2020 for me was the appreciation that I have for my retainer clients. I have been a huge proponent of developing long-term retainer relationships and contract relationships with my customers. I believe that that has been the core of my business that has allowed me to stay sustainable.

And while retaining is a bit of a process, developing a rich client relationship starts right now and creating a, a relationship with a client that allows that relationship to be long-term, to be more than just a month or two month engagement. And I can tell you that my retainer clients, the clients that I work with on a monthly basis, have provided the stability for me and my business to be able to move forward and to continue doing what I do and really not have to be as concerned with trying to get the one-off jobs.

Reaching a Personal Milestone During the Pandemic

Those still happened, but it was the underlying stability of my retainer clients that kept me in a great position. There is power in having retainer relationships, having long-term client commitments. And 2020, I hit a milestone. One of my longest retainer clients, I was able to hit the 1 million lifetime revenue mark with this one long-term client, which for me is just a huge testament to what a long-term relationship can bring to a freelancer. It’s really about serving that client well. It’s really about forming a relationship with them and, and becoming a, a true, trusted partner in their business and allowing them to be able to work with me and be able to let me help them in the ways that I can add value to their business.

So I’m super grateful that I was able to hit that milestone and will continue to work with my long-term retainer clients and continue to add value so that those relationships can continue to go on as long as possible. So retaining clients was definitely a big bonus in 2021 for me.

1. Expanding My Network

The second thing that I would say that really helped me move forward in my business in 2020 was the way that I networked and expanded my network.

I have always been a fan of, of creating relationships and building relationships with new people. But 2021 became the year that I really got very intentional and very intense about creating new strategic relationships. And basically what I was doing is I was reaching out and making connections with people that I knew were kind of in the ballpark of the clients that I was already serving niches and specialties and services that I knew that I was already providing well for my other clients. But then to be able to network with other people who I knew would have similar needs. And for me, that was a big boost because it created opportunities for me to create relationships that over the course of the year would even turn up into to client relationships and then from their referrals.

So, but it started with me reaching out into my networks, building new contacts, building new relationships, a course with the pandemic. We are limited in terms of our face-to-face connectivity. However, with tools like Zoom, being able to meet face-to-face, even in places with people where I would not even really have a chance to go visit in face-to-face because of distance, zoom made it a very easy tool to use to connect with people wherever they happened to live. LinkedIn, a very powerful platform in terms of reaching out and being able to connect with other professionals. And of course, Facebook groups, places where people are hanging out, people are asking questions, people are looking for advice. Places where I could go in and offer a helping hand, some helpful advice and start to build relationships with people that would eventually turn into paying relationships, clients, and even in some cases, retainer clients. So expanding my network was a, a big takeaway for me in 2020, and that’s something that we can continue to do as freelancers continue to be intentional about the way that we build relationships and expand our network.

2. Putting My Own Strengths To Work In My Business

So the next takeaway for 2020 was that I really leaned into my own strengths as a marketer, as a graphic designer, as a web designer, I started to employ my own skills on my own behalf to a degree that I have not done so before. And I would always say that I always tried to have a website and social channels that were engaging and that were promoting me, but I took it to a, a new level. And I really made sure that the messaging that was on all of my channels on my website were geared to speaking to my target market, to my ideal customer, and making sure that I was crystal clear on the services and the value that I could provide to them. And I believe that also helped me boost my ability to make new connections in the non-personal while I was out making connections, networking in LinkedIn and Facebook groups and Zoom, my website, was able to handle a lot of the organic traffic coming from search, coming from references and having those channels up to date and working for me, I think was just able to give me a little bit of an added boost to my reach in 2020. So leaning into those strengths, I also would say that I tried to pick up some new skills.

3. Taking Time To Learn and Grow

In 2020. I, I consumed more books than I ever have before. Books on business, books on marketing books, on selling books, on pricing books, on management books, on systems and processes, books on budgeting, things that would help make me a better business owner, things that would sharpen my business acumen, and allowing myself to, to be stretched out of my comfort zone.

Probably one of the things that I have gotten comfortable with over the years is knowing what I know, but one of the things that I have come to very much value is learning from others, and especially in those areas where I have rim to grow, right? And so for me, that was just a very important thing for me to do because as I was learning new skills through reading and online courses and meeting with masterminds,

I was able to gain new skills and be able to apply them in areas where I had not used in my business prior. And so having those new skills was able to actually help me add value to my clients and not just to myself as a business owner. So there was a double benefit in the learning new tools, learning new skills, is that not only can I use them in my own business, but then I can turn around and I can use those skills and help my clients in their own businesses, which again, reaches out and allows me to add more value, helps to get better results for my clients.

And in the end, the last thing that I’ll share is that it has helped me serve my clients well. And by serving my clients well, it has helped me get more referrals. And I can tell you that in 15 years of being a full-time freelancer, the best clients that I have and the best clients that I get are the clients that come to me through word of mouth referrals. That’s basically friends and relationships of my existing clients who I do good work for. They share my name and they share my skillset with friends that they have. And I can tell you specifically in several instances where that has worked out for me in 2020, where the referrals have come to me, and they have been simply because I’ve been willing to serve my existing clients well. And when you serve your clients well, they will talk about you and they will share you with their friends and their peers who are having similar struggles, who are looking for similar results and who are looking for a solution. So I’m grateful that I was able to develop these relationships with these clients and then be able to receive the referrals that came as a result of serving these clients well.

So I just wanna recap and just kind of say my, my takeaways in 2020 came because, number one, I recognize the power of my retainer relationships and really using good customer service and serving your clients well to keep them long term and allowing that to be stability or a base for your business.

And then number two, I just really expanded my network and I really have invested in creating new relationships and building new connections with people that I feel like are my target customer and allows me to, to create new connections and potentially cultivate them into customer relationships. And then I talked about leaning into my strengths. We all have strengths and talents that we are using for our customers.

Let’s make sure that we are using those and employing those in our own business and maximizing those skills and talents that we have and making sure that they’re bringing value back to us. As Freelance business owners, I also learned new skills and techniques that I’ve employed, not just in my own business, but in the, the businesses that I serve and bring value to.

And so that has been a, a huge win for me. And then lastly, learning from books and doing as much as I can to make myself a sharper and better business owner.

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