Building a Stronger Freelance Business

A constant worry for many freelancers is the feast or famine situation — not knowing how to deal with the ebbs and flows of freelance projects and ensure a strong stream of work, and as a result, revenue.

Two Cleveland-area freelancers, Brooke Bilyj, owner of Bantamedia, and contributing editor/writer and Bob Sandrick, journalist and freelance writer, shared how they’ve found success addressing just that concern.

During the “Build a Stronger Freelance Business” panel discussion at ASBPE’s national conference, the two expert panelists talked about how freelancers can build a stronger business. Both shared insights from their years of experience as freelancers and the panel was moderated by Sophia McDonald Bennett, freelance editor, writer and communications consultant, who is also a member of the ASBPE Board of Directors.

Success Strategies 

The discussion focused on running a sustainable business through client referrals, networking, outreach and other tools that helped the panelists keep their business organized and thriving. Each had their own approach that works well for them, and it was an informative and resource-filled discussion aligned with their styles of operation.

Bilyj’s presentation was focused on building business without prospecting or cold pitching, which she has successfully accomplished over the last few years as a freelancer. Some of her recommendations included:

  1. Use referrals from known contacts to build business, thereby saving time and energy, and in a way, also addressing any fear of rejection.
  2. Increase referrals from clients by aligning expectations on the deliverables: discuss style guides to be used, clearly communicate deadlines and ask for feedback. Then, always aim to exceed expectations.
  3. Add a personal touch by engaging with clients on social media, sending them cards for birthdays and holidays and maintaining a genuine work relationship that leaves a good impression.

Lastly, always stay in touch by reaching out to clients, colleagues and editors when you see they have new jobs or have been promoted, and check in with former clients on a regular basis to see how you can work together again.

Networking for Freelancers

Sandrick shared how he has leveraged networking for more assignments for his freelance business.

He maintains a networking spreadsheet with detailed columns to keep track of whom he has contacted, when and the result of that interaction. Color coded tracking made it easy to review briefly which efforts were successful or not.

He did stress on one point though: Always ask for informational interviews to gather information through your networking but do not ask for a job right away. Instead, ask for a referral to another contact.

He also shared a sample for a prospecting letter he typically sends out to contacts, bringing attention to the subject line, which should always have the name of the referral or source of the contact if from a website, so the recipient will respond.

For the meeting itself, Sandrick had these helpful reminders:

  1. If you requested the meeting, then you pay for your contact’s coffee.
  2. Stick to a time limit of 20-30 minutes (or as you requested).
  3. Send a thank you note after the meeting and share your resume then.
  4. Email out an update every quarter with your recent work and ask for any available opportunities to collaborate with clients.

Panelist Experiences

Bennett followed their presentations with prompts to share more about their freelance businesses and experience.

The panelists shared that freelance work can for supplemental income can include SEO, copywriting, content marketing, press copy, manuscripts, website content, resume writing, B2C publications, teaching, editorial, communications and newsletter writing

For help with pitching, Bennett shared a format template that she uses for querying editors, and Bilyj recommended scheduling a meeting with the editor for next year’s editorial to see where you can contribute.

And, of course, as successful freelancers, they did have some words of advice for editors when it comes to working with freelancers.

Bilyj recommended providing a thorough brief, style guide, examples, outlines, specific questions, angles or people to interview, in order to avoid scope creep.

Bennett suggested that editors be mindful that freelancers do have other assignments. She suggested giving them ample time to work on their story and sending back the article for the freelancer to review if there are edits to what was originally submitted.

Tools for Managing your Freelance Business

Cleveland-area freelance writer and editor, Marisa Palmieri Shugrue also shares her Tools for Managing Your Freelance Business – a comprehensive tool/resource list for tools to help you manage assignments, write and edit, get paid and stay informed.

ASBPE plans to feature more great educational sessions at its 2023 National Conference, which will take place May 11-12, 2023. The location is to be announced. Stay tuned to and ASBPE’s social channels to keep up to date.

Ruksana Hussain

Ruksana Hussain is an award-winning journalist with 20 years of experience working with local, national and international print and digital media for consumer and trade markets. As a magazine editor and features writer, she covers diverse beats and topics including construction, diversity, education, travel and business.

Hussain was a 2021-22 recipient of ASBPE's Diversity Fellowship.

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