Normal business way
There seems to be a rather popular consensus in the business world. Companies must grow all the time in order to be considered successful. More revenue, more employees, more customers... Even if freelancers might be less caught up in this logic, I still felt like this pressure was there.
I felt like successful freelancers always had a large pool of potential clients that came from a big network that was carefully built over your career. From this network came a great number of opportunities. Therefore, it seemed like I always had to do more prospecting towards potential clients and constantly sell myself. I'm not really comfortable with that, so I always feared that I couldn't become a prosperous freelancer.
Change the definition, change the story
I quickly realized that the problem was the definition of success. I can choose to define what success is in my freelancing career. My old view of success was influenced by what is considered to be normal for big companies and startups. A view that is promoted by VCs and Silicon Valley. It never felt right for me, but it is not right for me.
Instead of constantly trying to get new clients, know new people, or prepare myself for when my current client(s) are done with me, I chose to only focus on the client I am working with at the moment. If my collaboration with that client stops, well, I don't have anything else waiting for me right away. I don't have a network I can spam to get opportunities. It is a risk of course, but it is a way of managing my career that works very well for me and my personality. Like any other "system", it has its pros and cons. Keeping a low number of "active" clients, not having a lot of projects going on at the same time, not worrying too much about the next steps has help me find peace of mind as a freelancer.
Focus on the clients I have
By not worrying about growing, I can focus all my energy on my current client's needs. People love to fell like you are 100% devoted to them, their well-being and their success. Your clients are no different. I'm dedicated to my client's success because their success means I'm getting paid. It also means that if they have more projects in mind, we might just keep working together. According to some studies, customer acquisition costs more than customer retention ( 6 to 7 percent more). As a company of one, it makes more sense for me to think about clients in this way.
Know who I am working with
I spend A LOT of time researching my clients' history and activities before working with them. I need to make sure our values are somewhat aligned. With that system, I found that I have a tendency to stay stuck with a client. In the past, the fear of not having a paycheck made me keep a client I definitely shoudn't have kept. Our relationship worsened after some time, and I became miserable. That experience made me realize that if a project and a client doesn't bring a FUCK YEAH!, it's absolutely a No.
Find what works for you
After 3 years, my freelancing business has stayed small, by choice. My rates are rather low for someone what my kind of experience. But my definition of success doesn't involve becoming a millionaire. I'll rather work with people I know I can grow with, and make quality products. In 3 yars, I worked only with 3 clients. I'm doing great thank you very much.
Find your definition of success. Find what works for you. Embrace your personality and translate that into a career path that works for you. No path is perfect, and it will be a life long process. Don't be afraid to make your own path.
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