by Robyn Roste
Many people are drawn to freelancing because of the lifestyle and career freedom it affords. However, the lack of stability can be stressful.
During this pandemic, some freelancers have watched their work shift or outright disappear, prompting an urgent need to find new ways to earn an income.
Even those who haven’t noticed a significant impact on their workload are facing uncertainty, unsure if the work will continue.
Seasoned freelancers have been preaching income stream diversification for many years. Having several revenue streams creates space for dry spells, losing anchor clients and even vacations.
In times of plenty, it’s easy to fall into the trap of coasting, pulling back on our marketing or delaying income diversification. Preparing for rainy days seems unthinkable when the sun is shining and there’s not a cloud in the sky.
But now that the storm is here, it’s time to get creative. While we could default to taking whatever work comes our way—even if the rates are inadequate or the contracts require us to sign away important rights—another option is finding ways to pivot.
Treating freelancing like a business
Because we’re running businesses, not hobbies, bringing in steady income is paramount. Having multiple income streams is a way to be strategic and intentional about creating predictable revenue while still maintaining our desired lifestyle.
Here’s a look at some of my revenue generators for an example of how this could work in a freelance business.
- Freelance writing services
- Copywriting services
- Affiliate marketing
- Product sales (ebooks, courses, etc.)
For me, creating varying revenue sources both lessens the insecurity of slower months and allows for a more consistent income.
How to diversify your income when your industry shuts down
One freelancer I know makes her living from photographing weddings. She had a full season booked but now each and every client has scaled-back, delayed or cancelled their upcoming events.
While she remains hopeful many of her bookings will still happen, just a bit later than planned, this was revenue she was counting on this spring and must now replace.
Because the wedding industry won’t be shut down forever, she’s looking at finding short-term revenue boosters. This way, she has income now and will be available for weddings when the time comes.
Here are a few of her pivots:
- Selling stock photography subscriptions
- Booking social distancing portrait sessions
- Selling an online course
- Doing virtual photography consultations
- Offering virtual photography lessons for parents with newborns who now have to do the portraits themselves
- Filming a new course in her extra time
While these pivots are outside of her niche, they’re within her skillset and make sense to offer as interim services.
How to diversify your income while sticking to your niche
There are always ways for freelancers to enhance their services and offers and add new clients without veering too far from their niche or specialization.
Here’s a made-up example of how this could work.
Let’s say you’re an expert at writing Etsy-optimized product descriptions in your niche of expletive embroidery and cussing cross stitch crafts. And it’s going well, very well. You’re earning a full-time income and have clients lined up for weeks.
But then something happens. Without notice, all handcrafts with expletives become banned from Etsy and are taken down. Your clients drop like flies. Now what?
One idea is to pivot your expertise in Etsy product descriptions and find a new market for your work. Perhaps you look for non-cussing cross stitch makers or some other fibre art. Or you expand your Etsy-optimized product description services to stationery. The point is, when one avenue dries up it’s time to break the box and see how your skills and abilities can be applied to a new market.
Another idea is serving your existing clients in a new way. Perhaps you stick with the expletive embroidery niche and introduce content marketing services. Now you offer website writing and email sequences in addition to product descriptions. Your clients have lost their main selling platform and they’re going to need your help to find new ways to serve their customers.
The next level of pivoting would be taking what you’ve learned about the industry and introducing a related service. How about creating and selling your own cussing cross stitch patterns? And what if you took those patterns and produced a book? Then with your book, you build out a workshop or two and hit the crafting conferences as an expert who will teach makers to both create patterns and learn how to write amazing product descriptions so they can sell their swearing stitches to their ideal customers for years to come.
Maybe your cushy gig of writing product descriptions for swearing stitches on Etsy doesn’t work anymore. But you still have many, many options within your niche. Why not get creative and explore the possibilities?
If freelancing in the midst of a global pandemic and increasing economic uncertainty has taught me anything, it’s this: don’t put all of your freelancing eggs in one basket.
Whether it’s pivoting from in-person workshops to online conferences, calling up past clients and offering them new services or creating innovative revenue streams to serve new markets, there are endless ways freelancers can use their existing skills to diversify their income.