Is It Time to Change My Freelance Business Model?

I make a solid living now, but if I don't change my freelance business model, the good times may not last.

Several years ago, I had a rather disappointing moment of self-realization. I was rejected out of hand for an opportunity because I don't drive enough monthly pageviews to any given site.

My first response was disappointment and hurt. Because it's what I do, I immediately wrote a blog post about it, defensive and a bit hoity-toity about my awesomeness.

After further Skype conversation with the inspiration for the post, a reading of comments from readers, and serious self-reflection, I realized that, natural as my reaction was, I needed to take a step back.

And consider changing my freelance business model.

Should I Add More Promotion to My Freelance Business Model?

For nearly a decade, I've focused on the freelance writing part of my business. While I share what I write on social media, I'm not a social media expert, and I don't go out of my way to promote my stuff or grow a social media following. I produce the content, I deliver the content. Promotion is more of a value-add.

But I've noticed something of a shift. While this shift focuses a lot on clicky headlines, it also places more emphasis on the writer than it does on the publication.

  1. Increasingly, delivering results with your content is a client expectation. As a freelance writer, you're supposed to provide what the client wants. (And, of course, you can charge for it!)
  2. We live in a world where “traditional” journalism — in the form of print — is pretty much dead, and revenues are harder to come by. A writer who can deliver an audience is going to be sought after by online publications. Even local journalists have Twitter accounts these days and share coverage on that platform.

In some cases, clients get to the point where they pay for your prestige, and not just your content. I wonder if the freelance business model really is headed in that direction and if I'm truly prepared to live in that world.

It's been a rough go, and I'm really not prepared for this, even though I make six figures.

I feel exhausted just thinking about it.

Just promoting my own stuff wears me out and takes up a ton of time. If I did that for all my clients, my work schedule would be ridiculous. It wouldn't be worth it unless I raised my prices quite a bit.

Mentally, I'm toying with the idea of working harder to build a following and learning how to more effectively promote my content so that I'm prepared for What's Coming.

Adding Products and Services to Your Business

Another way to diversify your income — something else I'm passionate about — is to create your own products and services. I've been terrible about monetizing my own website. I've got affiliate links, but don't do much to push it or optimize for search engines.

But you don't have to monetize to diversify your income. You can also add products and services to your business. My friend Laura offers freelance coaching. With my friends Kat and Ben, I started the Freelance Writer Academy to offer courses and coaching. Other friends of mine write ebooks and publish books regularly for income streams.

It's also common to offer additional services, like social media management, SEO strategy, or other items that you might be able to charge extra for. If your freelance business model is no longer working, or if you're worried about the future, diversifying your income can be a good idea.

Bottom Line

Yes, I make a good living right now. I've got a good thing going. I provide content, I'm well-paid, and I don't have to do anything beyond dropping the content and move on. But, at some point, expectations might change. If that happens, I need to be ready. The time to start shifting my freelance business model is probably now.

What do you think? What's the freelance business model of the future? Will writers need to start putting on more hats?

4 thoughts on “Is It Time to Change My Freelance Business Model?”

  1. Social media makes me want to lie down with a cold cloth on my eyes. Then again, I’m an old print newshound who used to write the articles assigned and suggest them on my own. We weren’t after popularity: We were writing articles that helped people.

    I still think I write articles that help people. The idea of having to prove my worth because I don’t have X pageviews is…bitter.

    1. Right? It’s very frustrating. I like to think I write helpful things, but they get fewer clicks than the stuff that maybe … isn’t so helpful. And I don’t have that big marketing personality to really get the pageviews needed to do whatever it is to have my own platform. While I love that there are folks out there doing the thing and getting paid, it would also be nice to be recognized for just plodding along, quietly trying to help. And by recognized, I mean, it’s nice to be able to make enough money to eat without having having to “prove” yourself through pageviews.

  2. I remember getting dropped by a blog once, and I know it was partly due to my reluctance to keep sharing my posts and promoting them to my (small) following.

    We all have to be our own brand these days. Sigh. I think that writers in the bloggy space face this more than others (say, copywriters, ghostwriters, etc). One model I’ve recently learned about is the VIP day which is pretty intriguing!

  3. I have been on both ends of this as I freelance and hire some writers for my site.

    While I don’t expect writers to share their work it’s certainly nice when they do. It’s not just about the traffic as often their audience is small (you need a pretty large following to get sizable traffic from a Tweet or Facebook post) it’s really more of a sign you care about the publication/outlet and are proud of the work .

    It’s hard not to feel like those that don’t share are not invested in success of the company.

    Having felt that way about a few writers I have worked with I always make it a point to share my freelance work, might not get a bunch of traffic but at at least they know I cared.

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