Oh, the notorious “feast or famine” plight of the freelancer. When things are good, they’re really good. But, when they’re bad? They’re stomach-churning, nail-biting, where-the-heck-is-my-next-paycheck-coming from bad.
It’s for that very reason that regularly recurring work is every freelancer’s dream. Not only do those consistent assignments help you manage a more realistic and predictable workload (so you aren’t stuck pulling all-nighters—or worse, staring blankly at an empty inbox), but it also means you can have a much more stable and predictable income.Recurring work is every #freelancer's dream. Here's how to get it: Click To Tweet
I feel fortunate that the vast majority of my work is steady. In fact, I do very few assignments that are just one-off projects.
But, perhaps “fortunate” isn’t the right word there. Regularly recurring work isn’t something that just fell into my lap after I closed my eyes and clicked my heels together. No, it’s something that I actively worked for.
So, how exactly did I reach that freelance promised land of consistent writing work—in a world of sporadic articles and assignments? Here are the steps that I took to transform those one-off projects into a recurring and predictable workload.
This first step should be obvious. However, I couldn’t skip saying it entirely.
The most important thing you can do if you want to land more regular work from a client is to do a great job with that one-off assignment—in fact, that should be your goal even if you aren’t hoping to turn that into recurring work.
Follow all of the instructions you have for that assignment. Go above and beyond to include more research, land an awesome interview with a source, or create a custom graphic, for example. Don’t just submit by the deadline—beat the deadline.
The freelancers who knock projects out of the park are the ones that clients want to continue working with. So, this is an important first step before you can even think about asking for more assignments.
Before you even submit your first assignment, it’s also helpful to roll up your sleeves, do some research, and attempt to gain a greater understanding of what sort of regular work you could do for that client—keeping in mind that it might not be exactly the same as your one-off project.
For example, perhaps your assignment was to draft copy for their newly redesigned website. Chances are, they won’t need that done on a recurring basis (once the website is launched, it’s launched!). But, that doesn’t mean there’s no room for you to do any other work.
Do they have a blog that they could post to more regularly? A quarterly industry publication you could help with? A resource library that could use some more ebooks?
It’s important that you take the time to understand what other aspects of that business you could help out with. That information will be beneficial when you move onto the next step.
What a wonderful world it would be if clients would approach you and ask you to hop onboard on a more predictable basis. Dreamy sigh.
Unfortunately, that’s not always reality. More often than not, you need to explicitly express your interest in working with them more regularly—and sometimes even actively pitch or sell yourself as someone who could do recurring work for them.
My favorite way to do this is to plant the seed when I submit that one-off assignment. Within that same email, I’ll mention how much I enjoyed working with them, touch on some of my other relevant skills or qualifications, and then blatantly state that I’d love to collaborate more moving forward.
If you want to dive into the dirty details of how exactly I get this done, I highly recommend downloading the bonus content that comes along with this post. That handy email template will help you ease the anxiety of needing to put yourself out there (trust me, I know it’s nerve-wracking!) and increase your chances of landing regular work.
It’d be great if, after sending that “seed planting” email, every client got back to you with something like, “Oh my gosh, thank goodness. Yes! We’d love to keep working with you, and we’ll pay one million dollars in order to do so!”
That never happens—at least, it hasn’t for me yet.
In fact, in most cases, you’ll receive a friendly email back that confirms they received the project, states that they’ll get back to you with any revisions or questions, and then mentions that they’ll definitely keep you in mind for any future projects.
Now what? Well, the ball is in your court. It’s up to you to maintain that relationship in an effort to eventually secure more predictable work.
Rest assured, this doesn’t look anything like sending a pesky, “Just popping by to see if you need anything from me!” email every week. Instead, it’s much better to offer value when you touch base again.
There are numerous different ways you can do this in your follow-up message. But, some of my favorite tactics include:
Following up in this way accomplishes a couple of things for you. First and foremost, it keeps you top of mind. If and when they’re ready to move forward with another project, you’ll be the first freelancer they think of.
Secondly, it reaffirms the value that you provide. You’re not just a talented writer. You’re driven, organized, and in the loop on the happenings in their industry. That’s important!
Following these steps will increase your chances of landing a second project with that particular client. “But, two projects… that’s not exactly recurring work!” you’re thinking now.
And, you’re right. However, in my experience, if a client is willing to work with you twice, then they’re probably going to continue working with you in the future. Soon enough, you’re often able to get yourself on a more consistent schedule (for example, two blog posts a month!) or, perhaps even achieve the pinnacle of all freelance dreams: a retainer.
Ultimately, transforming one-off projects into recurring assignments take an investment in both time and elbow grease. But, if you lay the foundation and put in the work involved in these steps, you’ll significantly increase your chances of building a steady workload—and do away with that stressful “feast or famine” mentality altogether.
Have questions for me—whether they do with gaining recurring work or something different entirely? Get in touch and let me know. You might just inspire a future blog post!