How To Grow Your Freelance Business (Even If You Have Too Many Clients Already)

Aaron Hoos

For several years now I have had a problem…

With business growth.

The problem is: I have too many clients.

Why is this a problem? Because it actually makes me stuck. My clients book me for big projects, long-term work, and send a ton of referrals. I end up overwhelmed with work and stuck to my desk because I overcommit and want to help my clients and their friends.

(Yikes! That was totally a #humblebrag. Sorry about that. It wasn’t meant to be at first and I promise that this post will reveal my many imperfections very shortly.)

I know I’m not alone in this problem. I’ve met other freelancers, copywriters, coaches, and consultants who have faced this same problem. Usually it’s business owners who have a strong brand and a half-decent sales funnel in a tightly-defined niche.

Business growth often starts with those very things: improve your branding and your sales funnel and your target market so that you get more clients, but for me and many other freelancers and professionals, we want to grow our businesses but don’t actually want or need to start at those fundamentals.

Is it possible to get business growth without getting more clients?

I’ve spent some time trying to unlock this puzzle and I’ve found that there are 7 ways to grow like this.

#1. Raise Your Prices. This might seem might like a no-brainer to most people reading this but I’m mentioning it anyway in the interest of being thorough. I was really good at raising my prices years ago and I’ve improved in the last year or two, but there was a couple of years, just recently, when I didn’t do a great job of raising my prices and I saw my income plateau for a while.

#2. Streamline For Efficiency. Whatever kind of work you do (whether copywriting, marketing, consulting, etc.), it is ultimately dependent on you to market your services, find clients, deliver your service, and perform administrative work to keep your business operational. Each of these can be improved and dramatically sped up by creating efficiencies. Maybe you track your time to measure when you work best, or maybe you cut back on some of the non-essential projects that you once did, or maybe you focus in even more on one type of work.

#3. Work Harder, Faster, And Longer. Okay, this probably sounds crazy to do since you might be reading this now because you are working too hard or too long. However, I’m listing it anyway to be thorough but also to encourage you to take a look at your work and decide when you work best and how you can work more effectively. As I write this, I just recently (nearly) doubled my income without any other changes than simply making sure that I’m focused for specific periods of time during the day and thinking about other things at other times in the day. Simply by tweaking my focus I grew my income. I also mention this because there may be times in your business when you need to burn the candle at both ends, so it’s a viable option as long as you’re not using this as a 24/7/365 approach to business.

#4. Build/Implement Templates, Systems, and Automation. This has been really big for me lately, too: instead of reinventing the wheel each time you do something, start with a template. Build it once and modify it whenever you need to do that work again. Use checklists and flowcharts as simple systems for everything you do. (For example, I write a couple of magazine articles every month so I have a checklist of things I need to do with those articles to make sure the project gets completed efficiently. The checklist keeps me on track and speeds things up.) Consider using software in your business to save time.

#5. Productize Your Services. Instead of providing a la carte services that clients can pick-and-choose, create productized services and offer those. It will save you a ton of time (especially if you used to spend a lot of time creating custom proposals and bids in the past) plus you get a ton of credibility AND can raise your prices even more with these.

#6. Create Products. I know you’re busy so this will be challenging to complete but a powerful way to grow your business is to create products, such as infoproducts. Start with a small book of collected blog posts or podcast transcripts, just to get something out there and get a bit of money for it. Once you see that passive income starting to come in, you’ll make time for other products.

#7. Hire A Team. I put this one last on purpose. A team is a powerful way to leverage yourself and build your business, however it’s often a stumbling block to freelancers because they either don’t see how they can hire a team, or they can’t find someone to hire, or they struggle with justifying the financial investment needed before they get a return. All those are perfectly understandable and I’ve had the same challenges too. (I have a team now but it took years to get it dialed in correctly.) A good starting point is to outsource some of your non-essential work. Do this slowly. I started by outsourcing my bookkeeping. Then I outsourced some of my really low-level marketing. Then I outsourced some of my research and editing. Today, I have a team that includes a couple of writers who write stuff in niches that I don’t want to write about and I use my marketing infrastructure to give them work and take a cut of the proceeds. But a few years ago I struggled to hire even one person! So, just start small with a virtual assistant working a couple hours a week and grow from there.

SUMMARY

For many businesses, the answer to “how do I grow my business” usually starts with better marketing, a better sales funnel, a more narrowly-defined niche, and a strong brand. But for businesses that already have those (especially freelancers), the question is: how do you grow your business when you don’t need more clients? These 7 ways can help you do just that. You can implement some right away and slowly add others incrementally when you can. Slow but sure, day-by-day, put these pieces in place and you will grow!

The Manifesto Of Hard (6/31) — Break It Into Simple Steps

This post is part of a series of posts based on my Manifesto Of Hard. If you want to create change in your life, embrace hardship and thrive in it. That’s what I’m studying this month, and this post shares some of those findings with you…

Why do people avoid hard things? I think there are 2 reasons:

First, the risks seem too high.
Second, the achievement of whatever the hard thing is seems too daunting.

Given those two challenges, people avoid hardship and default to the easier path.

But the hard thing is often the better thing.

I’ve already talked about how to deal with the risks when facing hardship. But what about the second aspect—achieving the daunting hardship?

The simple solution is also the most profound (yet most people make it more complicated than it needs to be). Simply put: break the hardship down into specific parts, and keep breaking it down into you end up with the simplest steps.

I’m not a football fan but I’m inspired a football coach who coached his team to victory by turning the chaos of sport into discrete and controllable steps. What the coach’s and team’s success revealed was: You can’t control everything but you should identify what you can control and control it.

This valuable strategy works day-in and day-out, regardless of the depth or complexity of the challenge that faces us.

When you’re faced with hardship, what can you control?

(See the original Manifesto Of Hard and check out all related posts about the Manifesto Of Hard.)

The Manifesto Of Hard (5/31) — Embrace Calculated Risks

This post is part of a series of posts based on my Manifesto Of Hard. If you want to create change in your life, embrace hardship and thrive in it. That’s what I’m studying this month, and this post shares some of those findings with you…

When you look at opportunities, challenges, or situations that seem hard, it’s natural to view only the costs, problems, and challenges. The problem is, the weak person and ineffective entrepreneur gets overwhelmed by those risks and can’t move forward.

But stepping up to tough challenges means accepting that there will be risks. You can’t get away from those.

The smart entrepreneur steps up anyway and embraces the risks—in a calculated way—to do the hard thing anyway.

When you face risks, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What are all the possible risks?
  2. What is the likelihood of each happening?
  3. How do I turn as many of those risks as possible into advantages?
  4. How do I eliminate as many of those risks as possible?
  5. How do I prepare for any of the risks that may remain?

By asking these questions, you proactively face risks while meeting any hardship head-on.

(See the original Manifesto Of Hard and check out all related posts about the Manifesto Of Hard.)

The Manifesto Of Hard (4/31) — Embrace Change

This post is part of a series of posts based on my Manifesto Of Hard. If you want to create change in your life, embrace hardship and thrive in it. That’s what I’m studying this month, and this post shares some of those findings with you…

I’m fascinated by change: it’s a constant in life yet so many people work so hard (consciously and unconsciously) to resist change under the notion that change is hard. I used to feel that way too. I thought the ultimate life was one of stasis and I was frustrated by the amount of change in my life and the losses of relationships and opportunities that resulted.

Fortunately, at some point, I realized that change is a constant in life, and it’s good. I also realized that if I could embrace change, it would help me meet new people and get new opportunities that others wouldn’t get because they were afraid of change. It’s a trade-off, for sure, but I feel like I’ve come out ahead because of it.

If you want to create a richer life of more memorable experiences and a greater variety of people and opportunities, embrace change. Discover the power and beauty of newness even when you struggle with the discomfort of unpredictability.

Want to get really practical? Go a different route to work tomorrow. Order something different at a restaurant. Spend the evening doing something you’ve never done. Go for a weekend getaway to a small town you’ve never been to before.

… Start small and introduce little opportunities for change in your life and see where it takes you.

(See the original Manifesto Of Hard and check out all related posts about the Manifesto Of Hard.)

The Manifesto Of Hard (3/31) — Learn

This post is part of a series of posts based on my Manifesto Of Hard. If you want to create change in your life, embrace hardship and thrive in it. That’s what I’m studying this month, and this post shares some of those findings with you…

This is probably my favorite aspect of hardship: learning.

I’m insatiably curious and always want to learn something new. But, over the years, that learning has moved from a passion for theoretical information to practical/applicable/experiential learning. In other words, I don’t want to just read something in a book, I want to be wrestle it to the ground.

Hardship has a lot to teach us… about ourselves. I think that’s why I love it. It’s easy when things are easy but when things are hard, that’s when you learn the truth about someone—about how they think, how they act, how they react. I haven’t always liked how I’ve thought, acted, or reacted when things have been challenging so I intentionally create more challenges now, in controlled circumstances, to perfect my thought processes, actions, and reactions.

I think back to times like: when I’ve been robbed and assaulted, when I bought a house in a different country, when I was stranded in a snowstorm on a mountain road. These and other circumstances have revealed the best and worst aspects about myself and I try to reflect on them afterward to become a better person.

The most practical advice I can give you is: do something challenging then reflect on it afterward. Pick something that is possible but challenging and try it. Maybe ramp up your workout or take a huge hike this weekend that pushes what you think you can achieve. See what happens. Do you get bored? Do you give up easily? Do you push through and discover inner reserves?

(See the original Manifesto Of Hard and check out all related posts about the Manifesto Of Hard.)