Freelancers can struggle to succeed and struggle with success. Help is at hand.
Freelancers tend to work alone. We sit in our home offices, Skype occasionally with clients and rely on social media for contact with the outside world during work hours. If we’re lucky enough to live close to a co-working space, we might get to meet other freelancers occasionally but for the most part, freelancing is a lonely profession. That doesn’t just mean there’s no one to gossip with; it also means that there’s no one to turn to for help.
There’s nowhere to turn for creative ideas. There’s nowhere to turn for technical assistance. And, no less importantly, there’s nowhere to turn when the business hits a wall.
That’s the service that Jenny Shih is attempting to provide. Shih describes herself as “a coach and consultant for right-brained, creative entrepreneurs.” Her clients, she says, are “solopreneurs,” “idea factories” who are struggling to implement their ideas by themselves. Her background is in high-tech engineering where she managed multi-million dollar projects across four continents with teams made up of hundreds of staff. While other managers were putting in the kind of sixty-plus hour weeks typical of high tech companies, though, Shih was able to apply time management strategies, efficient processes and delegation so that her week’s work was done in forty hours or less.
“I got more done with less stress, less chaos, and less overhead,” she says on her website. “I even had time to goof off.”
Tips for Freelance Growth
- Delegate whenever possible.
Jenny Shih’s first contact with a client is handled by her assistant, giving her more time for her personal touch. Hand over as much as you can to a virtual assistant, and you’ll have more time in your ‘genius zone.’
- Automate processes.
A number of the elements in Jenny Shih’s packages are prepared courses. She’s able to offer extra value and key solutions without extra work.
- Love the Business
Enjoy the marketing, the sales and growth. You’ll be doing a lot of it!
Help for Fast Growth and No Growth
Goofing off might not be the aim of “solopreneurs,” for whom time spent away from the keyboard is time not spent earning, but many would certainly like to make more money in the time they have available — and use that time to achieve their goals.
Shih’s clients tend to reach her at three different stages of their business growth. New entrepreneurs, says Shih, ask for help when they’re just starting out “especially if they want to do it right the first time.” They might also turn to her after they’ve been trying for a few years to get their freelance business off the ground and failing to gain momentum.
“They hire me when they realize they’re missing something, but they’re not sure what it is. They’re ready to invest in coaching and consulting so they can make money doing what they love.”
A second group of freelancers and entrepreneurs is made up of people who know what they want but aren’t certain how to do it. They have an idea for a product or a service but the project is so large that they don’t know how to put all the pieces together themselves. They hire Shih to create a plan and explain to them how to execute it.
And the third group of clients consists of people who might look like they really don’t need any help at all. These are entrepreneurs whose businesses have grown so large, their client lists so long and their workloads so heavy that they’re working long hours and still aren’t managing to get things done.
“Everything is such a mess that they don’t know how to fix things or even where to start,” says Shih.
Despite her background in the mostly male world of high tech engineering, almost all of Jenny Shih’s clients are women. Their businesses though cover a broad range of industries. One of her current clients is the owner of a dog-training company and is trying to start a new canine sport. Another is the owner of a high-end interior design firm.
The process of fixing the problem begins with the entrepreneur completing a short questionnaire then taking part in a free telephone consultation. Jenny Shih will use that conversation to understand the challenges the prospect is facing and make sure that she can help them. If the two find that they’re a match, the client can usually choose one of two packages both of which are delivered either by phone or by Skype.
The first, called “How to Actually Make Money,” includes a business assessment, focus session and action plan as well as digital courses on gaining subscribers, creating freebies and building a business. The goal of the package is to give entrepreneurs an understanding of their ideal clients, a website that speaks to them, offers they’ll want to buy and an active newsletter and blog.
The second package, called “Your Get It Done Master Plan” is aimed more at businesses that are already established but which are a bit chaotic. Shih works with the entrepreneur to create efficient systems, solutions to sticking points and tasks that can be delegated to an assistant. The fees for each of these packages are $1,500 and $2,000 respectively.
Love the Business of Business
While the kinds of challenges that clients face are similar — whether they’re problems dealing with getting started or coping with growth — Shih provides unique solutions tempered to the clients’ particular needs. But, she says, for all entrepreneurs and freelancers two pieces of advice are the most important.
Business owners should always follow their passion, she recommends. While that’s a mantra familiar to anyone wondering what to do with their career, it’s something that Shih has found to have a real effect on her own business.
“When I’m passionate about my work and determined to grow a successful business, it’s easy to write that next blog post, be ‘on’ for my next consult, and to create my next product,” she says. “Without passion, we can easily fizzle out and give up.”
That’s simple enough. The other piece of advice though is much harder: as well as being in love with the work you’ve created your business to do, you also have to be in love with the business of being in business. You have to get a kick out of doing the marketing, closing deals and talking to clients. You have to enjoy creating the processes that allow for managed growth and turn ideas into reality. Fail to do that, and even if you’ve chosen a niche for which you have a passion, even a consultant will have limited benefits.
“If you don’t like the idea of being in business, keep your passions as your hobbies and get a job,” warns Shih.