Freelancers must show agility and resilience in the face of the UK's EU exit.
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As we have all stood by watching the political fall-out of the Brexit vote three years ago, most of us have quietly got on with running our freelance lives, going on holiday, see family, friends and doing the ‘do’.
But doubtless there will have been a continual thread running through our minds asking how best we can protect ourselves from the Brexit fallout – whatever that is going to be.
As a freelancer, you are likely to be highly sensitive to your relationships with your clients. Whether you sell direct to consumers or supply companies.
You may already be seeing a shift in the volume of work – going down if they are contracting their freelance spend, or going up if they have decided to outsource more work, rather than take on additional staff.
But out of the undoubted tough days ahead – opportunities will arise, so how can you best position yourself to build commercial resilience and make the most of what lies ahead?
1. Introduce a pricing range
If you don’t already, ensure you offer a spread of pricing models so customers with varying budgets can buy from you. This can be worth introducing for existing clients as well as new ones. Trading is going to be about protecting your current market as well as helping people buy more easily from you.
2. If you have the ability – offer inventive, helpful payment terms.
There are many different and new models out there – who would have thought shaving products could be a subscription business? Look around see what new ways of allowing customers to pay are happening. How can you build these into your terms?
Can you add different ways of taking payment too if you don’t already do so – such as credit cards, Paypal etc.
3. Are there new marketplaces you can access?
We are all using internet marketplaces to buy a wide range of products and services today. Have you considered how you can take advantage of this as it can bring customers from across the globe?
What intellectual assets do you own and can you adapt these to a digital marketplace? This removes the currency and logistic friction that Brexit may involve. Or is there any potential for you to develop licence revenue in other marketplaces?
On a smaller scale ask yourself if you can publish a book, a guide, online learning, list on AirBnB? All of these benefit from established marketplaces you may not already be on, so how can you use these to generate new, untapped revenues?
4. Add new revenue streams to build resilience in your business
Most of us only earn revenue in a couple of ways – for example selling a product or a service. We overlook the value of the actual knowledge we have about what we do.
Could your understanding of and knowledge about your market drive potential revenues? Or could you adapt your knowledge to offer it back to your past customer/client list as a new report or trade event?
And whilst I can understand the drive to focus on and deliver one core offer really well – might this approach endanger your business if that market slows, or customers fail to materialise at the rate you need to ensure profitability?
Investigating whether you can offer a new service that taps into a trend, into changing behavioural or spending patterns is good to do. Even if the answer is ‘no’. It will open your eyes into other areas you may not have considered.
Additional revenue streams can come in a range of guises. Is it worth re-contacting past clients to offer a regular service contract or a subscription payment model? Have you thought of using your knowledge to teach short courses – either in person or online? Is there an event you could run – perhaps working with similarly aligned freelancers?
5. Hyper-local + regional + national + international market offer
Obviously this will depend on what you do, but many freelancers gain work from a relatively small geographical radius. Look at your own – where do customers come from, and what are their routes to you?
Can you apply this hyper-local business model to a wider region, to a national or international market?
And don’t overlook that there could be many businesses similar to yours selling in their hyper-local markets too – if you can do something new in yours, can you then train/support others to deliver it in theirs?
This could be a licensing/franchising type model that might have value, both in the UK and internationally.
6. Remember the OODA loop
We have no idea what is going to happen in the weeks and months ahead. But what we do know is you will need to take an inventive approach to your markets.
Unlike large companies, you can pivot your business quickly and inventively – the OODA loop is a good model to use in any fast-changing marketplace, whether it is contracting or expanding.
This is an acronym for
• Observe – watch carefully what is happening around you, in your market;
• Orient – position yourself for maximum advantage;
• Decide – what could you do based on the trend you’ve spotted and where your business could seize an advantage;
• Act upon what you seen and trail blaze in that space.
Which brings you round to the start again… observing what is happening….
So be imaginative using all the different intellectual assets that exist in your current working life. Really switch your commercial radar on to ensure you are aware of the shifting Brexit winds of change in markets, in attitudes, in ways of charging, of working.
Think how you can adapt your business inventively. All these steps will help you face the future with resilience. But start planning ahead now to ensure you stay ahead of the game.
Erica Wolfe-Murray is author of ‘Simple Tips, Smart Ideas: Build a Bigger, Better Business’, full of easy-to-use advice on innovative ways to grow your business.