Are You Stuck in Third Gear?

Steve Roller here again with the next step in re-launching your business.

You may not need to do a full re-launch like I did. But you’ll still benefit from the lessons here, no matter where you are in your career.

If your freelance business is humming along, you could learn a few tweaks to take it to the next level. And if you're just getting started as a freelancer and don't need a "do-over," you can use these ideas to help launch your business for the first time.

Yesterday, I talked about how I finally gave up fighting the niche experts. Deciding on a niche – direct response copy for the travel industry – was the first step toward re-launching my business.

The main factor in that decision? Money.

I was coasting along, kind of like a car in third gear. For two years as a freelancer, I got by okay. I had enough clients to keep busy, and last year even surpassed my previous corporate income.

But after a while, third gear feels kind of slow. Boring. Mediocre.

I needed to get out of the city, take an exit ramp, and get on the highway to Dan Kennedy–type income!

Are you ready to shift into fourth gear, and then overdrive?

Consider these action steps:

First, determine a niche once and for all if you haven't yet. I promise, you'll make more money in the long run, you'll have a greater sense of purpose, and it will give your strategy and marketing plans a laser-like focus.

I used Niche Yourself and Thrive! to help me figure out the logistical stuff, like whether it was a viable niche, the competition, naming the business, and building a website.

Answering these questions helped me figure out the "heart" side of things:

What makes you unique?

What are you passionate about?

What past work or copywriting projects have given you a sense of purpose?

What can you do better than anyone else? (This may require deep thinking.)

Even more than the income potential (which is very important), what area

could you see yourself getting excited about week after week?

Second, get help with things you're not good at. Sean McCool had a great series two weeks ago on how working in groups can improve your writing and your freelance career. It hit me like a two-by-four upside the head (thanks for the whack, Sean!).

Besides motivating me to create a mastermind group, it made me realize I also needed to ask for help on a few tasks related to my reinvention that I'm not good at.

When seeking help, I always look for a referral first. I asked a couple of friends who own small businesses to suggest a website designer and graphic designer. Since I respected their opinion, it saved me a lot of time looking around and checking a number of people out.

I also inquired in the groups I belong to – a men's group at church, a local Toastmasters club, a Social Media Breakfast group, and a parent group at my kids' school. The other benefit of asking around is it gives you one more opportunity to tell people what you do.

This time, I actually found resources within a couple of hours by doing the "asking" on Facebook (the beauty of social media!). I found a guy to redo my website, and found someone to design a logo for me in exchange for some copywriting. Bartering is good if you're getting something you need and the person probably wouldn't have been your client otherwise.

I finally had to admit that certain things were never going to get done unless I hired someone to do them. Money well spent.

Third, develop a strategy. Come up with an overall plan for getting clients. (If you missed it yesterday, my article "Reap What You Sow: How to Increase Your Harvest of New Clients" goes into detail on this.)

For me, the most important thing in re-launching my business was getting back to the basics that brought in clients in the beginning. Referrals and social media were two areas where I felt I could generate quick business in my new niche.

This can be low-key – I didn't create an in-depth self-promotional piece or anything. I just selectively went through my network via email, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and let them know about my new direction.

If you don't have an online network to draw on, you could do the same thing by sending out a one-page notice to former colleagues, members of civic or charitable groups you belong to, former employers, friends, and acquaintances.

Once you have a focused niche, it's kind of fun to tell people what you do. Craft a 30-second "elevator pitch," and when it's appropriate, ask people what they do. They'll inevitably ask you what you do, giving you an opening. One of my earliest clients was a fellow parent on a school governing board I belonged to.

The results: This is still a work in progress since my official "re-launch" date isn't until September 27.

But the wheels are in motion, the plan is in place, and so far I've gotten three leads and one project after just a few weeks.

Look, there's nothing wrong with third gear. Your career can coast along just fine pretty much forever. But as I shift into fourth gear and beyond, I can tell you that the increased pace (better clients, more lucrative projects, and projects that I can sink my teeth into based on my passion for travel) feels good. The extra income feels even better.

Do you have an official "launch" or "re-launch" date you'd like to announce? I've found there's nothing like making it public to keep yourself accountable! Tell me (and the AWAI world) about it by posting a comment below.

How to Choose Your Writing Niche

How to Choose Your Writing Niche – Your step-by-step blueprint for finding a niche that’s right for you

Need to pick a niche for your freelance business? Learn how to do it once and for all, and watch your business grow. Learn More »


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Published: September 20, 2011

2 Responses to “Are You Stuck in Third Gear?”

  1. Steve,

    I'm going through the same process myself. Good to now I'm not the only one!

    Sean McCoolSeptember 20, 2011 at 10:44 am


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