7 Ways to Better Your Freelance Business in 2021

freelance business person on phone
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Looking for a strong start in 2021 for your freelance business?
A new year always brings new possibilities. If you’re willing to shake up the way you do business this year, you’ll open yourself up to exciting opportunities and untapped growth potential.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, it’s created both challenges and possibilities for business owners. Freelancing in particular has become a favorite new way to make money. A recent NPR story highlighted how two million Americans started freelancing since the pandemic began.
Sure, it means more competition, but it also means you’ve got a chance to sharpen your creative entrepreneur skills to develop an even better freelance business.
Ready to improve your freelance business this year?
Here are 7 simple tips to plan your ideal writing business in 2021:

1. Mind Map Your Goals

freelance business mind map on wall

Sometimes it’s hard to envision in your head where you want to go next in your business. As it’s the start of a new year (good riddance, 2020), you now have a blank slate on which to draw up your best business year yet. If you’re like me, visuals can work wonders and so can simply getting your thoughts down on paper to create the ultimate vision for your freelance business.

As Miro, a collaborative whiteboard platform puts it, “Our brains are a tangle of thoughts and ideas.”

Amen. I know this is true for most creatives, myself included.

If you need a place to put it all down, Miro’s Mind Map templates are a great place to do it digitally. The same idea works on a plain ol’ piece of paper, too. Create a central theme or annual roadmap for your business when you create your mind map.

Some questions to answer as you create your mind map:

  • How do I want to spend my days?
  • What would I like to accomplish in 2021?
  • What is my top freelance business priority this month, quarter, year?

Your mind map doesn’t have to be fancy. In fact, the messier it is at first, the better you’ll be able to clear your mind and organize your thoughts into actionable ideas.

2. Create Systems (and Use Tools) That Work for You

wooden blocks spelling out refine

A systemized business is a profitable business.

The above idea — a mind map — is a perfect example of a “system” you might consider trying any time you have a new project or business service you want to implement. It’s a great way to swiftly move the process along — if it works for you.

That’s the key, too. You may see other entrepreneurs using all these fancy digital tools and exciting, in-depth systems. But if it isn’t a system you’re willing to train on, learn, or utilize daily, don’t bother investing time into it.

Consider trying these systems/tools for staying organized and on track:

Project Management

Note: You might find paper and pen works just as well to stay organized. If it works for you, then keep at it. But if you can find a better and more efficient way to do it, it’s worth a try!

Email Organization

  • Boomerang
  • Inbox Pause
  • SaneBox
  • The Email Game

Client Management Systems

  • Streak
  • SalesHandy

Meeting Management

  • Meeting Bird
  • Calendly
  • Google Calendar

Other Useful Tools

  • Zapier

A word from the wise: Don’t try and implement all of these different tools in all the different areas at once. You’ll find there’s a learning curve and that takes some time. Consider experimenting with one or two per week and see how it makes a difference in your business operations. Keep what works; drop what doesn’t work for your business — it’s that simple!

3. Track Your Finances

If you track your finances appropriately starting January 2021, when you do taxes next year, you’ll know exactly where your money went.

And, if you do a good job with it, you also won’t look like a train wreck to your accountant. (I’ve been there. Don’t judge me; I’m not a math person.)

One of the most important things you can do as a freelancer and entrepreneur is to keep track of your expenses. You’ll need to do this in an organized and efficient manner to ensure you’re meeting your income goals and not overspending on various tools, masterclasses, coaching, or another category.

When you make it a priority to tackle your finances every week, you’ll feel more in control knowing exactly what your money is doing. It will also allow you to invest in your business with more confidence and help you prioritize where you need to spend — or save — your money.

Personally, I love QuickBooks Self-Employed. As someone who is by no means a math whiz, this makes it simple for me to send invoices, track payments, expenses, and quarterly taxes — all in one spot.

4. Stay Connected

two friends laughing at a table together

One of the most challenging things about being a writer is the isolating nature of the position. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Even if you absolutely love writing, you’ll quickly find that even if you’re an introvert, it can be lonely. One of the best ways to remedy it? Tackle it before you become a long-term shut-in.

A few ways to avoid isolation:

  • Get outside the office
  • Find hobbies outside of work
  • Discover online writing communities

On the days you aren’t feeling up to being around people, don’t force it. A healthy mindset does depend on social connections, so make the time in your schedule to connect with other humans — whether it’s freelance writers, fellow hobbyists, or even your neighbors next door.

People need people. The pandemic has proven that. So has the weirdness that gets published by writers who are isolated for far too long. Go be social; just do it on your terms and at least once a week. 😉

5. Look at Ways to Uplevel

open journal with two pages

One of the most important decisions you’ll make in your freelance business is scaling. This is especially true if you enjoy investing in your business both financially and emotionally.

But first, you must ask yourself two questions:

  1. Do I want to uplevel?
  2. If so, do you have the time, resources, team, etc. to do it?

When it comes to scaling your business, that usually means you’re going beyond you simply doing the work. It may mean hiring a VA, a business manager, a designer, a webmaster, etc. It probably means expanding beyond just writing — you may look at adding SEO packages or full web design packages to your service menu — and that means growing your skillset or expanding into a team.

If you want to uplevel your income and what you do, then it’s time to take a look at a few different aspects of your business. A few questions to consider:

  • What do I enjoy doing the most? What do I dislike doing?
  • Which tasks distract me and would be better off if someone else did them?
  • What services do new (or existing clients) ask me about the most?
  • How can I do better than my competitors?
  • Am I charging enough? How can I add more value to charge more?
  • Do I need to update my client processes? If so, do I need help with this?
  • What tools do I need to invest in that would make my work life easier?

These are just some starting points to consider. You know your business best, so you know where the snag points are. Once you discover where you could adjust business practices, start doing it. See what happens. Add some tools in. Hire that VA to do research. Allow yourself time and room to breathe and explore what it feels like to scale your business in an exciting way. Then, go for it.

6. Note Your Distractions

focusing through camera lens

Ah, distractions. How many times have you been distracted already just reading this post? Perhaps you’ve got your inbox open; you’re texting friends; you’re listening to music. It’s all noise that can distract and interrupt workflows in a major way. Note them and then dissolve their appearance in your daily work life.

A few ways to take action:

  • Keep an eye out — Watch for your distractions throughout the day. Track them to determine what seems to be the biggest time sucker. Hint: There’s at least one.
  • Strategize — Create a battle plan. This may include the use of productivity apps, timers, time blocking, etc. Try them out and see
  • Get focused — Block out time and dedicate that time period to the “one thing” you need to focus on.

If you want to uplevel (see #5), then cutting out distractions is paramount. Not sure where to start? Begin with small changes and by noting what actually interrupts your daily work schedule.

7. Avoid Burnout

burned out woman

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we cannot ignore our health in any way, shape, or form. Burnout can be tricky in that you don’t wake up and suddenly you’re exhausted, overwhelmed, and just over everything.

No, it’s usually a gradual process that eventually leads to you feeling all of those emotions. It’s best to avoid it because it can take its toll and lead to weeks or months of feeling out of sorts. Some freelancers get so burned out that they shut down shop and then have to restart over several months later.

It’s like that saying, “If you don’t make time for your wellness, you’ll be forced to take time for your illness.”

Avoiding burnout is essentially being in tune with your physical and emotional well-being. It’s taking your overall wellness pulse daily to see how you’re feeling.

It means asking yourself:

  • How do I feel about the work I’m currently doing?
  • What’s lighting me up? What’s draining me?
  • Am I taking care of myself physically, mentally, and emotionally?
  • How can I better serve myself to do my best work?

Sometimes reflecting on these types of questions can be challenging. But doing it every week can help drive you toward creating a freelance business you truly love. One that’s not draining, exhausting, and aggravating. Consider ways you can make time to break away from projects and enjoy activities outside of your freelance writing business.

Tips to Avoid Burnout

  • Plan self-care days regularly
  • Take care of your body
  • Refresh your mind and your spirit

Whether you exercise, meditate, journal, or see a therapist, taking the physical and emotional time-outs from your business can help you from slamming into burnout mode.

Create Your Best Freelance Business Year Yet

If you’re willing to put the work in to make small — and big — changes, you can experience your best freelance business year yet.

More and more, freelancing is becoming a respected — and normal — way of doing business. As it becomes the norm, you’ll need to adjust your business model and ways of keeping your business thriving in 2021.

If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get the same results.

This year, look at ways you can try and break out of the usual routines to challenge yourself and elevate your business. It’s challenging, sure, but can be insanely rewarding as well.

In what ways do you plan to better your freelance business in 2021? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Note: You’ll find some affiliate links scattered throughout this post of services or products I truly love. These provide a small commission for me if you purchase a service or product (at no extra cost to you) through those links. These commissions help me to keep living the freelance dream — thanks!

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