Consistent work means consistent cash flow. But any freelancer or small business owner will tell you it’s an ongoing challenge to keep the pipeline full.

A few weeks ago when I asked people to email with questions, a common theme arose around the topic of keeping a constant flow of client projects (and a constant stream of income).

For a freelancer (or small business for that matter) it takes time to build up enough clients to have a constant flow of work. There are no short cuts because trust is built one project at a time and most clients don’t have work to send you every week.

Every small creative business and every freelancer has a finite resource called time. Whether flying solo or using  a creative team,  there are specific limitations and specific cash flow needs based on the number of employees and how many production hours each employee has to give.

You have to figure out your bandwidth, and budget your time accordingly. Then you need to shake the bushes to get enough work to fill those hours. Even with best laid plans though, it’s still messy.

You’ll have a quiet week waiting on clients to approve something, then you’ll have all of them approve the next step at the same time. There will be 3 hour days and there will be 13 hour days. You’ll have a season with very little work, then it will all come at once. You try to manage it, but sometimes it’s inevitable. 

A constant and perhaps semi-predictable flow of work comes with serving clients well over time. You’ll have many one-off projects and clients that come to you around the same time each year, but one goal should be to get some type of long term contract or multi-month project.

It’s a messy science but one you must address. Store up savings during the big months. Use it up during the lean months. I recommend having a savings system (usually a percentage of each project, or a monthly dollar amount) that automatically goes to savings. Build up a buffer (3-6 months is ideal) to cover costs when the dip hits.
(Notice I said “when”, not “if”.)

Generally speaking, there are 2 key factors in generating workflow consistency.

1. Marketing
The creative landscape is a crowded space. There are thousands of artists to choose from and it’s your job to get on the radar of enough clients to sustain your career. The good news is, once you find a niche market or two and determine to stake a claim there, you can begin to market to those clients with laser focus.

Here’s more good news. Most marketing is free. Marketing simply means promotion. Any way you can find to promote you and your services is marketing. You can start a linked in page, online portfolio, YouTube or Vimeo channel, Facebook fan page, or any other form of social media you choose.

Those are great tools, but the real marketing comes when you target a specific market and start researching who the players are. Then you focus on trying to connect with potential clients thru social media, industry events, and the like.

2. Customer Service
It’s one thing to land a client. It’s another thing to keep them. It’s your job to build trust with clients as you serve them well. You want to make sure they are pleased with the process and the product.

If the experience of working with you is unprofessional, discourteous, or communication challenged, chances are you just secured a one-off project.

It takes a lot more resources to initially connect with a client than it does to keep them, so treat them well and your chances of them returning the next time they need your creative services increases exponentially.

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