HOW TO APPLY STARTUP THINKING TO YOUR FREELANCE BUSINESS
By Michelle Ives. Currently the founder and word chief at copywriting studio, Wordy and Smith. Formerly startup girl as the Head of Communications for parcel delivery startup, Sendle and local deals marketplace, Loocl.
When it comes to business, no longer is it true that the big eat the small. More and more often, it’s the fast eating the slow. This means that the ability to apply gritty startup thinking to your freelance venture is more critical than ever – and full disclosure, no hoverboards, ping pong or denim enthusiasm is required.
Go back to the MVP, always
One of the fundamental problems of running your own show is understanding where your time is best spent, but in order to continuously validate your efforts – always go back to your Minimum Viable Product.
What’s the minimum work you can do in order to get in front of your clients? What marketing channels generate the best return? What kind of systems keep you as hands-off as possible? The MVP methodology keeps you efficient and in startup land, efficiency is what equals scale.
Think of the money as if it isn’t your own
Most startups are typically funded by either seed (angel) funding or venture capital. In this exchange, the founder offers convertible debt or ownership equity in return for the promise of long-term profit. This is a lot of pressure for a founder, but this pressure in many cases can be very good for business.
So, treat any initial freelance business capital with that same heed. Pretending that the money isn’t yours will keep you metric-minded, and accountable to return. You become less likely to sink cash on things that don’t prove evolution, and you start to find that equilibrium between passion and commercial viability.
Hire slowly, fire quickly
There’s a lot of discussion at the moment on hiring for cultural fit, and while that’s true for team members, it’s potentially more so for clients. Not every client out there will be right for you – although you’ll bring on a bunch of them that you’ll only find that out for through trial and error.
Ideally you want to see those red flags through various one-on-one’s with your key contact before you sign on the dotted line – but if you do (which you will), learn how to let go immediately. Firing quickly, with dignity but without guilt is the marker of a successful startup.
Love your early adopters with a passion
Early adopters are the lifeblood of your business. They’re the chaps and chapettes who champion you from day dot; telling people about you, referring on work, always engaging with your content and accounting for a high portion of your (crucial) early paid work.
As evangelists, they are gold dust in human form. They’ll drive you forward quickly and go the whole hog, from ideation to success. While later consumers will drop on and off the radar, it’s the early adopters that keep you afloat in the hard times. Look after them.
Believe what you have to offer is game-changing
For fear of sounding too much like a millennial, confidence is key. Every founder believes that they’re onto the next unicorn (companies with a valuation of $1B or more), and every freelance business owner could take a gold leaf out of that book.
Even if you exist in a sea of thousands of others, it’s the unwavering belief that your business, your approach and your quality of work is offering something completely different that carries you when times get hard.
Because remember, it’s not businesses that win, it’s the people behind them.