As a marketing freelancer I spent many years waiting for my clients to either confirm a project, start a project, progress a project or even finish a project. It seemed like my income was always hanging on someone else doing something. My cash flow was always tied into someone else and there were many times that I struggled to pay my rent because of it.
I finally reached a point where I realised that something had to change otherwise this never ending cycle would simply continue. I sat back and realised I needed to play a more integral part in my client's businesses, bringing more value, being more active and ultimately being more able to progress the pace of projects, which meant I would be paid faster.
So how did I do this? Well firstly I started to change my approach. Rather than thinking in a "project to project" way, I started thinking more long term. I looked at each of my clients at the time, and realised that I needed to know much more about their business, their issues, their challenges, their frustrations and their opportunities, which would in turn help me serve them better.
I started making appointments with each client, making it clear that I wanted to find out more about their needs, so I could adapt my business to be more supportive of them. It wasn't a sales meeting, it was a planning meeting. I met with CEO's, Marketing Managers, Business owners, whoever my clients were, and they all freely shared their issues and their opportunities.
At the end of each meeting I was able to summarise and say something along the lines of "so if I did this, and more of that, and perhaps lead this project, would that help?". I found ways to be more helpful and to be a bigger part of their team. They all loved this approach and let's be honest, who doesn't like someone who comes along trying to make our life easier?
This meant a bigger role with every client I had. I was involved in planning days, I was involved in decision making meetings, I was involved in the big projects and even though I was an external consultant, I was now treated as part of the team.
There were other benefits. Firstly I generated a lot more work, as I could see the opportunities and my clients gladly gave me the work because it made their life easier.
I managed to speed up projects and that meant my income came in quicker, plus when I moved into a more intimate and engaged role in these businesses, I moved up a notch or two on the priority list for getting paid.
Last but not least, I felt more valued. That had a big impact on my mindset and my confidence. I started to increase my rates, I never met resistance, the clients that were referred to me were really keen to "have me on their team", a new term that wasn't used before. And I had finally broken that terrible "hand to mouth" existence that had plagued me for years.