I’ve got to admit something that’s hard for me to say, especially as someone who runs this site.
Over the past year, I’ve gotten really loose with my marketing.
Don’t get me wrong…I’ve still been doing it weekly and jumping on LinkedIn and all that good stuff, but I’d stopped going that extra mile. I’d stopped digging quite as deep into every prospect’s website, which means when I was contacting people, my efforts weren’t quite as effective. The worst part though is that I know exactly why it happened.
The Double-Edged Sword of Retainers
Retainer clients are the holy grail of freelancing. People ask how you can get a regular income like you have in employment? Well, retainers help a lot. These are the clients who, no matter what’s going on, have agreed to pay you a flat fee to basically stay available to them. (I’ve had retainers longer than some people have kept jobs so I know how they can change your life as a freelancer.)
This time last year I signed my latest and over that same year, I saw myself lose my marketing edge. Oh…I kept it up at first, but as I got used to that check rolling in every month, I fell off. Some of it was strategic…I started studying direct response with AWAI, enrolled in Ed Gandia’s B2B freelancer program, I checked out a new niche, and put more time into improving the Academy here. But for the most part, I should’ve been pushing for more, and I should have been pushing smarter.
Well, a month ago, just as I was signing the papers on a new car (and the payment that comes with it), they cancelled. It was a strange feeling. I’ve lost plenty of clients before, sometimes by their choice, sometimes mine—that’s the nature of freelancing—but this time, there was a momentum toward predictability that fell off along with the relationship.
I freaked out for a good 5 minutes (I had serious thoughts about killing off the purchase right there) but realized this is part of the freelance life and that it was my job to simply get back up and figure it all out. As much as I’ve been reveling in the highs of hitting my first six-figure equivalent month while working part-time, a part of me had forgotten that valleys come too. More importantly though, it was a wake-up call that I’d gotten too comfortable. No client should be able to pull the rug out from under me like that because if they can, I’m living a life that’s way too similar to employment.
Thankfully, in about 2 weeks I was able to replace the income (that’s the big difference from employment…and also why you require 30 days cancellation notice in your contracts), but I’ve learned my lesson. Marketing can’t just be a habit I show up for, because showing up isn’t enough. Just like walking through the doors of the gym won’t build (or keep) muscle, going through the marketing motions won’t get me where I need to be. I’ve got to put in effort, smart effort, even when things are going well.
I’m betting that if I hadn’t spent so many years employed, I wouldn’t have fallen off my marketing hustle so fast (comfort and complacency set in quick) but bet, it won’t happen again.