It's one of the hard and crunchy facts of being a freelancer that every freelance contract you have, you will also one day lose.
Nothing is secure in this economy, and our working world is changing all the time.
Recently with my media coaching clients we've been looking at how we worked in 2013, and how to apply the learnings from that in 2014.
For me, over the last year, the reasons I lost freelance contracts include
- The job came to a natural end (that's fine)
- It was only ever a limited contract to begin with (happy to be of service, maybe we'll work together again in the future)
- The company I was working for went out of business (that was a bummer, they owed me money)
There are many different reasons why your freelance contract might end
- The company is cutting costs
- The publication stops commissioning, or cuts rates below what's acceptable to you
- The person who hired you has left, and the new person wants to use their own people, of whom you aren't one
- You decide to leave - maybe you got a better offer or just knew it was time to move on
So what can we as freelancers learn from this?
First of all, no matter how secure your current freelance contract feels, never stop keeping your eyes open.
Even if you're not actively looking for new work, be aware of how things are going in your industry - who's hiring and who's firing? What are the most up to date rates for the job? Is your LinkedIn profile up to date, preferably with a recommendation from your most recent client? Do you keep reasonably visible on social media, so people can find you if they need to? Are your skills as current as they could be?
One thing I have noticed, having coached media freelancers for over 10 years now, is that the people who are most successful are the ones who never stop looking for the next job. By that I mean, they don't lose themselves in a contract to the extent that they have a big panic when that job stops.
Alternatively, the 'wait until you've got no work on then pitch in a wild frenzied panic' approach is still very popular with many freelancers. And if you find that works for you, and doesn't overwhelm you with the worst kind of stress, then go for it.
The benefit of keeping on pitching when you have enough work on, is that you are coming from a place of success rather than panic, and this will naturally boost your confidence and make you more attractive to clients. And then you won't have to take every little job that comes along if it's not right for you or the rates are bad.
And losing a freelance contract is not necessarily the end of the road - sometimes it's exactly what your career needs.
That's the other thing I've noticed from coaching freelancers - whilst many people believe in the theory of As one door shuts, another will open, what they really want is for the new door to be open before the old door shuts. But this is not how life usually works. Losing a contract when you don't know what's coming next is undoubtedly scary, but not always to be feared.
I think it serves us freelancers better to believe in Leap and the net will appear. Trust that a new adventure is always coming, then open your arms to welcome it.