How to Thrive Like Mia DeFino—In Good Times and in Bad

Being prepared helps Mia DeFino, MS, ELS, ensure that she always has enough freelance work—even in bad times like the COVID-19 pandemic and recession. She prepares for continued success by strengthening relationships with her large, steady clients, diversifying her freelance business, positioning her business to meet new and future needs of clients, and collaborating with other freelancers.

Mia DeFino, MS, ELS, has had as much freelance work as she wants—and sometimes more—even during the COVID-19 pandemic. But Mia knows that bad things happen to good freelancers even when the economy is strong, and that she could lose clients at any time. The freelance medical and science writer and owner of DeFino Consulting LLC isn’t waiting for that to happen.

Preparing for the Future

While Mia can’t know what the future will hold for freelancers like her, she has considered the changes caused by COVID-19 and what is likely to happen over the next few years.

“Current clients may not have as many projects and their needs will change,” says Mia. “Finding new clients will be more competitive as there will be more freelancers looking for work or new freelancers looking to transition into freelancing after losing their full-time jobs.” While Mia expects some clients to continue to need freelancers, it will be harder to predict what these needs will be and which clients to focus on.

Strengthening Trusting Relationships with Large, Steady Clients

Since starting her freelance business in 2016, Mia has focused on building trusting relationships with her clients. Much of her current freelance work comes from steady, long-term clients.

“Clients who trust me have continued to use my services and have a need for ongoing work,” says Mia.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, Mia has been focusing even more on large, steady clients, who account for about 65%-75% of her work. One of her strategies is to try to schedule projects with clients far in advance. “That way, I know what my schedule will be like several months out and I can plan for gaps or slowdowns in workload,” she says.

Building trusting relationships with clients like Mia does makes it easy to make more money with less marketing. These clients become steady, long-term clients that are also likely to refer you to other clients. About half of Mia’s new business comes from referrals from her clients.

Diversifying Client Types

Right now, Mia is doing well with her current clients. But she’s also diversifying the types of clients she works with. “I am talking to new potential clients who have diverse needs and sources of funding so that if one client has to reduce costs, I am prepared with other clients who have available work and funding,” says Mia.

Several ways that Mia is diversifying include working with international companies who have different clients than those in the United States and working with startups who are looking for grant funding. She is also trying new types of projects with existing clients and learning about other types of work, such as plain language summaries for manuscripts and regulatory applications.

Being diversified is always important. As freelancers we can lose work at any time through no fault of our own. This happens when clients lose their clients, decide to change direction, hire new staff who have their own preferred freelancers, and for many other reasons.

In bad times, like a recession, clients stop working with freelancers or have less work for us because of budget cuts and losing their clients. Having diversified clients is even more critical.

Meeting New Client Needs

One change that Mia has already seen in her freelance work is shorter timelines. Clients now want work that would normally take months done in weeks. “I am thinking through how to position myself as a writer who is able to effectively communicate the message and do so in a timely manner,” says Mia.

Handling the accelerated timelines and increased workload will require a mindset change for Mia.  “This can cause burnout more quickly. So it is important to take time to take care of myself too,” she says.

Preparing to Meet Future Client Needs

Along with meeting new needs, Mia is learning more about the changing needs of her clients. “I’m talking with existing clients to see how I can better serve them as things change,” she says. “Whether it be learning a new technology or a new therapeutic area, I’ll continue to learn new things.”

Mia is also updating her marketing to show that she can meet the changing needs of her clients “so that when clients are looking to hire a freelancer, I can be at the top of their list.” She continues to network through professional associations, including by attending virtual conferences, and with freelance colleagues.

Collaborating with Other Freelancers

Building trusting relationships with other freelancers and developing freelance friends has helped Mia get referrals and build her business. Freelance friends are even more important in in bad times.

As Mia knows, collaborating with other freelancers is always better than competing with them.

“Often times a freelancer who is thriving cannot take on all the new work that is offered, or a project is not the right fit for a freelancer. That freelancer can refer the work to other freelancers who they have established a relationship with,” says Mia.

Also, freelance friends can collaborate on projects and help each other brainstorm ideas for thriving in good times and in bad, such as ways to diversify revenue. And they can provide support in coping with the ups and downs of freelancing.

“Running a freelance business takes grit and determination. A kind word or referral can really make things go easier under difficult circumstances,” says Mia.

About Mia and DeFino Consulting LLC

Through DeFino Consulting, Mia helps clients translate complex ideas into meaningful content for multiple audiences and develop a cohesive strategy to deliver their content. That content includes publications, manuscripts, posters, abstracts, grants, briefing books, and patient education tools for audiences such as patients and professionals. Her clients include pharmaceutical companies, medical communication agencies, start-ups, and academic institutions.

This post is part of my Fearless Freelancer series. Like Mia, you too can become a Fearless Freelancer in good times and in bad.

Online Course Makes Marketing Less Intimidating for Mia

Mia was a brand new freelancer when she took my online course, Finding the Freelance Clients You Deserve.  She needed to grow her freelance business and find clients who would pay her well. But she didn’t know how to do that.

During the course, Mia narrowed down her specialty so that she knew the type of clients she most wanted to work with and the type of projects she most wanted to work on. Then she developed marketing messages for her website, LinkedIn profile, and direct emails to attract those clients by showing that she can meets their needs.

As Mia began to attract clients who treated her right and paid her well, she was able to stop working with bad clients.

Finding the Freelance Clients You Deserve helps freelancers learn the most effective ways to target and reach the right clients.

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Learn More About Mia and Thriving in Good Times and in Bad


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