How to Thrive Like Lisa Baker——Instead of Feeling Sorry for Yourself
How did Lisa Baker recover from losing a lot of work during the pandemic?
Being flexible and proactive enabled Lisa Baker to bring in new business. She expanded her services and the type of clients she works with and is busier than ever.
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic began sweeping across the United States, freelancer Lisa Baker, PhD, lost all of her work from two of her biggest clients. Lisa had been a freelance medical writer for three years when this happened.
The pandemic, the recession that started soon after, and the ongoing economic uncertainty were all threats to the stable, successful freelance business that Lisa had worked hard to build.
Lose Some, Win Some
Lisa didn’t sit around feeling sorry for herself or hoping that things would get better. She continued working with two other clients and started working with a new client who had found her through LinkedIn. Lisa also accepted work from an old client. “It’s not the kind of work I prefer, but I wanted to stay busy,” she says.
Within a few months, Lisa’s two biggest clients started hiring her again. One client really needed Lisa’s help and had convinced managers to let them work with Lisa before they started hiring other freelancers again. “The scientific lead on this team has told me they prefer to send work to me, because they know I’ll get it right the first time,” says Lisa. The other client was able to start working with all of its freelancers again.
Exploring New Opportunities
Expanding her services and the type of clients she worked with helped Lisa get two new clients. Most of her freelance work had been with medical communications agencies. Small pharmaceutical (pharma) companies had approached her but she didn’t provide all of the services they needed, including project management, graphics, and copy editing. “Uncertain of my income stream, I decided to be more proactive in pursuing these possibilities,” says Lisa.
Lisa teamed up with a current client and friend who owns and operates a small agency to meet the needs of small pharma companies. The agency offers project management and a full range of other services at a reasonable price.
“Together, we pitched two potential clients and won the business,” says Lisa. She and her colleague are already getting steady work from one of these clients, with Lisa as the freelancer writer for the account.
“I consider all of this a win-win-win situation: the pharma companies are getting the services they need at a reasonable price, my agency friend won business, and I secured steady writing work for myself in 2020,” says Lisa.
The key takeaway from these experiences, says Lisa, is to “be flexible and proactive in developing new offerings and think creatively and collaboratively to bring in new business.”
Since 2020, Lisa’s business has been booming. She has been approached by many past and potential clients, most of whom are part of her network or found her on LinkedIn. Because of the level of demand, Lisa was able to raise her rates, and she brought on a major new client in late 2021. Lisa now prioritizes a few active clients who offer her steady, high-paying work in her preferred niche (data-based manuscripts and congress activities).
Planning for Uncertainty
At the moment (as of January 2022), Lisa has as much work as she can handle. But she knows that demand for her services—and services of freelance medical writers in general—could drop due to the uncertain economy. If that happens, Lisa will do more business development. She plans to start by letting past clients and contacts know that she is available for freelance work.
Along with being flexible and proactive in exploring new opportunities, Lisa recommends that freelancers focus on types of clients who still need freelance help and in-demand services. Focus on industries and target markets (specific industry segments or types of clients within industries) that that offer high pay and lots of opportunities—even in an uncertain economy.
Lisa also suggests using downtime productively. “I’d consider tracking industry (and worldwide) news and pointing past and present clients to information they might find relevant,” she says. “This approach has added value in a changing environment.”
Before becoming a freelance medical writer in 2017, Lisa worked full-time at large medical communications agencies. Lisa’s freelance work focuses on medical publications (journal articles and congress activities) and her aim is “to be the easiest part of your day” for her clients.
This post is part of my Fearless Freelancer series. Like Lisa, you too can become a Fearless Freelancer despite the uncertain economy.