The Proven Way Margaret Grew her Freelance Business in a Recession

Margaret JohnsonWhen Margaret Johnson, PhD, started freelancing in 2019, she had strong experience. But like most new freelancers, Margaret didn’t know how to grow her freelance business and get the clients she deserved. “

The former professor and researcher in biochemistry and structural biology got two clients. But they didn’t pay her well. Margaret needed more clients and better clients to earn a living as a freelancer. “I had visions of placing ads on Facebook or mass email campaigns, and wasn’t thrilled about those ideas,” she says.

Then COVID-19 swept across the United States and the world. Succeeding as a freelancer got harder. When the pandemic quickly led to a recession, things got even worse.

Looking for Help

If she was going to succeed as a freelancer, Margaret knew that she needed help. So she started asking other freelancers how she could learn about effective marketing strategies.

They told Margaret about Finding the Freelance Clients You Deserve, an online course that helps freelancers learn the proven process for targeting and reaching the right clients. She enrolled.

Within a few months of completing the course, Margaret got four new clients—despite the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing economic uncertainty. And she now knows how to continue to grow her freelance business.

Choosing a Clear Specialty

Effective freelance marketing focuses on client needs and how the freelancer meets those needs. Identifying those needs and developing marketing to attract the right clients requires having a clearly-defined specialty and target markets (groups of clients).

Margaret had a specialty, medical writing, but it’s a vast field with many different types of clients. Near the beginning of the course, Margaret narrowed down her specialty to medical education and research communications. “I’m now able to focus on the areas where I have relevant experience and knowledge, rather than trying to contribute to all the areas of medical writing at once,” she says.

Once Margaret had defined her specialty, she chose three target markets: medical communications agencies, medical education agencies, and research organizations. She learned how to find prospective clients in these target markets and began to develop a prospect list. This helped Margaret learn about the needs of clients in each target market and the language she should use in her marketing to attract them.

Standing Out in a Sea of Freelancers

During Finding the Freelance Client You Deserve, Margaret overhauled her LinkedIn profile and her website, focusing on the needs of her target markets and how she meets those needs. For LinkedIn, she developed a complete, client-focused profile with the right keywords so that clients searching for freelancers will find her.

Margaret also developed a logo and other parts of a freelance brand. This makes her stand out in a sea of freelancers—something that’s even more important in a recession.

“I wanted my logo to be simple, clear and easily recognizable, and show what’s unique about me and my business,” she says. Margaret worked with a professional designer on her logo. After exploring different icons and logo designs, she chose a lightbulb as her icon and black, red, and yellow as her colors.

“The lightbulb represents creativity and innovation,” says Margaret. “The red and yellow express inspiration and energy and the black represents professionalism. The font is simple and modern.”

The same designer also developed Margaret’s website. ““I need to spend the majority of my time on writing,” she says. “It’s not useful or effective to try to figure out web design on my own.”

Learn more about how Margaret developed her brand

The Innovative Way Margaret Johnson Attracts the Right Clients

Growing a Freelance Business Despite Economic Uncertainty

Steady high-paying clients who need the help of talented freelancers are out therein good times and in bad. But when there is economic uncertainty, there’s more competition and less freelance work. “Companies are under pressure. They are focusing on their main priorities and cutting unnecessary expenses,” says Margaret.

By taking the course, Margaret learned what to do to get her share of the available freelance work. She worked hard to develop a strong marketing infrastructure and meet the needs of her clients.

“Delivering excellent work for my clients, adding value, and building strong relationships helps ensure that I’ll be part of their plans going forward,” says Margaret. Also, she learned how to embrace change and be resilient.

Getting New Clients the Easy Way

Referrals, especially from other freelancers, are the easiest way to get steady, high-paying clients. Five of Margaret’s new clients came from referrals and two came from LinkedIn. Margaret met the freelancers who made the referrals through professional associations, the best way to meet the right people and build the trusting relationships that lead to referrals.

Margaret found one client herself on LinkedIn. While working on a list of prospective clients for a direct email campaign, Margaret found a post by a medical communications company that was looking for medical writers.

“I contacted them expressing interest, and sent them links to my LinkedIn profile and website,” she says. After a Zoom meeting, the client hired Margaret. Since then, she has worked on other projects for this client.

Continuing to Grow a Freelance Business

Most of Margaret’s new work is in medical education and research communications. “This type of work really interests me and is higher paying. I love helping clients advance their research or communicate their message effectively,” she says.

By Fall 2020 Margaret had built a stable, successful freelance business. She was able to do this despite the economic uncertainty that continued long after the COVID-19 recession ended. Margaret has as much work as she wants from clients who pay her well. She has even had to turn down work occasionally. Several clients have commented on Margaret’s website and brand, which showcase her professionalism.

Margaret will continue to grow her freelance business using direct email and networking to find and attract new clients. In her networking, she’ll focus on building trusting relationships with other freelancers.

Also, Margaret plans to build continuing relationships with her current clients. “I plan to focus on strengthening relationships with my clients and doing a fantastic job for them. I hope that many of my clients will become long-term clients with whom I can have a productive work relationship,” she says.

Most clients want to have long-term relationships with competent, dependable freelancers. And freelancers with long-term clients make more money, do less administrative work and have less stress than other freelancers.

About Margaret and Mackenzie MedWrite

Mackenzie MedWrite helps medical communications agencies, medical education agencies, research organizations, and other clients communicate with healthcare professionals and other professional audiences, so they can innovate or help their clients innovate. Margaret specializes in medical/scientific writing and editing, and medical education materials for healthcare professionals.

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

Course in Freelance Marketing Helps Margaret Grow Business During Pandemic

Margaret took my online course Finding the Freelance Clients You Deserve during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the pandemic and the recession that followed, she was able to start growing her freelance business, Mackenzie MedWrite.

Margaret defined her specialty within medical writing, and learned where to find prospects and how to attract them by focusing on their needs. She also overhauled her LinkedIn profile and website and created a freelance brand.

“The course was fantastic. It not only met but exceeded everything I’d heard,” says Margaret. “My confidence increased greatly, like from 10% to 100%! Lori is a true expert who shares her knowledge generously.”


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Learn More About Margaret and Thriving as a Freelancer


Mackenzie MedWrite 
LinkedIn profile 
Case study

More stories about freelancers who are thriving 

The Proven Way Margaret Johnson is Growing her Freelance Business  
What Happened When Kalpana Shankar Launched her Freelance Business During the Pandemic  
How to Thrive Like Lisa Baker—Instead of Feeling Sorry for Yourself  
How to Thrive Like Kathleen Labonge—Despite Ongoing Economic Uncertainty 
How Ginny Vachon Created Freelance Work for Herself During the Pandemic 
How to Thrive Like Mia DeFino—In Good Times and in Bad