4 min read
Alright, confession time… I was a drama dork in high school. I loved acting, doing vocal warm-ups, and running improv games. Recently, I realized I actually use some of those skills in my freelance business.
The other day, a friend sent me a new potential client that needed a graphic designer for her growing business. I’m not a graphic designer — I’m a writer. However, I’ve done a handful of graphic design tasks for my clients because I briefly considered a career in it. Because of that, my friend sent the opportunity my way.
While the majority of my work involves freelance writing, I also offer plenty of things like podcast production, marketing tips, and graphic design. Hell, I even did some emergency video editing yesterday for a client! Now, when you’re starting out you actually shouldn’t pitch yourself as someone who can do everything — even if you can.
I know it’s counterintuitive, but hear me out.
Having a Strong USP
You want your business to have a strong USP, or Unique Selling Proposition. The USP is basically a single sentence that communicates your brand positioning. It’s what makes you stand out in a crowd, which is important in a competitive field like freelancing.
Let’s look at 2 different examples of this:
The Jack of All Trades — Victoria Fraser is a freelance writer, graphic designer, and podcast producer who helps struggling small businesses create strong copywriting content, enhance their visual design, or launch a stellar podcast.
The Highly Specialized Professional — Victoria Fraser is a freelance copywriter who helps small businesses create strong websites through compelling content and clear writing.
Now imagine you’re a small business owner who needs website help. You’ve seen both USPs and since you’re looking for a copywriter, you probably won’t pick the first one because it’s confusing and unfocused.
Don’t cram everything into one because not everyone needs everything. Sell your clients on the skills you have that they need most and offer more later if they need it. As you build a relationship with them, there will likely be an opportunity to offer them more.
How Does this Relate to Improv?
If you have ever taken an improv class, then you probably played one of my favourite a warm-up exercises. It’s a game called “Yes and…” where two people or a group work together. Essentially, you’re in a skit with a scenario, then your scene partner proposes a new element to the skit and you have to agree to it — no matter what.
For example, Heather starts the scene and says “Wow these flowers smell so beautiful!” Her scene partner Thomas replies, “Yes and… the air on Mars really brings out the scent!” Heather then responds, “Yes and… I can’t wait until our wedding!” You get the gist of it.
As you can see, this technique encourages cooperation. Thomas moved the scene to Mars and Heather introduced the relationship between them. You have to agree to whatever new fact is introduced even when it’s silly and might not always make sense. That’s improv, after all, I personally love humour that makes no sense. Hit me with all the non-sequiturs!
Since my friend knows I have a lot of different skills, he sent a client to me that had a job I could do, but was not one that I wanted to do. In the end, I thanked him and declined because it wasn’t the right fit and I had too much work on my hands.
Say “Yes and…” More Often!
Now I’ve realized this is my approach to most things in my life. I say yes a lot… too much if you ask my friends. In my freelance writing, I started out doing blogs and editing website copy. Now, I’m writing email campaigns, doing social media, and even some graphic design.
When a client comes to me and asks if I’d like to help them with something I’ve never done then I respond with an enthusiastic “Yes and… I’d love to do it for you!” That said, more often it’s actually something I can do, but my client has no idea.
Of course, there is a caveat here —don’t agree if you actually can’t do it. Unless you want to learn, let them know upfront you’ve never done it but are keen. A lot of people like it when people take initiative, and small businesses understand what it’s like to not know something and do it yourself.
This mindset has helped me grow to the point I’m now a full-time freelancer. Once you’re more established, you are more than welcome to say no when someone asks you for something (and often you really should). However, if you’re starting out, it’s good to be flexible and agreeable.
Many people underestimate that just being a good person and easy to work with will take you a long way in freelancing.
This article was first published in the Freelancer’s Hub.