Are you ready for the next level? Whether you’re reflecting on the previous year and thinking ahead to next year, or you’re just recognizing the rut you’re in and need to change…
Whether you need a New Year’s resolution or just some resolve…
Whether you need practical, real-world help in a specific area, or you need big-picture inspiration…
…Everybody needs to get better, because you never stop building your business.
Whatever you need to make your freelance business better, we’ve got the resources to help you actually achieve your resolutions. Because it’s one thing to recognize where you need to change and make a resolution. But making that resolution happen requires something else. You need resolve, sure, but you also need specific help.
You can’t make a resolution to lose weight and then expect it to happen magically. You need a diet and exercise plan specifically targeted to help you lose weight and reach your goal.
Same thing here. If you want your business to be more organized, you need tips and ideas for organization. If you want to generate recurring revenue, you need to know how to do it. If you want to raise your prices, you need practical tips to make it a success.
That’s what we’re offering here: Not just ideas for what to improve, but how to actually improve.
That’s a lot of what we’ve been sharing over the past few years. Real world, practical content to help you get better. We’ve got free ebooks, webinars and blog posts. Sometimes it’s easy to miss that specific post. Or maybe our live webinar from six months ago hit on a topic you’re only ready to address now.
So we hope this conglomeration of content doesn’t feel like a rerun, but more of an opportunity to find something you may have missed or are now ready to engage. You don’t have to be stuck in a rut. You can achieve your goals. You can improve your business.
Ready to move forward? Let’s get better.
1. I want to start freelancing.
Some of you haven’t started freelancing yet, but you’re on the ledge, ready to take the leap. You’re looking out at all the opportunities—the fact that freelancers are generally happier, more productive and more dedicated—and trying to decide if you’re ready.
Here’s a secret: You’ll never be truly ready.
For even more detailed freelance help, check out our Ultimate Guide to Starting a Freelance Web Design Business.
2. I want to overcome obstacles.
Freelancing can be amazing, but often there are things holding us back. Maybe you’re scared to take the leap and start freelancing, or maybe you’ve been at it for a while but you’re not seeing the success you think you deserve. Or maybe you’re just in a rut.
Chances are there’s an obstacle in your way.
It’s time to recognize those obstacles and put them behind you forever:
- Maybe you secretly feel bad about making money, like prosperity turns you into a greedy scoundrel.
- Maybe you struggle with unjustified guilt—you put too much stock in the expectations of others.
- Maybe you’re jealous of someone else’s success and you need to get re-focused on your own work. Remember: Success is an iceberg.
These are big picture obstacles that will derail your success. It’s time to call them out.
“You can’t run a lasting, successful business being a pushover. Instead, be friendly and helpful, but also be able to stand up for yourself and say no.” -Freelance web developer Jared Atchison
3. I want to learn WordPress better.
Now is the time to stop coasting and improve your coding skills, whether you need a grounding in the basics or you haven’t stayed current with the latest improvements. Spend some time learning more about WordPress so you can deliver even better websites.
Exercise those WordPress skills with some new lessons in:
Finally, as you finish projects, be sure you’re doing a post-mortem so you can learn from each one.
“Learning and being aware of these constant shifts is one of—if not the most important—part of being a freelancer.” -WordPress freelancer C. Bavota
4. I want to simplify site maintenance.
If you’re spending too much time updating plugins and WordPress installations on your sites and client sites, it’s time to find a better approach. Like Sync. It can save you time and money by letting you manage all your updates, comments, users, backups and more in one place. Seriously, we’ve got 20 ways it can help.
Watch our webinar to learn how you can manage your WordPress empire with Sync.
5. I want to achieve my dreams.
People often think of dreams as these pie-in-the-sky visions that will never actually happen. Dreaming you can fly is a bit ridiculous and dreaming of one day living on Mars might not be realistic. Even dreaming of being incredibly wealthy might be far-fetched.
But what are your realistic dreams? Working for yourself? Building a successful business? Creating a new product? Living overseas? Traveling? A family?
If you want to achieve your dreams, you have to decide what those dreams are in the first place. Then you can take practical steps to actually get there.
The difference between successful people and everyone else is that successful people have plans to achieve realistic dreams. Everyone has dreams, but too often they’re just pie-in-the-sky dreams with no action plan to achieve them. They just float along and see what happens, content with dreaming and not actually living those dreams.
One way to move toward living your dreams is to codify them in a fortune cookie affirmation.
6. I want to do email better.
How many times do you hear experts talking about their six-figure launch using nothing but email? They tell us to forget the headlines of social media and focus on the reality of email. But it never quite works that way for the rest of us. Well, now is the time to do email better.
Once you’ve got the basics down, it’s time to learn how to grow your email list with Opt-inMonster and this one-hour webinar.
7. I want to be a better freelancer.
You need to step up your game. You need to think big picture. You need to reconsider some of the big freelancing concepts and reevaluate how you’re doing business.
Sometimes we know all the right ideas but we’re not actually doing it.
- Start by going back to our Ultimate Guide to Starting a Freelance Web Design Business and review some of those ideas.
- Then learn from some business leaders. Our summer reading list is a good start, and it’s relevant year-round.
- Remember the feast or famine cycle and find ways to get away from it.
- Don’t forget to keep marketing. Remember how the marketing funnel works and keep it full.
- Find your niche and become known for something.
“I completely redesigned my marketing site six months ago because we weren’t selling as quickly as I wanted. But it didn’t help sales. What helped sales was improving our marketing funnel. That’s something I didn’t know much about at the time. So I put it off. When I finally got into it and decided I’d focus on improving our sales and marketing funnel, that’s when we saw a noticeable improvement in sales.” -Web designer Brian Casel
8. I want to build more freelance relationships.
If you’re feeling lonely as a freelancer, you’re doing it wrong. Relationships drive freelancing. Relationships are how you get work, get help and get better. So the drive to build more freelance relationships will be a big boost for your business.
Remember that freelance competition can make you better. Don’t shy away from a relationship because of the potential for competition.
As you work on building those relationships, also work on improving your communication.
9. I want to make more money
If you want to make more money, you should think about what you charge. There’s a lot that goes into pricing and you need to look at all the different ways you can use pricing to help you make more money.
Look at some specific strategies to bring in more money:
- As you consider your rates and do the math, remember to break big scary numbers down into more manageable numbers.
- Start charging more for rush jobs.
- Focus more on your past clients and generating referrals.
- Pay close attention to what’s working and what’s not. Track your data and find ways to work more efficiently. Bill Erickson talks about doing this in his business and discovering where he can offer the most value, and then charging accordingly.
- Finding new clients is good, but also work to identify better clients.
Finally, you can dream big and take this practical advice from James Dalman on how to make six figures in web design.
“Sales 101: find a recurring need and fill it better than anyone else. That simple.” -Entrepreneur Kori Ashton
10. I want to raise my rates.
Way to go. This is something a lot of freelancers need to do. Over and over again we hear from freelancers who bemoan the fact that they should have been charging more.
Bonus: This is probably the easiest way to make more money.
You should explore how and why to raise your rates. But above all else, it helps to understand the value of what you do. Your skillset is valuable and clients should be paying accordingly. Chris Lema has a helpful webinar explaining value-based pricing.
“What we do is magic, even if it’s just setting up some plugins. Clients would take weeks or months to learn it and we need to learn to truly value that and charge appropriately.” -Freelance WordPress developer Curtis McHale
11. I want to backup my sites.
Every freelancer needs a solid backup strategy, both for yourself and your clients. Don’t wait until disaster strikes to finally take action and protect your sites. Be proactive. Do it now.
Even if you’ve already implemented backups, there’s a lot you can improve. We’ve got tips on all sorts of backup and redundancy topics:
- 10 hidden time-saving features.
- Staging sites made easy.
- Remote backup solutions.
- How to backup to Google Drive.
- Why you need multiple backups.
- What you should exclude from your backups.
- 3 rules for the perfect WordPress backup.
- 7 lessons learned from creating backups.
While backing up your sites is vitally important, don’t stop there. Offer backup to your clients and make it a part of your ongoing services.
12. I want a better online presence.
You make websites, so why is your site so neglected? The cobbler’s children never have shoes.
“Most freelancers’ sites need to be less about you, less about the freelancer, and more about the customer.” -Web designer Brian Casel
13. I want to create better content.
Content marketing can be a powerful way to bring in business. It’s not just a flashier website—it’s a more useful website. You can create content that builds your business and attracts more clients. Start cranking out blog posts that actually get read and shared.
You know your stuff, so start sharing those insights and make an impact.
“I’m not a blogging mastermind or business guru, but I’ve been amazed at what a consistent online presence has accomplished for my business.” – Freelance WordPress developer Carrie Dils
14. I want to hire someone.
Maybe it’s time to expand your business. No more going it alone.
Our founder, Cory Miller, shares some hiring insight in this “Ask Me Anything” at ManageWP.org:
“Hiring the ‘right’ person … that’s something I have been trying to hone in and refine on for the last seven-plus years now and will always be learning more about. Admittedly it’s the most frustrating, painful part of the hiring process because if you don’t find or get the ‘right’ person doing the ‘right’ job, it’s a costly, often painful misfire.”
Hiring someone can be scary. Consider starting slow with contract work or an internship as a first step. That can be a way to test the waters, learn how to interview people and figure out how to manage all the details.
For more specific help, check out our step-by-step guide to hiring your first employee.
You can also learn from the experience of other WordPress freelancers. Justin Sainton first hired someone for sales and it was a big mistake. But he learned his lessons and the next time he hired it worked out right. For Patrick Neve it’s a case of needing to let go and delegate to others.
15. I want to take better care of myself.
We all love freelancing. It’s the greatest thing ever. The very thought of going back to a 9-to-5 job with a boss is horrifying.
But let’s be honest: Freelancing is tough. There can be late nights and early mornings. Deadlines stack up as high as the bills. For all the potential rewards, we also shoulder all the stress.
It can be very easy to let freelancing rule your life. The sedentary nature of sitting in front of the computer can be tough on our bodies and the constant pace of client work can mean we rarely focus on ourselves.
So it’s time to make yourself a priority. Take time to rest and relax. Schedule a vacation, go for a run, read a book. Then go a step further and invest in yourself. As a freelancer you are your business, so it’s a wise move to invest in yourself with training, inspiration and community engagement. Now is the time to book that vacation or conference.
“It’s important to set rules about when I’m not going to work, so I can be present with my family and take care of myself.” -Freelance WordPress developer Carrie Dils
16. I want better security.
Security is serious business. You can’t trust your livelihood and reputation to a shrug and “Well, I think I’m safe.” You should know you’ve done everything in your power to protect your sites.
iThemes Security is the best way to protect your WordPress site, and we’ve got some suggestions to make the most of it:
- Understand proven security practices for WordPress.
- Best settings checklist for iThmes Security.
- Security vs. security through obscurity.
- Introducing two-factor authentication.
- Easily change security keys and salts.
- Add Google reCAPTCHA.
What do you do if you have been hacked? Stay calm. We’ve got tips to help you survive your first hack and optimize your security.
You could also offer security services to your clients by selling security monitoring.
17. I want secure passwords.
Better security really starts right here. You’re only as strong as your weakest password. And your WordPress site is only as secure as your weakest user’s lame password. That should be pretty scary.
Take the time to upgrade your password security. Require strong passwords in WordPress. Use a password service. Turn on two-factor authentication for every account you can.
It doesn’t take much for a hacker to gain access to your digital life, and it’s amazing how quickly one breach can lead to another.
There’s no better time than right now to make your passwords secure.
18. I want recurring revenue.
One simple way to go is to offer WordPress maintenance packages to your past clients. You can take care of ongoing updates, backups, security monitoring and more. You could even offer SEO services on an ongoing basis. We’ve talked to a couple of entrepreneurs who have done just that: Dave Clements and Dan King.
“The bottom line is that people don’t want to have to worry about the technology, and that’s what I try to tap into.” -Dan King
19. I want to sell a product.
Another path to recurring revenue is to create products. By creating and selling your own products, you open up a new channel of revenue that isn’t limited by the amount of work you can get done.
- Build your own WordPress plugin or theme.
- Write an ebook.
- Create a membership site.
- You can also turn your services into products.
20. I want to get more organized.
Organization can be the bane of the freelancer. You don’t need to be meticulously organized with color-coded files—some of us do just fine with our piles (thank you very much). But you do need to keep your projects organized and your life efficient enough to be productive.
This can be especially challenging when you work at home and lack the social pressure to keep your desk neat. We’ve got 99 productivity tips that can help. You can also focus specifically on setting up a productive workspace.
You also need to keep your projects organized. Trello can be a big boost for that.
21. I want to work on my own projects.
Being a successful freelancer, working for clients and making money is all well and good. That’s the dream.
But sometimes you want something more. You need to do something for yourself. Whether it’s flexing your creative muscles, learning new skills or exploring a new interest, side projects are an important way to build your skills and keep yourself sharp.
“Make an effort to break off a chunk of your time—maybe 20%—to work on your own projects. That’s how you get better, that’s how you push your own creative style further.” -Web designer Brian Casel
22. I want a better accounting process.
You don’t just want this—you need it. Weak or, let’s face it, half-assed accounting practices will just come back to bite you.
This is the moment you need to find some accounting software, hire an accountant and get your stuff together.
“Hiring a CPA is one of the smartest things I did. It allowed me to offload a lot of the tax management and what not to someone who’s far more experienced, focused and who is well-versed in those things.” -WordPress freelancer Tom McFarlin
23. I want to protect my business with a freelance contract.
Contracts and lawyers may sound overwhelming, but they can be your best friend. Learn the basics and get your contract in order. Once a legit contract has your back, then remember that relationships matter more than paper (but that paper is still important because relationships can go south).
“I see the purpose of a contract as setting expectations—it says what I do and what you do. This is a document we refer to throughout our project.” -WordPress freelancer Bill Erickson
24. I want to do a better job educating my clients.
One change that will have a big impact on your business is to put more emphasis on educating your clients. The more you can educate your clients about WordPress, how to use it and how to help themselves, the less work you’ll have to do. Clients who understand and use their site will see the value and be more willing to pay for it. Plus, your clients will appreciate all the extra attention—even if it doesn’t actually take you much time.
- First things first, make things easier for your clients by simplifying the backend of WordPress.
- Then you need to offer some WordPress training. But don’t recreate the wheel—you can use our unbranded training tutorials.
- Once you find ways to minimize the basic questions through automation or pre-existing resources, then you can focus on offering client support (and charging for it).
Remember that coding isn’t enough. Anyone can code a website. But helping your client use the site will help them truly appreciate it and see the value in their investment.
25. I want to quit.
We hope you’re not ready to quit freelancing, but maybe you’re ready to quit something that’s driving you nuts. Like social media or bad clients or Mondays.
Too often we have this irrational fear of quitting. Like somehow quitting is the path to the dark side (“Quitting leads to failure, failure leads to… um… anger?”).
It’s OK to quit whatever is holding you back. If something isn’t working, quit. If something is dragging you down—even if it’s profitable—quit. If something doesn’t energize you anymore, quit.
Somehow we think quitting means that we’ve failed, and we’re just as afraid of failure. But failure is how we learn. Albert Einstein once said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough.
So give yourself permission to quit.
“Saying no to projects I don’t want frees me up to say yes to those I do.” -Freelance WordPress developer Carrie Dils