Freelance advertising creatives – art directors, copywriters and graphic designers – have great potential but often fall short in creating and maintaining a successful advertising freelance business. Getting enough clients to sustain a full-time, lucrative business is the main challenge. CLIENTS = MONEY Freelance creatives aren’t landing clients so they aren’t making money (or enough money to continue freelancing and maintain their lifestyle).
Why is that? Why are many talented advertising creatives unable to make money as freelancers?
Because of their brains. Some of the best creatives are much more creative-minded than business-minded, much more right-brained than left-brained.*
Because they don’t connect one on one. While advertising art directors, copywriters and graphic designers have perfected the art of connecting with the masses through, let’s say, a print ad, they aren’t experienced in generating client leads person by person.
Because they go straight for the jugular…I mean…sale. It’s a rookie mistake to pitch your services to a potential client before understanding if the individual and/or business is even interested and if so, what their true needs are. Imagine pitching a serious brochure when a business wants a funny microsite. Now imagine overwhelming an individual with talk of social media, web banners and mobile apps when they haven’t the slightest idea of what they want their logo to look like. Freelancers must understand a potential client’s needs and then communicate how as an advertising creative professional they can meet those needs.
Because they offer everything upfront. Many creatives can do it all; they can create fully integrated campaigns and they can art direct and write. Even if they can do everything, there are certain things they do better and enjoy doing more. The freelancers that are having a harder time making money, are the ones who are offering everything upfront and not specializing. Whether it’s designing packaging or writing radio scripts, freelancers who market themselves as an expert in an area are sought out by clients who need their expertise. Once a freelancer is hired for what they’re known for, they can offer the client everything else. For instance, a designer who is hired because of their specialty with packaging can also recommend he or she designs the business cards, brochures, print ads, landing pages, etc., in the same look and feel.
Because they don’t target their ideal clients. Ideal clients are the individuals or businesses that the freelancer is genuinely interested in and THAT HAVE THE MONEY TO PAY the freelancer. As an advertising creative career coach, I primarily coach and consult senior- to executive-level creatives. While I have a soft spot for helping students and juniors (and I do as much as possible), younger creatives aren’t my target audience. As a business owner, I must market to those who can afford the services I provide. And currently, more than half of my clients freelance or own their own businesses, which I work with them to grow.
OR many talented advertising creatives are unable to make money as freelancers…
Because they don’t follow up. Freelance creatives aren’t politely persistent – calling, e-mailing, stopping by in person, etc. – until they get a yes or a no.
As a freelancer, which of these is holding you back? Post it in the comments below.
The good news is that while inherent creativity can’t be learned, business and sales skills can be learned. Freelance creatives can succeed if they invest more of themselves in learning that left-brain, business side.
(*Side note: I am almost equally right-brained and left-brained. My creative side is a notch above my business side. Both sides came in handy when I was managing the creative department at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, and now both benefit my clients as I coach and consult them to get unstuck, reach their goals and finally feel satisfied.)