THE BLOG

Five Ways To Be An Enterprising Freelancer

02/16/2011 04:45 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

On her inspiring e-zine, The Prosperous Writer, Christina Katz has a great post this week about the need for writers to be enterprising. Christina defines enterprising as "ready to undertake projects of importance or difficulty or characterized by great imagination or initiative."

For her, it's about undertaking projects that will change you and cause you to grow. It's about getting inspired. And it's definitely not about being passive, timid or cautious.

Especially in today's economy, freelancing is an inherently unstable endeavor. Publications come and go. Which means that in order to survive, you really need to be... well, enterprising.

Here are five ways freelancers can be enterprising in their careers:

  1. Diversify Your Projects. There are lots of reasons to take on different kinds of projects as a freelancer. It keeps you fresh. You learn new skills. You increase your chances of getting more work. But in today's economy, it's also a necessity. Relying on a steady gig is great... until it's no longer there. So by all means get out there and expand your portfolio. It hedges against risk... and you might just discover something new that you love.
  2. Exploit Your Network. One way to diversify your skill set is to draw on contacts you have in other parts of your life to drum up new business ideas. Through a casual acquaintance at my daughter's school, I landed a gig last week writing about home improvement for a magazine targeted at retired people. What did I know about the Small Office Home Office (that's SOHO to me and you) before I started? Zip. But I learned. And now they'll likely ask me to do more. In a similar vein, the other day I was working in the cafe attached to my yoga studio when I struck up a conversation with the owner. Afterwards, it occurred to me that he might be interested in advertising on my new blog once it's up and running. And so on...
  3. Experiment. And while you're at it, try something completely new. Career guru Marci Alboher recommends taking an inventory of your skills and talents to devise a list of potential paths you might pursue. If you teach, write or consult. If you write, teach. etcetera, etcetera. I've recently signed on to teach a series of journalism workshops to secondary school (high school) students around London. That in turn led to an offer to teach adults in a continuing education program. A freelance consultant friend of mine who normally analyzes political risk for a living is working with a programmer to launch a new company. Experimentation is crucial to growth. And it will also sharpen your core skills.
  4. Protect Your Assets. In a post I wrote a few weeks back, I talked about the importance of backing up your files, especially if most of your work is Online. And that's because while it's generally true that things live forever on the Internet, plenty of publications will -- without warning -- decide to yank your URLs and not link to them anymore.
  5. Carry on. Change is distracting... and can be debilitating. So unless and until you know what's coming next, the best thing you can do is to carry on with your work. And keep on pitching new ideas until someone throws a lasso around your neck.