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It's rare that a freelance career remains the same for long. That's one of its great joys, because you're always opening up new and unexpected opportunities. But it's also a burden because you have to be ready to adapt to changes in the market, your industry, and your own situation. Some of these changes are minor such as learning a new piece of technology, but others require a deeper examination of your core business. Let's look at some of the reasons you might change your focus. First, events in the market might make your current offerings less attractive.
That could be because of something local like the appearance of a strong competitor or it could be because of something bigger like a depressed economy that makes it hard for prospective clients to afford you. Related to that are changes in your industry. A classic example comes from a century ago when ice was harvested from lakes and shipped to warmer climates. But with the advent of affordable electrical refrigeration around World War I, that business pretty much disappeared. Likewise, any layout artist who used only 1990s era software and refused to learn anything else probably went out of business years ago.
But reasons for a change in focus aren't always so negative. You might uncover an opportunity that's just too attractive to ignore even if that means abandoning your old line of work. Finally, you might have personal reasons for changing focus. Perhaps because doing so will be better for your health or let you work more closely with people you admire or maybe just because it would be more fun. Whatever the reasons for a change, a main key to making the transition is to figure out what you can use from your current practice.
Even if the new focus is completely unrelated to your current one, chances are they'll have systems, procedures, and even colleagues and clients in common. Let's examine that by pretending that we're switching between two completely different freelance careers say from magazine writing to horse riding instructor. First let's get the obvious differences out of the way. Writing is done inside, it isn't very physical, and it can be done anywhere. Horse instruction is the opposite. It takes place outside, it's physical, and it's not portable at all.
Besides differences in the type of work the business aspect also differ quite a bit. While you'll tend to have corporate clients as a writer who in turn will re-sell your work to readers, you'll be dealing directly with your service's consumers as a horse instructor and the expenses are very different. However, there are similarities. Both require that you take care of business which means keeping client records, making schedules, tracking finances, and taxes and so forth.
You'll also need to make yourself easy to hire. The actual methods will be different between the two, but the fact that you need a method of getting and starting clients stays the same. Of course, you need the same kind of work ethic. One that treats your freelance work as a business. Now these are all things you can use from your current line of work. Finally, no matter what the transition there's a good change you'll carry over clients and colleagues from your old world. People remember people. A local client who remembers you as an easy to work with writer might hear about your new line of work and think, "You know what? My kids would enjoy horse riding lessons." Now obviously that was an extreme example.
Chances are your transition won't be nearly as big. But having said that in some ways you should treat your new focus as a completely new freelance practice. Re-watch the videos that I list in the exercise file accompanying this video. Although it can be hard to change gears once you get started, remember that a change of focus can be a sign that your goals are flexible and that you're willing to meet new challenges. Although haphazard changes in direction can sap your strength, well-planned ones can lead to greater success.
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