How to have a consistent income as a freelancer

Are you struggling to have a consistent flow of bookings?

As freelancer makeup artists and hairstylists one of the biggest challenges is getting enough bookings coming in, having consistent clients, which means a consistent flow of income.

Whenever I run a webinar, I always ask the artists who register “What is your biggest challenge as a makeup artist?”  I like to ask this question because it helps me tailor the webinar to the people who come along and so I can deliver the best, most relevant webinar.

One of the most common questions I get and one that I had I think three times in a row for my last webinar was “how can I get a consistent flow of clients?” Or “How can I earn a consistent income as a makeup artist?”

I think that’s a really interesting question and unfortunately my answer is probably not going to satisfy a lot of people.   The reality is there is no consistency in this business unless you’re working in a retail job or you’re working on a TV series that runs all year. This industry is a seasonal industry. If you’re working with weddings, we have different wedding seasons. If you’re working in commercial work a lot of your work is going to be dictated by the time of year in terms of when the weather is good for location shoots or where the economy is with budgets.

Where I live in Southeast Queensland, we have two wedding seasons: the spring season (September – November) and the autumn season, March – May).  Because we have great weather here, lots of long sunny winter days (colder, but sunny) we find a lot of interstate companies come here to shoot commercials in our winter.

And then we have quiet times. January for example, is an extremely quiet month here, particularly if you’re working in commercial work because a lot of businesses close down. A lot of clients are away during January, as the whole month is school holidays. And, it can be really hot and humid, so not a lot of brides look to get married in January meaning traditionally it’s a very quiet month.

Grace and her beautiful wedding party. Photo by Studio Impressions (Bridesmaids hair by Carly Stone)

 

So how do you actually go about creating a consistent income or creating a consistent flow of clients in such a seasonal industry?

The first step is to get familiar with the seasons in your business. Depending on where you live, make sure that you know when are the busy times and when are the quieter times. Now it could take you a couple of years to figure that out yourself, or you could ask around – hello #networking!!

Then you can schedule different types of work around your busy times and around your quiet times. For example, if you are an artist who’s focussing on commercial and editorial work and you know that January is a very quiet time, this can be a good time to really ramp up your networking so that you can be doing collaborations, TFP or test shoots with photographers to build your portfolio. So what I often recommend to my students is that they spend some time in November and December getting their ideas together and putting together mood boards so that in early January they can start reaching out to photographers, designers, and stylists with those shoot ideas asking if they want to be involved?

Have some shoots already half planned in your mind so you can hit the ground running because you’ll find that a lot of people are in the same boat. Photographers, designers, stylists – everybody is fairly quiet in January. So you’ll probably find that there are quite a few people who are more than happy to come on board and to collaborate with you.

Network with some models (or scout young girls in the shopping mall – remember January is school holidays) and get them to come sit in your chair and take photos yourself for Social Media Content.

Behind the scenes close up, and finished client image – which will perform better on Social Media?

 

One of the reasons I think that people ask this question about getting a consistent flow of clients is because they actually really want some consistency in their income. Particularly if you’ve come from a job, even if that was a casual job, you’re probably used to having a weekly pay cheque, and making the shift to being a freelancer also means getting used to an income that fluctuates!  I might have $3000 hit my account one week, and $200 the next week, and that can take some mindset adjustments!

At the height of wedding season when you might have eight or 10 weddings in a month, the money will be rolling in, but what happens three months later when it’s really quiet and there’s only two weddings a month? Obviously your income is going to be really high at one point and really low at another point.

This is one of the main reasons that I strongly recommend to all my students and coaching clients that they regularly track their income, expenses and profit – that they know their numbers all the time.

When you know your numbers, you will begin to see a pattern, you will know the months that your income is likely to be higher and when it’s likely to be lower.  Knowledge is power!!  Armed with this knowledge, there are a couple of little things that you can do.

When you’re working a lot in the busy months, you can still save some money for the quieter months. Rather than just thinking, I’m having such a great time, I’m going to go out and buy five new palettes, put that money aside, that $500 or whatever aside for a month when you might only have two or three jobs on it in that month.

But you’re not going to have this knowledge if you’re not recording your income and expenses – if you’re not tracking where you’re at with your financial position of your business. You’ll really have no idea if you just leave all of that to the end of the year.

Lucy & Rich’s beautiful wedding at Montville. Photo: Amy Higg

 

My next tip is to anticipate the quiet times and run some promotions.  Earlier I mentioned how January can be traditionally quite quiet for actual work, but it is a time when I find a lot of wedding enquiries coming in.

I remember when I was a very busy bridal artists, January used to be my busiest month for enquiries. I think a lot of brides get back to work after the excitement of Christmas and summer holidays and need something exciting!

So what I decided to do was provide an incentive to those brides who actually book and pay their deposit in January. I usually have a price increase at the beginning of the year so I decided to hold back that price increase to the 1st of February and I would incentivise people who booked in January by giving them last year’s prices.

Now it might only be, a saving of hundred dollars for the bride over her entire wedding booking, but that could be enough for her to pay you that $200 deposit then and there. It’s a win-win for the both of us!!

You could also consider run a promotion for people who book for Valentine’s Day – encourage them not to leave it till the last minute to book!

 

There area lot of different things that you can do in the quiet times to get some income coming in, which will help you have more consistency in your income. But really, it all hinges on knowing the seasons of your business and that’s why keeping good records and keeping track of your income and expenses and knowing how your business fluctuates from month to month is so important. When you can anticipate a quiet time is coming you can already be prepared for it.

 

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