Future proofing your company is essential for long term sustainability. But it doesn’t just mean high capital investments and low risk decision making. It requires a strategy and, above all, a good hard look at your business model and working practices to see if you have a work ethic that means you can keep going for a long time with a product that will continue to create value and produce loyal and returning customers.

If you ever look at the news, the world seems like a scary place and it may make you reconsider whether starting your own business in the current economic climate is sensible. But, if you think back over your lifetime, has there ever really been a ‘good’ time to start anything? The answer is probably no, so why not give it a go! But first things first, have a look at our top tips for future proofing your company. If you start now, you can at least put your mind at rest on future matters and get back to living in the moment and enjoying every minute of it, mindfully.

Understanding the Trends

The freelancer economy is said to be the future of the world wide economy and even in the difficult times we seem to be constantly stuck in, the outlook is cautiously optimistic for freelancers. According to The Freelance Informer, there are three areas that are key right now to focus on if you want to future proof your livelihood: Specialisation; Networking; Financial Planning.

Specialisation:

If you can find your niche and show how your services or products differ from your competitors then you can build a strong client base.

Networking:

Neglecting your network is a dangerous game to play and not only for your business. If you don’t interact with your community, they will engage less and not feel valued (more on this below). Equally, if you don’t engage with competitors or contacts you will miss out on partnerships, opportunities and also human interaction. Being an isolated artist who locks themselves away from the world may work for a few people but many of us realised during the pandemic how much we needed others for our mental health. Your business is no different.

Financial Planning:

Finances are always a difficult subject to talk about, but find yourself a trusted source of advice, maybe go to your bank in person or seek out an advisor to help you navigate and protect your finances in a way that lets you sleep more easily at night and lets you focus on what you are good at.

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Key Strategies for Future-Proofing

Diversification of Skills:

Having just said that specialisation is key, now I’m telling you to diversify? Stick with me on this. Diversifying your skill set is different to diversifying your specialisation. You don’t need to learn a whole new trade or craft, but maybe you could learn a new language (coding, sign language or a foreign language) as you have noticed that you receive a certain client group on a regular basis. You could also branch out to a different aspect of your skill. If you take up a public speaking course, you could offer your experience as a coaching package to educational services. By broadening what you know but keeping your niche at the forefront of what you do, you are making yourself more interesting to potential clients and thus future proofing what you do.

Embrace Technology:

It may sound obvious but taking time to improve your digital skills is essential for the future of your company. It doesn’t have to be a crash course on how to do everything all at once though. Maybe you take a few hours a month to follow a course and gently acquire skills in your own time. But, in general, getting confident with tech is more important than ever before. Personally, I was reluctant at first to use AI for anything. Eventually I gave in and have found that it’s actually pretty useful. I use it when I have writer’s block and need a bullet point or two to set me back on track. Being cautious of tech is fine, but the more you can do to feel able to make it work for you, the better.

There is a great webinar on different types of software available for freelancers here and more specific videos on certain platforms here too. But don’t overwhelm yourself with trying out everything simultaneously. If you are comfortable using all the Google Apps, stick with those. If you need a CRM tool we use Hubspot which is easy enough even for me to use. Asana works for organising your thoughts and projects (plus depending on how visual a learner/thinker you are you can change the display formatting and that makes a real difference).

And, if you give yourself only one present this year, make that either Inshot for editing social media posts or Canva. I vowed never to use Canva after university, now I enjoy it more than I really want to admit to!

Adaptability and Continuous Learning:

It might be clear by now that learning is a never ending process. We will never know everything therefore we will never stop learning. How exciting! Being open to learning means that you will be more adaptable to change. Being able to update your knowledge means that you are open to change and this world is changing rapidly. Future proofing then becomes an evolving process and will give you endless inspiration no matter what you do. And learning doesn’t have to mean being stuck in a classroom for hours on end but could involve a podcast series, a set of articles or a YouTube channel. It could even be a serious game! Make learning suited to you and make it fun, that way you will remember it.

Building a Strong Online Presence:

Have you been putting off a website redesign or maybe you need to update your services list? Maybe you have been meaning to sort out an editorial plan for your socials. We understand that these things are obvious and essential when you work for someone else, but it’s a different thing entirely when you are doing these things for yourself. Think of your business then as a separate entity to you (which it is, even if your brand carries your name). You are working for this brand and therefore it requires your care, attention to detail and your time. If it really is something you can’t face, have you considered a Social Media Manager or a team who can redesign and rebrand your business? It might be time to start looking for someone who can give you that boost your online presence needs.

The world is getting more digital, not less, so your future proofing plan needs to include a strategy for how you present yourself digitally.

Financial Sustainability

And so we return to finance. Without a dependable revenue stream, future proofing your livelihood is going to be difficult. This doesn’t mean you need to be earning the same every month or constantly increasing your profits quarter by quarter. Some months will be leaner than others. To mitigate this, make sure to have a financial plan in place, one that includes an investment plan and a savings plan. That way, if you need it, there is financial cushioning. Equally, if an opportunity arises, you have the flexibility to be able to grab it. You don’t need to have millions in the bank, but just enough that makes you feel like you can breathe more easily.

Diversify your income streams if possible.

Have a freemium based model for your online learning platform, on your YouTube channel use the paid content function or start a Patreon account. Use your skills to teach others. Create partnerships with other freelancers so that you create something in collaboration. The possibilities are endless, you just need to be a little creative with how you can sell your skills or upskill to be able to really show the world you are here and what you have to offer is unlike anyone else.

One very important aspect of financial sustainability and future proofing is remembering to get insurance and a pension scheme. As a freelancer, if you get injured or are unable to work, having a good insurance policy will mean that you don’t have money stresses whilst you are trying to recover or rebuild your life. Equally, as we age, we want to be able to reduce the work and enjoy the rewards of all our hard work. You deserve that. By doing a little future proofing now, you will thank yourself in the years to come.

Community Building

Last but by no means least, Community Building. I have explored in detail the importance of community in this article here, but when it comes to future proofing your business, your community is where you need to focus a lot of effort.

The 6 Degrees of Separation

If you have ever played the 6 Degrees of Separation game, you will know how easy it is to find connections. Never heard of this game? It’s quite simple. You pick a person (usually famous or known for some reason) and work out how many people you would need to contact, step by step, before you reach that person. Usually you find a direct connection within 4 steps and realise just how small this world is. But think of the potential this could have on your community, your personal and professional network, and also your ability to future proof yourself.

There are many people who might be searching for exactly what you offer but you need to leverage your contacts to get there, just sitting and waiting won’t help. Eventually, with enough satisfied customers, you’ll reach that wonderful point where your greatest advertising is word of mouth.

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But future proofing by building a community is not just about making connections and then moving to the next person. You need to nurture and engage with those in your community. Give them events to participate in, special offers that are available for the community only, a quick email or check in to see how things are going. Even a like or comment on an Instagram post shows you care. It might sound like a lot of extra work (massive shout out to Cristina, our Community Manager who is the absolute best!) but without this, your future proofing efforts in other areas will not be as effective.

Conclusion

The future is daunting for everyone and none of us know what is round the corner (remember all that excitement and positivity we had for 2020?!) But out of adversity wonderful things can bloom and thrive. Remember to take this advice and shape it in the most appropriate way for you and don’t try to do it all at once. Take it at the pace that best suits you and know that you are never alone, you just have to ask for support and someone will answer. Be adaptable and be flexible but never lose the essence of who you are and what you do, because those are the reasons people love you! And good luck, we are all in this together!

If you feel like you need a bit more support in decision making or you are still nervous about the possibility of freelancing, why not sign up for our next Business’n’Play session? If you head over to the Players page, you can find all the information there for Italian dates but soon, you will also find UK locations and dates too! Exciting!!