Denise Eriksen and Esther Coleman-Hawkins, of Media Mentors, during their session at the Launceston Freelance Festival – “Supercharging Your Freelancer Life!”

Article Written By Helen Hawkes

Following COVID-19 and the economic fallout, many freelancers need to revive, or even resuscitate, their business. Career experts Denise Eriksen and Esther Coleman-Hawkins, of Media Mentors, take people from “oh my God do we have a future”, to kicking career goals.

Eriksen has worked as a journalist, producer and executive producer globally and as  Head of Current Affairs at the ABC, while Coleman-Hawkins’ producing credits include the award-winning Revolution School for the ABC and The Obesity Myth on SBS.

They presented a workshop on Supercharging Your Freelance Life! at The Launceston Freelance Festival: Online for 2020.

In a depressed, or crowded market, you may need to think a bit differently, says Eriksen, “but there’s always a way.”

“You have to be bloody determined,” she says.

The mentors suggest you begin by working up a list of your skills, with the aim of uncovering ones you didn’t even realise you had.

These could include writing, fact-checking, proofreading, researching and interviewing and even personality traits such as being persistent or organised.

“Think of yourself as multi-skilled,” says Coleman-Hawkins.

A great LinkedIn profile is essential, says Eriksen, who was headhunted through LinkedIn to teach journalists in Ho Chi Minh City.

So, use what you’ve discovered about yourself to polish yours up, and create your title based on your speciality.

“In your profile, be authentic and use your personal story, such as something you are proud of in your career, or something about you that is memorable.”

While you may still reach editors for print and digital publications directly, LinkedIn is an effective way to reach out to SMEs and other corporate clients in key industries.

Message the marketing, public relations, or communications manager to find out what they are looking for, suggests Coleman-Hawkins, and ask if you can have a conversation with them.

“The way you find (well-paying) corporate clients is to pitch them like anyone else.”

Great pitches start with great ideas, preferably ones that someone on staff couldn’t do and, obviously, that haven’t already been covered.

Working your contacts is crucial to the constant generation of fresh, saleable material.

Write down each area you specialise in, make a list of all the people/places where new information comes from, and get on their mailing lists, or check in with them regularly, advise the mentors. These may be personal contacts, companies and professional bodies, or people on social media.

Once you have a killer idea, communicate it in one line, says Coleman-Hawkins, and ask if they would like to discuss it further.

“Pitching an idea is also about pitching yourself, so you have to be confident.”

Get who you are, and the relevant publications/clients you have written for, up front. Then wait at least a week before following up.

Meanwhile, try selling your current customers more of your services, she suggests.

As you work on your business, it’s important to set weekly, monthly and yearly goals, that have actions attached, i.e. they are measurable.

The mentors also love moonshot goals – those that are almost impossible, such as doubling your income – and rooftop goals that are simply a stretch – maybe another $10,000 or $25,000 more.

The Launceston Freelance Festival also offered expert advice on freelancing remotely, repurposing content, growing audiences, pitching to film studios, using key words and other topics vital to freelance success in 2020.

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