How Do You Know When it’s Time to Pivot Your Freelance Career into New Markets? — and How to Prepare to Pivot Gracefully?
How many times have you made a significant change in your career?
As a freelance writer, you’ve likely made at least one — the one that involved moving from the relative safety and security of a full-time job to the often uncertain and risky world of freelance writing.
However, just because you achieved that major accomplishment (which many people don’t do, despite dreaming about it — so congratulations!), doesn’t mean you won’t have to or want to pivot once, twice, or even a dozen times during the lifespan of your freelance career.
If the idea of making a change in your career sounds painful, you can take comfort in the fact that you are not alone.
Change is pain. Plain and simple.
Any number of specialists, researchers, and authors on the subject of change will tell you that.
We, as humans, hate change.
Yet change is what makes life interesting, rewarding, and satisfying. If we don’t change, we stay the same. And unless your life is perfect as it is, staying the same is usually a bad career strategy.
Change is critical in many ways, such as changing our diets to cure or avoid health problems. Changing our location to move up in life. And changing our careers to pursue better, and more lucrative opportunities.
Yet, despite all of the good reasons to change, we resist. We accept the status quo. We trudge along in regret, a myriad of what-ifs dancing in our heads.
How Do You Know When It’s Time to Pivot in Your Freelance Career?
You would think that freelancers would be a group of people with no fear of pivoting. After all, freelancing is a precarious career choice. We are perpetually walking a tight wire, putting one foot in front of the other to get to a safety zone on the other side, hoping we don’t fall to the left or the right along the way.
Yet, I’ve seen many freelancers who are as adverse to change as anyone else. Too often freelancers get stuck — either in a low-paying project grind (think content mills), a “horrible bosses” client situation, a less-than-interesting writing niche, and any one of many other adverse situations.
These freelancers won’t do the one thing they need to do to boost their income, improve their careers, and realize their freelance dreams — pivot.
A career pivot is a point in time when you make a big shift. There are several stages in a freelance writer’s life when you need to pivot:
- From a full-time job to freelancing full-time
- From writing for content mills to writing for real “fair wage” clients
- From doing one kind of writing to another (such as from magazine articles to corporate marketing)
- From having bad clients to good clients
- From being a generalist to being a specialist
- From one niche to a new niche
As I wrote in a blog post in January, I’ve pivoted in my career multiple times.
I started out writing articles for publications and company newsletters in the healthcare sector. After several years, I made a big pivot into writing marketing copy for software companies.
Now I’m in the process of making another major freelance pivot into the disciplines of Content Marketing and career coaching.
One of my goals is to retain clients in a whole new niche who want Content Marketing.
Also — because I’m so excited about the freelance potential of Content Marketing — I want to bring the art and science of this new marketing opportunity to other freelance writers through my new Content Marketing Masterclass for Freelancers.
Every one of my freelance pivots over the years has been a graceful, nearly seamless move. Why? Because I instinctively followed what I’ve since learned is an ideal career pivot process.
If you are unhappy or dissatisfied with your freelance career for any reason, perhaps it’s time you did the six-step pivot into new territory and new opportunities.
Here are six ways to make your pivot less painful — and more successful.
How to Make a Graceful Career Pivot with these Six Steps
In whatever way you pivot in your writing career (and however many times you pivot), there is a process that will help you make your move faster, easier, and with much greater successful.
1. The Decision
Making the decision to make a career pivot is the first step. Be clear about what you want — don’t be whishy-washy. If you are waffling, then consider the fact that you may not really want what you think you want.
If you won’t put the energy into a career pivot, then you might as well just take a big needle and pop your dream bubble right now.
2. The Preparation
Once you’ve decided that you are serious about making a move, it’s time to prepare. Preparation could include several steps:
- Find people who are doing what you want to do and talk to them. Find out if the dream you’ve created for your life is possible or not — and if it is actually what you want.
- Immerse yourself in information on your chosen new direction. Read books. Read blogs. Attend webinars. Attend conferences. Subscribe to the publications. Whatever it takes to gather all the knowledge you need.
- Update all of your marketing materials, including social media sites, to communicate your new career position.
To really fast track your new direction, take a course from someone who’s been-there and done-that.
3. The Expectations
Setting realistic expectations for your career pivot is critical. Because if your expectations are unrealistic and you fail to meet them right out of the box, you could easily give up and backslide to the status quo.
Avoid the path of least resistance (which is the one you are on now)!
4. The Experience
Gain whatever experience you can in your new direction in whatever way you can. If that means writing a couple of free articles (notice I said a couple!) or doing some marketing pro bono for a non-profit, do it. Or team up on a project with someone already doing what you want to do. Let them be your mentor, grasshopper!
The sooner you get some (read: any) experience in your new chosen direction, the more grounded and prepared you’ll feel.
5. The Mindset
People who succeed generally have one skill that many others don’t — the ability to believe they are already the person they want to become. It’s been well documented that successful people, such as athletes, visualize their success in minute detail before they ever achieve it. This is often a huge part of winning.
Here’s what you can do to mentally prepare for you big pivot: Visualize your successful career move, and then act as if you are already there.
6. The Move
If you are really unhappy with where you are doing today, immediately start making your plans to make your move. Give yourself a deadline — say three to six months. Don’t make it too long or you might never do it.
The stress and unhappiness of an unfulfilled dream is damaging to the body, mind, and soul. Delaying the process will only exacerbate your current pain and prolong your time frame for reaching your goals.
Remember that one of the top five regrets of the dying is “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself.”
Pull off the band-aid — and make your move!