My grandfather was a top-notch auto mechanic. He could determine what was wrong with your car simply by listening to your engine and asking you a few questions. This was way before fancy diagnostic systems. Before computers. If you were a mechanic back then, you really had to know your stuff. YOU were the diagnostic system! For a profitable freelancer, it’s important to develop the same diagnostic skills a savvy mechanic possesses. Doing so enables you to reach and maintain high performance levels. And when performance falters, knowing how to identify and address the root cause will help you rebound much faster. Here are the areas (and some sample questions) I suggest you focus on as you develop your own diagnostic process: 1. Are you going after the right market? Does this market truly understand your value? Do prospects in this market “get it”? Do they normally hire freelancers in your field? Are they willing to pay what you’re worth? Are they hiring freelancers and contractors in a down economy or are they cutting back across the board? 2. Are you differentiating? Letting the world know that you’re open for business is not enough. You need to tell your prospects what you bring to the table, why they should care and why you’re different. Above all, what you say must resonate with them; being different, by itself, is not going to matter if they don’t see the benefit. 3. Do you really understand your prospect’s world? Are you plugged into what she faces every day — her challenges, concerns, aspirations and beliefs? Do you have a clear picture of the conversations going on in her head? 4. Are you steadily working on generating leads? Once you know whom you’re going after, you need to pursue those prospects actively (direct mail, cold-calling, tapping personal and business contacts, etc.) and/or passively (social media, published articles, press releases, etc.). Oh, and you need to do it consistently, not just when you need work. 5. Are you converting enough leads to clients? If you’re generating a decent number of leads (interested prospects) but not turning enough of them into clients, you need to evaluate your approach. Are you following up quickly and often? Are you asking the right questions when you follow up? Are your proposals persuasive? Does your pricing strategy need work? 6. Are you staying in touch with longer-term leads? What are you doing with those who aren’t ready to hire you today? Are you staying in touch without being a pest? Are you sending value-added information in the way of a newsletter, articles of interest or handwritten notes with good ideas? A big chunk of my business comes from prospects with whom I stayed in touch for months (even years) before they hired me. 7. How’s your customer service? Yes, you’re a freelancer, but that doesn’t exempt you from providing courteous and prompt service to your clients. Are you meeting all your deadlines? Do you try to over-deliver on every project by offering ideas and suggestions? Do you keep your clients in the loop when appropriate? Are you a pleasure to do business with? 8. Are all your services still appropriate? Are all your services still right for you and your target market? Are there some services that you’re not currently offering but that would make sense to add to your roster? Also, are all your services profitable? If not, are you charging too little? Or is it a matter of finding ways to do the work more efficiently or subcontracting part of it to a less expensive resource? Now that we’re halfway through the year, take a couple of hours to evaluate your situation by using the list above. Draft a list of areas where you need to make some changes. And develop a simple action plan to get it done. Sometimes it’s the little changes that can make all the difference.