The Freelance Pivot

Navigating through a pivoted freelance life

Back Web Only Sep 15, 2017 By Cherise Henry

Pivot. By definition, this means to “turn on or as if on a pivot,” when used as a verb. Synonyms include “rotate” and “turn.” I’ve been experiencing my own pivot recently as I’ve switched gears in my freelance life.

A little background: I’ve been in full-blown small business mode for a few months now with my second business, FIT4MOM Folsom + El Dorado Hills — a pre and postnatal fitness program for women in all stages of motherhood. My full-time freelance work, which include a handful of large-scale projects and ongoing gigs, is at an intentional crawl so that I can focus on getting my new business up-and-running. It’s been an immense pivot — or change, or shift or turn — in the direction of my entrepreneurial and freelance life.

Although I’m still freelancing, I’ve definitely pulled back the flow of freelance work. And it has been an adjustment, to say the least. Near identity crisis, if we’re being honest.

I’ve been a full-time hustle-and-go freelancer for nearly five years now, and I enjoy this freelance life more than any other career I could have imagined. Now I’m no longer depending on my freelance work to support my make-a-living desires and necessities, instead I’m doing it for fun.  I’m taking on projects I want to take on (and have time for) and saying no to everything else. It’s a pivot. I’m still learning how to navigate being a freelancer on the side, rather than full-time. Always learning, right?

In the book, “Pivot,” author Jenny Blake — co-creator of Google’s Career Guru Program — says that “when you pivot, you double down on your existing strengths and interests to shift in a new, related direction, instead of looking so far outside of yourself for answers that you skid over your hard-won expertise and experience.” Hmm. Again, this sounds familiar and spot on.

In my current professional situation, I am realizing that I have naturally pivoted. Sure my new business is focused on running a fitness program for women, much different than the writing and marketing-related projects that have consumed my life for nearly five years. However, I have used my existing freelance strengths — business management, marketing and communications expertise, and interests in owning a business, fitness and motherhood — to shift in a new direction, which is just what Blake says in her book.

Related: Buzzwords: Pivot

Here are some tips I’ve learned:

Give Your Clients a Heads-Up

I’m a true believer in transparency. Which in this case means notifying your ongoing and faithful clients that you’re no longer working on XYZ projects as of a given date. Although it’s not absolutely necessary, it’s a nice way to give your clients a respectful heads up. On the other hand, you don’t need to announce it to the world, per se. If you’re not taking on new clients, then you’re not taking on new clients and you don’t need to spill all the beans as to why. If you still get new business inquiries coming in, you can let them know you’re not accepting any new gigs at the moment and can pass along a colleague’s contact information. It keeps you in the game and helps share the freelance love — a win-win.

Be Flexible

Blake says in her book that pivoting “empowers you to navigate changes with flexibility and strength,” and although I’m still navigating through this pivoted freelance life and understanding what that looks like for me in my career, I do feel flexible (hello, that’s the name of the game in freelancing) and strong (in the ability to choose only the projects that I truly want to work on, which for me is writing and editing for magazines and online publications) in my business pivot. And that feels, simply put, really good.

Take What You Need, Leave What You Don’t

Just because you’re making a pivot, doesn’t mean you need to toss all lessons learned to date. You’re a successful freelancer! Transition over aspects of your old business that fare well with your new business. Perhaps it’s a favorite booking system or application, a client list of contacts or a project management system. Business is business, and it may serve you well to take what will help you in this pivot and let go of those that won’t. Done and done.

For some, the freelance pivot is quick and dirty. For others, it is a slow transition over time. For me, it was a little of both and, just like most things in the freelance life, it really just depends on what’s right for YOU and your business.

Do you have a pivot or shift in your freelance life? Perhaps you’re transitioning from moonlight freelancer to full-time? Or maybe you’re switching directions in your freelance services? Share with us using hashtag #FreelanceLifeCM.

Follow Cherise’s journey as she navigates the freelance life.


Matthew Stewart (not verified)September 18, 2017 - 4:57am

I really enjoyed reading your article!
I could feel the honesty and passion you have for your work through your words, and it was nothing short of inspiring.
Pivoting can be difficult. Whether you are an individual running a small freelance business, or an early stage-startup. Seeing it from a freelancers perspective is super interesting, so I appreciate you providing me with that perspective and it is easy to see that you will be successful in your future endeavors.
I am currently in the process of co-developing a software platform for visually creative freelancers to protect them against late and non-payments from their clients. You seem like the type of freelancer we would greatly benefit from having a conversation with, so please if you had an extra minute, shoot me an email at We would absolutely love to get to know you better and maybe even have you give us some feedback on our idea! After all, we may need to pivot ourselves.