I worked in a small sushi restaurant for years before I started freelancing full-time.
It was a tiny little place, the kind that only seats about 20 people and most of them at the bar.
Working in such a small place meant I got to stand next to the sushi chef and watch as he would masterfully break down fish for dinner service.
After cutting each filet meticulously, he would use a spoon to scrape out every tiny little morsel of fish until there was absolutely nothing left on that fish carcass. Nothing went to waste. Those spoon-scrapings were mixed with spicy mayo sauce and eventually turned into spicy tuna rolls.
You see this type of repurposing throughout the food industry; turning by-products of one process into something consumable and sellable.
A zero-waste policy
In freelancing, there are lots opportunities to repurpose your work and your effort into something interesting, something that can save you time, or even something sellable.
I like to break these up into two categories: repurposing your content and repurposing your effort.
In essence, they are both one and the same since both ultimately involve recapturing your wasted effort, but I find it helpful to make the distinction based on the end product.
Repurposing your content to create something sellable
Repurposing your content will often net you something sellable.
A good example of this would be lettering artist Jessica Hische’s book In Progress.
It’s a collection of sketches from previous work she has done.
Of course, it took additional time to curate and assemble all the sketches and write the supporting materials for the book, but a large chunk of that content was sitting right there in her notebooks waiting to be repurposed into a book and sold.
Now that she has the book, she can sell it over and over again without putting in much additional effort.
You might not be ready to put a book together (yet), but it’s likely you can put together some kind of white paper or booklet to show as a case-study to potential clients. Or, put together an opt-in freebie to grow your subscriber list.
There are endless ways you can repurpose your content. Below are just a couple very basic ones:
- If you are a logo designer, you could repurpose your unused logo designs to create stock logos or icons and sell them
- If you are a web designer, you can create WordPress themes from portions of your previous work and sell them
There are many, many different creative ways to repurpose your content to turn it into something sellable and reclaim some of the original time and effort you used to first create it.
Repurposing your effort
We know as freelancers that not only do you have to manage your time properly, but more than anything, you have to manage your energy.
Because it doesn’t do any good to have the time to work if you don’t have the energy needed to get your work done.
Repurposing your effort will net you both additional time and energy. Even small things can make a difference.
Every time I start a new project, I create multiple folders in Dropbox (one for logo files, one for project documents, stationery, packaging, etc.)
For a while, I would do this each time I started a new project. That was silly and unnecessary.
Eventually, I got around to creating a set of empty dummy files that include every type of folder I might need for a project. Now, all I have to do is copy and paste the file folders into the new the project, and I’m set to go in half a second.
It saves me just a bit of time, but that time adds up.
More importantly, it saves me mental energy and helps keep my day running smoothly.
When you find yourself telling clients the same thing over and over again, write a blog post about the topic and send clients to that post every time it comes up.
This is what developer Melissa Jean Clark did when she noticed she was offering similar advice to clients each time after launching a new WordPress site.
Instead of wasting effort each time by educating clients individually, Melissa wrote a blog post on optimizing and resizing images for the web and put together a list of useful plugins she recommends.
Now, Melissa just sends a link to that blog post each time the topic comes up.
Not only does this save her the time and effort of having to email clients individually, but it also makes her look good to any prospects that find the post on her site.
She’s being helpful, giving them a sample of her process and showing what it’s like to work with her, and proving she knows her stuff—which can lead to converting readers into new clients.
Doing this is what’s known as leverage. Leverage is when you multiply the outcome of your efforts without much of an increase of effort or additional resources.
What you are doing is maximizing your return for the smallest amount of your effort possible.
In addition to getting her time back, Melissa gets those potential side benefits she wouldn’t otherwise get.
For Jessica, she gets her time back, she gets the book royalties, plus all the additional reputational benefits that come along with publishing a book.
How to repurpose your work
Right now, sitting on your hard drive are things that you’ve put real effort into that, if repurposed, could give you either money, time, energy, or even all of the above.
In your emails with clients, you’ll find tons of info you’ve doled out that could be repurposed into blog posts.
In the Illustrator files of past client projects, there are the foundations for sellable artwork.
With each client, somewhere in your process there is effort going to waste, just waiting for you to discover it and repurpose it.
Repurposing your content and creating something useful and reusable helps to create a sustainable business. All you’ve got to do is implement your own zero-waste policy.
Do you have any examples for repurposing your work? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
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