You know that thinking strategically is an important part of being a successful freelancer.
But how can you assess whether you are being strategic? How do you identify where you need to improve? How do you know if you’re providing everything you need to as an expert for your client? A SWOT analysis is a great way to start.
What Is a SWOT Analysis?
A SWOT analysis is a commonly used tool in both big and small businesses for figuring out where you (or your business) is and where it’s going. It’s a framework used to evaluate a company’s competitive position and to develop strategic planning.
It’s a proven tool for working with your clients and when thinking about your own business. So, what do you need to do? Let’s dig in a little deeper.
SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
“Strengths” refers to what you/your business has going for it. For this discussion, let’s talk about your freelance business. What’s working well? Do you have a great product or service? Are you responsive to your clients or customers? Do you get referrals or testimonials? What are your strengths?
“Weaknesses” refers to problems your business is experiencing and detractors that are making it so it’s not as successful as it could be. Are your clients returning to you again and again for work? Do you get referrals from current clients that help to grow your business? Are your marketing materials (your website, your online presence, etc.) effective? Are you developing new products and services to meet the market need? Is finding new clients difficult? What are some of the weaknesses your business is facing?
“Opportunities” refers to elements (or events) that can be capitalized on. Do you offer a product or service unlike your competitors? How do you stand out? Do you have an advantage over your competition? Do you have access to skilled employees or contractors? What opportunities does your company have?
“Threats” refers to elements (or occurrences) that could harm or challenge your company. Is a competitor offering a similar product or service at a lower cost? Are you finding that the competition is growing far faster than you? Is your skilled workforce drying up? Are the costs to produce your product increasing? Is there a chance that your service will become obsolete? What threats does your company face?
How Do You Conduct a SWOT Analysis?
It’s important to be very thorough and take plenty of time to write a SWOT analysis.
Our team recommends you conduct a full SWOT analysis on you/your business once a quarter or minimally twice a year. However, you can focus a SWOT analysis on a single item like a new marketing piece or an update to your website. This will help you identify areas or improvement before you roll out a whole new website functionality for your visitors to understand or pay to print a direct mail piece with messaging that isn’t succinct.
SWOT Analysis Example
So, how do you frame your answers and questions for your SWOT analysis? There are many techniques you can look up online (a simple Google search will do). Many analysts use a square with four quadrants with the internal factors on the top row and the external factors on the bottom row. Alternatively, you may want to use “my client” vs. “my business” to identify external vs. internal elements.
Here’s a simple visual example:
Whatever format you use, the key is to find something that works for you that you use repeatedly. That way, you can easily measure where you moved the needle between analyses.
You can bullet point items or you can write full paragraphs. Use whatever visual method works best for you! The most important element is that you’ve spent time thinking about all the areas and you cover as many possible issues as you can imagine.
What Do You Do With Your SWOT Analysis?
Once you’ve finished your SWOT analysis, it’s simple to easily identify what you/your company could do to maximize its advantages, improve in key areas, and protect against challenges.
A SWOT analysis is important whether you’re looking at your full-time freelance business or just a side hustle. You can also conduct a personal SWOT analysis even if you’re working on staff to evaluate yourself. Remember, those performance reviews generally work best for the company/HR and not you, so it’s important to evaluate for yourself where your career is heading!
Take a close look at your own strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats as they relate to your business. You’ll easily identify ways to make the most of what you’ve got going for you already, to make improvements, and to take a giant leap forward in advancing your business…and your career.
What are a couple of key insights you get from your own business/career SWOT analysis? Let us know in the comments below!