I’m not sure why I continue to be shocked every time I hear from clients about their horrific experiences with other freelancers. For some reason, I want to believe that the horror stories are the exception to the majority of quality, hard-working freelancers, but almost every client I have has shared at least one and usually several tales of terrible situations they have endured.
Over time I have come to learn that many of the qualities I used to think were standard elements of a successful freelance business are often overlooked or ignored by many, so in this post I will share what has helped me to stand out amongst others in the same field. I am not a massive success by any stretch of the imagination, but I have a steady stream of satisfied clients who continue to recommend me to others, so hopefully by sharing what I have learned you too can strengthen your offerings and set yourself apart from your peers.
Be Personal and Friendly
I am not an overly outgoing person–in fact, I have been called an introvert more than once–but when it comes to my clients, I do my best to show a personal interest in their projects from start to finish. Communicating and interacting with them on a personal level (without spending too much time digging deep into their lives) usually puts clients at ease and helps them feel confident in their decision to retain your services. By letting clients know I actually care about them beyond what they are going to pay me has proven to be refreshing for most.
Put Yourself in Your Client’s Shoes
They may not wear the same size as you, but every client will appreciate your attempts to squeeze your foot into their shoes and look at their project through their own eyes. Try getting to know everything involved in the project–its goals, where the idea started, what the short and long-term vision is–and you will better be able to relate to the project on the same level as they do. Helping the client feel like you are just as invested in the project’s outcome as they are will always gain you extra points with them.
Save Your Clients Money
I do everything I can to help my clients save money, both in the initial project price as well as long-term, without lowering my rates. This is part of putting myself in their shoes. Who doesn’t love to save money? So rather than push for an upsell or encourage your clients to go with the more expensive choice, find ways to save them some cash and they will never forget it. Too many agencies, salespeople, and other freelancers are looking at your clients with dollar signs flashing in their eyes. They will be relieved and refreshed to find someone who actually cares about their bottom line as much as they do.
Charge Fair and Competitive Rates (Don’t Be Greedy)
I don’t know any freelancers who really believe they are going to get filthy rich freelancing, so why charge like it? Yes, you need to charge what you’re worth, and this should be determined based on the going rates and the quality of work that you provide. Still, I have found that most clients can spot it when they’re getting overcharged, just as much as they can tell when someone is being reasonable and fair with them. If you have to explain why you’re charging what you charge, then you’re probably charging too much, and your proposal will get lost somewhere in the pile marked “Overpriced”.
Be Professional in All Things
I’m not necessarily saying you need to wear a suit and tie to your home office, but you definitely should run your freelance business like, well…a business! Return phone calls and emails promptly and courteously. Keep a clean work environment. Dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Steer away from the fatal social network drunk status posts or embarrassing photos. Maintain a professional approach to your visible life and you will separate yourself from the pack. What you do during your personal time and behind closed doors is your own business, so keep it that way.
Do Good Work
This may seem obvious, but I spend way too much time cleaning up other people’s messes to not mention it. Do your best work for your clients–the same quality as if you were doing it for yourself. Don’t take shortcuts. Don’t leave out things because most people won’t notice. Maintain the highest standards and your reputation will precede you in ever-broadening circles.
Engage With and Impact Your Community
Whatever community you are involved in, become fully engaged. Whether it’s your colleagues and peers in the same field, your online connections, your local chamber of commerce–it doesn’t matter. Determine what communities you are currently a part of or become a part of new ones and fully engage. Get involved to the point that you can influence growth and change for the good, and others will look to you as a leader. Providing value to your community will always set you apart in a sea of possibly less-involved people.
These are just some of the things I have learned over the years that, although they may seem obvious, have become a foundation for the growth and stability of my freelance business. It is my hope that they will assist you as you establish, develop or strengthen your own.
Perhaps you have some tips of your own that you have learned and could share? Please leave them in the comments below.
Image credit: CRASHcandy