The endearing goals of leaving a secure job into the freelance lifestyle are powerful. Freedom of working when you want, freedom of project choice, and even freedom of who you work with. These are reassuring traits when you consider the vast majority of people stuck in the 9-5 office rut.
As you mature and build a solid portfolio freelancing becomes all about connections. Who can refer you to who and how will you meet new people? Where will the money be flowing from? You have to build a solid base of clients who support you and your work. In this article I’d like to share a few ideas for building such connections with your clientel.
Work with Respect
You must have respect for your clients in business above all else. Working on projects with a single client or even collaborating with a team will require patience. Everybody needs to respect each other’s ideas and try to work together for a happy medium.
Since you are hired as the professional on a project it seems like your feedback should weigh-in a bit more important. And in some cases your clients will be looking to you for ideas and support. But there are also plenty of reasons to stay within the scope of what your clients are looking for.
Ultimately they are paying you to build on an idea of their own. Whether this is writing a report, designing a website, or building a marketing campaign makes no difference. It all boils down to respect for the common goal of completing the project appropriately.
Keep Timelines in Check
Timing is also crucial and can be somewhat of a burden on more difficult tasks. But when you can stay focused and complete works on schedule you have a much higher chance of landing repeat work.
Your clients are simply looking to spend their money on the best guy for the job. It’s your responsibility to prove this with actions – words can only go so far. Prove that you can work in a timely manner and churn out very impressive results. Work with your project leaders to keep timelines reasonable and reduce stress.
Hold a Professional Attitude
Even if you are just starting out in the freelance career track it’s important to behave professionally. Nobody wants to work with a freelancer who cannot hold their own in conversation. You must understand that charisma is important since you’ll be keeping in communication frequently with clients.
If you can try to get along with everybody this makes forging a deep relationship much easier. There are always going to be difficult clients to work with. And in some situations it’s best to cease working with a contact instead of struggling to maintain a toxic relationship. But if you can salvage anything try to keep your spirits up and look forward to the end goal.
Network Like Crazy!
Unfortunately nobody can find your freelancing services if you’re in the house building projects all day long. You’ll have to start a marketing campaign at some point to slowly improve your reach.
As you build up a solid portfolio this task becomes much easier. You can showcase past works you’ve completed and even reference older clients as support. Having all this information online doesn’t hurt, either.
But a truly great source of networking comes from sharing ideas between individuals. Always keep in touch with old connections whether you’ve worked on a single project or dozens. You never know who is looking to hire and may payout for your next project gig. Keep phone numbers and e-mails saved in an easy-to-access contacts list.
Also don’t be afraid to post your portfolio information around to some freelance job boards. Craigslist is a good start, also consider places such as Fresh Web Jobs. The more you build credibility behind your name the easier it will be to start attracting new leads. And this process will get easier as time goes on.
Look for Quality NOT Quantity
This phrase has been around for some time and still holds truthful in the freelance community. When first starting out you’ll likely be much more desperate to land any clients. But after a few months or even a year or two you’ll start to see the project work stacking up.
Don’t sell yourself short and don’t stress out about the bills. Quality clients are difficult to come by, and especially clients who are in the industry to need repeat projects. Even when you have relationships that go sour don’t burn your bridges too soon. Every relationship is important and helps to develop your character going forward in your freelancing career.
Quality clients are also more likely to forge a real friendship with you as a person. They are much more generous and you won’t be sacrificing low pay for low-end freelance projects. In this situation everybody wins and your professional relationships will grow organically.
You won’t build a collective contacts list overnight. It takes a lot of work and dedication to succeed as a freelancer. Networking is essential but it’s only one step in the process. Strive to attain the highest quality work you can rally and your clients will take notice.