Freelancing is a fun business, and to be successful you will likely want to follow some guidelines that establish successful business habits. In this article I will discuss 4 effective strategies that will increase your chances of success in the freelance business – strategies that you can apply immediately and are practical. I urge you to think about your own business while reading this article, and jot down your thoughts – feel free to try some of your own methods and strategies while using this article as a guide. Rate yourself under each topic and identify any areas where you are weak. If you’re lacking skill in a certain area, what are some ways that you could improve?
So here are 4 effective freelance tips that will guide you to success in your business:
1. Make Customer Service Your #1 Priority At All Times
Customer service is simple but not easy – it will make or break a freelance business fast. Think about it – the concept of a freelance business is that a single owner produces all of the work, talks to each client, and interacts with any other team members involved on a project – all without a long-term commitment. Essentially, you are the business and your job is to sell yourself and the quality of services that YOU provide. If you don’t have the ability to do that, you won’t survive long because your client can look elsewhere for those services. Especially with websites like Odesk.com and Fiverr.com, you can easily lose business to other contractors who are more willing to provide what the client needs. Don’t let this happen to you!
As a freelancer you want to consider what your client needs in terms of service and then give it to them! This means that you need to step outside of your own shoes and “be” everything that your client expects of you – to a reasonable extent. This means that no matter what the situation, the project is all about your client and not YOU. Once you learn to understand what your client desires and you are able to deliver it, you will have a never-ending pipeline of work. If you’re a freelance web designer, I discuss more about customer service in one of my other articles, 5 Skills For Being A Successful Freelance Web Designer.
Take some time to reflect on your last freelance project, and think about the interaction with your client throughout the process. Then answer the following questions and think about how you might improve upon your actions in each situation:
|1.||How did you interact with your client at the beginning of your last project? In addition to introducing yourself, did you take the time to ask them what they want to get out of their project? In other words, did you talk with them long enough to make sure they feel comfortable with your background and skills, and also who you are as a professional?|
|2.||During the project, did you take the time to communicate your progress and get feedback from your client? In what ways can you improve upon this in the future?|
|3.||At the end of the project, did you ask the client for their final input and make sure that they were fully-satisfied? What could you do differently next time?|
(Not every client will be fully-satisfied on every project, although they won’t necessarily count that against you if you gave 100% on the project. Just do your best to end the project on the best terms possible.)
2. Ask Your Clients For A Referral
In the past I’ve worked many sales jobs that required me to find my own customers. I’ve sold kitchen knives, kitchen cabinets, life insurance, business loans, checking & savings accounts, and more. All of those jobs had one thing in common – I needed referrals to survive. A referral is where you ask your existing client(s) to help you find more clients. If you take the time to do a good job for each and every client, and you know they are happy with your work, then don’t be afraid to ask – they actually want to help you.
I remember in past sales job that my managers wanted me to ask existing clients to write down or email me 3 names and phone numbers of their friends & family as referrals. Note: I don’t recommend having your clients write down or email you a “list” of referrals, unless it’s their idea. In my opinion, it’s not a natural or convenient way to ask your client.
Here’s the way that I do it. Only after the project is finished, I send an initial email thanking my client for their business – plain and simple. Then I add a sentence or two explaining that I consider them an important contact, and that I would enjoy working with some of their friends/colleagues that they know. I also emphasize that I take my work seriously and would do a great job for their friends as well. That’s it! I may follow up with them afterwards if they mentioned a name or two, but I don’t pester them for more business if they’re not comfortable referring someone to me at the moment.
Also, I ask only my satisfied clients for referrals (for the most part). Chances are that you will end up doing a great job for a majority of your clients, so you should have plenty of opportunity with those clients. But you may be thinking, “what about the other clients?” Well, go ahead and ask them if you want, although these less-than-satisfied clients may not be a preferrable source of quality referrals. In most cases, you may not have come out of the project doing your best work, or you simply didn’t have a good chemistry with the client. If either one of these situation applies, do you think that you would get a high-quality referral from them? Probably not. Wouldn’t it be better (and more fun) to get a referral from a client that enjoyed working with you and vice versa?
So my best advice is to give 100% effort on your project and ask for referrals from the happiest clients – you will be glad that you did.
|1.||Draft a short email that thanks your client for allowing you to serve them. In your email, write out exactly how you will ask your client for a referral. Afterwards, read back the email to yourself and listen closely. If you were the client, would you appreciate the email that was sent and try to refer some business to your contractor? If not, keep revising the way your email is written until it sounds natural and professional.|
3. Create An Online Profile Or Resume That Brands YOU
I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to create an online profile or resume that sells. On the Odesk.com or Elance.com websites, your online profile is the ONLY way that an employer will understand who you are and what you do. It consists of a summary of your services and the unique skills you bring to the table, along with other important information such as a portfolio of your work and feedback from your past clients. Although completing your online profile and keeping it updated may not be convenient, your potential clietns are looking at it everyday! And image is everything – be sure to upload a professional image of yourself, or at least a casual image that shows you are competent and have the ability to work on a project and follow through.
In my online profile here, you will notice that I try and keep my profile up to date about every month or so. My profile contains the follow basic information that potential clients can understand:
1. A basic summary of the type of work that I do, and also the types of clients I work best with.
2. The amount of money per hour I’m asking for my services.
3. How many hours I’ve spent as a contractor through the Odesk website.
4. The feedback on all of my past projects.
5. The projects I currently have open.
6. A portfolio of my work that is up to date and has working links!
7. The completed test that I have taken and passed in the various programming languages.
If you haven’t already filled-out your online profile and you are serious about getting projects, then I would highly suggest filling out your profile until it is 100% complete. If you need help, leave a comment or question and I will follow up with you.
|1.||Write out a paragraph or two that states EXACTLY what types of projects where you are at your best. If you haven’t decided which projects that you like best, then don’t worry. Take your best guess and write something! You can always change your preferences later.|
|2.||Write Out a paragraph or two that states the types of clients who you serve best. For example, my online profile states that “I serve both individuals or small businesses that need 5 to 10 page websites”. You may not know exactly who you work best with yet, but take your best guess and you can always change it later.|
|3||If you haven’t already, go and begin completing your online profile on Odesk.com, Elance.com, or any other website of your choice. Make a commitment to yourself to complete the profile before you seriously begin applying for jobs.|
4. Be A Perfectionist When It Comes To The Quality Of Your Work
This is an extremely powerful concept that I believe differentiates great freelancers from the average ones. Whether you know it or not, and no matter what niche of work that you pursue, you will find that successful contractors make their work extremely personal and they have a very systematic way of completing a project that gets results. Successful contractors follow the method that works best for them, but they also make it a rule that the method produces only the best work for their clients. Successful contractors do not accept methods that don’t work, and they will usually keep trying to improve their performance if they think another method might produce better results.
If you’re wanting to improve the results of your work, it may not be clear right away the things you need to do in order to become successful. And that’s okay! You are not expected to be the best. But if you’re going to be successful on any level, you will need to make a commmitment to yourself – a commitment that is dedicated to learning new information and applying it in practical ways. In other words, you may not know exactly how to be successful now, but you can always learn from others who have already been successful, or you can read a book related to the goals that you want to achieve. Many people don’t ever become successful only because they don’t feel like learning any more – they stopped learning in school, when the real world is the place real learning begins
Thanks so much for reading this article, and please leave comments about any of your experiences or suggestions.
|1.||Make a trip to your local bookstore, or dedicate an hour or two to looking for information related to your field of work. What specific things do you want to learn about – and based on your gut feelings, what things should you be learning to be a successful contractor in your field?|
|2.||Let’s say that you have found an important piece of information that you believe could be applied to your freelance business to improve your success. Is there also an “expert” in this field or a friend you know who might be able to guide you with this new piece of information? If not, how can you apply this new information to your business right now to make it a learning experience?|