How do you grow your freelance career? People every year throw their hat in the freelance ring. For some, it’s a life long dream, while others are forced to work independently due to industry changes, the economy or downsizing. No matter, the freelance path is a rewarding choice if you do it right.
Below is a video I create about being freelance. https://youtu.be/rRjsZbICpDQ
If you plan to begin a freelance career or wish to improve your current one. I have a few ideas which will help you. One or all the following concepts will make a big difference, if you implement them in to your freelance game plan.
- Don’t rely on one client for income: A freelance person with one client who accounts for 80 percent or more of their income is a contractor. You still depend on them for your livelihood. If your main source of income is the organization that downsized or laid you off in the first place, I recommend you don’t give them the chance to break your heart again. Begin to look for additional clients. I do not suggest you fire them, their money is as good as the next client. However, I don’t recommend you rely on such a company, if your goal is independence. If possible, give some of the work from your main client to an associate or network partner to free up some time. Maybe you can trade work to diversify your freelance portfolios. I recommend no freelancer allow one client to represent more than 50 percent of their income. Honestly, 30 percent or less is better.
- Improve your communication: Quality communication is a key to a healthy freelance career. Follow up regularly. Respond to emails and let people know you received their requests and information. Keep the people who hire you updated with your progress. Even if you are behind, let them know where you stand, your plan or solution. Never hide from your client. Even a bad situation can be resolved with good communication.
- Personal Polices: Develop a personal policy list. For example, for some clients I let them know I will have their images to them within 72 hours of creation. Obviously, the time frame depends on the client’s need. When you notice a bad habit or recurring theme in your work flow or business, create a policy around it to improve the customer experience. You don’t need to express your private polices to your clients, only demonstration is necessary.
- Ask for business: Ask your current clients who they know who might need your service. Does the company have other departments?, do they know people in their field who hire similar freelancers? A warm referral from someone people trust will do wonders. Often people don’t think to refer you unless you ask, it’s not always obvious to them. Develop a plan or process to give the people who hire you the permission and tools to refer your services.
- Don’t punish your clients: I find it a common practice among freelancers to over react to bad situations and take drastic action to protect themselves from future harm. Once in a while, you will run into a jerky person who tries to take advantage of you. Maybe they succeeded, and you will not allow that to happen again. Unfortunately, the policies put in place punish good current and future clients. Sadly, this makes it harder to do business with you. Protect yourself, but don’t let a few bad apples direct your career into a downward spiral.
- Understand the project scope: Ask a lot of questions and make sure you understand the full scope of the work presented to you. Ask your client what they expect the outcome to look like. What is the definition of complete or done (when can you send the invoice). What is success in the eyes of your client? You must understand the assignment well enough to charge your client more money if they ask for additional work, beyond original request. Have a process in place for changes and add-on requests. I recommend that you send an invoice after the first out of scope work request. Give them a 100% discount. Yet, show them the value of the items you do for them at no charge. Let the client know, nicely; you will change for the next one.
- Say thank you: I share this advice on a lot of lists because it is extremely helpful. Few people say thank you. When you show your appreciation for the work people assign to you, the chances are greater they will send you more work.
As a freelance professional, it’s important to know your value. You can’t scale as easily other small businesses. The business is you. So, you must be smart about how you approach your business. Keep organized, keep in control of your time and seek the best clients. You deserve them.