by Robyn Roste
As a new freelancer, nothing was more exciting than bidding on and winning a gig.
I’d do a happy dance and bask in the initial adrenaline rush. And then I’d get on with my day.
I’d work on assignments and turn them in when I was finished, but every now and then I’d receive an inquisitive email. The inquiries were always the same, just checking in, wondering how things were going, would I be hitting my deadline?
When I got serious about freelancing I recognized my approach to client communication left room for improvement.
Before jumping into a new assignment I’d check with my editors about their communication expectations and make a point to adhere to them. While some clients preferred weekly updates, others only wanted to hear from me if there was a problem.
On top of doing a better job of meeting client expectations, I also began looking for other ways to build stronger relationships.
Here are three areas that have made the biggest difference for reassuring clients that I’m working hard for them.
Build trust by practicing good habits
While much of my freelance work is done in the remote vacuum of my private home office, I’ve learned practicing and keeping good habits influences my work for the better.
For example, one of the many mistakes I made as a new freelancer was taking work without considering if I had time for it. It was so flattering to have work I said “yes” to everything that came up and determined to figure it out as I went.
While there is something to be said for trial by fire, there were also more than a couple instances where I had to pull all-nighters to finish projects by deadline (or, if I’m honest, a few days past deadline) because I didn’t plan well.
While the odd project still gets away from me, I have a much better track record these days because I have learned to implement good habits such as:
- Using a planner/calendar and consulting it before committing to any new work
- Understanding how much I can handle at one time (and how many clients)
- Having dedicated work time and space
Because I stay organized and keep consistent hours, my timelines are realistic and it’s rare I double book myself or lose track of what I have going on at any one time.
Treat freelancing as a business rather than a hobby
The moment I began thinking of my freelance work as a business everything changed for the better. My entire mindset shifted, as did my approach to work and my level of professionalism.
When I treated freelancing like a hobby, I allowed my insecurity and inferiority complex to shine through. Not only did I let my clients call all the shots, I quoted rates way below what I knew I should and took gigs I hated because it felt so good to be wanted.
Transitioning into a professional took some practice but once I understood the broad strokes, my confidence increased and I was able to set important boundaries like what type of clients I would (and wouldn’t) work with, what type of work I would do and what my rates were.
Implementing these boundaries resulted in me attracting the type of clients I wanted to work with, and who were happy to work with me.
Another benefit is I’ve been able to limit distractions during my work hours. I put my phone aside and I’m able to focus on my tasks because I’ve created space for them in my mind and life and treat freelancing and my clients with the respect they deserve.
Commit to projects with enthusiasm
While I don’t think you need to fall in love with every assignment editor you work with, I do think you should be at least happy about the work. Here’s what I mean.
Sometimes a great-looking gig comes your way and you’re a good fit for it. The problem? You’re not excited about the prospect. Do you push through and take the job anyway? You could, sure. Sometimes work is just work.
But what if your gut is trying to tell you something? I recommend taking a few minutes to figure it out. Weigh the pros and cons and ask yourself what is holding you back from being enthusiastic. Is it fixable? Great! Then negotiate for that and commit to the project with gusto. But if it’s not, perhaps consider giving it a pass.
Just last week I had this experience. I was considering working with a new client and on paper it seemed like a great match. But I was hesitant. I didn’t know why, so I kept the process moving forward. Midway through the discovery call I realized my heart wasn’t in it and we decided to end things there.
Later that same day, I had a meeting with a client who I had worked with a few times before. As she explained her project and how she hoped I could help, tears of joy sprung into my eyes. This was it! This was my dream project!
I couldn’t believe the difference in emotion I felt for this second opportunity. Leaving that meeting I couldn’t wait to get started.
Even though the first gig likely would have turned out fine, I couldn’t commit to it with enthusiasm. If I took on the client and wasn’t excited about them then I don’t think they would have gotten my best work. I would have risked creating a negative experience for both of us. I also wonder if I would have had capacity for the second client’s project if I had signed on to the first one.
A common assumption from non-freelancers is that freelancers are flakes. The best way I’ve learned how to persuade prospective clients otherwise is to overcome unspoken objections by showcasing respect and professionalism.
By practicing good habits, treating freelancing like a business and committing to jobs with enthusiasm, it’s easy to keep your word, be consistent and submit high-quality work on deadline. It’s a natural byproduct of following best practices.
The goal here is to develop trusting, long-term relationships. How you do this is by establishing trust and being someone your client can count on.
POSTED IN: Features