When taking the plunge into self-employment and kick-starting your career as a freelance professional, winning clients is the biggest challenge will you face. The self-employment market is becoming more and more competitive on a daily basis, with more than half the UK population expected to be working in a freelance capacity by 2020. However this shouldn’t mean you’re railroaded into compromising your important values in order to beat the competition or win over penny pinching clients.
What are my values?
Businesses of any size or nature need to establish core values that they live and work by, whether it’s a start-up sole trader or a large corporate firm. These values are what define your unique working process and set your business apart from the rest. This means that they are a key part of establishing a solid brand identity that clients and customers can trust and buy into. They also help in important decision-making processes and understanding where to position yourself in a saturated market.
Values provide the foundations on which you and your business can operate and provide the core principles and standards that guide and influence growth. While plans and strategies are evolving all the time in accordance with market demands and industry developments, values are the backbone of the brand and stay fixed throughout these varying processes. These values support the vision of your business so it becomes a serious concern when you are put in a position which encourages you to diverge from them.
How are these values compromised?
With the marketplace becoming so heavily infiltrated with aspiring freelance professionals it can be tempting to do whatever it takes to win business, whether this means forfeiting your social life or compromising the key core values that you have worked so hard to fine tune. Clients are all too aware that freelancers are willing to make these heavy sacrifices and many of them will take advantage of this in order to get a cheaper deal or a quicker turnaround on the project they are outsourcing.
These types of clients aren’t often invested in your brand specifically but rather looking for anybody who can offer them the technical expertise they require to execute their own concepts. Even better is the skilled freelancer who can offer them these services at half the rate but double the speed and as a competitor in a cutthroat marketplace, it can be tempting to give into these requests. But drastically increasing the speed at which you typically work or significantly lowering your regular fees will only reduce the quality of your services and the reputation of your brand.
In a piece published by The Freelance Report, freelance graphic designer, Brent Galloway, said: “Your values are the fine details that make up your work process. Do you only work with a specific niche market? Do you have a one concept approach when designing logos? Do you charge based on value rather than just your time? Having a client request more concepts or request a cheaper process and you giving in would be compromising on your values.
He added: “It’s daunting to work with clients, especially if you’re just getting started. Your confidence is low and you’re hungry for work. This most often will lead to compromising on your values, and your decision to compromise influences the industry you work in.”
How to avoid compromising your values
One of the main beauties of working in a freelance capacity is that you have the ability to control who you work with and how you operate. You don’t have a boss to answer to or wider company values to adhere to so you’re free to apply some artistic license and stick to your own personal methods and values.
Two of the most important things to remember here is that the client isn’t always right and it’s perfectly fine to say no to work when you’ve hit full capacity. Your work and your brand is your responsibility so it’s also essential that you communicate the values that build this in order to protect them from any questionable manipulation. You can do this by having a clear ‘About’ section on your website where you can outline the values behind your freelance brand.
This should then be relayed one-to-one when discussing any potential work with prospective clients. Should you go on to carry out work for the client, you could then also include a section about your brand values in any contracts or documents they are required to sign. Be clear and concise about what you charge, what requires additional charges and be explicit about realistic deadlines. Agreeing to lower prices and impossible deadlines will only cause the quality of your work to suffer and make you feel compromised as a professional.
If you offer a quality services, you will draw quality clients that will be far more beneficial for your brand in the long term. Having your arm twisted into taking shortcuts and going against your values to keep the client, win more work or have some extra cash in the bank at the end of the month are just quick fixes that could be damaging your freelance career in the long run.
Stick your ground and be true to who you are and you will attract the right kinds of clients, as opposed to those who are looking for a jack of all trades who can offer services at a highly discounted rate.