There’s a lot of talk online about evil clients, it seems everyone has had one. But what about freelancers? We can sometimes forget that freelancers can make mistakes too. In fact, it’s an essential part of building any business.
What do clients want?
They want the same as you do, professionalism and reliability. They want someone with experience so that they have confidence in your ability to provide them with value for money. They want assurance that you will do the job well and on time. They want a return on their investment.
That’s not unreasonable is it? It should all be part of the service you provide.
Making mistakes or being difficult to work with will cost you your business. It will lead to poor recommendations and even warnings against working with you.
Common mistakes freelancers have been guilty of:
Not doing your best work for smaller clients
It can be tempting to put all your energy into the clients who are paying you the most. You need to keep them happy if they’re to give you more work in the future.
But this shouldn’t be at the expense of your other smaller clients. They may not be paying you as much but they might come back again and again and make up the difference because it’s not costing them as much.
More importantly, clients talk to other people. If they love your work, they’ll spread the word and you could be getting more work as a result. If you do bad work, they will spread the word and tell people to avoid hiring you. If you just do okay, they’ll probably not mention you. Your work is your brand. Make sure it’s shown in a positive light at all times.
Not keeping in touch
Some clients might want to check in at various times during the work process. This doesn’t mean they don’t trust you, they’re just checking in to see how it’s going. Some business owners might find outsourcing a little unnerving because they’re giving up control. You have to reassure them that they’ve made the right decision not only to hire a freelancer, but to hire you specifically. Don’t ignore them because then they will get worried, and they very likely won’t hire you again.
This doesn’t mean that you have to be available 24/7 and no client should expect that. You should tell your client what hours they can contact you or even agree to set up check in points throughout the duration of the project.
Lack of organisation
You will need to get as much information from the client and keep in contact in order to do the job well. This doesn’t mean you should expect hand-holding throughout the project though. People often outsource because they simply don’t have the time to do the job themselves. By hiring you, they are saving time and you should try not to take up too much of theirs by bothering them throughout the project.
Instead, you should have a plan at the start of every job. Meet with them and have a list of questions you need answered in order to find out exactly what they need. This is where you have to think ahead and predict potential problems that might come up. While it’s impossible to plan for every eventuality, being as prepared as possible will make everyone’s life easier.
You should use this meeting as the basis to draw up your contract and make decisions on the scale of the project, time frame, communication and delivery of the project. Having a structure and a clear process will show your client that they’re in good hands.
Getting in over your head
It can be tempting to paint the image of being a super-freelancer. You want to be able to do absolutely everything, but you soon find that you probably can’t.
If you’re clueless or inexperienced in something, that’s okay but don’t try to mislead them. Make a note of a skill or extra service which is in demand and then learn about it for clients in the future. If you say you can do professional photography for your client’s blog and then come back with some not-so-great photos, the client is going to be far more disappointed with you than if you just said no. Clients will feel like they’ve been lied to, because they have been.
If you start building up a network of contacts, you might know someone else you can recommend to your clients. The person you recommend will only be happy for the work and may recommend you to others if they ever run into the same problem.
Taking criticism personally
This can be true particularly for creative freelancers who might take any criticism to heart as it feels more personal. You might feel the need to stand your ground and argue your case. However, don’t forget that what the client wants is still important because they’re the ones paying!
You should not be afraid of criticism, it will help you shape the project into what the clients wants, leaving them much happier. You can learn from mistakes or just accept that different clients want different things. Criticism doesn’t necessarily mean that the client hates the work, it might just be that it’s not quite right for them.
Vague on paperwork
New freelancers are the worst for this. Beginners usually don’t have contracts in place, an invoicing system or any kind of standard practice or policies. It’s usually because you’re just finding your feet and a contract seems very serious and formal.
It’s understandable if you’re just trying freelancing out first. However, for an experienced freelancer, there is no real excuse. You will save yourself a lot of hassle if you just embrace the paperwork. Good clients will see that you’re professional and thank you for it.
Have you ever been guilty of these? What advice would you give other freelancers? Share your thoughts in the comments.