To make a living as a freelancer, you need to be hired. And to be hired, you need to inspire confidence in the people who need work completed in your sector.
That means you need to present yourself to them as a professional who can get the job done. Here are our five tips to make that happen:
Think formality first
However you communicate with a potential or existing client, keep it professional, particularly at first. Remember, you are a one-person business, and you’re entering into a business relationship with this person or their company, not gaining a new pen-pal!
If you’re messaging or emailing a client, make sure your spelling and grammar are spot on, hold back on the slang, don’t share personal details or anecdotes and don’t sprinkle emojis left, right and centre.
While some informality often creeps in when you’ve known a client for some time, always remember that your relationship is primarily a business one.
Have a professional online presence
A separate email account is ideal, preferably with a signature that includes a link to your website. An attractive, easily navigable website which includes a contact form is a must, as is a presence on at least one social media platform.
Again, it’s a good idea to have a separate professional presence on these platforms, where you focus on your sector and your work. Many clients will expect you to have a LinkedIn profile too, even if they just want to check out your background and employment history.
Most of the time, this means delivering work to (or above) the standard that your client expects, when (or before) they expect it. Some of the time, this means acknowledging that a problem has occurred, informing the client as quickly as possible and working to solve it, e.g. if a family issue means taking time away is unavoidable or if there’s been a hitch with the work that you couldn’t have foreseen.
However, remember that part of being dependable and professional is building redundancy into your schedule in case these unexpected problems occur, and this includes giving realistic timelines to clients and not agreeing to unrealistic deadlines if they’re proposed.
You should also ensure you communicate effectively with you client, keeping them up-to-date with your progress as often as they require and making sure that if you’ve said you’re contactable at a certain time or in a certain way, then you are.
Be an expert
Don’t claim to know or be able to do things that are completely outside your experience; there’s a thin line between winging it and plummeting to the ground. Instead, dig into your niche and become the go-to person.
Know your strengths and keep deepening, broadening and updating your knowledge by investing in training and sector publications and/or attending conferences, seminars and networking events.
A quote on the back of an envelope won’t do, and nor will a scrap of paper telling someone they owe you £100 or ‘work done 3rd March’. There’s a host of free invoicing and record-keeping solutions out there, so use them.
Not only will they ensure the financial side of your business remains professional, they’ll also save you time, and many will allow you to keep track of your business finances and automatically send out reminders for due or overdue payments.
Know when your deadlines are, send professional quotes and invoices promptly, and be sure to include (and adhere to) a payment terms policy.
By positioning yourself as a professional, you will attract and retain more clients and be best-placed to command higher rates, so it really is worth your time and effort.