Being an ‘entrepreneur’ has a ton of challenges. When you’re a freelancer on top of that (meaning you cater to clients, not just “customers”) there are even more of them!
One of the biggest challenges I think with being a successful freelancer is in finding the right people to work for. Clients might be your boss (sort of) but guess what?
They are also your partners! (Sort of).
And, while it’s always ideal to work in a harmonious environment that fosters productivity, sometimes…
Things just don’t work out that way. (I know, for shame right?!)
Though there are always clients looking around for talented freelancers, the competition can get a little hot. And by hot I mean pretty freakin’ cut throat!
The best jobs are coveted and if you’re not up to snuff, you’ll often wind up with clients who are mediocre at their best and apathetic at their worst. So not fun.
But hold up!
That doesn’t mean you should crush your freelancing entrepreneurial dreams just yet. Even though there are a lot of unlikeable clients out there (and I do mean A LOT), you can still attract the right people and choose to reject working for the bad ones. Seriously, the best part about freelancing is that you can fire clients who you don’t gel with.
Sound counterintuitive? It’s not.
Go with me on this one. Take a moment and think of your worst possible client. I mean, like ever.
Then think of all the extra work you end up doing for them for free. You know who I’m talking about. That nickel and dimer that wants to eek the MOST work out of your association for the LEAST amount of cash on their side.
Think of the anxiety and abuse you will often suck it up and deal with, just to ‘make some coin’.
Now, compare that against your best client experience.
Think of how much more productive you were, how stress free you were, and how much extra time you had to focus on delivering real value to that client… and hey you might even have had some extra time on your hands to devote to a NEW client who also happens to be “Awesome!”.
See the trend? More productive… less stress… equals more income and better quality of life!
You end up making more money and getting more done by focusing on clients who are good to you and treat you well (and vice versa) than you do trying to please the unplease-able client.
Just fire ‘em and move on!
Don’t fall for abusers and non-payers because they can really make you feel like crap. And by crap I mean make you feel bad enough that you just may end up quitting freelancing altogether! Usually because they’ve battered your self-esteem so hard you no longer feel you’re ‘good enough’.
That’s bull. You’re good enough if you say you are and put in the work to back it up!
So all of that then begs the question… how do you attract great clients? What traits do you need to have in order to get the best people to work with you?
Wait, scratch that.
How do you get those awesome clients practically vying to work with you?
Since often freelance work is acquired in the online realm (and often done online as well, depending upon the field you’re in) the first step is finding a reliable site where you can apply to the different freelance listings available.
As you probably know, not all sites are legitimate and safe. Fake job postings are rampant and they sound so professional nowadays too!
The best way to combat this is by doing extensive research before hiring yourself out to just any Joe Schmoe. Do your due diligence and don’t blindly trust a potential client to have your best interests at heart.
Also, some things to keep in mind:
- Don’t rely too much on the well-known online freelance sites. Think cut throat, overly competitive, and low paying and that’s about 90% of them!
- Advertise your services to the local businesses around your area.
- Set up a site to advertise your services.
- Always have business cards with you because you never know when you’ll meet a potential client.
- Always create a good impression when you meet people because even if they don’t need your services, they could know someone who does.
- Impress potential clients with an eloquent cover letter or email. Since you are probably not in the same room as they are when they get to read it, you really need to make sure you sell yourself on first contact if at all possible.
- Avoid being over confident.
- Be precise and avoid padding your accomplishments.
Also, an invaluable tip.
Don’t turn down a potential project (unless they are a crap client!) because you’re worried you can’t deliver or your skill set isn’t meeting a requirement they’ve proposed. In this day and age, you can easily outsource things you yourself are uncomfortable doing and still turn a profit on the project AS WELL AS maintain a sparkling ‘Can-Do’ rep to boot.
However, just be very careful when you make promises to potential clients. Outsourcing the things you can’t handle yourself is great so that you can still generate some income, but don’t take a project on if you don’t feel you can find someone very well-qualified to get it done in a timely manner… after all, it’s your rep on the line, not theirs.
And you’re client won’t give a fig about excuses like ‘I’m sorry but the outsourcer I hired mucked it all up’. They are going to tell you, ‘Well dang well fix it yourself, I hired YOU, not some anonymous outsourcer!’ You follow?
Also, make sure clients are well aware that you have a team on staff. And if you promise that YOU yourself will be doing the project, you better make darn sure YOU do it. In my business there are some things which I simply cannot outsource, simply because it’s something uniquely mine that only I can do. And clients ask for it.
OK, so what about keeping those great clients? How’s about that?
Great question Grasshopper!
Let’s say you’ve found a great client to work with. How do you make sure that they stay with you and that they don’t renege on your deal?
The real secret?
Communication dude. Dudette?
Often as a freelancer (for those of you that work primarily online) your client may be based 3,000 miles away from you or more. That means they can’t look over your shoulder to see your progress and make sure you’re getting the job done. Nor can they hunt you down and harass you in person.
If they have a business to run too, they can often end up anxious because now the success of their latest venture lies in your hard working little hands. For this very reason, you should try to be the epitome of patience when dealing with your clients. Trust me they’ll love you for it.
Your failure to deliver can often mean a massive profit loss for them. So go easy, remember there is a certain amount of trust being traded back and forth, and strive to guard that trust closely.
Also, be sure to maintain a good relationship even after a project is done. Remember, working with clients isn’t just about cashing that check. It’s about creating valuable and long-term relationships that benefit you both.
Even if they don’t have any direct opportunities to give you after an initial project, they can either recommend you to someone they know or they can keep you in mind for when they DO need to hire someone for a future project.
And remember that finding and keeping good clients really isn’t as hard as you think.
Always keep in mind that just you are selective and only want to work with the best…
So too do your clients.
They want good, trustworthy, reliable people on their side. Practice an excellent work ethic and they’ll keep coming back to you, again and again and again. And again!
Oh and don’t forget to give them candy. They like candy. 😉