By April 5, 2013 Read More →

7 strategies for freelancer success Part 2


What gets in the way of a freelancer’s success more than anything else?

by Anthony Chatfield

Work from Home Wisdom - Anthony Chatfield, 7 strategies for freelancer successI recently shared the first 3 of 7 strategies for freelancer success through retaining clients. All of my tips have been learned through running my content marketing company based in New York, and we now have one of the best repeat client rates in the business.

Today I’m going to share with you 4 more great strategies to keep your clients coming back for more work time and again:

#4 – Be Ridiculously Consistent

These days I hire a lot of contractors myself. We aren’t quite at the point of outsourcing large volumes of writing, but I do outsource odd jobs like tweaking our website, creating logos, and handling small content jobs for our own sites.

And it’s something of a roulette wheel.

Not just from one freelancer to the next but from one week to the next with any one freelancer. Maybe the designer does a killer job today, but they ignore three emails in a row next week. Maybe the writer composes a masterpiece for a blog we’ve been developing one week and can’t string two sentences together the next week.

It’s mindboggling.

As a client, I see this lack of consistency – in quality, communication and delivery speed – and I say to myself, what reason do I have to use this contractor again.

It’s very rare that I find any one contractor that I trust unequivocally to handle all of any one thing, regardless of the quality they (sometimes) produce. If you are a freelancer, use this to your advantage.

I guarantee that, when a client finds someone like you, who can over-deliver time and again, they’ll keep you around. More importantly, if they know exactly what to expect when they hire you, they’ll keep hiring you. Even if you take a little longer or your rates are a bit higher, the sheer exhaustion of finding a new contractor or digging through a new stack of queries will keep you on top of their contact list.

#5 – Hold Feedback Sessions Regularly

Feedback is powerful, not only for you but for your client.

The problem, of course, is that too many freelancers are terrified of that feedback. If they don’t get feedback, they assume it’s a good thing (or at least not NOT a bad thing).

But consider if your client wasn’t happy with your work and just doesn’t want to be confrontational about it. What then? They probably won’t hire you again, and you’ll never know why.

By getting feedback in this situation you can do two things:

Fix whatever mistakes you made so your next client has a better experience
Fix the current problem to make THIS client happy and keep them around

Everyone makes mistakes. If you create a system through which you can actively discover and fix your own mistakes, they will have a less immediate impact on your income. And you’ll learn from them.

Clients like this because it shows you’re a freelancer with pride in your work. It’s not just about the paycheck – it’s about providing the best possible product. Why wouldn’t they keep hiring you?

#6 – Be Transparent and Honest

For whatever reason, anyone running any kind of business has a habit of being defensive about their processes.

If they are late in delivery, they make excuses. If they outsource, they hide it. It’s a bad habit to get into because when you hide something, it begs the question of “why”.

Transparency is one of the fastest ways for a freelancer to build trust with a client. Instead of explaining that the instructions weren’t very clear you simply tell them that you made a mistake and that you are sorry for it. That alone will blow most clients away.

Instead of sneakily outsourcing a project, you tell your client “I don’t have enough time to do this, so I can either outsource it to a trusted provider and oversee production or I can push it back”.

This way, there are no awkward conversations later in which they ask “Did you outsource this?” and you have to decide whether to come clean or lie and take the fall for whatever issues they might find.

Transparency is easy when you commit to it. It also drives smarter, more ethical business decisions. It’s always in your best interest as a freelancer to do the best possible work because if you don’t, your client is going to know.

#7 – Prioritize Existing Clients

The last thing I want to talk about is prioritization. There are some conflicting views here.

Some will tell you to treat every client equally. Others will tell you to throw everything you have at a new client to impress them and add them to your portfolio. I disagree with both.

VIP treatment makes sense when you have VIPs. For years I had three clients that regularly delivered between 60% and 80% of our orders in terms of volume. As many as 4 out of every 5 pages I wrote were ordered by these three clients and so I treated them accordingly.

If they had an urgent order, I’d drop everything to get it done. If they needed edits, I wouldn’t argue. If they needed a price break for a specific project, I’d work with them on it.

I don’t always do these things for new clients because it’s not always feasible. Whether it’s feasible or not, I make it work for my VIPs.

These are the people who have more or less funded the growth of my business and the realization of my dream. Why wouldn’t I help them whenever possible?

Being a freelancer is never easy. The added pressure of being your own boss often means working long hours and never quite knowing if you’re going to make it to the next rent check.

But if you treat your clients right, build relationships with them that last, and ensure quality never suffers, I guarantee those weeks of “am I going to make it” will become things of the past.

Enjoyed this? Read more of Anthony’s insights into working from home as a freelancer.

He digs even deeper into how to build strong, long lasting relationships with your clients (along with many other tips and strategies for freelancers of all stripes) on his personal blog, AnthonyChatfield.com.

And you can see his home office on the Attic Home Offices Gallery.

Posted in: Making money

4 Comments on "7 strategies for freelancer success Part 2"

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  1. Consistency is a big one. I have a daily list of marketing activities that happen before anything else.

    • So true. These days the small business owner has so many things they could be doing, if you’re not careful it’s easy to get blown all over the place trying to cover it all and not achieving anything.

  2. Thanks for the comment Rosie! You’re too right – jumping from task to task is nearly as bad as procrastinating. Finding what works and maintaining consistency is super hard, but pays off in the end…and if it doesn’t, you at least have a new experience to build on.

    • When you’re under pressure, you can get trapped into bouncing around from job to job, almost in a trance state of being anxious and unable to achieve anything.
      The key is to be able to recognise what’s happening and stop, take a deep breath and regroup. I find writing a list of priorities calms me down and helps me focus. Then I tackle one job at a time and the sense of achievement propels me forward.
      But always easier said than done :-/

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