of the globe is so easy, inspiring and empowering, that you can earn in dollars, on work that is interesting to you, from the comfort of your home with nothing more than a PC and a broadband. All you need to do is learn to anticipate a potential customer’s unmet needs (both real and imagined) and deliver on quality and timelines in a manner that she finds it easy and satisfactory to outsource the work to you than do it herself or outsource it to anyone else.
Successful freelancing is more than just talking
It’s easier said than done. Do you know of a young businessman who started his own firm? He had just rented a beautiful office and had it furnished with antiques.
Sitting there, he saw a man come into the outer office. Wishing to appear busy and important, the businessman picked up the phone and started to pretend he had a big deal in the works. He threw huge figures around and made giant commitments.
Finally, he hung up the phone and asked the visitor, “Can I help you?”
The man said, “Yeah, I’m here to install the phones…”
If you are an amateur entrepreneur in services (“freelancer”), your client is as knowledgeable as the phone installer. She knows what you can do and what you can’t.
If you promise high, that does not mean you can deliver. She knows it takes time. She wants to know if YOU know that it takes time to deliver quality.
Here are a few hot tips on how to succeed as a freelancer:
Quality is paramount
The crux of delighting a client is in exceeding expectations. You have to exceed expectations on quality itself (i.e. ensuring that you deliver to the technical specs of what the client needs), second, on timeliness (you must deliver on-time) and third,
on soft aspects of the relationship i.e. responsiveness, courtesy etc.
All these together constitute quality. Not one in isolation. It’s like a shooting game where you have to hit not just one, but multiple targets with a single bullet!
If you know what the client wants, you can deliver it
Managing to extract a clear brief from your customer can be challenging at times, especially with a customer, who is not as gifted with words or time, as you are and is still experimenting with the outsourcing model, but this is a skill that you absolutely must develop in order to succeed as a freelancer.
To make your client articulate, you must ask the right questions. (Is it this or that? Did you mean…, is it ok if…, when do you need this…) because you would like to nail down the exact specs of the project and narrow down the ambiguity.
After that, you must write down the requirements of the project in scope statements – articulate clearly what’s included, what’s excluded, the timelines, major decisions taken during meetings and so on.
Sounds obvious? You will be amazed at how many offshore projects get kicked-off without a review and comment on the scope of the project.
The onus of making the buyer articulate what he/she wants rests with you. You have to make sure that the terms are clear.
Delivering on time enhances client’s confidence in you
Don’t assume that the other party would instinctively know that you are working on the project. Send timely updates to let the buyer know the progress on her project. Specially, when you have started the project and when you have met important milestones. And, unless absolutely needed for emergency reasons, don’t ask the buyer to stretch the deadline. Plan and meet the schedule. If you know that you can’t meet the deadline for sure, give the news as soon as you know it. Don’t wait until the deadline to give this news. If there’s high probability of delaying, figure out when you are likely to deliver the milestone or the project and let the buyer know.
That will enhance the customer’s confidence in your abilities because buyers know that there will be delays. It’s your job to manage them.
Build relationships – not temporary employment
Every provider-client relationship is unique and important. The relationship is a function of exceeding expectations on quality and timeliness, putting buyer’s requirements ahead of your own, the compromises you’ve made in favor of the buyer, competitive pricing etc.
If you share a great relationship with her, then you will get a lot of business and she will refer a number of clients.
Relationship leads to higher repeat business and spin-off relationships.
Put all the specs and changes in writing
A deal in writing forces clarity of thought and brings everybody on the same page. Successful service is about having common expectations on what has to be delivered and then staying true to that commitment. The scope of the project, the time lines and all the other deliverables must be clearly written.
We know that terms change. You must document them as soon as they change. That brings in clarity to your project. Use p2w2’s Terms feature that lets you articulate all the terms. It lets you manage those terms even when there are multiple changes.
Lethargy is client-repellent
It causes delays and affects customer satisfaction. You must develop the habit of working for a few fixed hours everyday. Preferably, you should have a designated work area at home and the discipline to follow fixed schedules even at home in order to keep a pipeline of projects ready for the next couple of months’ rollout. A freelancer’s income could be erratic, but you don’t have to contribute to making it even more.
If you are a housewife, looking for some extra income, this could be just the right profession for you, provided you are willing to commit yourself to schedules. Housewives doubling up as freelancers would have to develop the necessary discipline in themselves.
Sample your work; then ask for good rate
Too low a price can make a client feel that you are a bad at work. Too high rate is not sustainable. Over time, you will know where to do the balancing act. However, a buyer must taste your work before she’s convinced that you deserver a better price for your work. She has to experience both the quality of your work and your ‘dependability’ factor. If you are good at both, the buyer will herself want to keep you with higher rates. In addition, diversity in projects can bring you higher fees.
Beware of cross cultural pitfalls
Culture differs from place to place. For instance, a deadline is not held sacred everywhere. Nor is the definition of work ethics the same. But if you are working on a project, you have to have patience to understand the client is talking about.. Especially, if you feel that your client is being unreasonable or ridiculous, find out why? What does she need? Why is she acting in this way?
Keep in mind the time zone differences and project culture. It is the service provider’s responsibility either to know the buyer’s work ethic and work with her if it suits or inform her about your own.
Freelancing is a great teacher. But you have to learn
Freelancing has its obvious benefits: you are your own master and you have the freedom to choose your own projects, price, terms and schedules. But there are challenges. Because you would have to develop all the qualities of an entrepreneur, especially in terms of rendering a job well and on time!
If you are new to the trade, have the patience to learn the tricks of the trade. p2w2 will provide you the right content and the right platform for you to succeed.