You know that client. The one who wears you down to a much lower rate, expects you to do revision after revision — at no extra pay of course — and then pays you late every time. (Fortunately, this isn’t an issue with ClearVoice clients.)
They don’t respect you, your knowledge, or your work. It’s a freelancer’s nightmare. If you find yourself in this scenario, it is probably because you are being seen as a laborer, not a business owner. Paid not for your skill or expertise but as minutes of grunt work.
As a freelancer, it can be challenging to get clients who value you and what you do. And they won’t if they feel they can easily replace you with another freelancer. But don’t despair. There is hope.
There are clients who are easy to work with. Who know you get them and their voice and want to work with you again and again and pay you what you ask. The difference in the freelancers who get the nightmare clients versus the freelancers who get good clients is in the way they represent themselves.
How to be a freelance leader, not a freelancer laborer:
By doing a few things differently in your business you can gain more respect from clients and potential clients and have a better business. Have your work valued, get paid on time, and run your business instead of letting your business run you. Sound good?
Here are some things you can do to turn this “laborer” thing around to be seen more like a “leader” in your field.
1. Give your portfolio a view. Is it optimized to give the right impression?
If you are attracting the same type of clients that you have been for some time, but your work has evolved, it may be time to update your portfolio.
Does your bio reflect your current skills and the kind of work that you want to do now? Are you sharing your services and skills from a “value-to-the-client” perspective?
Show potential clients that you are a professional and make your best work available to view. If you do not have work that reflects where you are currently or where you want to go, consider finding some publications, businesses, or non-profits that represent your ideal clients and offer your services to gain new samples.
If you do not have more value to offer just yet, remember that you can always learn. It’s not the number of your years but how you use your years to grow.
As Peter Voogd, author of the best selling book ‘6 Months to 6 Figures’ said:
Value guarantees a higher income, age doesn’t. You don’t get more valuable hanging around for years. Age isn’t value. People who want more money earn it by delivering more value to their business and customers.
Potential clients are looking for not just quality but focus. Leaders focus on the few things they do well. Once you really know and understand your niche area then you can branch out more and more as you learn, specializing in more areas.
“Specialization will continue to increase for freelancers as for the workforce generally, and the choice of specialty and continuous skill renewal will be an increasingly important factor in freelancer’s success,” says career expert Jon Younger.
That does not mean all your work has to fit a certain field, industry, or niche. But it is a good idea to order your work into sections so that your ideal potential clients can find what they are looking for.
2. Learn to ask clients the right questions.
Sometimes freelancers are afraid to ask questions. But asking questions, the right ones, can actually show clients how knowledgable you are and how much you have to offer. Sometimes it takes digging deeper to find out what your client’s true problem is so that you can help them find the best solution. It requires asking about your client’s goals.
If you are a freelance writer, for example, and your client is wanting a blog post, you can ask what their goal is with the post. This is going beyond the topic so you can write the post in a way to help that client reach their goal.
A post with a goal to get email signups can look different than a post with the goal of keeping visitors on the site longer. Asking some strategic questions about how the content you create will be used is a great way to show your expertise and professionalism.
3. Price your services by value and not by the hour.
This is a controversial topic among freelancers and you have to choose for yourself. There may be times where an hourly wage is OK. But beware. Laborers work by the hour for the labor they put into that hour. As a leader, you want to be seen by the skills you have but not just by your skills, also by your industry expertise. It is the expertise you put into that hour. Not just the time.
When you are needing work, it is easy to get into the trap of taking anything. But sometimes it is just not worth it. A client who does not value you can cause more harm than good. Make sure your rates reflect the clients that you want to attract and show that you value yourself.
You can look at industry standards for an idea and adjust accordingly to find the sweet spot between what you do and what clients are willing to pay for it. Then position yourself by the solutions you offer rather than the time. And state your rates confidently.
This can take learning and practice. Maybe ask other freelancers who are doing well how they got OK with asking for more.
4. Check your communication and set the right expectations.
Maybe you have heard that it is better to under-promise and over-deliver. It’s true. Make your communication clear so that the client knows what to expect when working with you. Not setting the right expectations can be one of the biggest causes of frustration between freelancers and clients.
Clear communication and that optimized portfolio are a great start. You could also consider sending new clients an email series about you and your work or you could design a welcome packet to send out.
Make sure the client knows what deliverables they will receive and how. And if it is a longer-term project, you can check-in and give updates so they know you are working. Treat your freelance business like a business and show you are on top of it and that you care.
And when you cannot manage something that is expected, be honest and be quick to apologize. Try to make it up to the client in another way. Show clients that you value them and their business.
5. Treat every client with the same respect that you would want.
When you take a job that pays less than you desire, or run into an issue with a client, be respectful. You never know who they will talk to and your reputation may precede you.
Also, remember that someone who is not a great fit as a client for you now could be later. A client or company that may not be able to pay you a lot now could grow or end up in a much better position in the near future. And when that day comes, they will remember the freelancers who were easy to work with.
One of the best ways to gain respect is to give it. Do work you care about and show it. Position yourself as someone who will come through even if the going gets tough but do not be afraid to set boundaries. Just do so politely.
Follow these guidelines and see how your client base can quickly change. Being seen as a leader in your business is not just about your bottom line but about creating new possibilities.
Top tip for being a freelance leader: Join the ClearVoice Talent Network
Want to know one of the best freelancing tips? Join the ClearVoice Talent Network! Work with growing brands who need talent like you. Writers, editors, producers, designers and more.
If you’re interested in being a freelancer leader, you might like these posts too:
- 5 Green Flags That Indicate a Client Relationship Will Be Great
- Peer Advice for Freelancers: 9 Lessons on Setting Client Expectations
- An Etiquette Guide on Freelance Referrals: How to Win Clients and More Income
- How to Make $100K or More As a Freelancer Writer? Five Successful Women Share Their Advice