As a former freelance writer and, currently, an entrepreneur in need of other writers, I know for a fact that there is often a huge deal of misunderstanding between freelancers and their leads. And, as a person who's been on both sides of the battle lines, I also know that some of them can be easily avoided.
Sure, preventing potential problems is as much the client’s responsibility as it is the freelancer’s. Still, certain deal-breakers scare off your customers almost immediately, and you better fix those issues if you really want to build long term relations with your leads — or, to be more precise, if you want your leads to want a long-term relationship with you.
In a nutshell, all of the potential issues can be narrowed down to just four problematic areas freelancers can easily work on. So, here goes:
Inadequate perception of one's value
This is the first and the most important misconception that scares off most decent leads. The biggest bummer is, an inadequate perception of one’s value affects a variety of business communication aspects — from price building to the overall attitude. Let’s try and look at these two in greater detail.
Prices: it’s a free market, so you will not get any tips on the ‘right’ price for your services here. All prices, absolutely all of them — from incredibly low to incredibly high and everything that goes in between the two — have the right to exist these days. But, as a professional, you need to know exactly why your price tag is justified.
I worked with plenty of experts who could (and probably should) have charged more for their services, as well as people who didn’t cost half of the sum they wanted. Both case scenarios are equally frustrating for the client. In the first situation, they are trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with you; in the second situation they don’t care what exactly is wrong with you — they already know you’re an obnoxious ass totally not worth the trouble.
Attitude: another aspect that affects your price building and pretty much everything that goes on between you and the client. Take timeframes, for example — the constant stumbling block of freelancing. Everyone realizes that we’re all human — we get sick, we fall off stairs and break our limbs, we have technical issues that prevent us from working — it is all ok, as long as it does not happen to you constantly. Because come on... what are the chances?
Plus, no matter how justified your reason for skipping the deadline may be, most new clients will see it as an alarming sign. Missing your first deadline with the new client is a sure way to lose this lead once and for all. Missing several deadlines in a row — even with the old customer — will usually lead to the same result. Even if you’re a great pro. There are 7 BILLION people on our planet. How irreplaceable can you really be?
Need of constant monitoring
I needed to make a couple of small fixes to this website before it could go live, and I couldn't possibly do it myself — and, hell, I tried. So, I decided to outsource. I described everything that needed fixing in the project description. I had an online repository with all of my files. The first freelancer I gave access to these files, says: ‘I downloaded your project folder. Now what?’
WTF? If I knew ‘now what,' why on Earth would I need you? Sure, this is an epic fail example, but this issue is not always so obvious and often goes deeper than that. In my professional sphere (which is writing), I always know exactly what happens next. But, still — why would I want to work with a freelancer who doesn’t?
Or, here is another case study for you — questions. Questions are good. They often show your professionalism — especially if you ask them right on the project negotiation stage. But if you already started on the project and you suddenly have a bizzilion questions, shooting them at your client every hour or so, this isn’t good at all.
Sure, sometimes this cannot be avoided; more than that, if you face certain difficulties and need to make decisions that do not fall into your direct line of duty, contacting the client right away is the only reasonable thing to do. But in most cases, you can make those decisions yourself — as a professional. “What should I write about in this part?” or “how exactly am I supposed to fit this key-phrase into the article?” are hardly ever the questions the clients welcome.
Remember that when people outsource, they do not simply want the job done; they also want to apply as little effort to its completion as possible — ideally, they’d like the chore out of their way ENTIRELY. And holding your hand as you work does not exactly fit this picture.
Inability to communicate professionally
Another big issue that involves a variety of different aspects and is especially important when working with experienced clients. After all, a pro customer will always know if you are truly an expert or just an amateur. Note, this has nothing to do with your experience! A beginning expert can behave highly professionally; a person with ten years of relevant experience can still act like an amateur.
Professionalism isn’t really about checking your inbox regularly (even though you’re gonna have to do that, too). It isn’t even about responding to client e-mails asap (or only during business hours, whichever your policy is). It’s about balancing on the thin line between ‘nothing personal, strictly business’ and ‘I am a human being, too.' But most importantly, it’s about knowing what you’re doing and your ability to do it independently, without extra help (as discussed above — no one wants to hold your hand).
Shortly, professional behavior goes down to RESPONSIBILITY. For your actions. For your quality. For your timeframes. For your suggestions. You said you can do it? Make sure it’s done. A client wants something impossible? Explain why the instructions are faulty and offer a solution. “It will not work” is only half of the deal, and in this case, ‘something’ is NOT better than ‘nothing at all.' “This isn't wise because…” and “here’s how it can be done instead” is a better way to go around it.
Failure to represent the client's interest
Not every client of yours will have extensive experience with writers and writing in general. Often, people hire freelancers because they lack expertise in the area. So, input from a pro is always appreciated. But, if you want your client to LOVE YOU FOREVER, you have to show him that you’re always on his side. Whatever it takes.
Most of the time, representing the client’s best interest involves suggesting cheaper/quicker/ more efficient solutions (pick yours). This is the best way to show your leads that you care. Say, for example, a client wants to order a hundred almost identical articles — and, quite crappy ones, to be frank. Why not offer him to write ten premium quality posts that can boost social media shares instead? In this situation, the price often remains more or less the same, but the result will actually be worth it. Sure, not everyone will listen to you. But finding reasonable clients is a different matter entirely.
Don’t worry about losing a couple of bucks on a particular job even if you’re offering a cheaper, but equally efficient, solution. In the long run, you can gain a client who wants to work with you and you only — and, at this stage, your price will not matter that much. Well, as long as you don't sky rocket it out of a sudden. Consistency is important, too.
You might have noticed that some of the problematic areas I’ve been talking about have some room for even more comments and examples. Frankly, to discuss all of the peculiarities, each of the above paragraphs would have to be turned into a separate article. But… I didn’t want to bombard you with information, so if you want me to dig a little deeper (read: bitch a bit more), stay tuned for more posts — I have a ceaseless pool of ideas and real-life case studies when it comes to improving writers’ professional skills.