Here’s what the top freelancers do to make a freelance gig successful from the start
Being a freelancer creates great opportunities for those who love to be their own boss. You can set your hours, work remotely, have multiple projects simultaneously, decide what exciting projects you want to work on, and more. Freelancing grants you freedom, flexibility, and independence, but it can be challenging to find gigs and work effectively with varying types of clients and projects.
We have spoken to thousands of freelancers and clients and have noticed common actions that lead to a successful engagement. Here’s what the top freelancers do to make a work relationship successful from the start.
Before you even get the job, there are many things you can do to put a good foot forward and set yourself up for success.
For starters, put yourself in the client’s shoes when applying for a position. How can you help them? What skills are you bringing to the table? What domain expertise do you have? What pain points can you address for them? All of these questions can help shape how you apply to give you a better chance of getting an introduction with the client. Emphasizing your skills and how you could bring value to a company while you’re working with them can have a huge impact before the job even starts.
Freelancers also often struggle to consolidate their experiences and skills in a manner that strongly elevates their background. To help stand out, we recommend creating a freelancer bio or proposal. In this document, you should include previous jobs you’ve done that showcase your skills, particularly if they are relevant to the project you’re applying for. This will help you stand out as the right fit based on your previous experiences.
It will also be helpful to outline how you would approach the project if you get hired. For example, if they want a product designer to do a rebranding, you could create two sections for the proposal such as “strategy” and “creative work”. The “strategy” section can be broken down into meetings with the team where you discuss the goals of the rebranding project. The “creative work” section can consist of how you plan to spend your time executing deliverables and the goals you plan to meet. This gives the hiring team a good sense of what it will look like to work with you and provides added comfort upfront knowing you have solid organizational skills.
Before taking the initial call with a prospective client, spend time learning about the company and prepare thoughtful questions you would like to ask to assess whether the project is a good fit for you. Find out everything you can about the company. This can include the company website, press releases, funding rounds, new articles, social media accounts, LinkedIn, etc. Based on all this information, try to come up with thoughtful questions that show your interest in the company. The client is always going to leave time for questions at the end of the interview; this is your chance to showcase your interest in the project and is one of the top indicators to the client that you will be invested in the project and have a lot to contribute.
In any freelancer-client relationship, it is a two-way road. In the same way a client is interviewing you to see if you are a fit for the project, you shouldn’t be afraid to interview the client as well to see if you would like to take on the engagement. Ask anything you would like to know about logistics, meeting cadence, the expectation of hours and timelines, etc. The last thing you want in a project is for there to be a bad synergy or poor communication between the client and freelancer.
Once the client wants to move forward and you accept the gig, the real work starts. As a freelancer, it is important to impress every client you work for, because your reputation is powerful and can lead to more opportunities. Successful freelancers create a strong network of people who recommend them for other jobs and can even get to the point where all of their business comes from word-of-mouth referrals. Over time, this allows you to choose the projects that most excite you and turn down those that you’re not interested in. To get to this stage, however, you have to do great work while on the job and take steps to go above and beyond to impress the clients you work with.
In the first few meetings, make sure you work with the client to lay out all expectations for the duration of the project. What is the deliverable? Be detailed here so there is no confusion. When is the deadline? How often do they want check-ins? What is the best method of communication (Slack, Discord, Email, Zoom, etc)? All of these questions should be answered during your first meeting with the client. Laying out the groundwork for the project is super important and leads to a successful relationship and project.
The #1 quality of a good freelancer is being quickly responsive, and the top indicator of failure in a freelancing engagement is “going dark”. We recommend providing updates on your work as often as possible (a good rule of thumb is a minimum of twice a week). It is also important to answer client questions and issues quickly and efficiently.
Accountability is also extremely important. Deliver on what you say you can deliver when you say you can deliver it. If something shifts, whether it be the timeline or your approach to the work, discuss this with your client immediately to keep them in the loop.
We have been told by clients that they prefer over-communication any day of the week as opposed to under. This means when issues arise, address them quickly, professionally give rapid feedback, and be respectful of your client's time. The working relationship should always improve over time as you learn each other’s style of communication.
We have talked to thousands of freelancers & clients and have seen all the pain points of part-time engagements. It is the reason we created thirdwork: to help freelancers succeed in all these aspects and build a career where they can define how they work. That is why we handle all the logistics between clients and freelancers (contracts, billing, invoicing, tax advising, resources, and more). This allows the freelancer to focus on the job itself, working hard and meeting the goals of the project.
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