By Annette Kiesow from Catnip and Coffee
So you finally got that big freelance gig you’ve been searching for? The first contract work that gives you a chance to start your business, work for yourself, even quit your day job? You’ve spent weeks, months, maybe years putting all of your effort into finding a paying client. Now, you have to spend that same effort, or more, on keeping that client.
I’ve been doing contract work for almost seven years now, and in that time I’ve learned a few things about making clients happy. Happy clients mean more work coming your way, and we all want that! Not only will they keep giving you new assignments but also, continuously working with them will build your reputation in your field so other clients will notice you and, hopefully, hire you.
Here are a few tips to help you build your business, and stay in business.
Meet your deadlines.
This is a big one; never, ever, miss a deadline. Remember, there is always someone on the other end who is waiting for your work to come in so they can do their part. If you are late, then they have to scramble. It might not be someone who does the hiring, but they can still bad mouth you to the boss. I make a point to submit my work early and my clients are always thrilled to have the extra time. When I schedule my deadlines on my calendar, I just bump them up by a day. It’s not easy get on an early schedule, but once you’re there it’s not hard to keep to it.
Get organized and keep records of everything you do.
Whether you have a big paper trail, or work solely on the computer, be sure you can put your hands on any file at any time. This goes for current projects as well as old. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a client say something to the effect of; “Hey remember that project we did 2 years ago, do you know the email address for that photographer we used?” Yep, because I have a dedicated external hard drive that I save everything work related on and can access immediately.
Be available during business hours if at all possible and respond to emails quickly.
We all know many of us are freelancing so we can be home with our kids and that means school pickups, doctor’s appointments, and all of those other things that keep us running. Be mindful though, our clients are often in the office from 8-5 everyday and expect you to be around when they need a question answered quickly. If you respond to queries super fast most of the time, they’ll give you a pass on the few occasions you have to deal with your kid’s ear infection or parent teacher conferences first.
Have the necessary equipment it takes to get the job done right.
That might mean just a laptop and high speed Internet. Or you might be like me and need the works: photocopier, fax machine, (yes some people still use them!) and filing cabinets. If you’re using your cell phone for all of your work calls, ask your friends how well you sound. If it’s not great, well, get a landline. There’s nothing worse for your reputation than being that person on the conference call with the crackly, cutting out cell phone.
Last, but absolutely not least, be an expert.
You’re marketing yourself as qualified and experienced, and they will expect no less. If you get into project and realize you don’t know enough about what you are working on, you need to figure it out, and fast. You’ve been hired to do a job they either don’t have time or knowledge to do themselves. I recently photo edited a book about rocks and minerals, a subject I knew nothing about. I did tons of research to make sure the geologist author would not find any fault with the photos I submitted. That meant a little more time spent on the project, but the payoff was huge when he commended my work on a call with all of the team members, including those who make hiring decisions.
The main point this comes down to is be respectful of your clients, of their time, and their money. Do the best job you can and they will take notice. Creating your own business from scratch isn’t always easy, and getting enough work to sustain it can take some time, but it really can be done and it’s totally worth it.
Do you have any advice for your fellow freelancers?
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