All businesses desire to establish mutually beneficial, long-standing relationships with clients, and its no different for freelancers.
The gig-economy has skyrocketed during the pandemic with huge numbers of workers turning to freelancing, and not necessarily as a result of losing their jobs. Many are simply trying to earn some extra cash by maximising the extra time they have on their hands.
The key to freelancer success is to transform gigs from one-off projects to long-term, recurring work and the best way to do that is to make yourself indispensable.
Here are our top tips for how to just that.
1. Know your clients
Freelance success isn’t just about doing a good job – the best freelancers are the ones who really understand their clients. Knowledge of a clients’ marketplace and their position within it, as well as best practices and market trends will immerse you in their world and enable you to better serve their needs. It may even allow you to pre-empt requirements and make suggestions.
If a client’s industry sector is new to you, invest some time getting to grips with it. Do your research and when the project is complete, use your new experience in that field to perhaps encourage additional work with the same client or to pitch to others in their sector.
You’ll be adding to your industry knowledge bank and potentially making yourself a ‘go to’ resource for future projects.
2. Be on top of your game
A freelancer doesn’t necessarily have the luxury of the 9-5 that an employee enjoys. A one-person business requires you to be the boss, the accountant, the facilities manager, the marketing guru and business development exec all at the same time. On top of that, the buck stops with you, there is no one else to blame if things go wrong. Be prepared to slog. There will be occasions when there really aren’t enough hours in the day.
Quality work and reliability together with the ability to handle whatever your clients throw at you, whenever they throw it, should pay off in the long run. When building new client relationships its important to be responsive, reactive and punctual with deliverables. Dropping the ball could mean losing out on potential future business.
3. Be the one and only
The best way of being indispensable is to do things that no one else can do, or at the very least, be the best at doing things that other people might only do half as well and not as efficiently. Another way is to create work for a client that they are unable to do themselves.
If you immerse yourself in a client’s industry while excelling in your own field you will be in a position to pitch unsolicited and bold ideas. Try leveraging your industry experience to identify trends which could be applied to your clients. Be the first with new ideas, be proactive, and tell them something they don’t already know.
Your ideas may not always be taken up but a client worth their salt will recognise your innovation and appreciate the personal investment you are clearly making in their business.
4. Be collaborative
While serving your clients you shouldn’t lose sight of developing your own personal brand. A well-designed and user friendly website together with a strong social media presence are critical, but an ideal freelancer is both an expert consultant and a creative partner.
Collaborating with other agencies as well as with clients will give you the opportunity to gain a deeper insight in to other businesses and sectors, while opening up potential new client opportunities.
5. Be transparent
Freelancers are often expected to be all things to all men. A photographer might be assumed to also be able to shoot videos, a graphic designer could possibly be expected to come up with supporting creative copy.
While there may be times when you are happy and able to meet a client’s extended requirements, equally you may be required to provide services which are outside of your remit, beyond your capabilities and which potentially will take you over their budget.
Be honest with these clients. If you don’t have the skillset they need then tell them so, or, if you think its something you can have a go at then manage the client’s expectations by telling them that you are happy to do the work but it is something which is new to you so you can only give it your best shot.
Travelling ‘off-piste’ without first informing the client that this particular job isn’t within your area of expertise, could backfire if the work isn’t up to your usual standard.
Honesty is the best policy, always.
Ultimately, being able to offer your clients more than they ask for can only stand you in good stead, and if you can find ways to save them money then all the better. Model yourself on being the model full-time employee by achieving results their own staff could not achieve in-house. You’ll be indispensable before you know it.
Posted by Julie Tucker
Images courtesy of Press Association