I’ve been hiring freelancers for 15 years, for direct client work and agency teams. During that time I’ve recognized patterns in how successful freelancers approach winning business, and mistakes that even experienced freelancers sometimes make. I’m also a freelance project manager and UX architect, and have have developed some strategies that work well for me to continually land great contracts.
I could wax poetically with long stories, but for the AND CO blog I thought the best way to communicate my experience was with some easy to digest bullet point do’s and don’ts. Not all of these tips works for every circumstance, and some of you may even disagree with a few of them, but I hope that the wisdom is there for you to incorporate into your own freelance quest.
DO make it sound like you really are super excited to work with them and 100% want the work.
DON’T fall into the trap of thinking you’re hot shit and doing them a favor by taking the work. No matter how senior and talented you are.
DO provide a fair estimate for the work based on your understanding of the scope.
DON’T high-ball an estimate in the hopes that the sucker client will agree, or because you are super busy and want more money to fit them in your schedule. Karma is a nasty bitch, this I’ve learned in spades.
DO ask nicely for more detail to refine your estimate. Explain that the more they can tell you up-front, it will help bring the costs down overall.
DON’T immediately high-ball an estimate because of too many unknowns.
DO figure out what the fair market hourly rate is for your skill-set and experience is in that city. Charge that rate.
DON’T overinflate your hourly rate, it’s an immediate red flag, especially for the agencies who work with many freelancers.
DO ask the client if they have a budget or range in mind. This always helps in figuring out if you want this work or not and providing them a bid that will win the biz.
DON’T provide an estimate blind with no idea even what range the client’s budget is.
DO make the client feel like they are going to be your main priority. You should simply evaluate their needs, and figure out if you have time to be successful. If yes and you want the project, communicate immediately that you absolutely have the availability to take on the project.
DON’T tell the client that you are super busy, but “might” be able to fit them in. The client should never know about your overall workload, or your other current clients.
DO ensure your Linkedin profile and your portfolio website are up to date.
DON’T tell the client you’ve been too busy to update these, it just communicates immediately that you’re lazy and don’t have your shit together.
DO have a way to take credit card payments ready and available. Many clients prefer to pay this way.
DON’T force the client to send you a paper check if they prefer to pay with a credit card, it will almost certainly delay payment.
DO have your own client-friendly task management platform ready and available for your projects. Think Basecamp, Asana, Trello or similar.
DON’T come unprepared with only email as an option for the client to communicate with you.
DO have your own stable of freelancers in many skill-sets that you like to partner up with or refer into jobs. Let the client know you have a team of other freelancers you can bring onto the project if they have any other requirements.
DON’T be a freelance island who doesn’t know any other freelancers.
DO accept whatever standard payment terms a reputable company, agency or recruiter communicates to you.
DON’T ask for an unreasonable payment up front, as most reputable companies have a 30-day net payment policy and it takes time to run invoices through their system.
DO ask for money up front if you are at all unsure about the client’s ability to pay you.
DON’T do a bunch of work with a sketchy client without a deposit. Don’t deliver final root files or code without full payment if it’s a sketchy client.
DO tell stories about how things have worked well with other clients in the past.
DON’T be negative about any previous clients to prove a point, or head off an issue. In the end that sounds like gossip and negativity, and can turn clients off.
DO recognize that you are an independent and not part of the company you are doing work for. Be Switzerland, be positive, contribute solutions that are a win-win for everyone.
DON’T get involved in your client’s internal gossip or company politics. I’ve seen this kind of behavior ensure the freelancer never gets hired again, even when the actual work is top notch.
DO meet with the client in person if that’s an option. If I’ve met with one freelancer in person, and just had phone calls with a few others, I’m more likely to pick the person I met with in person all other things being equal.
DON’T turn down an opportunity to meet in person if you can swing it.
DO be plug and play on an agency sub-contract gig. This means try your hardest to be self-sufficient and conscious of their time. Ask for all the projects documents that you can read to get up to speed. Ask for access to the project task area so you can read all the previous items the team has worked on.
DON’T bother your agency team with too many unnecessary questions, especially at the beginning of a project.
DO dress at least business casual if you are going to meet a client or work onsite.
DON’T be a slob. While it shouldn’t really matter, it does.
DO offer to pay if you are meeting your client for coffee or lunch. They should pay, but it’s always great to offer.
DON’T expect your client to pay, or indicate that they should.
I hope that these do’s and don’t were valuable to you! If you have any comments, don’t hesitate to reply