Most of the freelance talent I draw upon to support my business is comprised of production support (e-pros), photographers and illustrators. I’ve noticed, especially when I hire someone new and recently out of school, many are clueless about how to behave professionally.
Here are 12 suggestions to help new (and even experienced) freelancers:
1. Show up on time for meetings
There is nothing worse than having your prospective client wait for you to appear. Unless there are mitigating circumstances, to me it says, “I am a flake and undependable.”
2. Do not “disappear,” making yourself impossible to contact
If you are going to be away during a crucial time, let people know when you’ll be out and when you’ll be reachable. I think some people “hide” when deadline pressure freaks them out. It’s not helpful, and actually causes anxiety to others.
3. Charge a realistic rate for your services
Your rate should be based on the amount of experience you have and your level of expertise. It seems an equal number of people overvalue their work as those who undervalue it, so look to identify what is considered the norm in your location.
4. When something isn’t clear, ask
Unless you are truly clairvoyant, mind-reading is not advisable. It’s better to ask for clarification when you’re in doubt.
5. Meet deadlines
Beside exceptional quality, meeting deadlines and budgets are near and dear to the hearts of your clients. Strive to establish a reputation as dependable and you will become a “go-to” resource.
6. If you feel you are in over your head, say so
The earlier the better. You won’t be the first person to ever do this. It gives your client the opportunity to find other ways of solving their problem. Unfortunately, it may not cultivate more work with them, but bowing out is preferable to leaving your client in an untenable situation.
7. When a client asks for changes that don’t make sense, say something
Maybe they assume you have a broader base of knowledge than you possess. Or maybe they missed a grammatical mistake. By contributing to a better outcome, you show you are paying attention and not just going through the motions.
8. Do you have a better idea? Share it
If you are on the ball and contribute to making your client look good, you become indispensable.
9. Package your deliverables neatly
If the deliverable is a file, make sure it’s in pristine shape. Check alignments, remove extraneous content, make sure links are intact and that assets have the proper resolutions. If you are a photographer or illustrator and are delivering a digital file or CD, make sure the file type is appropriate, employ an agreed-upon system of nomenclature, label it neatly and enclose it in a case or CD envelope.
10. Save 20 percent of your income
And put it in an account that has no credit, debit cards or checks connected to it. It is not emergency money. It does not exist. It is there for the sole purpose of keeping you on good terms with the IRS, or city or state departments of revenue. You’ll avoid the mad scramble of coming up with your tax payments. And you’ll be glad you did.
11. Cultivate a relationship with your clients
Whether it is strictly professional, or grows into a friendship, people like to work with people they enjoy. Given the choice between two freelancers of equal talent, cost and expertise, I will always choose the person I like working with the most. I think this is true for most clients.
12. When the project is done, say thank you
Whether you send an email, jot a note to accompany an invoice, or write a thank you note and send it snail mail, showing your appreciation will set yourself apart from your competition. Most people don’t bother to say thanks.
Each time you are hired by someone, you have an opportunity to establish a new ongoing client. Whether you are a writer, designer, photographer, web designer or other type of creative, it’s also a chance for you to add something to your portfolio as well as gain a professional reference to help your business flourish.