[ July 24th, 2011 ]
Top Notch Freelancing : Outranking the Rest
With the current state of the economy more designers are turning to the freelancing arena to try and generate some extra revenue. Given the growing pool that potential clients have to choose from, any extra steps that we can take to really separate ourselves from the crowd can help us get a leg up on the competition.
We need to stand out from the rest so that clients are typically drawn in our direction, because we have instilled that sense that we are in fact a top notch freelancer.
But what does being a top notch freelancer entail, you ask? Good question. That is precisely what we are here to answer today. Below are a handful of the qualities that you will need to possess and display proudly to attract more business your way. We will also touch on the best ways that you can sell each quality to the client.
Convincing them that you are the way to go with their design project. So if you are a freelancer, then take a look at the tips and ideas that we have prepared for you today, so that you can hopefully take your freelance business to the next level.
One of the keys to successfully running any kind of business is having effective communicators in place to interface with your clients. Especially with design, there are many intricacies of the field that you want to be sure clients will understand. For example, can you explain the reasons behind your decisions in a clear and concise manner so the client can follow what you are saying. In order to control this as much as possible, you may need to clean up your communication skills. And of course, the other side of that communication coin is somewhat of a sales pitch. You have to be able to effectively market yourself to the client as well.
Ways to Display
Showing off your communication skills is fairly easy to do in this case. You just be sure that you are speaking slow and steady, not at an excited rate. It becomes easy to loose the clients when your pacing is somewhat erractic and speedy. Also be sure that they are following you by asking them questions along way. This helps to engage the client and keep them from drifting off during your presentation. And finally, listen. When the client is speaking give them your full attention. Make notes when and where applicable, but be careful not to miss out on something they say because you are writing down something else. Wait until they have finished speaking, then as you relay it back to them to be sure your on the same page, make your notes then.
Design Brief Adeptness
Now one area that a lot of freelancers somewhat phone it in on, is the design brief. If they even use one, that is. The design brief is an awesome tool that can help both you and the client find your way through the project if it is put together and handled correctly. You see a lot of designers believe that compiling a comprehensive and in depth design brief for the client to fill out is all that they really need to do. Build it, and hand it off to the client. However, if you really want to show that you are a top notch freelancer, then you will follow through and not just do the job halfway. Not only showing how adept you are at putting them together, but also at helping the client fill it out. The design brief can be the key to unlocking all of the project’s paths to success. The better the brief, the better your chances of smoothly sailing through the project.
Ways to Display
Mainly, on this you want to be accessible to the client during the entire briefing process. The clients typically know the information that you are asking for, beyond some of the more design specific parts of the brief. What they may not necessarily be that familiar with, is why you are asking for the information. Which, lets be honest, is important in how we tend to answer questions. We tend to focus our answers in the direction of the context we know they will be used in. So let them know this. Include short descriptions of how the information will be used. And if you really want to go above and beyond, write up a sort of brief FAQ to include with it, perhaps with sample answers to the questions so they can get an idea of what you are looking for.
Now the design brief will give you much needed background on the clients, but in order to fully complete the picture, you are going to still need to do a bit of research. Not that you cannot trust the client’s vision of their company, and not that their take is meant to be disregarded, quite the opposite, but you still want to get other perpectives on the company. This is another area that really separates the best, from the rest. Most designers may a light follow-up on the brief. Look into some of their competition the clients listed in the brief, and so forth. But a top notch freelancer is a research junkie. They dive into the market, also examining the user base and the ways that the client and its competitors interact and relate to them.
Ways to Display
Now, this can be a trickier quality to easily display to your clients or potential clients, especially in the beginning of the project talks when this impression needs to be made. Though it can still be done. Once the initial contact with the company has been made, dive right in. Prepare a brief history of the company based on various outlets of information that you can find. If possible, collect a testimonial or two from past clients of theirs. This way, when you go into your first official meeting with the client, you can show them how committed and informed you are. Many freelancers are somewhat reluctant to do this because they are not guaranteed any payment for the time they will be putting in. Which is understandable, but if it gives you an advantage over the rest, isn’t that time well spent?
Now when it comes to really stepping up and showing the client that you are the cream of the freelancing crop, then all you need to do is over-deliver. When clients get more than they were anticipating, they are more likely to remember you the next time they need a design. There are any number of ways to do this, but they all require focus and dedication on your part. An easy way, is to include multiple files upon delivery of the design. Include a layered file, the flattened file, a black and white version (when applicable, if you are designing a web site, this is not necessary, but with a logo works nicely), etc. You can also over-deliver by not just meeting, but beating the deadlines. If you can get the design in and wrapped up ahead of their schedule then do it. Don’t waste time on the project just because you have it.
Ways to Display
Now we talked about some ways for you to come through in this area, but how can you display this quality, without giving it away. If the client is a returning one, then they already know what to expect from you, but if they are new you don’t always want to spoil the surprise. After all, that is part of the appeal to this approach. The surprised feeling the client gets when they receive more than they were expecting. So you can allude to this in ways, without fully disclosing what all they can expect from you. Tell them they will get multiple files, but not necessarily explaining the full scope. Tell them that you will give them your entire focus, but hold back that you plan to deliver early. You can also use testimonials of your past clients to somewhat wet their appetites, so to speak. So hint away, but refrain from telling them the specifics. This also protects you in case you are unable to fully live up to these promises.
Business Ins and Outs
Finally, if you really want to impress upon your clients that you are top notch freelance designer, not just part of the proverbial flock, then you really need to know and be able to handle all of the business ins and outs. Remember, there are two sides to this freelancing coin. The creative side and the business side. Both require you to be on top of them for you to shine. If you cannot manage the business side of freelancing, then there is massive potential for dropping any one of the important balls that can make or break your business professionalism in your client’s eyes.
Ways to Display
When it comes to displaying this quality to your clients, the approach here is much more straightforward. You know the various business hats that freelancing requires us to wear, just be sure that you can pull them off. Accounting, scheduling, customer service, and on and on the list goes. We need to be able to manage all aspects of our business to remain ahead of the game. Staying on top of all communication back and forth with the client is paramount. You might also want to carry a planner with you at all times so that you can access important notes, project related dates, etc. when you are meeting with the client. Paper trails are also essential here.
That’s a Wrap!
That is all for now, but the discussion is only getting started. Now it is your turn. What are some qualities of a top notch freelancer that you feel we should have included in this discussion? Are there any that you think should not have been on the list? Give us your two cents below, or even let us know how you have dealt with and displayed these qualities in your freelance business.