Life as a freelancer is always interesting but meeting clients, proactively finding work and writing business proposals can be rather terrifying.
As someone whose job it is to talk to people, extract information and present it in an accessible format, this probably makes no sense at all. These are the basic components of my day-to-day working life.
Newsflash. Talking to people is hard. In fact, some people are more terrified of public speaking than actual life-threatening events.
The stakes of a key client meeting can be higher than many public speaking situations for a freelancer. You may not be risking public embarrassment but you could lose the trust of a valuable resource, a chunk of work and some extra income.
The freelance space is a lucrative one. The majority of freelancers (31 per cent) command daily rates of between £500 and £749 and three quarters of the 1,050 freelancers surveyed reported their rates have increased or remained the same over the last year, according to the Nixon Williams Contractor Survey 2015.
How can you win a contract and make a good impression as a freelancer? You need to prove you're capable, responsible, a problem solver, worth the money and a normal person. Here are my top 10 tips to achieve this.
01. Remember you're human
When you start talking to a client, remember you're both human beings. This may be a business-to-business discussion but it's also a human-to-human interaction. Take a few minutes to make a little small talk. It could make a big difference.
02. Use a planning tool
While a casual tone can help to break the ice, an agenda, wireframe or storyboard is a useful tool to show clients that you have a plan and are in control of a project.
03. Ask a million questions
To make a meeting more of a two way process, ask the client a lot of informed questions. What software do they work with? What do they love about their current website? What design ideas do they have? What are their business goals?
04. Research their business and competitors
You need to understand the specifics of your client's industry, company and the project, so do some research ahead of a client meeting.
Immerse yourself in your client's world. The more knowledge you bring to the table about industry standards, recent breakthroughs or common issues, the more trust you build to run with a freelance project.
05. Take notes
Taking notes means you will remember important points and also demonstrates that you're engaged with the topic in hand. You can also say a client's words back to clarify points and make sure everyone is on the same page. For example: "I'm hearing that you want to focus more on the user experience than the design specifics of the website, did I get that right?"
06. Say yes, then qualify
I often find myself asked to tackle topics outside of my comfort zone. My advice is to say yes, but qualify that statement.
For example, if you have plenty of experience with HTML and CSS and are asked to code a Rails app with no experience of Rails, be honest. Tell the client that you do not have the experience in that specific area but you have the basic skills in place. Tell them you will look into it and get back to them.
If a requirement is completely outside of your area of expertise, you could try to pair them up with a more knowledgeable colleague, but do not string a client along. You will lose trust and lose your reputation within the industry. Clients talk and criticism travels fast.
07. Bring in the experts
Outsource those tasks outside of your comfort zone to retain your focus on your business. It makes you look highly unprofessional if you invoice a client incorrectly or are too busy with unfamiliar tasks to meet a deadline.
Simon Curry, CEO at specialist freelance accountancy firm Nixon Williams, told us: "Work out how much time you would spend on a task outside of your specialist area. Then find out the rate of a specialist accountant, for example, versus your own callout rate. If you spend more time, and therefore a proportionately greater amount of money, doing the work yourself than paying their fees, then it makes more sense to call in an expert freelancer accountant so you can focus on your own specialism – your business."
08. Send a welcome pack
If you win a contract, your new client will have questions. Put them at ease and save yourself time by creating a welcome pack to outline your office hours, processes and any information you will need from them. This will make a client feel confident from the outset, gives an air of professionalism and gives you a single information source for every client win.
09. Stay organised
Juggling multiple clients and deadlines is difficult so make sure you have the right systems and processes in place. Workflows and reminders are a life-saver. They help you keep on top of your workload and keep your clients in the loop.
10. Say thank you
When the project is over, thank your client for the business. A handwritten note, small gift or even a simple Tweet reminds a client how great it was to work with you. It also puts you in the forefront of their mind for future work.
Remember, a client has come to you to solve a problem. Whatever that issue may be, you need to build trust, meet the deadline and come up with a killer solution.
If you've got the goods, you will make a good impression.
Words: Rachel Smith
Rachel Smith is a technical writer for Nixon Williams. When she is not writing for Nixon Williams she is a lover of art, food and culture.
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