Once, I got a mail through my site’s contact form asking: “Are you a professional or just a freelancer?” I got back to him, telling him that I was a professional freelancer, but never heard from him again! The point is, quite often, and especially where I live, freelancers are merely poor cousins of the so-called professionals.
While admittedly there are those who give us a bad name, most of us are hardworking individuals, trying to make a living (as opposed to those who need something to do pass the time). Starting out is not always easy, but perseverance pays. Having been in the business for almost a decade, here’s what I’ve found:
- Respect your deadlines: As an independent professional, your credibility is your most important asset. Don’t take on impossible deadlines. You’ll often find clients who’ll say they’ll send you material to work on in a day, in two days, in a week, but don’t do so. Just because they do that, it is not okay for you to do the same. If you feel mid-way through a project that you may need more time, intimate them well in advance.
- If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well: Do not take shortcuts. Your network and your goodwill quotient will depend on how happy your clients are with your delivery, so make an effort to do a good job. When they go home and tell their friends and business associates how good you are, you will get more work.
- Don’t be afraid to negotiate price: Plenty of people get uncomfortable when it comes to the price issue. In the early days I would feel “cheap” to bring up the matter of payment with a new client. Don’t undervalue yourself. Once you have calculated how much your services come for, stick to it. Clients will feel more comfortable dealing with a confident person who knows what they are going to deliver and for how much. On the other hand, no one likes an overbearing personality who thinks they are god’s gift to client-dom! Don’t get bullied by clients; at the same time don’t be so rigid that you miss out on a really good opportunity. Experience will make it easier to tell when the goodwill counts for more than money.
- Rome wasn’t built in a day: It takes years to build up a decent network of clients. If you’re lucky, early on you may find someone who agrees to pay you a retainer for your services. But for most of us, building our “business” is like watching grass grow.
- Take lean periods in your stride: Even when you have established yourself and usually have a steady stream of work—enough that now and then you have to turn down some—there may still be phases when precious little goes into the bank. It is easier said than done, but it is important not to panic. Think of lean periods as a well-deserved break. Rest assured that work will come, sooner rather than later. For that’s the way the freelancer’s world goes around.