I remember my days as a new freelancer. The only concern rampant on my mind was getting that first response, that first project, that first review. In that narrow boat, we often forget that the freelancing venture is an infrastructure of placing clients and professionals as equals working to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome, i.e., a project’s successful completion.
Why do I say this? Because as a beginner you might be inclined to a servile disposition toward the client, readily accepting every demand they place before you—and believe me, some people are cunning enough to know when a freelancer will offer blood, sweat, and tears in return for minimum wages.
Remember this and remember well: You are providing a professional service in exchange for monetary compensation, plain and simple. And so, before the start of every contract, the terms should be in favor of both parties, not just one. Long-term work satisfaction is the lynchpin of succeeding as a freelancer.
In lieu of this, here are three questions, sweet and simple, you should ask before starting a contract, in no particular order:
1. What is the timeline of the project and the expected deadline?
This question is relevant for two reasons:
A) The client has already mentioned it in the project description and maybe you missed it (which you shouldn’t), so you carry on with the assumption that you have a lot of time, which you don’t, thus affecting client satisfaction and disaffecting your reviews.
B) Maybe the client hasn’t mentioned it at all, in which case you must know exactly how to break down the project and take it to completion.
In my experience, clients are generally very reasonable, and if you provide an understandable explanation as to why you might need more time, the client will readily give you an extension.
2. Do you have any specific instructions?
Project descriptions must be read thoroughly, that’s a rule set in stone, but even then, sometimes clients present only a very general overview of the work they need.
Once you have bagged an interview, remember to ask clients if they want any specific elements to be implemented in the project supplementarily to the requirements in the project description; it shows that you are placing the client’s needs in the highest regard, thus securing a good review and repeat business.
3. What’s the room for negotiation?
Let me begin with a disclaimer, you only ask this question when you are absolutely certain the client wants to work with you. Dramatized T.V. shows have led us to believe that you must come out as the sole winner in this exchange with the client feeling humiliated. WRONG! A win-win situation where both parties are comfortable with the rate is the absolute focus of this question.
Do some research on your niche and understand what’s the industry rate for freelancers at your current level. Present it to the client in a way that even they understand and are willing to happily raise some of the budget, and you both will be pleased with the outcome.
These tips are not for completely new freelancers who haven’t had their first project yet. If you are one of them, the rate and comfortable deadline should be the least of your concern; pour all your focus into getting reviews; sacrifices will have to be made, whether that is doing a $20 project for $5 or spending some sleepless nights working on a not-so-monetarily-helpful project; we’ve all been there and it’s part of the struggle. To learn more about why you are not landing jobs, check out this article.
I have written this piece for freelancers who are maybe in the Rising Talent stage and looking to upskill their game. Anyhow, make sure you have completed a few projects solely for reviews, then you can start being flexible with the kind of projects you undertake and the questions to set before clients.
Hope this helped. Feel free to reach out to learn more.
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