It can be difficult to recognise when your freelance business isn’t at its best, and it can be even harder to admit it. The worst part is, you may not realise you’re making mistakes until it’s too late. Simply being too busy to notice can make it seem like business was going very well, when in fact it wasn’t. The fact that you’re no longer too busy to notice really says something about what you were doing wrong. If you were doing it right, you would always be busy, surely?
The quickest way to sort out a freelance business turned bad is to figure out where it went wrong and evaluate how to change it. It’s also vital to be able to recognise when your business has taken a turn for the worse as soon as possible. The more quickly you identify what works for a freelance business and what doesn’t, the more smoothly it will run.
Check Your Rates
The first thing to do when re-evaluating your freelance business scheme is go back to how much you are charging. This is the first port of call when a problem arises, mainly because it could be the whole reason your work has dried up.
If your rates are too high it’s likely that you’re driving clients away. If you’ve got some experience under your belt, the easier it is to realise when your clients are unhappy because of high rates. If you undervalue your work however, you risk putting undercharging.
Manage Your Clients
Keeping clients happy is the road to success for a freelancer. The best way to do this is know how much time you can allocate to each client, and recognise when you have too many on your hands. There are several ways of dealing with a situation where you have too many clients and are unable to take on extra work.
When starting out, make sure you screen clients. This may sound like an invasive method of interviewing but it’s necessary for knowing when you won’t be able to have a good working relationship with someone. Simply list things you wouldn’t be able to work with, and look out for these in the first few emails you exchange with your client. It will save a lot of time and hassle to do this now rather than six months down the line.
Knowing when to say no to a client is another tough job to tackle for freelancers, and even worse, knowing how to say no. You can send a court email explaining you have too much work but remember, these people will be able to review you online and tell others about your work ethic. Simply be genuine and realistic when telling clients no.
Get Your Deadlines Right
In theory, you may think you can do twice the amount of work you can actually do in practice. This is why every freelancer should test themselves. Sit down to do either a full project or a certain amount of it, and time how long it takes. This may only be a rough guide given the distractions that are no doubt in your house, but it can really help when it comes to estimating price.
Without testing how much work you can do in a set amount of time, you risk not giving yourself enough time to do the work to the best of your ability, or completing it well within the allotted time and not getting as much money as you could have from your client. So, get your timing right and you make as much money as possible, with the least amount of pressure.
Invest in Yourself
Not putting money back into your business is the equivalent of not believing your business will last. You need to invest money to secure the future of your freelance career, and there is no way of doing this that includes being stingy. With the money you make, instead of buying a new outfit for when you meet clients, spend that money on a new website or a social media management tool to market your work on.
You can also use the money on upgrading tools you might use for your freelance work. For example an artist may need new equipment to create better pieces, just as website developers produce better websites with more high quality software.
As a freelancer who doesn’t specialise in copywriting, you may not think it’s your responsibility to communicate with perfect grammar and punctuation. Surely clients recognise that you’re too busy working on getting their projects perfect to sit and meticulously proofread every email, tweet and piece of website copy?
Unfortunately not. Actually, any emails you send to prospective clients are their first impressions of you, and a bad one may be the difference between gaining a new client, and losing work. The key is writing emails out and proofreading – however time consuming this might be! You need to make sure every piece of writing is professional and reflects the tone of your work.
All of the copy you write reflects your work and is a free way of marketing your company. This means it’s in the limelight, along with the social media marketing you do. A freelancer’s downfall can be not keeping these accounts up to date, as nothing says out of business more than an inactive Twitter profile.
Failing to update a portfolio is another big no for the freelancer. Not asking for testimonials from clients can also be a problem when you’re looking to build up that client base. The best time to ask for a testimonial is after you’ve completed the work and they have expressed their satisfaction with the quality of work and the price.
These satisfied clients are a great marketing tool in more than one way. Not only can they contribute glowing testimonials for you to put on your website, they can also refer you to your next client. You can’t go wrong by asking a client for a referral to their colleagues.
Have you turned your freelance business around? What advice would you give to freelancers who might be in a similar position? Or are you a freelancer trying to get your business going? We’d love to hear your stories – leave a comment in the section below!