Guest post by Matt Vild
To be a successful designer, setting yourself up for success is half the battle. While anyone can get lucky and do successful work once, creating effective work over and over again, for any client, in any circumstance, is the mark of a true professional. Here are our top 3 tips for succeeding as a professional freelancer:
1. Be completely transparent about what you can and cannot do, and be honest about setbacks and delays.
By taking on work you’re not qualified for, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Earlier in your career, you may feel the urge to represent yourself as being capable on all fronts (for example, doing web design, coding, and search marketing of the same website), and ready to tackle any job at all.
Don’t do this!
Your clients will respect you more for your honesty, rather than taking on a job and not delivering when it’s time. Being very good at 1-2 things is better than being average at 7-8 things.
If you run into a problem down the road, be open and honest about it. A client isn’t paying you to tell them what they want to hear. However, if and when you have to push deadlines, be open as to why; family-related emergencies and things like this – not because of a big beach day or birthday party. Then, over-deliver.
In a world of transparency, refrain from social media posts during this time as well as they may give the illusion that you are out enjoying yourself vs. working on the project.
2. Have total clarity in the scope of work and have total clarity on the specs of your hand-off.
Make sure you end the initial kickoff call with total and complete clarity over your roles and expectations. Bullet points work best because they are easily understood when going through long contracts.
What we’re trying to do is avoid ambiguity over the gray area of what you’re being contracted to do versus what you are not.
You need to know what deliverables the client is expecting, and in what form they’re expecting them in. A good way to look at this is that they are paying for the end-result; so why not share with them your project at specific milestones to ensure that the agreed-upon task is on track? Getting good feedback early on from the client will ensure that you are getting the deliverable that they want and need. It’s OK to engage in multiple rounds of feedback to ensure that you’ve set yourself up to succeed.
3. Track your time diligently and honestly.
Time is money, so you should be billing for everything related to the project. This helps you measure and stick to your own profitability goals. Also, this will give you good info into accurately estimating future projects of this type.
You should be billing the client for the calls, email responses, research, brainstorming sessions, and things of that nature.
If it’s work, you deserve to get paid for it. Be sure to keep a clear and transparent account of how you spent your time.
In conclusion – getting good at anything takes time and practice, and running/operating your own freelance enterprise is no different. The tips above are by no means a comprehensive review of what you need to do in order to be successful, but our commentary on the common reasons why individuals may fail.