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The 5 things that make you a great freelancer

March 19, 2013

Whether you’re freelancing for the first time or have been doing it for a few years, you’ll quickly notice a universal truth about your marketplace: the same people seem to be busy all the time.

What is it about these people? What do they do differently to you and how do they manage to magnetically attract work to them?

Successful freelancers tend to follow a formula. By design or accident they are doing the things that make a freelancer desirable to businesses. And that generates an impressive flow of work.

Luckily for you, it’s easy to understand this formula and apply it yourself to generate more business and ensure that your freelance career has every chance of success.

Here are the five things that make you a great freelancer.

You are a genuine freelancer, not an “inbetweener”:

With the recession claiming redundancy victims every day, there are a lot of new freelancers out there at the moment. It’s become a term that people use when they suddenly find themselves without a job and sat at home. Vague ambitions to work for themselves become a half hearted effort at freelancing. But these people aren’t genuine freelancers, looking to build a business. They are simply trying to pay the bills until a new full-time job comes along. There’s nothing wrong with this, but as a professional freelancer who does it for a living, you need to distance yourself from it. Why would a business give you freelance work if they thought you weren’t going to be there to complete it? Or that you might pop off and take a full-time role with a competitor? Being a full-time freelancer is a lifestyle choice and one that you should show your commitment to. If you are serious about staying as a freelancer, then make sure you state this to potential clients. Being clear about your long-term intentions up front makes everything easier in the long-term.

You are genuinely able to do your job properly

Many people who market themselves as a freelancer for the first time “elevate” their abilities, focusing more on the kind of work they think they should be doing, rather than the work they can actually do! Having an aspiration to improve is a very desirable quality. But you need to balance it against the reason why freelancers are hired in the first place. As a freelancer you will be expected to turn up and know how to do the job. A business isn’t going to invest significant time or money into training you to do a specific job. So start off doing the work you can do well, and invest some of your earnings into training to do the work you’d rather do. This is the beauty of running your own business; you control your own training budget! Whenever you have a new ability, it is up to you to provide your potential clients with an abundance of evidence that you are qualified to do the work and can do a great job.

Your marketing is built into what you do

The trick to succeeding as a freelancer is to complete the work you are doing for a client while at the same time looking for the next job. And that’s a lot easier when the work you do has the marketing built into it. That’s just a fancy way of saying you need to make yourself desirable as a freelancer. The easiest way to do this is to build an expertise and reputation as a specialist in a particular niche of what you do. Specialists are always more in demand than generalists, as most people want to get the best solution for the problem they need to fix. The good news for you is that specialists can almost always demand a higher fee. Again, always be ready to provide an abundance of evidence that you are the perfect person for the job in hand. Keep your portfolio and website up-to-date and make sure your fees position your correctly. Ironically, a specialist who seems too cheap will get less work than a specialist with higher fees. It’s also true that clients have greater respect for experts who charge a higher fee.

You have a positive attitude of putting the client first

Anyone with clients will tell you they are a real pain sometimes. What clients want sometimes clashes with what you want, and as a business owner you have to make the tough decisions (not just whinge about it as an employee might). Successful freelancers have a very positive outlook towards their work and clients and are always seen to put the client first. That means consistently delivering more than has been asked for, more quickly than it is needed. It means not running off at 5pm just because you have reached the end of your working day, leaving the rest of the team to finish off a project. It sounds like common sense and it is: a supplier who can be trusted and is a nice person to deal with will always win more repeat business. A good reputation like that also becomes something that people are willing to pay a little extra for. You might find that you are constantly given the jobs that full-time employees don’t want to do. This can be a fact of freelancing, and is something you may have to learn to live with. If the client wants it, put a smile on your face and deliver it.

You have a professional approach to business

The best freelancers thrive in business because they know how to play the game. They know what clients want and how to deliver it. They ensure that every piece of work is done to the best of their ability. Important things like marketing and accounts are factored into the day and tackled properly, rather than done half-heartedly late at night. Business is a game, and while the finer points take years to master, you can learn the main rules quickly. Following these five guidelines will place you ahead of the majority of freelancers. And that’s going to be very good for your business in the years to come.