Success as a freelancer means constantly cultivating new clients, commanding better rates, and developing a great reputation in your field. Unfortunately, many freelancers still find that their growth stalls.
If you are in a freelancing slump, it’s time to take a step back. Assess your situation honestly, then ask yourself if you’ve fallen into any of the following eight habits.
1. Accepting lowball offers to survive
A potential client sends you an email. This could be a real, rockstar client. The problem is that they want to cut your going rate by half. You’ll barely make a profit after you pay your taxes and cover costs. Several other calls have come in, also asking you to lower your rates. Should you accept?
Don’t do it. Ever!
Clients rarely, if ever, come back and offer a fair rate down the road. Instead, they simply remember that you are an easy mark for lowball offers. Unfortunately, when word gets out that you work cheaply, that can have a negative impact on your reputation.
2. Failing to negotiate
Not only should you be resistant to accepting lowball offers, it is also important to recognize when you should negotiate for higher rates. Does a project require you to work hours outside of the normal work day? Has your client brought you a project that’s exceptionally urgent? If so, it’s time to put money back out on the negotiation table.
Not only that, but there are times when it’s important to think beyond money. If you’re going extra lengths for a client, they should reciprocate. Here are some things that can be up for negotiation:
- Publishing positive reviews upon successful completion of your contract.
- Referrals to other potential clients.
- Exclusive rights to bid first on future contracts.
- Perks such as event tickets or premium subscriptions.
3. Dropping the ball when it comes to following up
Sometimes, it isn’t talent or price that wins the contract. It’s simply staying on top of your communication and responding quickly to potential clients who reach out to you. Don’t push emails off until morning. Remember that potential client may have reached out to your competition at the same time. They could jump ahead of you and take your customer.
Then there’s following up at the end of a job. Too many freelancers fail to do this, or they wait too long. By following up after you finish a contract, you can:
- Encourage satisfied clients to post positive reviews or recommend you to others.
- Get useful feedback you can use to improve in the future.
- Fix any outstanding issues that you may be unaware of.
- Secure the client for future work.
4. Becoming too reliant on social and ignoring other means of outreach
Once you establish a presence, social media is pretty easy. Sometimes, it’s a bit too easy. As a result, you become too reliant on promoting yourself on Facebook and Twitter. Your website is often ignored, and you stop using tried and true techniques like cold calling.
One thing to keep in mind is that not everyone is active on social media. Worse, people who have been active are increasingly rolling back their participation, even deleting their accounts for privacy reasons. These are the clients who will seek you out through your website. If that seems outdated or abandoned, they’re likely to assume you aren’t active.
5. Not dedicating time to skills development or networking
All it takes to surrender a potential client to a competitor is missing out on a skill that they have. This is why as a freelancer, it is imperative that you keep your skills up to date. Attend seminars. Listen to podcasts. Read quality blog posts. Take a masters in marketing online or some other short courses. Read books. Dedicate time each week to teaching yourself new tools.
It’s also very easy to get busy and forget the importance of networking. This is often because the benefits of networking aren’t often seen right away. That business card that you pass out at a small business dinner in your community may take months to result in a phone call. Still, networking is an integral part of building your business as a freelancer.
6. Working to the point of burnout
Another danger is working too much. If you refuse vacations, take on too many contracts, or try to work too many hours each day, you can reach a saturation point. Then, burnout and exhaustion can kick in. This can result in lowered ability to deliver good customer service, increased frequency of mistakes or even hitting a wall and needing significant time off.
Take vacations. Enjoy time off on the weekends.
7. Not employing good time management skills
This is often a struggle for new freelancers. It’s appealing to control your own schedule. Unfortunately, if you’re used to having a boss controlling your time, taking over can be an adjustment. Find a time management tool that works for you and stick to it.
8. Internalizing feedback and criticism
When you work as a freelancer, people expect your best work 100% of the time. When they don’t receive that, they will let you know in person or through other means such as reviews. Don’t expect them to pull punches or encase criticism inside of niceties. Your job is to take that feedback and learn from it. If you internalize it and become emotional, you’re going to have a rough road ahead.
Have you developed any of these eight habits? No worries if you have. You simply need to make some adjustments, change course a bit and your business will get back on track.