Assuming that you have been freelancing for some time and have your own website and a great contact form, how do you handle an inquiry once your contact form sends you one? Honestly, I did not have a clue when I started out. Not that, I get too many inquiries, yet!
I handled each query on its own merit and my understanding, which was very little! This meant that I was wasting valuable time on responding to the client, asking questions rapidly as they came to my mind and there was a huge trail of emails that was confusing. I also work on many freelancing platforms and it becomes easier there since I can chat and take notes. More important, the client thought I was highly disorganized, obviously so. And when the day came to quote a price, there was more confusion in my mind than ever before. After all the spent energy, resources, not to mention the stress, I was not sure if I would close the deal.
Until then, I construed that an inquiry email was a happy email, but after a few, I was really not sure anymore!
Now, when a client said yes and the deal was on, the rest of the project was headed in the same direction. Questions to the client, waiting for the response, questions again and so on it went. Of course, I was stuck waiting for the client to respond and I expected to deliver on time. However, when I send a message to a client using a freelance platform, the response time is better due to the timeline implementation. Anyway, a lot of wasted time under the bridge and inability to focus on other clients or building the further business was inevitable.
I was so confused by now that I took a week off and decided to a put a process in place to ease out the mess and make the complete process transparent and professional. The moment I came back and implemented, I realized:
a. My clients were happier to see a more organized me since it eased out their work too
b. Project completion speeds were 100% up.
c. All information was is one place, easy to access
d. I was not stuck due to lack of client response
If you have been there and done that, you will know how important this is to read, understand andlearn from. I will share some processes that I have created with a hope that they will work for youtoo. I am a freelancer specializing in designing and developing websites. So, this process workswonders for me. If you are a freelance service provider, I am sure this will work for you too, with afew tweaks here and there.
Initially, I was of the idea that each client and each project are different and their needs and objectives are different. Obvious, the cost of building a website for a specific requirement would be different too. In such a case, showcasing packages on my website would look foolish and will be a waste of time and energy.
Instead, I opted for a simple initial inquiry form that detailed the basics of a client’s requirement. To be honest, it did not work very well me because everyone wanting a custom quote may not want to work with you but I assumed that they are interested to work with me. This is when I realized that most people need the same things.
So, I opted to showcase a general package that outlined what most clients will need and some more than they would need but did not realize at this point of time. This was a baseline beginning and then I put up a few add-ons that will go well with the general package. In fact, I offer packages on freelance platforms too.
For you, you could have a single package, a set of 3 packages or more as suitable for the services you offer. Before getting to the package page, I put in a small form (general) in order to capture information about the client. It captured some basic details like:
b. Website URL
c. Package interested in
e. Competitor URL’s
f. Examples of websites you may like
This gave me an insight into the fact that the site needs bottom-up design or redesign, the client’stastes, size of the project and the deadline. With this information, I can align my skills with the clientand check if a custom quote is required.You can configure the insightful questions as per your niche and needs and services you offer. Let uscome to the next step where a client has filled the questionnaire and ready to opt for your services.
Documentation - The Next Steps
Once that the client has decided, it is time to dig a little deeper and put up a streamlined process so that the project experience stays simple, effective and amazing to the client. At this juncture, I send a pre-prepared PDF file to the client that is basically a guide to plan a website.
It did take a lot of effort and time to put my own resources together but in the long run, it saves a lot of time. This PDF document outlines many aspects of the client’s proposed website. It showcases fonts, colors, headers, footers and many other design aspects that go into creating a website. It has many examples and links to some guides online where the client can visit and decide. Once the client makes a list of what he needs on the design front, a lot of work is already done and it saves time on iterations. I just send it as an attachment through email or just put it up on the freelance platform I got the client from.
I send another PDF file along with the above which is fillable (can be made with Adobe Acrobat). It has many questions that will have their expectations, needs, and objectives along with a lot of techno-babble. IT is necessary for a client to fill it up; by doing this he will be setting his own standards for the work on hand. This PDF will contain answers to the options shown in the first one in addition to a lot more specifics.
This would contain a lot of questions; in fact, my questionnaire has over 40 of them. Some of them could be:
a. Login information as required by me to their resources
b. Pages in the website
c. Menu structure
d. Header content
e. Footer content
f. Page layouts for each page
g. Competition websites – likes and dislikes
h. Target audience profile
i. Landing pages if any …. And many more….
This could seem overwhelming to the client sometimes. However, reality bites and these inputs WILL be required before you begin building a website. All these questions will come into the picture at some point of time and instead of shooting a zillion emails to and fro, it is better to ask and set the tune.
The next step is to send a process document (PDF) that outlines what will happen and when during the development process. This is something like an SLA (Service Level Agreement) that a client may choose to provide and get signed. The SLA will be based on this PDF.
Conclusion and Getting Started
The above documents and process are mandatory for me to get started on a project. Believe me, even if you are just starting out or a freelancer out of work do not opt for the project that does not have clear-cut goals and processes defined. It is not worth it. Take my word for it, you will overshoot the fence or end up with an unhappy client. Don’t worry if you do not have a website, prepare these documents and send them over to the client through the freelance platforms you are acquiring clients from.
While setting the tone for a client, please ensure that you read and understand the boundaries document and inculcate the same in the process document in addition to following the intangible ones.
Vulpith Admin, Jul 12, 2017
Freelancer Challenge III - Delivering Value – The Secret To Customer Retention
In the last post, we had discussed techniques to acquire work, in this post, let us discuss the effective execution of the same.
In the freelancing world, there is a wide variety of work that goes on, right from something as simple as data entry to something as complex as creating an ERP. Each and every one of these jobs or projects has a different set of specifications, come with the varied size of teams and of course each has its different price.
What is it then that underlines customer satisfaction and retention? Let us break them down and analyze what makes a successful delivery story and how a freelancer or a vendor can succeed in wake of extreme competition and price wars.
First let us break down the deliverables into three distinct qualitative parts – activity, results, and value. Let’s discuss them in detail.
The activity deliverable is something that every freelancer with a minimal matching skill-set can execute and deliver. That means if the scope of work defines that, a set of tasks set down as a procedure is to be accomplished, it is quite easy to do so for anyone who is moderately skilled in the field. For example data entry, typing from a jpeg file to an editor, posting on social media, writing a piece of code etc.
This tantamount to clockwork and can be executed again and again. However best you can do this, in your opinion, what are the chances that the client will hire you again. He may or he may not. He may because you got things executed on time. But, if the client finds someone who can do this at a lesser price, don’t you think he will opt for him or her?
Bottom-line, you are not adding result-based value to the work a hand or probably the work itself doesn’t have any. So, it is time to upgrade your skills or look at a different skill-set where you can make a difference.
Every project has a set of deliverables that lead to a result. Though many clients do not define the results as such, if you have a good skill-set and experience in the industry, you may be able to foresee where the project leads to. Better still, it is best to ask the client, believe me; most clients will define the results, only they need to be asked.
If you have the required results in mind, don’t you think you can execute the project in a different manner so that you help the client achieve his objectives, or at least, try and do that? You will be more effective and efficient to the client when you do this.
Are you adding some value to the work that came with a damp-definition from the client just by having a single conversation? Now, what are the chances that the client will come back to you? Certainly more, since that single conversation underlines your commitment to the work at hand and makes the client believe that you want to work “with him” and just “for him”.
Activity is anyway a part and parcel of execution of any project. Result orientation evinces the interest of the client. The value proposition is entirely different. In the execution phase, after conversing with the client and understanding the objectives, if you can, as a provider can add value to the client by understanding the benefits in terms of generating, more leads, sales or goodwill by your work, it converts to value.
For example, if you are writing web content for him, activity-based execution can create any kind of content, even academic or that which provides information. Result based content will be in terms of adding the right “call to actions” at the right places. Value-based execution will involve studying his audience mindsets and creating compelling content that the visitor reads and buys adding to the client’s business.
Don’t you think your client will come back to you? In fact, he will refer other clients to you helping you grow your business like you have done for him. If your client benefits in terms of business by using your services, he will most certainly come back to you time and again.
So, what kind of freelancer do you want to be – activity oriented, result oriented or value oriented? The choice is yours. Of course, you will need to train more at your skills to get to the top. Take relevant advice, get into some training courses, learn from others and focus on results to succeed.
Vulpith Admin, Jul 03, 2017
Freelancer Challenge II - How To Land Your First Freelancing Gig
Being a freelancer has its own advantages – possibility of earning more than a 9 to 5 job, independence to be your own boss, flexible work times at your favorite places like lake-side or a coffee shop, and a good set of perks. You could be the cynosure of many eyes, especially friends and relatives.
To be a freelancer, you just cannot quit your day job. It is important to have a client list that can give you consistent workflow. To build it, you will need to get noticed in the right circles. It is obvious that you will be getting on to freelancing sites to find work and good clients since it is the best route to take.
In this post, we will discuss a few ideas that will help you land your first freelancing gig.
Build a good portfolio
On any freelancing website, the interaction is quite impersonal. The only way to create an impression is to showcase your capabilities in the best manner possible. The way forward is to build an awesome online portfolio. When it comes to choosing a provider, a client will always compare profiles and look at past work.
Since you lack the punch to showcase past work as a freelancer, you will need to work harder on the profile that will tell the client that you are worth the chance. In fact, if you have some good work showcased on other platforms, you can showcase the same here at Vulpith. Or, you can put up some work you may have done earlier in your day job depending on the legalese you may have got into at that point in time.
Make sure that your profile is lucid and shows off your best work, achievements in a simple and elegant manner. Do not brag or make the profile flowery.
Free work and Pricing
To fill up the void of freelancer experience, you can initially take up a few free jobs from the listing and offer a quick value, which is not harming you, yet client can taste your worth. In this context, some clients may not return, but that's ok. Remember, this is like a business and you have to offer some to prospective clients. If you are a designer you can help them with suggesting something on their websites, or tips on how to brand or design their visiting cards etc. Look out for startup companies, charity organizations.
Depending on your skill set, offer your quick services as a promotional. In this world, word-of-mouth is the best way of getting more business and it brings direct clients. Hence if some clients don't turn up, still they may refer some others as clients, you never know. We are not saying offer for free and earn nothing. You have to run this like a business, not like consulting.
Coming to pricing, initially, you will need to keep a discounted price on your services until you are proven worthy of a higher price. Keeping very low price to beat the competition is also not a very good idea. Hence, when sending a proposal, keep the quote at a bare minimum price initially, so that the chance of landing the project goes up. Everyone likes discounts, make the most of it.
Build a reputation
The best way to build a reputation is to give value for money to every client. There are typically three types work deliveries; Activity, Result, and Value. Activity is just doing what is being told without assuring the results. A result is you get results to the client. Value is much more than results. You see what the client need, how to minimize costs or improve ROI etc. We will discuss the above later in another post.
Once you complete a project successfully, you can ask your client to provide testimonial (apart from ratings). These testimonials are a kind of feedback or recommendations given by your clients about what and how you delivered the work. Work on the feedback for any possible improvements and put recommendations up on your profile and actually flaunt them. Whenever you complete a project, ensure that you get a feedback/testimonial from the client. The more detailed it is, the better.
Build a reputation outside the freelance platform by writing something about your industry, maybe an article or a blog post or giving some business tips, or writing some piece of code for a technical problem publish them on external platforms. Add those links/URLs to your profile in Vulpith.
Many freelancing sites offer webinars and competitions from time to time as a promotion. Do participate and ensure that you get noticed. We at Vulpith are also working towards offering such free webinars or skill training/ testing. Stay tuned. It is also a good idea to participate in external meetups and webinars that address your skill set. They will help to enhance your knowledge as well as give you an exposure to some of the most well-known people in your industry.
Use your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn account to showcase your skills and build a reputation there. Always post your latest work there so that you get a good exposure. Get some recommendation if you worked full-time previously. Add your LinkedIn profile to Vulpith. Get some recommendations there and you will see people approaching you for work. Having a good network is crucial for succeeding as a freelancer.
Success begets success, so don’t give up if you are not getting work. Once you have done the hard work and landed 15/20 gigs you will have more than you can handle. In the last post, we had discussed the importance of discipline and perseverance.
If you think I may have missed out something, please post in the comments.
Vulpith Admin, Jun 28, 2017
Freelancer Challenge I – Discipline And Perseverance
Today, most professionals like you and having in-demand skill sets are looking towards a future that entails financial security and independence. As we had seen in the last post, the world is moving towards freelancing and independent contracting.
Freelancing comes with its own set of challenges, especially for those who are new to it. We will be addressing these challenges and suggestions to get over them, in a series of blog posts.
In this post, we will discuss the first challenge which is discipline and perseverance.
Why is discipline a challenge?
Most freelancers who just start out have either come out of a day job or a business involving hectic day-to-day schedules. One is used to the timetable and a sudden exit brings a state of relaxation, understandably so. When the objective is to be a freelancer or an independent contractor, it is important to focus on building the business step by step.
As all of us are seasoned professionals the importance of building an income stream is not lost on us. However, most freelancers tend to take it a little easy because they get into the “I am my own master” mode. When one is the master of self, it takes more to subsist than being a slave, obviously, paychecks have stopped coming by.
I have seen freelancers working in coffee shops, in their shorts, on the beach and even on a nature trail, especially those who offer IT services like web design, software development or business related services like presentations, legalese or any such services that do not warrant physical presence. The independence you get with freelancing is commendable, however, do you have a schedule, do you have a policy or a strategy that ensures timely delivery, and finally, do you have returning clients?
The major fallouts of lack of discipline are missed deadlines which no client would accept and lead to inconsistent financial inflows, wasted time and more marketing efforts to find new clients while returning clients dwindle.
This is not an appreciable situation for any business. If you are disciplined enough to be a freelancer, how do you expect to build and run a big business?
The first mantra is to follow a set schedule. If you are a SOHO (Small Office Home Office) freelancer and concerned about domestic noise, you can dedicate a small room for your work. Or, if you lack space, you can look at working outdoors like lake-side, parks, Café Coffee Days, McDonald’s outlets and so on. Today, the challenge of fast internet connectivity is no more with 4G enabled mobile phones and low-cost internet tariffs. When you grow a little and need to hire people, you can consider getting a small independent low-cost den for yourself.
Enhance your focus and concentration abilities through yoga or any other means of improving your efficiency. You need to give more to your business than what you have given your employer in the past.
Just because you have time on your hands, do not get involved heavily in sociability or social media. Use the time wisely for putting in more efforts into getting more customers or bettering your services. You can also opt to learn new skills that will supplement your present service offering.
This is the quality that you must have all times. The difference between you and a successful freelancer is that the successful one has lost more proposals than you and failed many times than you have.
Remember, getting those first clients is not easy and keeping the cycle going also take considerable effort. I know people who have given up on freelancing after giving it two months and stated with finality that “You cannot earn money freelancing online”. That has actually motivated me to be successful. It took me just over 2 months to land the first unknown client.
That is when I realized the satisfaction derived from my efforts, by delivering on time and collecting money. The icing on the cake was that he recommended me to 3 others who opted for my services immediately.
The secret is not to give up. Keep pursuing clients until you succeed time and again. It is an art and you will evolve when you realize that you have a success rate of over 50%. So, stay in the loop and keep boiling the broth.
In conclusion, freelancing is a means to offer your skills and experience to clients and learn/improve from the experiences. It is advisable to take small breaks between projects after you finish one successfully and take on the next one. This will keep you rejuvenated and motivated.
A successful freelancer is the one who loses more projects at the proposal stage and not the one that fails to deliver the projects taken up. Freelancing is a career and should become a way of life. It is certainly not a shortcut to earn quick money.
Discipline and perseverance are the most important qualities a freelancer should have. In the coming posts, we will talk about many other problems that freelancers face. We will be discussing these, one after another in this series of blog posts. Keep reading and learning.