Info for freelancers
All businesses look at solving a problem through a solution. So why should freelancers be any different? If you’re in business for yourself or want to be, you need to think about what kind of solution you’re offering. If you’re solving a problem, that’s a good start. If you’re just “doing stuff,” you may need to rethink. If you are a freelancer, it is important to look at yourself as a solution provider.
“As a freelancer, you should do the same – offer a solution. Of course, you need to promote your services so that clients can find you to offer them a solution. You can offer solutions, but there are many different problems, so it is difficult to say that you solve them all. You can pick one (or three or four) and say, “I can help you do XX,” says David Gargaro, Consulting Editor.
Offer a solution through your service
It is important to understand a basic difference here. As a freelancer, you might be offering a service to your customer. But through that service you need to address a need or solve the problem of your customer.
“My business coach would say this is the difference between the features of a business and the benefits. I’ve conditioned myself to think that I offer solutions – through my services. I think it does bring a different perspective, seeing my company through customers’ eyes as opposed to my own,” says Diane Hall, Virtual Right-Hand Woman.
Understanding customer needs is the first step
“Freelancers are engineers and artists who use words to create strategic masterpieces that speak. Bearing this in mind, we freelancers are responsible for understanding the client’s need and strategizing a path forward that helps the client sell their product/service, maintain and keep happy clients/customers,” says Nazareen Ebrahim, Owner at Naz Consulting.
Keeping this in mind, as a freelancer it is important to understand what you customer wants. This holds true for any profession. If you are in the business of offering a solution then you have to know what the problem is or what the need is. Engaging with your customer in understanding, strategizing and then offering the solution is the core of a freelancer’s job.
Solution centric approach means more ‘moolah’
“I think that if your services are offered in anyway in exchange for dollars for hours – get a different business model. By offering solutions you can vary the delivery channels – increasing your income streams: info products, classes, tutorials, coaching, etc. This way, you’re in the drivers’ seat instead of the client meaning you make money whether they decide to hire you or not,” opines Barbara S., Creative Director, Publisher at IASECP Magazine.
Relook at the way you are freelancing. Offering a solution not only increases your credibility in the market, it also helps you interact more with the client. The result is: regular work and greater client confidence. The client starts taking you more seriously and values you time and effort more than before. Also a solution centric approach helps you look at your business from the eyes of the customer instead of just yours.
Use your experience to offer a solution
“I deliver seminars on starting your own small business as well as how to write your book proposal and sell it through the traditional route – are our expertise and lessons learned, which we are sharing. I used to give my time away for free – but people take it all much more seriously if they commit, and our clients’ hard earned money is a great incentive to do something with their gained knowledge,” says Tanya F., Mentor Helping Transform Your Ideas Into Publication at Book Proposal Mentor.
Helping customers with online seminars on starting your own small business or how to write your book proposal are just some examples of how you can help your customer address a need. You can effectively use your experience and expertise to solve your customer’s problems and also get paid for it.
To conclude: All customers out there are hungry for solutions and someone who can help ‘fix things’. A Businessweek article argues the case of freelancers as solution provider in the best possible way. It says “Service providers come and go, but solution providers stick around.”
Freelance writers are slowly becoming solution providers. They are participating in promotional strategies of businesses – offering complete solutions for marketing, search engine optimization, website content structuring, designing and writing, online/social media marketing, blogging and what not. This plethora of experience in multiple marketing techniques has given us the power to grow stronger with each additional client – gain even more experience and offer greater insights to the next one.
Why do we still struggle to acquire new clients?
We have the knowledge and we have seen it work for many of our clients too, but we never take out time to implement the same techniques to build our own brand. How many of us have a website registered in our own name/brand name? Ok, many of us do; but how many of us have spent some dedicated hours on thinking about branding our website, designing it, updating it frequently, optimizing it for the search engines, advertising it, and so on?
Marketing their own services online and offline is essential for freelancers. Utilize the tricks that you have put to use for many of your clients, for yourself. Show the same level of dedication while you work for creating a name. Many of us don’t get the time to invest in our own brand building as we are already occupied with work. But we must take out at least a few hours per week to grow.
Help your prospective clients to find you easily online. Make sure that if people are searching for writers in the domain of your expertise – then they must be able to locate you and feel the urge to contact you based on your credentials.
This can only happen if you come out of your shell and market yourself.
If you do so, you will never feel the need to hunt for jobs on the online job boards and low-paying bidding sites. And if you cannot do so, then it would be better to stick to your current job and wait till you gather some more experience before jumping into freelancing.
We all start the same way – work in a regular job for a few years, get tired of the monotony, or a creativity-crushing boss, or a pay package that could be compared to peanuts for the amount of skills we have. But we finally take that step to become free. Working for multiple clients, handling a variety of jobs, getting paid for what we are worth, and of course, the satisfaction of ownership and being our own boss. All of these give a different kind of mental high.
I have been freelancing for a long time now and have had the good fortune to come across lots of fellow freelancers: beginners as well as experts. Based on my experience, here are the top five things that really annoy clients, more than you can imagine. Sit back and think – are you doing any of these career-damaging actions:
1. Not replying back to client’s mails/phone calls and not following up:
If you were working in a company, a boss would always be sitting on your head and monitoring your actions. You have a higher level of accountability and responsibility there. When you are freelancing, you have to maintain that same level of accountability. Nothing delights clients more than prompt replies to their emails. You don’t have to wait for your clients to revert; when you think it’s time to hear from them, it’s best to send a gentle reminder. Many companies fear hiring freelancers because of the mindset that they are irresponsible and might vanish any day, which brings me to the next point.
2. Taking uninformed offs:
Freelancing offers you tremendous scope of working anytime from anywhere. But that doesn’t mean that you switch off your mail box in the middle of the week and take off for the weekend to a place where it’s hard to catch mobile signals. Most freelancers get the maximum work and the major part of their income from long-standing clients. It takes time and effort to build that reputation. Even if you are going out for a day, you must inform your client about it – in advance.
3. Not delivering the work on time:
If you promise something, you must deliver. I have a hard time understanding why some freelancers commit to deadlines that they cannot follow. If you cannot get something done in a day then don’t say that you can. Most often than not, if you explain your workload to your clients, they will understand. When you are giving your work timelines to your client, add an extra day if you think that you might not be able to complete the work in time. If in case, you get delayed, inform your clients yourself – don’t wait for them to come to you.
4. Not maintaining a work sheet:
I always encourage fellow freelancers to maintain an Excel sheet or online worksheet to update the status of the tasks that they are doing. If you manage your work well, you can get it done in time and plan out like professionals. You can have several columns in your worksheet: client name, job, status, author, payment received, payment pending, internal deadline, client deadline, remarks. In the status you can put – to write/design, to edit, to do final review, to send to client, sent to client for approval, waiting for approval, to be uploaded, to be tracked, done, and so on. Highlight the tasks in different colors based on priority. When you have multiple jobs going on simultaneously, it gets hard to track them in your brain so it’s best to use Excel as your pensieve.
5. Not practicing what you are preaching:
You are a writer but you don’t have a blog/website; you are a designer but you don’t have an online portfolio; you are an SEO specialist but people can’t find you on Google; you call yourself a social media specialist and you have just tweeted thrice in your own name – these are things that you should take care of. If you are writer, take out time to maintain your own blog. Do for yourself what you are doing for your clients. This shows your authority and grasp of the work that you are doing.
Veteran freelancers might not be doing any of the above and that’s why they have reached where they are. This article is meant for beginners who don’t pay attention to such nuances and as a result are unable to sustain clients for long and return to normal jobs after a short stint as freelancers.
All advice given to prospective writers of web-content should be viewed with extreme caution.
Because, writing is a personal act and personal acts cannot be taught; they must be learned. Learning, inarguably, is even more personal than writing.
Here are some paths that you, a prospective content writer, may want to consider in your journey towards the big bucks of net content authorship.
The first suggestion, is not even our own, but since J.D. Salinger, wordsmith extra-ordinary, is the one who made it, we feel secure in passing it on. “Be a reader,” he said. Then he stopped. What he meant by that is the writer needs to learn to read for structure, writing styles, and language.
In writing content, by all means – Do Your Homework
Fortunately, for you, doing homework is not nearly as onerous as it used to be. Light speed connectivity makes the task of getting information on any subject an easy task. Punch the assignment title into your favorite search engine, and see what WWW has to say about it. Then use your actively disliked search engine and get another point of view. In fact:
Get as many points of view as is feasible
From those diverse opinions, form your own. Allow yourself to be influenced by those opinions that help you shape your own into the requirements of your assignment. But, and this cannot be stated too strongly:
Do not plagiarize
Once again, do not plagiarize. Aside from the legal implications of a venal act, we worry about the state of your soul. Using, without recompense, the thoughts of another makes a lie out of the implied “I Think” that is the genesis of the written word. If the “I think” is a lie, what, we ask, does that do to the “…therefore I Am”? No. the soul depleting consequences of such thinking are too horrible to contemplate. We strongly recommend against it.
Use colloquial expressions, trite phrases and other such linguistic short-cuts sparingly
Commonly used expressions when used in face-to-face communication can be augmented by body language and other visual clues to bring specificity to the expressed thought. This luxury is not available to the written thought. Generally understood expressions that make up the bulk of the written message leave the reader with a bland vaguely understood concept, rapidly fading from memory. We are talking about net surfers here, folks. As a group, they are not known for the length of their attention spans. Come to the point quickly and write in simple, straightforward and clear language.
Do not worry
As long as you have an understanding of the language, a reasonably strong ego, (see-plagiarism), some fairly rapid researching skills, and opinions, writing web-content is a snap.