Get these 3 things in order before you sign your next client

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Have you ever noticed how time-consuming the business side of freelancing is?

On any given day, you’re pitching clients, responding to emails, chasing payments, marketing your business, maintaining your books, taking client calls – the list of tasks seems never ending.

When I started freelancing, I spent more time running my freelance writing business than actually writing for my clients.

I’d work 10 hours a day and still struggle to make ends meet. My inbox was perpetually flooded, deadlines were always looming, and I was constantly running after clients for one thing or another.

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It wasn’t until I started tracking my time that I realized just how many unpaid hours I was working – all in the name of running my freelance business.

This is where I tell you I made a drastic change and turned my business around, but I won’t because that’s not what happened.

The truth is, even after I realized the problem, it took me ages to do something about it. At first, I simply didn’t know what to do.

I finally got my act together when I realized a client hadn’t paid me in 3 months. I was writing monthly blog posts for them, but they hadn’t paid me, and I hadn’t noticed.

When I checked in with them, they were shocked and promised to look into it. When they got back to me, it was my turn to be shocked.

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Turned out, I hadn’t sent them an invoice in 3 months. Their finance department had no idea they needed to pay me. I’d gotten so swamped with work and related tasks that it slipped my mind.

That’s when I researched automated invoicing and eventually took it further by exploring other ways to make running my freelance business less overwhelming.

3 Things to get in order before signing your next freelance client

If you’re as overwhelmed as I was with the day to day running of my business, it’s time to take control.

Systemize your business as much as you can. Not only will it help you succeed as a freelancer, but your clients will also appreciate your professionalism.

In short, if you want to succeed as a freelancer, then get the following three things in order before signing your next freelance client.

1. Email scripts for common freelancing situations

Tell me something. How much time do you spend responding to emails from clients on average?

Consider the time involved in personalizing the email, including the required information, asking questions about the project and creating a custom quote. We’re talking multiple emails as you gather information and answer your client’s questions.

Before I became wise, I was spending anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours just getting the project details from my clients.

Yes, I agree. It’s good business to treat every client with personalized attention. But, while the idea of personalizing emails is solid, it doesn’t mean you need to do it from scratch every time.

Think about it. Some freelancing situations repeat themselves. Situations like:

  • Pitching your services to clients
  • Responding to prospective clients
  • Applying to freelance jobs
  • Chasing a payment
  • Asking for a testimonial, and more

Imagine how easy your life would be if you had a pre-written email you could copy and paste for every situation. All you’d need to do was personalize it.

Take it from someone who can’t function without email scripts anymore, personalizing a pre-written email takes a lot less time than writing everything from scratch.

2. Client questionnaires for every service you offer

If there’s one thing that’s simplified my freelancing life, it’s having questionnaires for every service I offer.

Not only do they save me time by eliminating email back and forth with my clients, but they also make me look professional.

Take the time to come up with 5-10 questions related to the services you offer.

A typical questionnaire for a copywriting project could have the following questions:

  • Who is your ideal customer/target audience?
  • What fears keep your audience up at night?
  • What problem is your project/business/service solving?
  • How is your business changing/transforming the life of your customers?
  • What roadblocks or objections keep your customers from working with you/buying from you?
  • List 3 of your competitors
  • What do you do better than your competition?
  • What is your competition doing better than you?
  • What writing voice best reflects your business?
  • Describe your ideal scenario. What results are you aiming for with this project?

Go through the email communication of the last few projects you completed, Note the questions you always ask. What information do you typically need from your clients before you can start working?

List everything down, turn them into questions, and create a template you can use for every client,

3. Three rate sheets (yes, three)

If you only have one set of rates that you quote to every client, you’re limiting your income.

Most freelancers typically provide custom quotes. And we all know “custom quote” is code for “Gee, I wonder how much I should quote?” Then you proceed to underestimate yourself and more often than not, quote a lower rate.

To avoid falling into this trap, you need to figure out three sets of quotes for each of your services.

Your “sweet spot” rates
These are your actual rates. The ones you quote under normal circumstances.

You’ve hit your sweet spot with them and are comfortable quoting them and are confident in the value you bring to the table at these rates.

Your “end of the line” rates
The end-of-the-line rates are the ones you resort to under exceptional circumstances. These are the rates you don’t go below at any cost. Anything below this and you’d rather work for free.

These rates are only to be quoted during tough times, as a favor, or as a strategic business move.

Maybe you’re going through a freelance famine, and low-paying working is better than none. Maybe it’s your dream project, but the client can’t afford you. Or maybe you’re starting to offer a new writing service and need to build credibility.

Whatever your reason, quote these rates as seldom as you can.

Your “mile high” rates
Oh man, I love quoting my mile-high rates. They’re the set of rates I quote when I can afford to be adventurous.

Your “mile high” rates are the rates you dream about but are too scared to charge.

Set these rates for when you get a big, famous client that deals with bigger budgets. Quote them when you have a full client roster and the only way you can justify taking on more work is if it’s worth your time in money.

The only thing you need to consider when quoting these rates is to make sure you can afford to lose the client if they don’t agree. If you can’t, stick to quoting your actual rates.

So, set your rates in three tiers and use them to grow your freelance business one quote at a time.

Hard work + smart work = freelancing success

As a one-person business, you need to realize your limitations. Hard work can only get you so far. Working smarter will help you achieve a lot more in a lot less time.

Set aside a weekend to set up your business for a smoother working experience.

  • Start with creating email templates for 5 of the most common freelancing situations you face.
  • Then list your freelance services and create questionnaires for each of them.
  • Lastly, create three sets of rates.

While it may seem like time-consuming work, it’s a one-time commitment. Once you’re done, you’ll look and feel like a freelancing powerhouse.

So, get it done, set it up, and reap the benefits one email, questionnaire, and quote at a time.

Lets continue the conversation in the comments!

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About Samar Owais

Samar Owais is a small business writer and blogger for hire. She loves writing (kinda goes without saying), road trips, and getting writers to treat their freelancing as a business instead of a hobby. Sign up for her “Zero to Hero” freelance challenge and learn how to tell folks you’re a freelance writer with confidence and flair.

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Comments

  1. Great post Samar! I just started freelancing and have been building out very similar systems to ensure that I have what I need when I need it.

  2. Great article, very helpful! And very true. I didn’t even think of mile-high rates, but there are definitely some circumstances that I could use that within. How do you deal with clients you’ve given a lower rate to, when they’ve shared with someone else your rate?

    • Glad the post was helpful, Brittany.

      I’ve learned to not be embarrassed by money talk. I simply tell clients that it was a custom quote or that I’ve revised my rates since then.

      If it’s a project I want to work with, I quote my actual rates but highlight the value I provide and how it benefits their business.

  3. Thanks for such a meaningful insight , I appreciate this post, this will definitely helps me , 🙂

  4. Thanks for this article Samar.
    I’m a designer but it’s still relevant. I love having a structured process to work through. (I love lists, he he)

    • You’re going to love automation even more 😀

      I’m in the process of automating my processes and it’s promising to save me hours once I have it all set up.

      Can’t wait to get it done and see how it helps my business.

  5. Great Post Samar. I’m a web developer who is trying to move from contract to freelancing. Will definitely use these tricks.