This post may contain affiliate links. See our affiliate disclosure for more.
Stuck with a single gig for the last couple of months? After going solo in business, life gets incredibly sweeter, but consistency in work and sustainability of workflows are terribly hard to achieve. Freelancers are unfortunately often doomed to be mistrusted by businesses.
Well, having been a solo talent for over 10 years, in my opinion, some business owners who tend to keep a distance from external talents might have engaged with the wrong freelancers. Just like in any other business, there are good freelancers and bad freelancers. And you will know how to fall in the former category when you finish reading this piece.
Trust comes in when you upskill yourself and equip your business with the right tools
Think of the good old statement, “You reap what you sow.” It is still valid without questions for many occasions. “Reaping what you sow” literally means that you can only be capable of harvesting what you have planted the seeds of. Figuratively, it refers to the fact that our future rests on our present actions and efforts.
Through the lens of freelancing, a fruitful future can only heave in sight by taking the necessary steps to build a fertile solo reputation. And beyond doubt, solo work needs more maintenance than any other work arrangement. Being your own boss means that you need to continuously streamline your work, your processes and your professional habits.
You need to swallow the bitter pill and reconcile with the idea that your solo work journey will be temporary (and very rugged) unless the foundation to working professionally is laid. If you lightheartedly believe that work will come running the moment you land on a popular marketplace, this piece of news may let you down: You will fail thriving and finding gigs for quite a long time if you don’t habilitate accountability.
Or you can equip yourself with the right tools and competences, and start as dedicated as one can be. Sustainability of your work relations with promising clients depends on your skill and tool set to prove reliability. Here you will find some actionable steps you can take if you wish to be trusted and sought for:
1. Touch your clients with a professional look
Your digital public presence is the key to a clean representation. Even if you are a small solo business owner, having a dedicated email address just for work and setting up several public profiles on largely well-known marketplaces would help you attract more clients.
You can give neat and fair proposals and still may not be getting new clients. In that case, go over the general look and tone of your profiles. If you got too familiar with your profiles, ask a third person to review your information for you. Sometimes getting another pair of eyes can really do the trick and immediately give you a clue about what you may be leaving out.
2. Promote your work through a portfolio
A potential client would want to know if your work quality can be vouched for. If you have worked for big names, make sure that your portfolio, your marketplace profiles, business accounts on social media and LinkedIn page list some work samples and the company names of those reputable clients.
If you want to increase your success rate, you can ask for recommendations and testimonials from your previous clients and exhibit those on your open portfolio. Having worked with world-famous brands shows HR professionals and headhunters of successful companies that you are worth giving a chance.
3. Set a reasonable fee for your services
For your fee to be reasonable, you should be open-minded about your earnings. Winning a client’s heart is harder than hitting the mark of your ideal monthly income. You may earn less than your estimates at first but could have the opportunity to gain a steady client, or a frequenter in other words.
I can see the motive behind aiming high for your price, but if you wish to bring in more clients to your base and eventually grow your portfolio, you might want to consider campaigning your services for a lower bid for a certain amount of time.
If you have not worked for marketable clients up until now, you might want to consider offering your services with a discount to attract them in the first place. It is easier to sustain a client relationship when your services are favored. After you get your client’s feet under the table with several commissions, you can start aiming higher and give yourself a reasonable raise.
4. Sign service and non-disclosure agreements with clients
You may be inclined to think that emailing is good enough for confirming that your work is commissioned. This is only partially true. Emailing is absolutely a better choice than getting verbal approval; however, you can do even better.
I am well aware that drawing a contract from scratch may sound pretty scary and time-consuming. But you don’t need to do hours of research or hire a lawyer to have a decent contract. What if you were told that you don’t have to write your agreement terms from square one?
You can make use of ready-to-use legal templates that Rimuut prepared with essential agreement terms. Later, you can further work on a selected template and personalize your version with principals specific to your ideal timing, payment procedures and project submission.
Identifying the duties and responsibilities of both parties on a signed document helps you start your relations with clients safely and be on the same page throughout the process. Your willingness to eliminate risks for your client gives them a good impression and gives you a much higher chance to stay credible.
5. Stay accessible and facilitate the communication
Once you land a project, it is important to keep the communication going. Sometimes freelancers think that solo work needs to be a silent operation and in some cases, it can be. However, some clients are more demanding than others and it is important to spot them.
For demanding clients, it is in your best interest to be proactive and reachable. If you have limitations to being in touch, you should be open about your condition and direct the expectations of your clients to a realistic scenario.
If you want to master staying on top of the communication with your client, you can follow this checklist:
Monitor your calls, messages, emails and notifications
Remote work requires follow-ups across multiple platforms. Your client might be writing to you on Slack on one issue, assigning a task to you on Trello for another and requesting a meeting about a third on your Google Calendar, all at the same time. To handle working through several platforms in the best way possible, remember to always keep your notifications on for each device you have.
An additional monitor really comes in handy for monitoring your platforms. You can connect a second monitor to your laptop or desktop to keep track of the most recent changes on your default communication tools.
Get back to your client without delay
It is not only challenging but sometimes impossible to reply immediately, especially if you are working with clients overseas. To avoid delays and give comfort to your clients, you can draft automatic email replies (just like out of office messages) to be used on certain occasions. This way you don’t leave your clients unattended and you buy yourself some time to properly work on a reply later when you are available.
If you have a daily schedule in place, it would be a smart idea to let your clients know of your available hours in advance. In your automatic reply drafts, you can indicate:
- That you are not able to reply at that moment
- The possible time slot that you can get back to them
- Your phone number if the matter is urgent
- Your alternative preferred communication channels such as WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram or Skype
Break the ice and send in work drafts
Even if your client does not necessarily ask you questions or check in to see progress, you can definitely benefit from submitting drafts of work and getting feedback.
Instead of submitting an end product that has a chance of being thoroughly revised, it is strategically much wiser to take in thoughts and comments at the early stages of the project. By taking in feedback, you will have a better understanding of your client’s needs and demands. And your final submission will be much closer to their expectations.
Make the progress transparent
Proving yourself credible and reliable does not come with meeting deadlines only. To show that you are on course, you need to transparently showcase the process. On platforms where guest viewing is available, you can authorize your client to come and see how your work is progressing.
By using a collaborative online whiteboard like our partner, Miro, you can demonstrate the progress on a timeline and update your client after each milestone. If you are a fan of cloud apps, synchronized workspaces and file storage services, you can get into the habit of giving access to your work documents.
6. Make quality your signature trait
No matter what your profession is, always aim to make your quality of work unachievable by other players in the field. Use your educational and cultural background to specialize in certain niches instead of giving general services. Rather than becoming an expert on several easily achievable areas, consider narrowing your expertise down to up-to-date fields that would allow you to be irreplaceable.
Provide high quality not only in your final submission but through all of your processes. Avoiding errors in your written communication and financial calculations contributes to credibility in your client relationship. Always double check your numbers, your grammar and spelling.
7. Ease financing and payment for clients
Most clients turn back halfway through the process because they cannot receive invoices from freelancers. As a solo professional without a company, you can provide your clients with easily accountable and globally recognized invoices. In return, clients can pay you in any currency of your mutual preference regardless of your and their location.
Invoicing brings your solo business legitimacy with one magic touch and enables you to work with corporate clients just as you also have a company, in other terms, in the B2B (Business to Business) model.
Making invoicing and payment borderless and pain-free can help you add global corporate clients to your clientele, which eventually will bring you a better-looking portfolio, a stronger reputation, a more professional and credible image, and last but not least many new clients.
Enjoy working autonomously without issues of trust
Believe me when I say, after you implement this 7-step roadmap in your solo journey, you will start turning down some work requests in no time because your client base will reach a point of saturation.
First, you will see recurring engagements with clients. Soon enough, they will turn into your key clients and finally you will find yourself not even wishing for more work, since you won’t have the time for others. Or perhaps you will build your own team and grow your solo business. Who knows?
Keep the conversation going...
Over 10,000 of us are having daily conversations over in our free Facebook group and we'd love to see you there. Join us!