Freelancing is becoming increasingly popular in today’s society. There are more freelancers available than ever, and more people are choosing to take advantage of the freelancing lifestyle every day. With so many freelancers competing for work, it can be difficult to stand out from the sea of other remote workers in the freelancing workforce. One of the easiest ways to build your personal brand and keep clients coming back is to have the best freelancer etiquette from the beginning.
As a freelancer, you must learn how to communicate with your clients and uphold their expectations in order to develop a lucrative freelance career. Today I am going to talk about the first aspect of freelancer etiquette: punctuality and time management.
Your new clients need to trust you, and one of the best ways to build that trust is to communicate progress and keep your clients in the loop while that trust is being built. Your customer must learn to trust that the work is being completed in a timely matter according to your original estimate and that it will be delivered on time. Proper time management is key to being able to meet your clients’ expectations.
Ask your client how often they want to be updated on progress. Do they want daily reports or a weekly summary? Would they like to see progress and have a chance to review and comment at certain project milestones?
Find out what your client’s expectations are, and then build out a calendar reflecting exactly those expectations so you can maintain good time management.
Exercise Proper Time Management
When you first take on a new project, build out a schedule. You don’t have to use any fancy software. A simple spreadsheet or calendar will work. Make sure you include all project milestones and deliverables on your time management schedule. Give yourself some buffer and include time for revisions if applicable.
Once you have each project schedule built out, add in specific times that you will work on this project right into your time management calendar. Block off the time so that you can focus on the one task at hand. Having appointments on your calendar, whether this be one hour a day over the course of a month or three straight days, will ensure that you make yourself available to work the project to completion.
Be honest with yourself when it comes to time management and setting deadlines with your client. Don’t set an over-aggressive schedule or commit to something you won’t be able to honor for the sake of impressing your potential clients. Your customers would much rather have a realistic schedule from the beginning than one that has to be adjusted later on.
Only Take on Work you Can Handle
It can be tempting to try to take on every project that hits your inbox, but resist the urge. By taking on too much or taking on a project outside of your expertise, you will destroy your client’s trust and lose credibility. Be honest and upfront about your capabilities and desires. If a project is especially interesting to you, but you lack the knowledge or skills, let your client know that you would have to spend time learning something new and factor this into your time management schedule accordingly.
Be Upfront about Obstacles
Obstacles are going to appear from time to time. You may become ill and be unable to work. You may run into technical difficulties (your internet, your computer etc). You may come across something that you do not know how to do. These things were unknown to you at the beginning of the project, but you still deal with them in a responsible manner. Instead of trying to hide issues from your client, let them know right away. Be as honest and forthcoming as you possibly can be.
Brainstorm a few potential time management solutions in advance and offer them to your client when you break the news. Let them know you care about the success of the project and will do whatever it takes to ensure its completion. Some clients will be willing to offer an extension or another work around, especially if you have built trust from the beginning.
Freelancer etiquette can make or break your career. If you treat your clients right by being punctual and practicing proper time management, you can easily create a lifelong customer. If you fail to show that you care by handling deadlines effectively, you will quickly lose trust and build a poor reputation that will be difficult to shake. Be honest with yourself with what you can handle and when, and be honest with your clients. Be upfront and always maintain your integrity. Your clients will appreciate it and keep coming back for more!
Melissa Ricker is a nuclear engineer and a professional freelance writer specializing in career growth, technical writing and online entrepreneurship. She writes a blog, Engineered Motherhood, for working mothers who need help balancing career growth and time management.