What do hirers want from freelancers? 7 Tips from the Horse’s Mouth

We asked Tim Crighton from County Insurance to share with us his tips for freelancers that want to impress. As someone who regularly hires freelancers and has worked as a freelancer himself, we thought we’d get some advice directly from the Horse’s mouth – so to speak…

Here’s what Tim has to say:

1)      Be focused and organised.

A freelancer might be working on many projects at once, and it’s very likely you are solely responsible for your own time management. So it’s vital that you remain focused and organised, and don’t get distracted into lateness or under delivery by the many tempting morsels of internet temptation (e.g. twitter / facebook etc)

If you are late or under deliver just once, that could be the last contract you get with that person/organisation. Worse still, there will be no further recommendations to potential new clients either, which is often a great source of new business.

Every client is important so make sure your day / week is planned to deliver what all of your clients expect.

2)      Hit deadlines and over-deliver.

As mentioned above, hit deadlines. A client – for example a Marketing Manager – has their own deadlines (which might also be bonus driven) so letting them down might have severe repercussions on them. If you are given a date, there is often good reason so make sure you hit that deadline.

Where possible, try and over deliver. This will lead to enhanced client satisfaction and repeat business. Point out when you have over delivered to the client, don’t be shy!

3)      Charge by the hour (if you can).

So you don’t sell yourself short, especially when you are doing a big job, try and pitch so you charge by the hour. You can still give an estimation of hours in your proposal so the client can see the likely cost, but this way the client can see that you may well charge more if the project is bigger than first expected.

Tell the client when you are nearing the total estimated hours – this transparency will ensure that you won’t have your final invoice questioned and no ill feeling will occur.

If the client is aware (and therefore in control) of the pricing/budget decisions, they are likely to agree to any additional cost.

However, if the client insists on a fixed cost project (which is understandable from their point of view) then agree to this but perhaps with a 10% leeway built into your price.

4)      Network. Network Hard.

You might be comfortable at the moment with plenty of work and plenty of clients. But things can change. The economic landscape means companies reduce budgets (often in marketing) and worse still, go bust – so a healthy client list can suddenly take a turn for the worse. Imagine losing your biggest client unexpectedly.

And you have still got your bills to pay, right?

So guard against this. Network hard. Use all the tools at your disposal – twitter / facebook / linkedin as the main three – to make sure your name is out there. Ask your clients to endorse your skills and write testimonials. It doesn’t take long if you make it a habit.

Don’t discount face-to-face networking either. Local Chamber of Commerce membership can be cost effective for sole traders (c£100+VAT) and besides the networking events, this often allows an email broadcast to the whole membership for c£50 which is a good value marketing cost to decision makers in your local area.

5)      Don’t turn down work. Ever.

This might sound harsh if you’re already really busy. How are you going to cope? My advice would be to find a way. Work extra hours, cancel a weekend away. You have to think of yourself as a business, and a good business will never turn away a customer. Ever.

Think of the bigger picture. Repeat business. Recommendations.

The even bigger picture would be finding another trusted freelancer to help you deliver the work. This could even mean that your business becomes bigger on a more permanent basis, with you taking a tidy profit on top of the other freelancers you use.

It is pretty easy nowadays to get additional resource if you don’t know anyone that can assist you. There are plenty of freelancer websites and forums such as this freelance jobs website. Even an advert on www.totaljobs.com is c£100, so well worth doing if it is a substantial project. You’ll get plenty of responses in the current climate, and you can ask for examples of their work.

Our advice would be to pitch and/or agree to the work, then worry about how you deliver it later!

6)      Uncover the Clients budget & spend time on your proposal.

Broadly speaking, there are 2 ways to find out a client’s budget.

One way is to simply ask the client if they have a budget in mind (or even a budget set in stone). It’s a direct but not overly aggressive question, and most people will have been asked this on several occasions. So don’t be afraid to ask.

A second way is to give two or three options when writing a proposal to a brief (if possible). Option A could be the easier solution, option B and C could be the middle ground then “Full Monty” option.

Think of it as a new car option. Option A is your standard vehicle which will get you from A to B very nicely thank-you and is fully functional to do the job intended. Option B is the standard vehicle but with lots of nice extras such as heated seats, sat nav, better sound system and airbags. Option C is top of the range with twin turbo engine delivering a huge smile to the client’s face!

Make sure the proposal outlines the differences very clearly between the options.

Coming back to tip (3), this doesn’t have to be a fixed price, it can still be charged by the hour as long as the client understands that option C will take longer (or require more people) than option A for example.

Take time on your proposal – make it look and read as professional as possible and make sure it portrays how keen you are to work on the project. Flatter the client.

7)      Get Insurance. And promote the fact that you have it.

Freelancers Insurance is important. It’s important in two ways: both as a safety net for you (i.e. insurance to protect you) and also as a sales tool.

You might have noticed that a lot of plumbers or removal firms have the phrase “Fully Insured” on their adverts and van livery. This assures the end-user customer that the tradesman will be able to reimburse any costs should the unexpected occur. Imagine a plumber causes a major leak in your home costing thousands to repair with no insurance and no means to reimburse you?

As a freelance professional, you need to have the same protection.

Depending on what you do, there are 2 types of insurance product you should consider. Public Liability Insurance is for when you are visiting a client (or a client visiting you) and you accidently cause damage to their person, building or contents. Whilst this might seem unlikely, for a sole trader this policy is likely to be between £40-100 per annum, so well worth having. Don’t forget employers’ liability insurance is required by law if you employ someone (even on a temporary basis).

You can often bolt on a home office contents policy onto this for just a bit extra on the premium, which protects your valuable IT equipment.

If you are offering advice (e.g. marketing consultant), or delivering a website (e.g. web developer), you should strongly consider professional indemnity insurance. If a client sued you for negligently delivering the wrong advice, or if something was incorrect/not working on a website, the insurance would cover you both for the court costs to defend yourself and any damages awarded. Either of these could run into thousands of pounds.

It’s not as unlikely as you might think and mistakes do happen.

  • Product info error or false claim in printed advert
  • Brochure reprint costing thousands due to incorrect information
  • Website not working resulting in £000’s of missed orders

Make sure you shout about the insurance in all of your marketing collateral and proposals. Its great piece of mind for the client and highlights that you are a freelance professional.

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Written by Editor on March 12, 2013 and filed in Featured, Freelance Jobs, News


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