Through my experiences working in the corporate world, I realized something incredible. That 80% of people in the professional world are either incompetent or lazy.
80% of people are just plain unreliable when it comes to getting things done.
When I started freelancing, I realized the exact same thing. The vast majority of freelancers and clients are unreliable.
I’ve had a few experiences with clients who didn’t pay on time or didn’t pay at all. On the flip side, I’ve heard horror stories from clients about freelancers missing deadlines. Worse, I’ve heard of freelancers and clients who just disappear without a trace.
The level of unprofessionalism in the world is sad, to be honest. But it presents an opportunity for you to stick out above the rest of your competition.
Here are 5 things you can do right now to instantly stand out in the freelancing world.
1. Always Hit Your Deadlines, No Exceptions
The most frustrating thing that people deal with every day is timeliness. From a coffee meeting to delivering a client project, time seems to be everyone’s enemy.
In freelancing, time should never be your enemy. As a freelancer, you have the ability to dictate the timeline of your project and put it in a contract.
This means that you have no excuses whatsoever if you miss a deadline.
You should never ever miss a client deadline unless something horrible and out of your control happens. In fact, you should always beat your deadlines.
How? Using a technique I call: underpromise and overdeliver.
If a project will take you 2 weeks, make the project timeline 3 weeks. This way, if you complete the project in 2 weeks, you will exceed expectations. If some unexpected delays happen and you use 3 weeks, you’re still on time.
Since you are the one agreeing to a timeline, you should never be late.
2. Over Communicate
One of my biggest pet peeves is lack of communication. Nothing annoys me more when I send an email to someone else and they never respond even if they receive it.
One of the basic tenants of freelancing is communication etiquette. Always over communicate. Remember that.
If a client sends you an email, respond to them letting know that you received it. At the same time, if you send an email to a client, follow up if they don’t respond.
Communicate project updates, milestones, deadlines, action items and even personal milestones if you want. Communicate everything. Because if something goes wrong, it’s your fault, not the client’s fault.
3. Be thorough
My clients often joke with me about the length of my detailed emails. They get a kick out of pointing it out, but in the end of the day, it gets the job done.
I am incredibly thorough in all of my emails. If I just had a meeting with a client, I will follow up later in the day with detailed meeting notes. I will also include action items for each person that are highlighted and formatted to catch the eye.
If a deadline is coming up, I will email the client ahead of time letting them know to expect an email with all the deliverables.
It’s overkill, I know. But as a result, nothing slips through the cracks. My clients know that this is the standard I hold myself to and it keeps them accountable as well.
4. Pristine grammar
I can’t believe I have to include this, but I see it all too often. As a freelancer, you need to know how to communicate through writing.
Your clients can use lower case letters, horrible grammar and what not. But there’s no excuse for you to do that.
Every written interaction you have with your client should be professional. That means correct grammar, spelling, and capitalization.
All the major email services have built in spell checking so you should be able to catch any errors there.
I personally use Grammarly and Hemingway for all of my writing, including emails and this blog post! Grammarly can be installed as a free Chrome extension which is amazing. It will automatically tell you if you have any grammatical issues in your email.
Remember that any mistakes in your writing can be perceived as you being careless or negligent.
5. Follow up after your project
Many freelancers view their projects as one-time things. They think about just doing as many projects as they can as quickly as possible.
But what they forget is the power of repeating projects and referrals. You should treat each one of your clients as people. Be invested in their projects and care about their businesses.
You should follow up a month after completing a project to ask how things are going. Ask if your client has run into any issues or if they have any questions. These little things go a long way.
From a business standpoint, you can think of this as the lifetime value of a client. If all you do is go through projects quickly, the value of each client is low since they only pay you once.
If you work repeatedly with existing clients and they even refer you to new opportunities, their value is high.
The most successful freelancers have built up such strong networks of clients that they never even have to look for work. They consistently receive project requests within their networks.
Did I Miss Anything?
These are just a few of the strategies I use to make myself stand out as a freelancer. Did I miss anything? Are there any ones you would like to add or have found success with?
Let us know in the comments section below!