The 7 Sins That Can Cost You Freelance Jobs
If you’re an on-demand worker, you may depend on a steady flow of freelance jobs to generate the income needed to support your family and sustain your lifestyle. And as every independent worker knows, finding freelance jobs in today’s market can be difficult and time-consuming.
It’s astounding, then, that several sins are regularly committed by independent workers; sins that drive away clients, tarnish reputations, and put careers at risk. You might be convinced that you would never commit such costly mistakes. But many do; that’s why clients complain so regularly that they’ve been “sinned against” in one of the following ways:
1) Being Dishonest
Would you say or do anything just to get freelance jobs? Of course you wouldn’t, but some do. And once a contractor has broken a client’s trust, that client is forever lost.
Tip: Remember that honesty truly is the best policy.
2) Not Following Directions
If you’ve been freelancing for long, you know that clients often have their own unique ways of doing things – maybe something as simple as requesting a certain font on Word docs, maybe something far more complex. The problem, though, is that you also have set ways of doing things. And sometimes the two may clash. When that happens, deference should go to the person writing the checks (assuming, of course, that demands made don’t breach ethical boundaries).
Tip: Keep a file for each client that notes their unique preferences. When starting a job for a client, just a quick scan of that file will assure that you’re meeting that client’s preferences.
3) Missing Deadlines
Once a deadline has been agreed to for a freelance job, nothing short of a global or personal calamity should cause you to turn work in late. But it happens with great regularity. And when it does happen, it can initiate a domino-effect chain reaction that throws a client’s schedule into chaos. Every independent worker should hold deadlines as sacrosanct – not as pie-in-the-sky, best-case-scenario general guidelines.
Tip: Take care not to agree to deadlines that will be difficult to meet. Deadlines never missed will impress far more than a promised but undelivered quick turnaround.
Remember the famous line from the old Paul Newman movie: “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate”? That’s a failure that occurs all too often in client-contractor relationships. In truth, the “failure to communicate” isn’t always the fault of the contractor. But when it is the contractor that leaves the client in the dark or takes ages to respond to questions? That’s a client-contractor relationship that’s not long for this world.
Tip: Make it a goal to respond to client questions within one business day. A habit of responding promptly – even when the response is occasionally off-target – will buy lots of client goodwill.
5) Lousy Listening
It’s a common scenario: A contractor begins a freelance job with a preconceived notion of what the client wants. And sometimes that preconceived notion is so strong that it can’t be thwarted no matter the amount of blue-in-the-face effort the client expends in explaining their needs. That happens because the contractor just isn’t listening to what the client is telling them. This sin has probably been committed unintentionally by most independent workers at one time or another. But it sure turns clients off!
Tip: Never hesitate to ask for clarification from your client about any points of confusion. And at the beginning of each project, create a written summation of the project’s goals, timelines and expectations, and submit for the client’s sign-off.
6) Skimping On Quality
You always turn in the best work possible, don’t you? No doubt, you give every job your all. It’s a matter of professional pride. There are many, though, who approach their work in the same way some of us went through school: doing as little as required to just get by. But clients have the right to expect and demand the absolute best.
Tip: It’s easy to let work quality begin to slip with long-time clients, it’s just human nature. But your long-time clients are your best clients. Before submitting, evaluate each piece of work as though it were the very first you were submitting to a brand new client.
7) Not Staying Current
Most companies take care to ensure their employees keep up with changes and trends in their field. But independent workers fully bear the responsibility for staying on the cutting edge in their realm of expertise. It’s more critical for some professions than others – software development, for example. But no client wants to work with a contractor who turns in work that belongs in a bygone era.
Tip: Be vigilant about tracking relevant industry news and outlets so you can stay abreast of all the happenings in your space.
Are You Sure You’re Completely Innocent?
While some of the seven sins are blatantly committed, others can somewhat stealthily sneak into contractors’ relationships with clients. But whether the sins are committed intentionally or through acts of omission, the results are the same: unhappy clients. And the inevitable result of unhappy clients is less freelance jobs for you.
So while the seven sins of freelancing are on your mind, why not take a moment to examine your client relationships? Because if you’ve sinned, even unintentionally, redemption is within your grasp. Simply go forth and sin no more.