As a freelancer, you have two jobs: your client work and freelancing itself. Finding new clients, staying competitive in your field, updating your online presence, maintaining relations and organizing your schedule are all crucial duties of this job within a job. It’s equal parts sales, client management, marketing and project management.
No matter what kind of freelancer you are, you can always benefit from communication and organization skills. Communication is essential in keeping new and old clients happy, while organization is required to keep track of all your assignments from different clients in any location. Technical skill can only get you so far, but luckily improving your interactions with clients can get you ahead just as easily—and make you more money.
This article explains seven techniques to excel at the behind-the-scenes freelancing duties. Emphasizing communication and organization skills, these tips will help you with your freelancing duties, freeing you up to do your actual job.
1. Be explicit about project details from the very beginning
The worst communication mishaps revolve around project details like payment, duties and what’s expected from the client. Settling the details of a project is a two-way street for both freelancers and clients, but unfortunately, freelancers usually suffer the consequences. Before committing to a project, make sure you start with transparency.
Personal relationships with clients can go a long way for a freelancer—the best outcome being a long-term client partnership, so it’s important to know what each client wants. Different clients prefer different levels of involvement. Some clients hire freelancers so that someone else can take care of something they don’t want to worry about it. Other clients want constant, detailed updates so they can ensure the project goes in the direction they want. And then there are some clients that want freelancers to be a true extension of their team, which requires more training and education on the frontend for the most long-term success.
How do you know where on the spectrum your client falls? It’s best to just ask upfront.
What should you ask your clients?
✅ What training and education are necessary to get me fully up to speed with your business?
✅ How frequently do you want updates?
✅ Do you want to see an initial outline or sketch of the project?
✅ Which method of communication do you prefer?
✅ Are there alternate methods of communication you prefer for time-sensitive issues?
✅ How do you prefer dividing ownership responsibilities?
✅ What specific deadlines do you have for project deliverables?
✅ How would you like to handle payment and invoicing?
While there’s no fixed answer for how often you should check in, you should always contact clients during significant or unforeseen events, whether those are outside circumstances that affect the work like a natural disaster or unexpected obstacles within the project like a surprise copyright infringement. You should also factor in less formal meetings, such as follow-up calls or reminders, which can help build a positive relationship.
2. Put your clients first
It’s always good business to make potential partners feel comfortable. That means offering your clients more options and convenient alternatives than your competitors.
It’s better to simplify your clients’ options for reaching you. Getting in touch should never be a hassle otherwise clients will second-guess your working relationship.
Calendly, an automated scheduling app, is a good example that offers your clients greater convenience. With Calendly, you have a personalized link that you can share with clients to schedule a time to meet with you. As an alternative to sharing your link, you can embed your availability right from your email. Preston Attebery of DesignCue found that using Calendly made a good first impression on clients by providing a seamless meeting scheduling experience. Plus, he now gets back at least 30 minutes every day to put towards growing his business.
Calendly integrates with your calendar so clients only see your available times and you no longer have to deal with manual tasks like adding meetings to your calendar or sending meeting reminders. Use Calendly to ensure you keep your clients happy—allowing them to schedule at their convenience, in just a few clicks.
3. Maintain your online presence
Your online presence is one of your most powerful tools as a freelancer—it’s necessary to keep up with it. After all, the internet is the number one method that companies use to find new freelancers.
Make sure your online portfolio and website are updated frequently to provide current samples of your work. You also want to make it easy for potential clients to find you. Update your profiles on job-hunting sites like LinkedIn. Often, these sites showcase samples of your work, so keep them current as well.
Last, don’t forget about your social media presence. Clients often check out prospective freelancers on social media to either verify facts or learn more about the person. Social media is a great way to show your “human” side, which can make all the difference for clients. Choose which social media channels to focus on based on your expertise. For example, if you are a freelance graphic designer, Instagram’s visual platform is probably best to curate your personal brand. If you are a freelance copywriter, you might want to consider starting your own Medium account.
4. Attract new clients
Updating your portfolios and accounts is only half the battle. You must also find new sites and forums to help get your name out there and show your expertise. If you want to find new clients, you have to look in new places.
Some freelancers like to work with bigger agencies who find work for them, but that’s not for everyone. Another alternative is to look into sites that target niche markets—if you have a specialty, joining one of these sites can make it much easier for clients to find you.
For example, 99designs just launched a new Find a Designer feature. With it, clients can filter their graphic design searches by industry specialization and design category (logos, websites, product packaging, t-shirts, etc.). It lets clients search for even more specialized subcategories like “WordPress designers.” Joining a site like 99designs allows you to match with clients looking for a freelancer with your specific skill set, saving everyone a lot of time and hassle.
5. Retain clients with quality work
Every freelancer tends to have their own suggestions about how to keep clients happy, but the best approach to building long-term client relationships is to simply do your job well.
Good work speaks for itself. In your portfolios, it shows the level of quality you’re capable of and inspires the imaginations of prospective clients about what you can do for them.
The benefits of exceptional work include:
- Staying top-of-mind for former clients when they have a new project that fits your bill. Making a great first impression is important for setting up a successful long-term client relationship.
- Receiving referrals from former clients when those in their network need a project done. Over time, referral recommendations can turn into a self-perpetuating client generator that eventually removes the need to search for new clients manually.
6. Never miss a deadline—ever!
Of all the traits a freelancer needs to succeed, punctuality is at the top.
Earlier we mentioned client convenience, but nothing is more inconvenient to a client than a missed deadline. At your first job with a new client, you’re still a stranger in their eyes, and turning in a late assignment puts your relationship off to a rough start.
The more successful a freelancer is, the more hectic their schedules are. At any given time, a successful freelancer will have multiple assignments from a variety of clients. Managing your workload, setting clear expectations and keeping your calendar clean and tidy is non-optional if you want to keep business coming through your door.
Every good freelancer needs an effective means for organizing their schedule to make sure no appointments or deadlines slip through the cracks. While some are more than capable of handling this on their own, the majority of freelancers find using a scheduling app as their best option. It handles all the annoying parts of scheduling for you with features like minimum scheduling notices to prevent last-minute meetings, buffers to ensure you give yourself time between meetings and payment integrations that let your invitees pay upon scheduling a meeting.
Hone in on people skills to keep clients
All in all, “people skills” are one of the most (if not the most) important skills a freelancer can have. Clients look at a personality fit almost as much as proficiency; people want to work with people they like. Building a solid relationship from the onset can help you win out over more experienced freelancers.
Organization and communication skills are key to your clients’ human sides. Meeting deadlines and keeping meetings show clients that you care—and failing to do so shows the opposite. Communication skills help all other areas of business run more smoothly, especially when you clearly define what’s expected from each side. Now, take these tips and focus on perfecting both so you can build your business by attracting and retaining more clients.
Many freelancers and consultants are finding success using Calendly for their appointment scheduling needs.
About the Author
Brea is Community Marketing Manager at 99designs, the world’s largest graphic design marketplace. 99designs helps connect a global community of freelance designers with businesses of all sizes to complete their design needs. Need design work done? Find a freelancer and get started.