Confidence, rates and process as a freelancer or small business
It’s a big shift from working in a company to working for yourself. Some of the things that hold us back are confidence related. This affects how we deal with potential clients, what we charge and the processes we use before, during and after working with clients. How you approach this can mean the difference between just getting by and prospering.
It’s scary setting up on our own and trying to attract clients. Certainly in the early stages this can lead to us offering all kinds of services to all kinds of clients in an effort to appear successful. This is not a great strategy though as we can end of a jack of all trades and master of none, with no focus to our services or client base.
It takes confidence to focus on particular services for a small group of clients, but this allows us to get better at this smaller range of services. Saying ‘no’ is hard, especially at first while trying to build a client base, but we need to find our confidence and stick to what works for us. Now it’s our business we can decide for ourselves and don’t have to offer everything people ask for.
Confidence also comes through in our marketing and the way we speak to people. Don’t be afraid to decline work if the budget is not enough, the project doesn’t interest you or you just don’t like the person. Working for low rates for people you are not eager to help is a recipe for unhappiness. It carries an opportunity cost too – as you will then not be available if a better paid job or work for a client you really like comes along. Life’s too short to be doing things you don’t truly want to do and that’s probably why you’re self employed in the first place.
Have confidence in your skills and that there are lots of potential clients out there for you. Choose your services and your clients.
This confidence then affects what you charge. While you might need to start off with lower rates if you are training or learning your craft, you can earn market rates for your services. Keep up with inflation too, or you are effectively taking a pay cut every year. While clients don’t like being ‘nickel and dimed’, make sure you have a scope of work and track your time to avoid working for free.
Many people will ask for favours or to ‘pick your brains’ – they want you to do free work. Unless you are consciously doing pro-bono work, have the confidence to say no. Your time is valuable. It’s easy to end up doing projects for charities, friends and local organisations and then not be able to pay your rent at the end of the month.
Choose a rate and have the confidence to ask for it.
Related to this, only spend a small amount of time offering advice or providing solutions before you have a contract and deposit in place. You can spend hours and days helping potential clients out, but if you give it all away they may not become paying clients and you have lost that project fee. If you have a step by step process and stock emails for this process it does not become personal.
Have clear offerings in place that people can understand. If you are vague about what you do or what they can buy from you it makes it difficult for potential clients to say yes or no and they may fade away before signing up. All this talk of ‘bespoke packages tailored to your needs’ is not only a cliche but confusing. If you offer a variety of things, make it modular and easy to grasp. An example for a marketing support service might be:
Blog & Social Support – £50pm
- One blog of 300 words, keyword targeted, with a free stock image
- Daily Tweet and Facebook update
- Up to 30 mins phone and email support per month
Qualify your leads and have the confidence to let people know when it’s time to sign up before you’ll offer any more free advice or work. Once your proposal with scope and price is out there, they can go ahead or not.
Once you’re in a project, stick to the scope and time agreed. It’s fine to extend a project but that needs to come at extra cost. Changing part way through a project can get confusing, so I usually suggest we add the new things as a ‘phase 2’ once the first part is paid for and delivered.
The difference between ‘getting by’ and prospering in your small business or freelance career comes down to your confidence, ability to set rates and ability to be firm with people who want to take up your time. By focusing on paying clients you will have a more successful business that can support your lifestyle.