Let’s face it, being a freelance writer isn’t for everyone. There are a lot of risks. But there are also great rewards—if you play your consulting cards right. Here are some surefire ways to step up your game and bring in the kind of business you want and deserve.
Client relationships and a strong network are the most important assets you can have 💜
This cannot be understated or undervalued. Relationships are integral to my business and make up half of my work after two decades—whether it’s repeat business with clients or through recommendations from colleagues. They are the lifeblood of your work—period. Stay in touch with your peeps and don’t take them for granted.
Communication skills matter🔛
Fact: people hire people. Yes, the consultant must bring the skill set, but the client wants to feel comfortable and understood with you. When you establish a personal rapport and connection, your work relationship will thrive all the more. (Tip: in the digital age, also be clear about how your client likes to communicate and go with that.)
Know your market worth 💸
A key decision I made from the start was that I wouldn’t take gigs that were under my market value. I do make the exception for a non-profit or a new market occasionally. I recommend that you don’t settle for pennies on the dollar with fiverr or other job platforms, where it’s a race to the bottom. Once you go there, it’s hard to ever come back up.
Money matters, but so does sanity 🙅♀️
I was six years into my business when I fired a client. Though the decision was difficult, I handled it as professionally as possible, but I still didn’t get paid—surprise! Since then it’s been few and far between gigs that have gone sour, but no client is worth the constant heartburn. When you cut bait in a bad situation, you leave room for a client that’s a better fit.
Put yourself in your client’s shoes 👠
Flip the switch to your customer’s needs and concerns. It seems obvious, but with the multi-tasking of freelancing life, it’s easy to forget. Some universal no-no’s: Talking about how busy you are with other clients. Overcommitting and underdelivering. Telling a client about your personal problems. Anything you wouldn’t want to hear from someone you would hire is on that list.
Get it in writing ✍🏼
Sometimes we’re eager to start a job without the formalities. Make sure you have the agreement locked down. What are the terms? When and how will you get paid? Don’t get caught flat-footed. All it takes is one time for that wake-up call. It’s happened to me and that was the last time. You’ll also be doing yourself and the client a favor to ensure there are no misunderstandings down the road.
Be honest but understand limits ✋🏼
I’ve been in situations where a client made a decision and I disagreed. Or I’ve suggested ideas that weren’t taken. I always make my recommendations based on experience and expertise. But in the end, you don’t own the project, the client does. You can try to affect change, but it’s never a guarantee. Unless it’s an ethical issue, check your ego at the door, or reconsider the freelance life.
Add skills outside your comfort zone 🤓
A few years ago, I had a fantastic opportunity to add UX writer to my portfolio of skills, learning on the job. Now I have this much-desired tool in my toolbox (not to mention I’ve fine-tuned my writing for other projects). Research the trending writing markets and how you can get in on it. New skills are a great fall back when business is slow, or you want to expand your services.
Follow your gut but leave room for surprises 🎉
I’ve been on projects that seemed fun at the beginning but then turned into a black hole. Or an engagement that I thought was going to be dull and surprises me by being interesting and providing a new type of work sample. Try not to pre-judge and leave room for the serendipity with clients and projects. That’s half the fun of consulting.
Work with friends…if it works 👯♀️
Most consultants deal with mixing friends and business at some point. It can be a sticky wicket. The key is agreeing on the terms before you begin—including the fact that friendship is more important than the work. Not all friends are meant to be business partners. Conversely, clients can sometimes turn out to be friends and I’m grateful when that happens.
BONUS: It’s never too late 🤩
If I had a dollar every time a curious friend, colleague, or near-stranger asked about joining the ranks of the self-employed…and doesn’t do it. It’s like jumping off a diving board for the first time. The anxiety is crazy making until you do it and then you get that adrenaline rush and sense of relief that you’ve done the right thing!
Remember that sage wisdom: It’s not the things we do in life, it’s the things we don’t do that we regret.
Janice Cuban is a freelance writer based in San Francisco. A veteran of Silicon Valley, Janice helps Fortune 500s, scrappy start-ups, and consultants transform ideas into unique messages, strengthen their brands, and increase customer wins. She also writes about consulting and marketing for online publications and is a guest speaker at industry groups. Janice is currently penning a memoir about her journey as a freelancer in Silicon Valley. Connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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